Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Top Ten Things That Are Easier Than the Cubs Scoring a Damn Run

10. Finding someone willing to trade for Carlos Zambrano.

9.  Winning the lottery.

8.  Fitting a camel through the eye of a needle.

7.  Sneezing with your eyes open.

6.  Perpetual motion machine.

5.  Curing cancer.

4.  Cleaning the Gulf of Mexico.

3.  Being the head of public relations for BP.

2.  Finding a sucker to buy this team for $850 million.

1.  Not winning a World Series championship in 102 years.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cubs Could Use Lots of Help

So now that Carlos Zambrano has been ordered to undergo therapy for his anger issues, the Cubs can get back to the business at hand and start winning baseball games ag..... HA HA HA HA!  I almost typed that out without bursting into laughter.

As Carlos works out dealing with his inner demons, it might be good to take a step back and see if maybe some other Cubs could do well with some outside training or therapy.  After all, the first step towards a cure is admitting there is a problem:

Jeff Baker - He should probably talk to someone about the leprechaun on his shoulder that tells him to burn things with his ass.  At the very least, I think some basic fire safety courses would be in order.  He might also want a course in burn treatment.

Starlin Castro - He definitely needs to invest in Tom Emanski's baseball fundamentals videos.  He can just fast forward to the part about applying tags at second base.

Tyler Colvin - I'm not saying he is a sex addict, but given his meteoric rise in popularity, his boyish good looks, and him spending a good part of his time in the target-rich environment that is Wrigleyville, he probably soon will be.  Might as well nip it in the bud.

Ryan Dempster - He may want to speak to a psychiatrist about his constant need to be the class clown.  Perhaps he uses his rubber chicken as a defense mechanism and his Harry Caray impression is a call for help.

Derrek Lee - Some say he is a quiet leader, but its possible he is just silently dealing with his own gigantism issues.

Ted Lilly - Sometimes, as Ted carves up an opposing offense while on the mound, I wonder if he would prefer to be carving them up with knives instead.  You can see it in his eyes.  He might want to talk to someone about that.

Aramis Ramirez - A return to his Cock Fighting Anonymous meetings might be in order.  His terrible hitting might just be a symptom of cock-fighting withdrawal.

Carlos Silva - Subliminal weight loss tapes. Because I needed a few more jokes and I'm not above pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Ryan Theriot - Napoleon complex.  See explanation for Silva, Carlos.

Randy Wells - I'm not saying the rumors about Wells and the alcohol and the late nights are true, but I am saying that what happens at an AA meeting, stays at an AA meeting.  I understand there is still an opening from when Kyle Farnsworth left town.

I know I'm going to need some therapy after this season is over.  See you all there!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Maybe Cubs Should Skip Dinner and Think About What They Are Doing

I know there have been plenty of arguments and fights within major league dugouts before the Z vs. DLee extravaganza on Friday afternoon.  I know Prince Fielder went after Manny Parra a couple of years ago on the Brewers bench.  I know Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds got into a fight in the Giants dugout a few years back.  Ted Lilly once punched his manager in a dugout dispute.

Obviously, there are more examples (Barrett vs. Zambrano, Milton vs. Lou), but these were the first three incidents I thought of off the top of my head that didn't involve the Cubs organization.

After the Fielder/Parra fight, Ned Yost the Brewers' manager at the time said this:

"It's not a big deal," Yost said. "For eight months a year, we're a family, and at times things happen. Tempers flare up. But it's within the family, and it's a little bit rude when your neighbors are fighting next door for you to go over and ask what happened. That's kind of the case here. It's nobody's business what happened."

After Kent and Bond went at it, then-manager Dusty Baker had this take:

"We've been treading water lately, struggling," Baker said. "Things like that happen all the time. It usually doesn't happen in view of everybody on television. You saw the effect. The cause is our business."

After Ted and his manager, John Gibbons, came to alleged blows, the Blue Jays' team President, Paul Godfrey, had this to say:

"My opinion is that it's a one-night skirmish," Godfrey said. "I don't see any need for discipline. Ted and the manager worked it out between them."

Compare and contrast the reactions by the Cubs' organization following Carlos Zambrano yelling at the team and Derrek Lee yelling at Zambrano to shut up:

"His conduct was not acceptable," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "It has become a bit of a tired act."

and after Zambrano went and met Ozzie Guillen for a pre-arranged dinner on Friday night:

"I would have hoped that he would have stayed private and reflected on this," Piniella said.


And [Randy] Bush said he was "disappointed in that," and he "would have thought with the events of yesterday, Carlos would have went home, spent some time reflecting on what happened."

Keep in mind that Zambrano and Lee only yelled at each other.  There were no fist fights, there wasn't even much holding the players back.  They yelled at each other.  Meanwhile, the other incidents involved actual violence being done to other human beings.  The fighters' actions get swept under the rug and dismissed as a "heat of the moment" situation and dealt with internally.  Zambrano's yelling gets him suspended and ideally would have involved sending him to bed without his dinner.

CCD at has a great post that details how this is just more of the same old nonsense from the Cubs organization that has a hard time parting with its former stars without first tearing them down in front of the world.

I have no problem with the Cubs deciding they want to move on from Z. That’s their choice. But you can handle it with class. This organization continues to be a bush league outfit. Maybe the new owner will change it, from what I’ve seen thus far I’m not holding my breath.

Tom Ricketts needs to send a message, and the message is not to the players the message should be to the front office that shit like this will not be tolerated. Doing hatchet jobs on players is not good for the player nor the team. It leaves a bad taste in everyones mouth and really shows what a soap opera the Cubs are.

Clearly, there are a couple of ways to handle situations like this: The right way (see the Blue Jays, Giants, and Brewers) or the wrong way (see the Cubs).

Zambrano is reportedly now not in contact with the Cubs and nobody seems to know where he is.  I guess I wouldn't be in a hurry to respond to a team that has intimated fairly clearly that they don't want me anymore either.  Who knows?  Maybe he's sitting in his room with the phone, TV, and computer turned off thinking about what he did.  Maybe he's figured he'll spend his time off trying to figure out where Lebron James is going to sign.  Maybe he's looking at the standings and figuring out for which teams he will waive his no-trade clause.

Carlos, if you want my advice, just waive the no-trade for any team.  It will almost assuredly be a better situation than where you are now.

It's a Way of Life.


Carrie Muskat just tweeted that the Cubs will be placing Zambrano on the restricted list and he will undergo treatment (I assume she means psychological).

There is no word about whether he is allowed to eat now.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Zambrano's Outburst Completes Demise of My Jersey Collection

Sometimes late at night, I swear I can hear giggling coming from my closet.  Like junior high campers who can't help but laugh at a juvenile joke involving boogers after the camp counselor has declared, "Lights out!," I swear I can hear the muffled snickers coming from my closet. 

I'll open the doors and find nothing but the jerseys hanging there silently.  They are never actually moving, but it really feels like I just missed catching them slapping each other on the backs in hysterics.  Instead, they stare back from their hangers and mock my pain silently.

Wood, Prior, Zambrano, Maddux, and Clement.  I can't even look at them anymore, much less wear any of them.

Yeah, I had a Clement jersey.  In 2004, I purchased Maddux to go along with my Wood, Prior, and Zambrano jerseys from 2003.  I thought about getting a Dusty Baker jersey for the days when the big four didn't pitch, but instead settled on Clement, knowing I was basically throwing my money away on that one.

By the middle of 2005, I had stopped wearing the jerseys altogether.  I was convinced my purchases made out of pride and hubris were surely the reason the baseball gods had taken a team that had come within five outs of the World Series and reduced it to the baseball equivalent of a clown car.  Of course, nothing could reverse the steady flow of suckiness at Clark and Addison that year (or the next), so the jerseys hung in my closet untouched evermore.

Even if I wanted to wear them, each of their relevance to the team fell away one by one.  Clement was gone in 2005.  Maddux followed him later that year, though as an all-time great and now-Hall-of-Famer, his jersey maintained a certain amount of wearability that dwarfs the others to this day.

Prior pitched his last game for the Cubs (and in the major leagues) in 2006, leaving us all shaking our heads with what could have been, and in our minds, what SHOULD have been.  His jersey hangs as useless as his right arm became after the continuous injuries.

Wood hung on a bit longer, though as a shadow of his Kid K self that we pre-ordained for Cooperstown on that rainy day in May 1998.  He eventually ended up in the bullpen and allowed to leave via free agency after the 2008 season.  He has continued to slide backwards into mediocrity in Cleveland where, thankfully, not many people notice.

Zambrano was the last jersey standing.  If there was a jersey I could have worn to a game over the past five years, it was Zambrano's.  Until this year, he never had an ERA over 3.95 in any season other than his seven inning rookie debut year.  His ERA+ was never lower than 111.  His win percentage until this season was .607, which is pretty decent for a team that had a .510 win percentage over that same span.

Then this happened on Friday:

Today, Gordon Wittenmeyer reports in the Sun-Times that Carlos Zambrano isn't necessarily planning on apologizing for his outburst against his team, and furthermore, it was all Derrek Lee's fault for overreacting.

Now, whatever you think about Carlos Zambrano, you have to concede that picking a two-front battle against Derrek Lee in both the clubhouse and in the media is a lot like opening up a second front by invading Russia.  It just doesn't work.  Ever.

Based on Wittenmeyer's account, Zambrano doesn't seem to have many friends left in the Cubs clubhouse:

''If he wants to bring a lot of negatives into the team, it's better to not have him,'' said Soriano, who has spoken up as a leader since Friday, as he did when Bradley had a similar blowout about this time last season. ''It's enough what we've got. We have a lot of negative things here in this team, and we don't want more.''


''Carlos is a very good friend of mine, but this is my team, too,'' Silva said after pitching Saturday night. ''If I'm going to have a good success and have a good year, I need to give my support to my team. That's what I'm doing right now. We are a team, and we stick together.

''Man, Derrek Lee is such a special guy. And I respect that guy so much. And I don't know what Carlos was trying to do yesterday, but I think it was the wrong time, the wrong guy and the wrong place, too. I don't know what happened to him in the past, but what happened yesterday was very hard for everybody.''

Those are the diplomatic answers from guys who have liked Zambrano in the past going on the record.  The guys giving anonymous quotes weren't as diplomatic:
''Enough is enough,'' one said.
''Anybody who believes [Zambrano's version] must be smoking something.''
So we are left with an angry player who makes a crapload of money and is not performing well on the field.
The MLBPA won't allow him to be suspended forever, so the Cubs will have to do something with him.  It is clear he's not really wanted around the Cubs anymore, so the Cubs will probably end up having to trade a 29-year old pitcher at about one penny on the dollar exchange rate.
Whatever happens, it is almost certain that my Carlos Zambrano jersey will become the loudest heckler in my closet as I try to fall asleep at night.  Maybe I should buy a Derrek Lee jersey that can tell it to shut the fuck up.
It's a Way of Life.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Jim Hendry Not Ready to Call Team Sucky Without More Analysis

I am so over the top done with Jim Hendry.  I know there is a certain amount of spin that has to happen when a team is sinking faster than a coconut-laden European swallow and the fans that show up get three or four seats to themselves at the ballpark.  He has to say some positive things, but let's not pretend that this team has just ran into some bad luck.  Get a load of Carrie Muskat's latest blog entry:

GM Jim Hendry, who spent this past week watching the Triple-A Iowa team,

At least somebody was watching a decent baseball team. 

said he's not going to label the Cubs as buyers or sellers heading into the July 31 trading deadline.

He could label them as "horrible," "pathetic," "brutal," or "makes-us-want-to-gouge-our-own-eyes-out-shitty" instead.

"That doesn't apply to us," Hendry said Friday. "We'll analyze where we're going now this year and keep in mind what we're going to try to do in the future. We certainly have enough of a core group of young people in the system that they'll be here next year and another wave will be coming from Double-A and Triple-A soon.

You're going to "analyze" where we are going this year?  Are you fucking kidding me?  How did you say that without your pants literally catching on fire? 

Do you need Ari Kaplan to come in with a spreadsheet to show you how shitty this team is?  Do you need him to calculate your playoff odds that Accuscore has at 1.3% before the latest embarassment down at the Cell this afternoon? 

Are you watching the games at all?  What analysis is necessary?  Ramirez sucks.  Lee sucks.  Zambrano sucks.  They don't score unless they hit homeruns and no one but Tyler Colvin is any good at that and he doesn't even play every day.  They can't field.  They can't throw.  They can't run the bases.  There is no baseball activity at which you can point and honestly declare, "At least they do ________ well."  What the hell is there left to analyze?

"If we find ourselves out of the race -- which we're still not thinking that's a done deal -- if we do some things in July, we'd always have an eye to the future."

Do you even look at the standings at all?  It's not a done deal? What does this team have to do to close the deal?  Short of bringing back Aaron Miles, there really isn't much that can make this team worse than it is.

The one thing lacking? Consistency.

Carrie, seriously, one thing?  And that one thing is consistency?  Did Jim trick you into keeping your eyes on a swinging watch?  You should probably make sure you haven't also been tricked into giving away your ATM code.

"We're all just waiting for our club to try to play in consistent fashion," Hendry said. "A few weeks ago, everybody was ready to write both teams off. It's a credit to the White Sox for doing a job of getting back in the thick of it and on a huge roll.

Jim, the team has been playing consistently all year.  That is the problem.  What the hell is wrong with you?  Do you really think boldfaced lies are going to sell more tickets?  Cubs fans are stupid, but even they are not as stupid as you need them to be to swallow this garbage.

This has not been a rollercoaster season full of ups and downs.  The only thing that changes about this team is the angle at which the trend arrow is pointing down.  The only problem is that Lou was able to keep the shit together last year to mask the depth to which this team has sunk.  Even Lou is failing this year so there is no masking it.

I've provided a helpful diagram showing the Cubs' season trend in relation to the Cubs fans' place in the world.

"I don't focus on dates or deadlines or buyers and sellers. We need to focus on us putting a run of our own together now and play better baseball."

I guess it is hard to focus with your head stuffed so far up your ass that you can see the dozen donuts you had for breakfast. The only run that helps the team at this point is a 15-game losing streak that forces the Ricketts' hand to fire your ass.
Unfortunately for those of us who still watch this crap, that kind of losing streak looks not only possible, but entirely probable.

The Cubs Just Realized They Appreciate Me

Last night, I received a very nice letter from Tom Ricketts inviting me to a Season Ticket Holder Appreciation Day:

In the past, the only thing about Season Ticket holders the Cubs appreciated was the money we forked over year after year right after Christmas, so I had to wonder about what motivated such a heartfelt letter and effort going into setting aside a whole day to appreciate us.

Luckily, Aisle 424 is equipped with the latest and greatest technology and I was able to determine that there are subliminal messages hidden on the letter which sheds some light on the motivation:

It's still a nice gesture and I'll probably end up doing it if I can get off of work.  I doubt it will influence my decision to buy again next year.  If they really gave a damn, this would have been rolled out well before they got worried about all the unsold tickets they are looking at next year.  But when else am I going to get to see the PNC Club?  They don't include it on the regular tour.


Ivy Chat Chuck gives his take on the letter from the Ricketts:

This letter shows that Ricketts know they are in trouble here. The product on the field stinks and the only way to improve it rapidly would be another huge round of payroll spending. They also know that they already have some big payroll obligations and they still have $425 million in debt that needs to be repaid. One bets they also are going to have to go to their father and explain how the return on investment of 1/3rd of the family's net worth is doing.

His whole post is spot on, and I don't envy the Ricketts kids having to have that conversation with their father. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

One U.S. Goal, One Cubs Run, Two Very Different Responses

Yesterday, the United States' Landon Donovan scored a singular goal in the 91st minute of the World Cup soccer game against Algeria.  The reaction around the country to the unexpected score was similar to the scene in this Nebraska bar:

Later yesterday evening, Tyler Colvin hit a singular homerun off of Cliff Lee.  While the Cubs actually scoring off of a pitcher like Lee was probably more unexpected than a U.S. soccer victory, the reaction across the Cubs universe was a little different:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cubs Continue Disneyfication of Wrigley By Adding Fantasyland

The Cubs spend the majority of the year claiming they don't know what they can do to score more runs or win more ballgames, but when it comes to finding new methods to separate the fans from their money, the Cubs have a seemingly unending laundry list of ideas to implement.

Paul Sullivan reported today about the latest plan to take cash from our wallets in large chunks:

The Cubs are offering diehard fans a chance to emulate their pin-striped heroes, though getting doubled off second base on a routine fly to left is strictly optional.

"Cubs Fantasy Camp at Wrigley Field" is the latest in a series of revenue-enhancers announced by the Cubs in 2010, following the PNC Club, the Toyota sign and the Noodle.

The idea of a Cubs Fantasy Camp is so ripe for jokes that Paul couldn't even get through the lede without making a TOOTBLAN joke, and I can't say I blame him.  What do we get for our money?

For a mere $7,500, a Cubs' fan will get batting tips from Ernie Banks and Billy Williams,

Ernie:  Keep your eye on the ball.


Billy: OK, that was good, but this time, keep your eye on the ball.


Ernie:  Better.  Remember now... keep your eye on the ball.


Billy:  Strike three.  OK, next time, you gotta keep your eye on the ball.

Fan:  Thanks!

Ernie: Shut up.  Next!

a custom made Cubs' uniform,

Just like the kind Ronnie Woo wears!

a chance to take batting practice off Rick Sutcliffe,

Why don't they have John Grabow pitch so that everyone can experience hitting a homerun?

a day in a private suite for a Cubs-Reds game on Aug. 8,

Where you can drink all you want and yell at the Cubs batters about how they aren't keeping their eye on the ball like Ernie and Billy taught.

a one-day contract and a chance to play in a game on the actual field on Aug. 9, when the Cubs will be in San Francisco.

They should throw in a no-trade clause just to make it really authentic.

After the game, a news conference will follow in the interview room, where participants will presumably sit in the same seat that Lou Piniella gives his post-mortems after one-run losses.

Now that Mark DeRosa's season is over, maybe he can be a guest instructor that teaches proper use of stubble in a post-game interview.

Sandberg Game Turns 26 and Gets Lost in Interweb's Tubes

Today is the 26th anniversary of both the Sandberg Game and my twelfth birthday.  I won't wax nostalgic on it again, but my post from last year commemorating the 25th anniversary can be found here.

Unfortunately, MLB appears to have forcibly removed any video of the game from the interwebs, so we are left with this image from Yahoo's Big League Stew as one of the only tangible memories from that awesome day:

Maybe Starlin Castro or Tyler Colvin can hit two game tying homeruns off of David Aardsma tonight in Seattle for my birthday to create some new memories.  I'd settle for back-to-back jacks to take the lead.

Hell, I'd settle for a solitary runner crossing the plate safely at this point.

Miracles can happen, right?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cubs Are Pretty Well Fuked

Today, Dave Kaplan posted on his blog that the Cubs are not being coy about their desire to trade Kosuke Fukudome.

"My sources tell me that Cubs GM Jim Hendry has offered to pick up the bulk of the remaining dollars on the 2010 commitment and half of the money in 2011 but so far has found no takers for the under performing right fielder."

With Kosuke owed ~$8 million this year and $14 million next year, that means that Hendry is willing to pay ~$15 million to free up the roster spot.  It also means that a trade partner would only have to pay one middling-to-below-average prospect and $7 million for a year and a half of Fukudome.  The problem is, Fukudome is a .6 WAR player right now, which is barely above what a team should expect from any random call-up from AAA.  Think Roosevelt Brown, Ozzie Timmons, Scott Bullett, or any of the other random outfielders the Cubs used to call up in the 90s.  Would you pay $7 million for any of those players? 
Neither would I. 
Let's face it, if Hendry isn't even getting interest from the Baltimore Orioles, who will take any Cubs outfield castoff (Patterson, Pie, Montanez, Sosa, and now Jake Fox), the outlook for moving Fukudome is pretty bleak.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Even Ron Santo Cutting Back on Watching the Cubs

Ron Santo has announced that he will not be traveling with the Cubs to broadcast the games in Seattle this week, and that he will be reducing his travel schedule next year to games in the Midwest.  I'm really glad for a few reasons.

For one, I kind of miss actual analysis from the color commentator.  Granted, it can be happily distracting to have Pat and Ron start talking in-depth about tuna fish sandwiches, the Andy Griffith show, Ron's toupee, or any number of other non-baseball topics, but generally, I'd like to have some insight as to why things are unfolding on the baseball diamond as they are.  You don't get that much with Ron on his best days.

When he's not at his best, he's not sure who's batting, what position they play, or whether they are any good at being a baseball player.  Sometimes he misses entire batters' outcomes and has to ask Pat how that runner got on first, or when that second out happened.

There was a time when even that was just fine.  Ron filled the role of being a fan in the booth.  During big moments, he would yell with joy or cry out in agony and it was what we were all feeling, so it was entertaining.  His "OH NOOOOOOOOOO!!!" as Brant Brown dropped a third out in Milwaukee as the bases cleared for a walk-off win for the Brewers is forever etched into my memory.

Likewise, him imploring Alex Gonzalez to run faster around the bases as the ball rolled into the left-center gap before Gonzalez eventually slid safely in to home with a walk-off win against the Cardinals was typical of his happy moments.  It was exciting.  It was fun.  You didn't care that he didn't know how many outs there were or that the opponents had changed pitchers two innings ago.

But as the agony of the years since 2003 has worn on all of us, the moments of joy from Ron are fewer and further between.  He will still yell out an "ALRIGHT!" after an early RBI gives the Cubs the lead, or a pitcher works out of an early jam, but the declarations are given more as if saying, "Alright, the Cubs have the lead... for now!  Hopefully they don't mess it up!"

Meanwhile, if things start poorly for the Cubs (as they do more often than not lately), Ron is reduced to not much more than moans, groans, and "Awww jeez"es.  Again, like us, he can't believe how poor this team really is, and its killing him.  Unfortunately, listening to a man having his heart pulled out of his chest on live radio every day starts to get depressing on its own.  It is difficult to just try to appreciate a baseball game for the sake of baseball as Ron seemingly goes into labor shortly after the first pitch of every game.

There was a time when I preferred Pat and Ron over Chip's suckitude and Stone's growing douchebaggery, and that stayed true as Len's vanilla style didn't do much to engage me and Bob wasn't a heck of a lot more interesting.  But now, Len has grown a bit more into the role, and I can at least yell at Bob when he endlessly criticizes Soriano even after he does someting good.  Meanwhile on the radio, Pat heroically tries to describe the scene on the field in between declarations of "Gosh!", "Man oh man", "JEEEEEZ!!!", and other unrecognizable sounds that sound more and more disturbingly like Gollum coming from his broadcast partner.

It will be good to have Ron in the booth for some games next year, but it will also be nice to be able to start filling that role with an heir apparent.  It was nice when Keith Moreland filled in for Ron earlier this year because he seemed to work well with Pat, had a casual style, but sometimes talked about things like defensive positioning, pitch sequences, and hitting mechanics.  Those are things that are currently conspicuously missing from the WGN radio broadcasts.  I'm sure the fans will call for a return of someone like Mark Grace, but they would do very well to have more of Moreland in the future.

Lastly, the main reason I'm happy for Santo's reduced schedule is that it increases the likelihood that his time on earth can be extended a bit longer than if he kept up such a crazy schedule as a full-time announcer.  He has done more with his health issues than most perfectly healthy people can even imagine, but a human body can only take so much, and his has been breaking down more regularly lately.  Hopefully, the Cubs can figure out a way to get the Cubs to the promised land before Ron eventually leaves us and he can join the booth for a clinching game.

The way it is going, Ron better plan on sticking around for a good long while for that to happen.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I'm Learnding!

I learned a couple of things from Dave van Dyck's piece in the Tribune this afternoon.  For one thing, it seems Xavier Nady's arm is feeling a little better.  For another, the Tribune probably shouldn't have eliminated all of their copy editors because Word comes with spellcheck now.  Lastly, it looks like a shark is lingering below the surface that could re-emerge at any time.

Almost overlooked in Thursday's 3-2 Cubs victory over the A's was one line-drive throw from right field to home plate in the fifth inning.

It didn't nail the A's runner and it did bounce past the catcher, but for Xavier Nady it was like a giant leap — his first all-out throw from the outfield in more than a calendar year.

We are really looking for rays of sunshine anywhere we can find them when a throw that got nobody out and was wild enough to get past the defense is being heralded as a positive sign.
Disabled this baseman Aramis Ramirez (left thumb bruise) will rehab Saturday and Sunday at Class-A Peoria.
Which baseman?  Oh, THIS baseman.  I feel like this could be the beginning of a lost Abbott and Costello routine.
The Cubs have reached agreement with first-round draft pick, Hayden Simpson, who be at Wrigley Field Friday or Saturday.
I be looking forward to it.
The Angels will be making their first visit to Wrigley Field on Friday. They are the last major league team to come.
That's what she said.
[On Tuesday], Jeff Samardzija started his first game of the season and threw five shutout innings. He's 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA at Iowa.
Oh... crap...

Cubs Win a Series Despite Cats & Dogs Still Not Living Together

Soriano is trying to bunt for hits.  Theriot took a walk.  Fukudome got two hits in a game that was not held in the month of April.  Randy Wells didn't give up more runs than innings pitched.  Mass hysteria!

All of this craziness resulted in the Cubs winning a series for the first time since this guy was a newborn:

Somehow the Bizarro Cubs have been on display at Wrigley over the last couple of days and that seems fine with everybody.

Note to whoever stole the real Cubs:  Keep them.  You can even kill them.  We don't care.  We might even prefer it.  We like the guys we have now.

I'm sure there has to be some ramification for the Cubs suddenly resembling a team that is capable of winning more games than it loses, but the dead aren't rising, the rivers haven't turned to blood, and dogs and cats still seem to regard each other with a level of distrust and outright hatred.  It's all good.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How Much Would You Pay For a Ryan Theriot Plate Appearance?

I can't quite figure the Cubs' strategy in pissing off a large portion of their fan base by assaulting us with  largely unintelligible snippets of pop songs to introduce the Cubs' batters as they come to the plate.  The Cubs added the Toyota sign, a giant noodle advertisement outside the park, and began the new intro music for the batters all during this homestand starting with the series against the White Sox.

I get the Toyota sign and even the noodle thing because those bring in revenue to the Cubs that they can now not feel obligated to extract from my wallet.  I haven't even seen the noodle yet (except in the photos), and I notice the Under Armour logos on the outfield doors a lot more than I notice the Toyota sign, so if the Cubs make a few bucks on some things that barely register to me, then so be it.

But I highly doubt that Salt n Peppa is paying the Cubs to play "Push It" before every Ryan Theriot one-pitch ground out.  Nor do I think any of the other musical artists whose music is now being played (probably without permission) are paying to have their songs accompany players' at-bats.

So why are the Cubs doing it?  The Cubs market the hell out of Wrigley Field's charm and old-school feel.  The ivy, day baseball, the manual scoreboard, the latent racism in the stands, and the organ music all harken back to a simpler time when white men knew a thing or two about fundamental baseball.

So why damage that brand image while getting nothing in return?  Afterall, the Cubs are quickly entering a period of time where the team on the field is the least interesting thing about coming to a game at Wrigley.  They can't possibly be shifting to an emphasis on the team as currently constructed as a method to boost interest in Cubs tickets.

I have a guess, and it is based on nothing but my own conjecture and willingness to see conspiracies where there are probably none, simply because conspiracies are more interesting than just plain stupidity.

What if the long range plan was to sell individual player plate appearances to corporate sponsors?

"Now batting, Ryan Theriot, sponsored by Budweiser.  Because when Ryan Theriot bats, you are going to want a few beers."

Judging by the reaction to the Toyota sign, fans wouldn't take to something like that very well.  To make the huge jump from quaint organ music to an audio version of NASCAR advertising would be too much to expect of most people who fear and resist change. 

Last year, the fans didn't like corporately sponsored doubles being announced by the recorded Luna Carpets jingle, so after a few games, the Cubs transitioned to the Luna jingle played by the organ after doubles.  The fans got the lesser of two evils, Luna gets its brand advertised, and the Cubs get money.  Everyone wins.  They still do it this year.  Take a listen the next time a Cubs player doubles (sometime after the All-Star break would be my guess).

By playing the pop music, the Cubs have created an atmosphere where, if you were to close your eyes, you would not be able to determine if you were in Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular, or a minor league ballpark.  I have yet to see anyone react to it positively.  Not one person.  The most positive thing I have heard was a woman telling her friend, "I like Marlon Byrd's the best, but I miss the organ."  I'm assuming she was talking about the music.

A few more homestands of playing loud obnoxious music before every at-bat might make any change welcome, such as a quick corporate sponsorship and maybe the organ playing the company's jingle.  All better!

Like I said, I doubt that is the real reason, but isn't wild speculation fun?  But they have to have a reason, because otherwise all they are doing is more damage after spilling oil from the BP Crosstown Cup all over their carefully crafted brand image.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If We Can't Support the Cubs, We Should Be Athletic Supporters

The Athletics are coming, tra la tra la.

The true beauty of interleague play comes with the opportunity for those of us who follow the National League to see players from American League teams play, assuming we don't ever watch ESPN, FOX, TBS, the MLB Network, MLB.TV online, MLB apps for our iPhones or Droids, or any of the MLB packages that are available through our cable and satellite providers.

I recently vacationed in South Carolina for over a week and unless I was driving in the car, I only missed one Cubs game that I could have watched in Chicago on TV, and I only subscribe to the audio feeds on so I got to listen to that game, and listened to the two games in the car on my laptop (thank you, Palm Pre wireless hotspot).

Also while on vacation, I got to see the end of Roy Halladay's perfect game and all of the aftermath from Galarraga's would-be perfect game.  I had no shortage of baseball available to me and I was traveling away from my home satellite package.  Am I really missing so much that I need to have a team I could care less about visit my home ballpark?  Bud Selig seems to think it is important.

So here come the Athletics to Wrigley.  Cubs fans get to see the excitement that is the double play combination of Adam Rosales and Cliff Pennington up close and personal.  If it weren't for fantasy baseball, if someone had asked me who Cliff Pennington was, I probably would have mixed him up with Cliff Levingston and guessed he was a back-up power forward on the Bulls in the 90s.

At some point that may or may not be the 2010 season, some guy named Buca? Bola? Bock? gets congratulated by his Athletics teammates, from left to right: Beardo, Ski Cap, Baldy McBalderson, Pre-Pubescent, and Laughing Boy

Fans know who Dallas Braden is because he doesn't like Alex Rodriguez much (and neither does his grandmother) and he pitched the first perfect game of the year.  Cubs fans will get a chance to give a standing ovation to ex-Cubs Eric Patterson and Michael Wuertz, but Jake Fox just got designated for assignment so he'll be missed.  They also have Ben Sheets, who you may remember from Milwaukee's disabled list, but he won't make an appearance despite being healthy enough to pitch for now.

I don't know who the A's manager is and I'm not really feeling inclined to look it up.  In fact, since I don't buy the scorecards anymore, I may never know who managed the Oakland A's in the 2010 season.  Watch how that will come back to bite me in the ass in some future round of Final Jeopardy.

The Cubs are seven games under .500, they are 7.5 games behind the freaking Reds in the division, and last time I bothered to look they were even further behind in the wild card standings.  Unless the Blackhawks become regulars at Wrigley, there are fewer and fewer reasons to drag my ass all the way down to the ballpark to watch them accidentally score one run per game.  The Oakland Athletics being in town isn't doing anything to change my opinion in that regard either.

Maybe I should root for the Athletics.  At least if the Cubs keep losing, the Ricketts will have a harder and harder time allowing Hendry to try to clean up the mess he has made of the roster.  It isn't how things should have to happen, but the Cubs always have to have their failures shoved down their throats before they allow themselves to believe that the miracle just isn't going to happen.

At this point, if the Cubs managed to crawl back to .500 over the next two weeks, it would actually be worse for the organization.  They would convince themselves they are buyers and end up trading away Andrew Cashner and /or Josh Vitters for someone like Octavio Dotel and I'll have to kill myself.

Then they would either get nothing in return for free agents leaving after this season, or even worse, re-signing them  for way more money than they have left in their tanks.  Let's face it, Ted Lilly is going to start regressing soon.  He has had the best years of his career in Chicago.  Can we just leave it at that instead of signing him for another three years where two of them will be spent wondering what happened to the awesomeness?

So I may be pulling for the Athletics somewhere in my brain.  The heart won't allow me to openly cheer for another team, but the brain can make losses seem like a necessary means to an end to the point where I won't be depressed about them.  So go out there and have a good game, Trevor Cahill, whoever you are.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Two Near No-Hitters Thrill Wrigley Almost as Much as the Stanley Cup

(Photo via Chicago Tribune)

The only way a game could have been more exciting than the one played at Wrigley tonight would have been if the end result meant a damn thing to either team.

The atmosphere in the park was electric from the start, not because of any enthusiasm about the trumped up and corporately sponsored rivalry between the Cubs and Sox, but by some visitors from the West Side who know something about succeeding on the biggest stage.  The Blackhawks and the Stanley Cup did a lap around the park as Chelsea Dagger blared over the loudspeakers and the crowd loved every moment of it. I'll admit that I wished the Hawks would never leave the field so I wouldn't have to watch the actual game.

They set the Cup on the mound and the Cubs player who probably appreciated the magnitude of the moment more than any of them, Canadian-born Ryan Dempster, received the ceremonial first pitch.  They then lined up on the first base line and Jim Cornelison began his rendition of the National Anthem which is about the only version that I'll admit rivals Wayne Messmer's.  The crowd cheered all the way through the song as is the tradition at Blackhawks games., As the sound grew at Wrigley and the chills hit me, I realized that I probably would not hear the Wrigley crowd as loud or excited before a game for a very long time and I got a little sad.

When the game did get started, it progressed pretty quickly. Around the fifth inning a good number of people started noticing that both pitchers had not allowed a hit.  But even as a double no-hitter was still intact with two outs in the top of the seventh, the most attention was being paid to the pressbox where the Blackhawks were getting ready to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame as the Stanley Cup stood proudly in front of them.  I swear if Lilly had given up a hit at that moment, not many people would have noticed.

The Cubs miraculously managed to squeak a run across in the bottom of the seventh despite Derrek Lee being erased by the second TOOTBLAN of the game and Chad Tracy coming to the plate as a hitter with a runner in scoring position.

Ted Lilly worked a 1-2-3 eighth and all I really remember is that the guy next to me kept asking if Lilly still had his no-hitter after every batter.  You think I am making it up for comic effect, but the guy asked me after five batters in a row, starting in the seventh inning.  To make matters worse, he kept calling people and telling them that Ted Lilly had a no-hitter in progress.  I wanted to kill him.

Of course, Juan Pierre, who's main purpose in life is to make Cubs fans miserable whether he is wearing a Cubs uniform or an opponents', hit a no doubt single up the middle as the first batter in the ninth inning to ruin the no-hit bid.

Carlos Marmol then came in, walked a guy, balked the runners to second and third and still somehow managed to not allow the tying run to score.  Cubs win 1-0.

Great atmosphere.  Great game. 

It's just a shame it didn't matter in the least.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tom Ricketts and the Prisoners of Azkaban (aka Cubs Fans)

It is somehow fitting that the celebration of the spectacular rebirth of one Chicago team took place on the day my most optimistic, pie-in-the-sky braincells put the Cubs' hopes of being relevant in this town any time soon on life-support.

The Cubs have drained just about every possible good feeling I have ever had about them and they have seriously killed a good portion of my Blackhawks buzz.  The 2010 Cubs are the dementors of baseball.  Unfortunately, there is no magic incantation like Expecto Patronum to make this team go away or get any better.

Despite what you may have heard on other blogs that may rhyme with Need Puppy Poo, there is no single move that will get the Cubs back on track this season.  The growing mob asking for Lou Piniella's head on a platter will not be satisfied when Theriot keeps swinging at first pitches, Lee keeps hitting groundballs on the infield, Fukudome repeats his same exact pattern of getting worse as the year goes on, and nobody on the team knows a damn thing about fundamental baseball.

Ryne Sandberg ain't fixing it.  As much as Bob Brenly would like you to believe he has the answer, he ain't fixing it.  The Cubs could hire evil scientists to put together a combination of Casey Stengel, Sparky Anderson, Earl Weaver, John McGraw, and Joe Torre and their combined baseball brilliance ain't fixing it.

There is no single move that can be made either now or in the off-season that returns this team to respectability.  The Cubs are old, overpaid, and underperforming in almost every aspect of the team.  For every Starlin Castro to give us hope, there is an Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome killing the team on the field and on the payroll.

Nothing about this team is going to change as long as the upper management remains the same and there is no evidence at all that anything about that is going to change.

Tom Ricketts kept fratboy Crane Kenney running the show in the front office and he is not a baseball man.  Crane's expertise lies in revenue building.  His only background in the workings of a baseball organization has been gained while in the employ of the Cubs.

Tim Wilken is a fine scouting director, but his pick of the 191st ranked prospect with the 16th pick screamed that the Cubs were not going to risk the dollars necessary to sign one of the Top 10 prospects that were still left on the board when the Cubs picked.  If Tim Wilken were picking players based on pure baseball skills and game theory to get the most value out of the draft, the Cubs would have taken the risk that a guy forecasted to go in the fourth or fifth round would still be around in the second round.

So get used to this team.  Hendry won't blow the team up unless they lose ten in a row and fall back by a dozen games or so in the standings.  The problem is that the Cubs probably arent THAT bad, and even if they are, the rest of the division sucks.  Think about how bad the last couple of weeks have been for the Cubs and they have lost about 2.5 games in the standings to the Reds and Cardinals.

The Cubs can't admit this team is a failure as much as the Ministry of Magic couldn't admit that Voldemort had returned.  Any sane person who can see what is going on has to come to the conclusion that this team blows and the best thing to do would be to trade off the few valuable pieces they have left to get shiny new pieces that don't cost as much, but might be around for awhile.  But they won't.  They will dig in and keep hoping that somehow the team finds a magic way to win so that the tickets sell and those that have already bought tickets bother to show up and buy concessions.  The Ricketts have a $450 million debt staring them in the face so if the revenue isn't there from paying customers, they will cut spending in other places, like the draft and player development.

That is not how you build a successful team.  I just need to put on blinders and watch only Starlin Castro, Andrew Cashner, and Tyler Colvin.  Maybe then I can muster enough happy feelings to conjure a patronus that will chase off the rest of this Cubs team, but otherwise this season will just seem like a life sentence in Azkaban.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Niemi Said "No!", Kane Said "Yes!"

The Blackhawks closed the deal tonight in Philadelphia as Patrick Kane's shot somehow snuck under Leighton's pads into the net and finally were able to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup as the 2010 NHL Champions.

The playoff run was full of great moments. Toews' shorthanded goal against Nashville followed by Hossa scoring the OT game-winner about 10 seconds after returning to the ice after they killed off the major penalty.

Byfuglien almost single-handedly destroying the Vancouver Canucks and egging on the Vancouver crowd with his Captain Morgan's pose.

Niemi stopping shot after shot and playing over his head for most of the playoff run.

Duncan Keith's lost teeth. 

Toews tying a team record with 29 points in the playoffs and winning the Conn Smythe trophy.  It was a hell of a ride.

I'm thrilled for all the great Blackhawks fans who waited for so long and can finally rejoice.  Congratulations to my friends, Michael, Nancy, Warren, Mike and everyone else who have followed this team through the dark years.  Tonight was a great night that capped a great and fun season.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cubs Get an Erection

(Photo via The Wrigley Blog)

The Cubs got final approval for the Toyota sign and it is already going up for its debut on Friday for the White Sox series.

This may be the only thing to go right for the Cubs for a long time.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Aramis Ramirez is Spanish for Aaron Miles

This year, as of tonight's game in Houston, Aramis Ramirez has 189 plate appearances and racked up the following stats:

27 hits, 15 runs scored, 4 homeruns, 20 RBIs and an AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS hitting line of .158/.222/.263/.485.

Last year, Aaron Miles had 170 plate appearances for the Cubs and produced:

29 hits, 17 runs scored, 0 homeruns, 5 RBIs, and .185/.224/.242/.466 hitting line.

Aramis had a lot of goodwill built up because he has been an awesome hitter since the moment he arrived from Pittsburgh, but let's make no mistake, he is down in Aaron Miles territory and looking up at Mario Mendoza this year.  That is the only thing preventing him from being the running joke that Miles was last year.

At this point, I don't know what is wrong with him and I am at the point where I no longer even care.  If he isn't hurt, they need to tell him he is or they need to hold him down and let Ted Lilly pretend his knee is a pipe in the Dodgers' clubhouse.  The man is doing nothing but hurting the Cubs.

Get him out of the lineup under the guise of injury and then send him to the minors on a rehab assignment to get his swing back.  Give him the two weeks off to clear his head, rest his body, and get his hitting in order. 

Chad Tracy can fill in for two weeks.  He would be hard-pressed to do worse than Ramirez at this point.  There is nowhere to go but up.  Only Aaron Miles could do worse and then only by a very little bit.  By the time Aramis gets back, they can keep Tracy on the roster if he is being useful and send Colvin down so he can get some damn playing time somewhere.  If Tracy sucks again, just cut him and begin the fire sale.

The team needs Aramis Ramirez if they have any hope of making a run, but the man they know as Aramis Ramirez isn't here right now.  It is Aaron Miles running around in Aramis' uniform.  That isn't good for anyone.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lou Should Keep an Eye Out for Angry Mobs

Lou Piniella has gone against all good reason and sanity in an effort to fix his bullpen problem by converting a top 20 starter into a set-up man.  He rolled with his veteran corner infielders in an effort to let them hit out of their slumps.  He has moved one of his best early performers all over the lineup in an effort to plug the gaping hole in the offense.

He recently benched fan-favorite Ryan Theriot for reaching Aaron Miles levels of absolutely terrible.  His OPS in May was .502.  Aaron Miles' OPS last year was .462.

He finally benched practically his entire core of players that were supposed to be the guys playing the most crucial roles in returning the Cubs to the playoffs.  The end result was an offensive showing that was exactly the same as the game before that included the benched players.

He has used Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol as much as humanly possible without completely blowing them out before the All-Star Break.  He gave John Grabow every opportunity to earn the money Hendry gave him in the off-season.

Despite all the different things he has tried this year to kick-start the team, Cubdom is up in arms and many people are calling for Lou to be fired.  People are mad he isn't "showing energy" and getting kicked out of games to show the players he is behind them.  If the team is made up of guys who need a 66-year old man to scream at an umpire to get themselves worked up, the team has deeper problems than Lou's reluctance to act like Milton Bradley.

Al Yellon, who has been consistently critical of Piniella this year, is leading the charge at BCB:

I've said this before but it bears repeating. Two recent teams, with talent, struggled like this early in the season. The 2003 Marlins replaced Jeff Torborg at 16-22. Even then, they got worse before they got better; they immediately lost seven of their first ten under Jack McKeon to drop to that magic ten-games-under mark at 19-29. For the rest of the season they went 72-42 to win 91 games and the wild card.

Last year's Rockies were 18-28 when they fired Clint Hurdle, who had taken them to the World Series two years earlier. They went 74-42 under Jim Tracy and returned to the playoffs. Incidentally, almost the same thing happened with Tracy as with McKeon -- the Rockies lost four of their first six under him before going on a run of 17 wins in 18 games (and 20 in 23) that put them back in contention.

He is giving only two examples in over 100 years of baseball history.  But more than that, he is suggesting that the results of firing guys like Jeff Torborg and Jim Tracy can give an indication of how the Cubs could rebound with a new manager.  The problem is that Jeff Torborg and Jim Tracy aren't that hard to replace.  They are decent managers, but not great.  There is nothing special about them.

To borrow a phrase from Al, I've said it before but it bears repeating: Lou Piniella is the best manager this team has had in my lifetime and probably my father's as well.  If someone wants to argue that Leo Durocher was as good or better, I'll listen because I wasn't around then, but he would be the only one.  At worst, he is the second best manager my father has ever seen in his lifetime (and probably my grandfather's too).  He is not easy to replace.

The problem isn't Lou Piniella just like the problem wasn't Dusty Baker.  Look!  Dusty is a good manager again now that he's been given a team that doesn't involve Neifi Perez, Jacque Jones, and Matt Murton, but does have Joey Votto, a resurgent Scott Rolen, and a talented young pitching staff (that he will hopefully destroy).  I'll bet all the money I have that Lou Piniella would likely be a good manager again if the aliens ever return Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.

Last night on Twitter, I asked people who want Lou fired who they would prefer manage this team.  The answers came back, Bob Brenly, Ryne Sandberg, and Alan Trammell.  We might as well throw Jeff Torborg and Jim Tracy onto that pile as well since they are all essentially the same level of manager.  Actually, that isn't fair of me to say.  Ryne Sandberg has yet to do anything to convince me he is capable of reaching that level and Alan Trammell oversaw one of the worst teams in baseball history.

We know what Brenly would do because he tells us at every opportunity on the broadcasts.  He would be a hard-ass who would be benching guys like Soriano and Ramirez for lack of hustle as though it would have any lasting effect besides pissing off his most talented players.  You can't tell me this veteran team will respond to that in a more positive way than they have responded to Lou.

So the best case scenario in a managerial change will result in a team playing exactly the way they have been before but paying another manager on top of what is left on Lou's salary.  It could also result in this team spiraling like the 2005 and 2006 teams and playing in front of a half-filled Wrigley Field.

Nothing will change with this team until the personnel on the field changes and since Jim Hendry has had years to build the team properly through the farm system and the easy way of using a boatload of cash and failed at both, he needs to go.  Let the next guy hire the next manager.

If the Ricketts want to go ahead and fire Jim Hendry and place someone else in charge and the next guy wants to get on with the future and dump Piniella, then that's one thing.  At least that is a forward looking plan and would also presumably involve a fire sale that would stock the system with some real talent.  But making a move just to salvage a team that was projected to be mediocre while including Lee and Ramirez not being pod people is just stupid.  The best hope for this season is Lou Piniella pulling one last rabbit out of his hat.

After that, as far as I'm concerned, anything goes.