The Northside Lounge
A Chicago Cubs blog with an occasional tangent on pop culture
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Friday, October 31, 2003

California Fire

Our colleague Christian at the Cub Reporter has lost his home to the California fires. I can't imagine losing so many posessions with value both monetary and sentimental. Check in at his site and say something nice if you haven't already. We're thinking of you, Christian.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Tick, tick, tick...

Last night's episode of 24 was aired commercial free thanks to the Ford and the new generation F-150. Of course got to air a 6 minute movie like advertisement that was split between the opening and closing of the show. Ford must have pay a pretty penny to the producers of the show because everyone from the terrorists to the heroes to the people they pass in traffic were driving Ford products. I was surprised the President did not claim to have survived an assassination attempt because he was built Ford tough.

All in all I liked the episode although with shows like 24 it is difficult to get a feel for the overall effect of events until they unfold. That was the major complaint of some last season that they never did really wrap up. Every week it was promised that we would learn who was behind the entire plot only to have some faceless man on a yacht call in a hit on the President after the war in the middle east fell through. Sort of left an unsavory that's in the mouths of viewers. I am sure that this story line will be picked up this season at some point.

OK, on to more specific thoughts on the show. Highlight the blank area below to read my thoughts on hour 1. This will keep the people who have not seen the show yet from seeing any details.

  • I love how they have to set everything up exposition style in the beginning. Jack's first words were basically "I did not waste a the last years of my life to bring down this drug dealer who has ties to terrorist cells only to not have him tell me who they are..." Good way for the writers to say, hey stupid people, here is the story. Take notes.
  • Tony and Michelle went out and got hitched. I suppose he got over her going behind his back to help Jack at the end of the last season. I am not sure I would want to date or be married to a government agent. Have you seen the show Cheaters on FOX where a PI follows and tapes a partner who is cheating. Imagine instead of a FOX camera crew you had Jack Bauer following you. Yikes!!
  • The weird computer guy who had a fight with Kim and the Chloe looks like Jimmy Fallon from SNL, only evil.
  • I think instead of saying hours, they should just say episode. Like, the virus takes 10 episodes to present itself and people infected will die in the season finale. It would save some confusion.
  • I am not sure how I feel about Kim being at CTU this season. I guess it is better than wasting time showing her in the wilderness outrunning mountain lions. Maybe this is just a way to have her there for teenage boys, but to keep her out of the main storylines. Of course, she is dating Jack's partner, so I suppose we will see a lot of her.
  • In the first two seasons, Kiefer as an actor only had to play three emotions: "WE HAVE NO TIME", "please, please help my daughter" and, "I am a badass get out of my way, let me run this show". This season he is adding range by saying "I need heroin!!!"
  • Jack had to shoot heroin to get into Salazar's inner circle, which he had to do while working on a job. Do you think he should be able to deduct the expense from his taxes? I think so.
  • I was interested to hear the President's brother state that they had caught the people who tried to kill the President. Are they just going to let this drop or did the government fall victim to the framing of another group. If they don't talk about the people who did it, does that make Season 2 a stand alone season. Seasons 1 and 2 were attached by Mandy, but what about 3. I am boggled by this.
  • The President went out and got himself a little love interest this season. I wonder what Sherry will do to mess this up.

OK, that is enough for now. Overall a solid beginning. I think there is an opportunity for some twists and turns this season and cannot wait for the other 23 episodes.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Its on!!

Fear not loyal Lounge readers, I will be back this season with weekly updates and thoughts on 24. The new season begins this evening on Fox. I am sure after seeing all the advertisements during the playoff games most of the free world knows tonight is the premiere. I have not posted about pop culture in awhile because well, the Cubs went on one heck of a streak. The purpose of having pop culture references in the first place was to have something to write about in the middle of September in case the Cubs faltered. Thankfully this did not happen, so the TV stuff got pushed aside.

Well, no longer will you suffer without TV updates on some of my favorite shows. Besides, there needs to be something to fill the time before the winter hot stove gets cooking. There is no better place to begin than with the best drama on television today - 24.

When we last left Kiefer and pals, World War III had been adverted by Kiefer who discovered the plot of oil magnates to draw the US into war. He had a weak heart from dying for a few minutes and presumably bad kidneys from never going to the restroom. Kim had barely adverted cougar and horny loner attacks and the President received a handshake much worse than Brodie Bruce could ever hand out (only about three people will get that joke).

Now it is three years later and Jack has been on assignment bringing in a narcotics dealer. If the dealer is not released soon, then his associates will bring a plague onto LA worse than the color commentary of Tim McCarver. The President survived his attack but is "impaired" to some degree. Kim works for CTU and hopefully will stay away from cougars. Every new season for a television program brings questions, this one just seems to bring more. Here are some quick hit thoughts from me going into the season.

  • Spoiler boards say that Jack has some sort of secret that will be revealed early. It has to be the above referenced kidney failure.
  • I wonder if Kim was in the crowd the night Roy got mauled by a tiger. She does not have much luck with animals.
  • Will Jack's love interest from last season return for a bit?
  • How will the assassination attempt on the President's life affect his ability to hit a curve ball?
  • Will Jack Bauer get to Wrigley in time to stop Steve Bartman from leaning out over the railing?
  • Will Tony finally get his girl or will be fall on hard times (he is a Cubs fan after all, he has drank from a Cubs mug during the first two seasons)?
  • Will Jack die this season only to be brought back to life near sweeps?
  • Will Nina come back and will we finally find out what Jack whispered to her last season outside the helicopter?
  • Will Kim's boyfriend get maimed this season?
  • How in the world did Kim get to work at CTU? She made more bad decisions last season that Grady Little.

OK, that is all I can think of for now. Make sure to watch the premiere and come here tomorrow for my random thoughts on the opener.

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Sunday, October 26, 2003

Sucking my will to live

Well, not to live, but to post anyway. What could it be that is making it so tough on me? Well, its a number of things. First of all, there's the World Series. I couldn't bring myself to watch much of it. It was by all accounts a great series, but with only the evil Yankees and the evil Lorias playing I had nobody to root for. I did settle in and watch some last night, only to see the guy who threw at Sammy and talked all that trash about us emerge the hero. Great.

Then there's the big layoff scheduled for Tuesday at my employer. Rumor is 55 of 183 or so in my group are going to be out the door. I think I can pick out maybe 30% who are sure to stay, so that cuts my odds to 50/50 at best. I wonder what it says about me that getting laid off on my birthday would be the second worst thing that happened to me this month.

Next, there's the refrigirator issue. Namely, each time I open mine, I see this bottle of champagne staring back at me. It doesn't seem right to throw it away. I don't feel right drinking it without possesing the NL pennant it was purchased to celebrate. Heck, drinking a $4 bottle of champagne probably wouldn't be that enjoyable anyway. I read where one Cub fan is sitting on a bottle from 1984 for just this reason. I guess I'll sit on it for now.

Perhaps Jim Hendry will announce the acquisition of Vlad and ARod tomorrow and get me going again. If not, I guess I'll just have to summon some strength and get back in the flow of things by myself.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Tin Cup and the Cubs

OK, last night it finally hit me. The Cubs are not in the World Series and they really should be. It sort of reminded me of the final scenes of Tin Cup. Kevin's Costner's character seemingly has the US Open wrapped up, but he decided to try and be a hero and go for the green on a par 5 in two shots. He hits his shot in the water and proceeds to do so about 4 more times. Down to his last ball, he must get the ball over and he winds up holing out for a 12. We walks off the course in glory to the cheering of fans. About 5 minutes off the green, he stops and makes a simple painful statement, "I just the blew the US Open."

The Cubs were on their way to the Series before Dusty, much like Roy McAvoy, decided to stay with what got him to that point instead of opting for the safe, smart play (get Prior out of the game for there any doubt Torre would have gotten his best reliever in the game with 5 outs to go). Now, they lost their chance and although they were a great team to watch all spring, summer and fall and left many Cub fans cheering, I cannot help but think, they blew their chance at the World Series.

The good news is that with a good GM, a great motivational manager, and a staff of young arms this should not be the last taste of October baseball for another 5 seasons. Knowing that they will reload rather than rebuild helps to take the sting out of the final series a bit. Also, knowing that they were not supposed to contend for another year helps as well. Bottom line is that they got beat by a good, hot team because they had some horses run out of gas pitching in their first postseason. Right now, if you tell me that we will send Prior and Wood to the mound next season with a chance to clinch the pennant, I will take it no questions asked.

If your team is losing in the bottom of the ninth, the goal is to get the tying run to the plate just to give a puncher's chance of extending the game. After that, let the chips fall where they may. Well, the Cubs did that and more in the LCS, they had a chance to make it and just fell short. No shame in that.

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Sunday, October 19, 2003

The Sosa question

As Bill James observed long ago, a disproportionate share of credit or blame usually falls on a team's biggest star. I was reminded of that yet again when Mike Issacs pointed out this gem from the Daily Herald's Barry Rozner on a Cubs mailing list. Rozner has been making a living attacking Sosa for years now, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised to read an anonymously sourced story on Sosa that implies the rest of the team backs what Rozner's been saying all along without providing any actual evidence that that is the case. Still, something about that article compels me to provide this quick piece of investigative journalism:
We are family?
By Scott Lange

Barry Rozner trumpets his wondeful family life, but that may not be the whole story. Two separate sources say Rozner and his wife had something of a dust-up last week. Whether Rozner's conduct went beyond words and on to beating her with the heavy metal frying pan he keeps in his kitchen is open to question, and nobody is talking about it which is as you would expect.

One source said the confrontation may have had something to do with Rozner having been unable to perform in bed the night before. The couple has not produced a child in some time, and Rosner's impotence would go a long way toward explaining that fact. Contrary to fictional claims made by some, Rozner and his wife don't always get along perfectly so the incident may have blown up over something else. Either way, expect the usual suspects to issue the usual denials.

And there you go. Assuming Rozner has a wife and a frying pan, we have an utterly unimpeachable hatchet job with all the credibility of his original piece. Enjoy, Barry.

Anyway, now that I have that off my chest, let's take a look at Sosa's season. I want to look over some or maybe all the Cubs players from this past season, and there's no better place to start than Sosa.

Sosa's 2003 in review
Sosa game by gameDespite a pair of dramatic NLCS homeruns and a respectable .262/.436/.452 playoff line, Sammy Sosa's 2003 will most likely always be remembered for the corked bat he used in a game on June 3rd. From a performance standpoint though, the more important event was probably the impact of a Salomon Torres fastball hitting Sosa in the earflap of his batting helmet on April 20. Until the beanball, Sosa had been hitting the ball as well as ever and in fact sported a gaudy 1.201 OPS when he left the game that day. Afterwards, he immediately went into a severe slump that continued through a DL trip for a toe injury, through the cork incident, and did not end until he returned from the cork suspension on June 18th.

Sosa was white-hot again for about a month after his return, peaking with a week in mid July in which he hit six homers, had eleven RBIs, and went 15-29. From then on, it was a steady slide down to a dreadful final month six weeks during which Sosa's OBP was well under .300. He did recover some in October, drawing twelve walks in twelve postseason games and managing fifteen total bases and six RBIs in the seven game series with Florida.

Sosa 1993-2003Overall, Sosa's OBP and SLG were down this year while his BB rate and K rate both went in the wrong direction. The question is whether this represents the decline phase of a player who turns 35 in November or whether the beanball caused an aberration in his performance that we can expect to not be repeated next year. There's no way to look at the numbers and tell for sure, but experience tells me that we can't expect a guy Sosa's age to maintain his level of performance forever. I think Sosa will remain one of the league's better hitters for at least another couple of years, but I don't expect a return to the days of the 1.000+ OPSs.

Sosa is under contract for two more years for a total of $37.5M but he has the option to opt out and become a free agent. He is reportedly talking to management about an extension. Its an understandable move for someone who has said he wants to retire as a Cub, but the Cubs wisely seem to be ready to let Sosa play out the contract as-is. An extension would come at retail price, and Sosa is much more likely to get worse over the next two years than he is to get better. There is virtually no scenario in which a third or fourth year at $15M-$18M would be a bargain, and a much better chance it would be an anchor around our necks.

Sammy Sosa remains the best offensive player we've got. He's not worth a contract extension, but he is a huge key to our efforts to repeat as division champs and perhaps win an NL pennant.

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Friday, October 17, 2003

Yankees vs Fish

The Red Sox stayed with their ace starter in Game Seven even when it was clear he didn't have anything left, and the result was a blown lead and a World Series berth for the opposing team. Its sort of comforting that we aren't the only group of fans that have to suffer this year. Boston fans may actually have it worse- at least we didn't lose in gutwrenching fashion to the Cardinals.

Despite our season coming to an end, the fan interference story has charged ahead unabated. For me, the issue was over by the time Game Seven started. I still believe it was an idiotic and costly decision, and I still hope MLB prompts teams to start taking the issue seriously, but I have no interest in pursuing the guy any further. With luck, the media will come to the same conclusion within a month or two.

Hot Stove Philosophy
Both the Trib and the Sun-Times touch on Jim Hendry's offseason to-do list this morning. We've got four months to break down every little roster nuance, but for now its comforting to see that both papers think Hendry will look to improve the team rather than sitting still as we have done after other successful years in my lifetime. The Sun-Times specifically says "... Hendry won't stand pat like former GM Ed Lynch, who kept the 1998 playoff team almost intact." Of course, its Mike Kiley, so take it for what its worth.

Of course, there is more to getting better than just making moves. Kiley claims Hendry will be looking for a starting first baseman to replace Choi, but since he also claims that Hendry "can't afford to experiment" with Choi its hard to tell if he is reporting Hendry's desire or his own myopia. I don't want to believe they would be so stupid as to throw away a talent like Choi's, but with they way they have mishandled him so far anything is possible.

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Thursday, October 16, 2003

The day after

"I let my teammates down. I let the organization down. I let the city down... You guys have got to understand. About 30 minutes ago, I choked. I choked, that's the bottom line. That's all I've got right now."

So said Kerry Wood, a man who gave every shred of effort someone could possibly give for our team this year. I get so emotional reading something like that. I feel proud of my guy for being such a stand up person. He doesn't alibi about throwing more pitches than anyone else in baseball. He just says he blew it, even though there are many other people to blame, few of whom did anywhere near as much to get us here. It makes me feel horrible too though. How can someone so noble and brave be left feeling the way he must feel? Where's the justice?

Like yesterday morning, the calls, e-mails, and cubicle visits have been frequent. Today people are a little kinder than yesterday. Maybe its because the season is over, or maybe its because there wasn't a crazy play like the foul ball Tuesday for them to laugh about. Maybe they just see the look on my face.

I had a realization during the Braves series. Its really difficult being a sports fan. I've played plenty of sports over the years, and experienced some truly gutwrenching defeats. At least then though, I knew that I had been able to give my best and it just wasn't enough. With the Cubs, I followed them every day of the year. I read the news reports, I poured over the matchups, I wore my lucky clothes and I ate my lucky meals. I traveled with the team when I could and followed them by TV, radio, and the internet when I couldn't. And then we lose. I knew that none of those things made a bit of difference when I was doing them, but I still felt like I should be trying to do my part. We lose, and I am faced with knowing that no matter what I did it was never going to help anything. Its bitter disappointment and its completely beyond my control to prevent.

Of course, from that it follows that no matter how much I write here or how many of my emotions I try to understand, its not going to give us another game to play. As such, I should probably wrap it up. There's an ALCS game tonight, and it looks like a great game. I should try to watch some of it, but right now I am not really in the mood. Maybe I'll cheer up some by gametime.

I am still optimistic about this team. Wood, Prior, Zambrano, Clement, Patterson, Choi, Sosa, Farnsworth, Borowski... all these guys have good years in front of them. If we make smart decisions I think we'll be pouring champagne sooner rather than later. Hang in there, everyone. Go Cubs.

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We'll be back

We came so close we could taste it, and had it slip through our fingers. I don't have it in me to write much about tonight's game. Suffice to say that, much like the rest of the year, this team never laid down. From Kerry's incredible home run to the spectacular at-bat Aramis had in the ninth, the whole team played their hearts out even when the odds were against them.

We have a lot of talent on this team and yet we have plenty of room for improvement. Jim Hendry will have some huge decisions to make in the coming months, and we'll be there to analyze them as best we can. One of us will probably post tomorrow when the disappointment of tonight is a little less intense.

I want to say thank you to all of you who came by this site this year. It meant a lot to me to be able to share my feelings about this team with you. I also want to thank Dennis for starting the blog and coaxing me into it over my lazy objections. Without him and all of you guys, I wouldn't have enjoyed the wonderful moments the Cubs gave us nearly as much. Just wait till next year.

People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.
-- Rogers Hornsby

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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Its time to get it on (almost)

Like a lot of other people today (judging from the number of visits to the site today and the traffic on webboards I frequent), I have been monitoring the mood of fans while trying to get ready for this evening. I am starting to see a slight shift in the demeanor of the web community.

Immediately following the game last evening most were filled with feelings of gloom and doom of the impending Cubs collapse. True Prior, the golden child for generations to come, lost his command and Superman cape and let the fish off the hook. Troubling circumstances contributed to the collapse of the Cubs in a the form an eight run eighth inning. It is completely natural to feel like doom is coming.

About half way through the day people started posting their "if you would have told me...., I would be happy" posts stating with absolute correctness that fans should be pleased with the season no matter what the result this evening. This was supposed to take a few seasons. They won a weak division, slammed through the Braves and with young pitchers under contract should be an attractive landing place for free agents in the offseason. The fact that we even have a taste of the roller coaster that is postseason baseball should be enough.

Recently, as I surf the net I am starting to see some new messages. Hey, we have Kerry Wood on the mound against Mark Redman. Dusty and this team have rebounded from this sort of thing in the past. They are all professionals and to boot, we even get to play this game at home. There is a growing surge of confidence coming which I think is great because....this is a very, very winnable game. In fact, I think they are going to win it. Wood is a nasty fastball, curve ball guy against a mainly right handed lineup. Redman is a soft tossing lefty who we get a second look at in less that a week. The last time that happened we beat Hampton to get to the NLCS.

Personally, I am starting to get really excited as the day goes on and as we come up on 3.5 hours until first pitch. This could be a game for the ages and all the pieces are there to take the pennant. Make sure to come back this evening and celebrate. Keep the faith Cubs' fans.

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The longest night leads to a long, long day

Last evening was one of the worst night's sleep I have had in a long time. I tossed, I turned, I left the bed and tried to sleep on the couch. Failing, I read some blogs and came back to bed for more tossing and turning. Fearing I would wake up my wife, I headed down to the couch to watch a little but of Conan O'Brien. It was one of the first times I have seen his show since my graduate school days when classes started at 3:00 in the afternoon. I finally fell asleep only to awake with a crick in my neck a few hours later. Feeling tired enough to finally go to bed, I headed upstairs and slept until my wife woke me up at 6:00.

I have never been what anyone would consider a small guy. My wife and I have bought some exercise equipment and three times a week I get up and run on a treadmill. It is a small step, but one that will hopefully lead to a healthier lifestyle. Wednesday are one of the days I run, but I usually have Sportscenter on the television. I refused to go down there this morning because I don't want to see the highlights, don't want to see Harold Reynolds break it down, don't want to hear nonsense about the goat, and don't want them to talk about Cub pressure in game 7. In fact, to this moment I have not watched or listened to a lick of sports coverage. I have read a few newspaper articles and blogs, but otherwise have avoided coverage.

After the customary 45 minute drive that should take 35 minutes down the Cincinnati "expressways" I was greeted by my supervisor with two hands held firmly over his throat. I begin my drive each morning in darkness with the sun coming up towards the end. This means that I usually have my lights on for the whole drive. I came up to my desk and honestly could not remember turning them off. On top of all the other junk in the last 12 hours, I did not want a dead battery, so I made the 4-5 minute walk back to the city lot and checked my car (lights were off).

I have been at work for about 90 minutes and all of the workers have come over with their little snide comments. Most ask, "What happened to the Cubs?" I just plainly say they lost. Not much more to say than that. They just lost and luckily they have a game 7 to make things right with the world. Of course game 7 is 8.5 hours away and I somehow have to stay focused and move a project along at work before turning my stomach in knots.

I know that we still have the advantage. I am not easily swayed by unquantifiable things like momentum and chemistry. Like people say momentum in baseball is tomorrow's starter. I know that Kerry Wood is a better pitcher than Mark Redmond. I know that although Kerry left the last game behind, he was not hit hard. I know he has proved himself to be a big game pitcher this postseason. But, these are just thoughts in a desperate person's mind attempting to bring calm to a terrible stressful situation. Like most Cub games this season, it will probably be low scoring and a break here or there will make the difference. Luckily for the Cubs they had to play this style of baseball all season and postseason long. It would nice if they could crank it up one more time for the home crowd. Go Kerry, Go Cubs, Go Pepto...Cubs in 7.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Game Seven

The Cubs lost a difficult (call it a Level 4, 2, and hopefully not 8) game tonight, and will go to a game seven with Florida. The pitching matchup will be Mark Redman against Kerry Wood. Redman has been much better against lefties this year (.582 OPS allowed versus .679), and he will face only one lefty in the Cub lineup. Kerry of course is coming off a dominant eight-inning performance in a decisive game five in Atlanta. I think we are going to win the series.

Thom and Steve annoyed me to no end tonight. I guess with Lyons you expect stupidity, but Thom's comment that if you are a Cub fan you must be wondering if you are cursed was impressively idiotic in its own right. I have to think that here in 2003 there might be at least a few Cub fans in teh world who don't believe in voodoo curses. I wish there was an announcer-free audio feed available on the SAP button.

Also, I was touched by Fox's decision to show Fox's own Bernie Mac sing the stretch tonight. I probably shouldn't be surprised that shamelessly promoting their own show matters while doing a good job covering the game by showing the stretch the rest of the time doesn't. I wonder if they influenced and/or dictated the decision to choose Bernie Mac for the task. Dennis suggested they get Santo on the phone to sing tomorrow night. Its a brilliant idea, but even if they did it we would get a commercial for 24 instead.

Mark Prior was up to the task for seven innings tonight, but our defense had some breakdowns. There was another ball rolling past the catcher, an easy pickup at first that got by Simon, and Alex's miscue in the eighth. We need to not make those mistakes tomorrow. Same goes for the bullpen. We have the advantage of Urbina having thrown two innings today, although we didn't really make him work much. We did have a few good at-bats during the game, notably from Sammy.

The play
I would like to say a word about the play that opened the floodgates in the eighth. The AP story states that he did not reach over the rail, although that's not the way I saw it. It appeared to me both live, in the replays, and in the picture at right that he contacted the ball just to the field side of the rail. Either way, he clearly took the ball away from Alou. I certainly don't advocate any sort of violence. It was after all a mistake, and not one that risked harming anyone else. Furthermore, this gentleman is no more of an idiot than the guy who robbed Bako of a foul pop last week. Nonetheless, when you sit in the first few rows you may find yourself involved in a play, and when that happens you have a couple responsibilities.

First, you have a legal responsibility not to interfere in play. Baseball teams don't take this seriously, and announcers routinely make it out as a big joke when fans lean out of the stands and get involved in play. What they should do is charge each person who reaches onto the field of play with trespassing. Security should come down, perp walk the person up the aisle, and book them on a misdemeanor trespassing charge. If they had been doing that all along, people would know better than to interfere in play.

Secondly, you have a responsibility to your team. The gentleman pictured at right is wearing a Cubs hat. He no doubt is listening to WGN on his little walkman. He has got to put the Cubs winning the pennant ahead of adding an item to his living room mantle on his priority list. Instead, in the heat of the moment he showed his true colors and lunged out after a ball. You ought to be focused on your team's well-being at all times, and all the more so at such a pivotal, potentially historical moment.

The play wasn't the only reason we lost the game, but its darn sure one of them. That said, what matters is that our players put it behind them and play smart tomorrow. We have every opportunity to pull this out. Go Cubs.

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Monday, October 13, 2003


I just flew in from Miami, and boy are my arms tired! Also my legs, back, eyes, and brain. Let's just say that spending the night in a chair in the Miami International Airport isn't the most refreshing thing you can do between midnight and sunup on a Sunday night.

Obviously the outcome wasn't what we were looking for yesterday, but its tough to be upset about taking two of three in Miami and coming home with our two aces on full rest. Actually, Mark Prior will be on five days rest tomorrow or slightly more than full rest. I read somewhere over the weekend that Dusty feels Prior benefits from the extra rest more than others, and since chugging some numbers helps calm my nerves I figured I'd check it out. Prior has had one start on 24 days rest (after the concussion) this year for a 0.00 ERA. He has had one start on six days rest for a 2.25 ERA. He had nineteen starts on regular four days rest and had an ERA of 2.69. Finally, he had eleven starts on five days rest and posted a 2.18 ERA. Its not much of a difference or much of a sample size, but I certainly don't see a reson to challenge Dusty's conclusions. There, see how relaxing some nice stats can be?

Anyway, I am confident we will end it tomorrow. It would be far better to not go to game seven, both to allow Dusty to set the rotation for the World Series and because a two-game losing streak would bring up all sorts of memories of the past. McKeon has bailed on Brad Penny and will instead be going with Carl Pavano as Dennis discussed earlier today. You may remember Carl Pavano from such performances as the 5-1 loss to the Cubs on July 9, the 6-4 loss to the Cubs on April 10 of last year, and the 5-4 loss to the Cubs on July 12 of last year. I look forward to adding October 14, 2003 to that storied resume.

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Sunday, October 12, 2003

Cubs tip their caps and head home to win pennant

Not much to say about this afternoon's 4-0 victory by the Marlins in game 5 of the NLCS. Josh Beckett was dominant striking out 11 men, walking only one and only allowing two balls to be hit hard: one foul by Ramirez and one a base hit to center field by Alou. Carlos Zambrano did not pitch badly but then again he was not his normal self. He walked a bunch of batters but managed to only be touched up for two runs on a Mike Lowell homer. Dingers by IRod and Conine off of Veres and Remlinger were the only other tallies.

If a pitcher is going to shut down the Cubs, then I say let it be in a road game with the Cubs up 3-1 in a series. There are lots of good things to take from this weekend's games in Florida. Here is a list of reasons why fans should not fear doom and gloom despite Cub history..

  • In a 162 game baseball season, there are 160 separate 3 game strecthes. Of those the Cubs only lost three in a row 4 times. 4 times!! That is pretty good.
  • The Cubs got a chance to give an extra day of rest to Borowski and Sir Tightpants.
  • Prior was not exactly dominant in game 2 and he still only allowed 2 runs.
  • The Marlins are not even sure who they are going to start in games 6 and 7. They could stay in rotation and pitch Penny who got torched in game 2 and also pitched in relief in game 4. They could use Redman on 3 days rest which is never a good idea. They could also use Carl Pavano and his 4.30 ERA soft tossing right arm although he pitched in relief in game 4 as well.
  • Since Fox and MLB want to squeeze every last dime out of playoff advertisements, having the series go one extra game will not affect the World Series rotation all that much. The first game is hard scheduled for Saturday night no matter when the League Championships Series end meaning Prior could pitch tomorrow and still pitch game 2 on Sunday with full rest.
  • Beckett is the Marlins ace. Matching up Zambrano against him was actually a good thing. It is great to steal one of these games, but if not, just win all the games with your dominant pitchers and eventually the series. Having Clement cash in is just icing on the cake.
  • The Marlins have the third best home record in the National League this season and the Cubs were able to win 2 of 3. They were five under .500 during the regular season on the road.

After looking at all of these facts, if one is still more swayed by Billy Goat curses than good play, I leave you with only one more thought. Have you ever seen Mark Prior pitch? Cubs in 6.

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On the brink

I had a good feeling going into the game last night. Ever since the Cubs slayed my personal demons (the Braves), my nerves have dropped from "DefCon 8, prepared to upchuck at a moment's noice" to "Terror Warning Raw Umber, a bit queasy but generally optimistic." OIf course, I wasn't the most optimistic person in the group. That honor woul have to go to Chris's friend John. We picked him up from the Ft. Lauderdae Airport and as we headed from their to the game he announced that his pick to click was Aramis Ramirez. I think he was the winner for the night.

Before the game we got to watch Pedro hammer Zim to the ground on a TV in the back of someone's SUV. I have a bit of a bias I suppose, but I thought Zim was the guilty party there. Suspensions all around would be fine though, since we may hgave to face them in a few days. We met up with Al, who was fruitlessly trying to make his money back on a few extra tickets he had. I also played washer toss with some Cub fanswho hgad driven in fronm Illinois. I don't want to brag, but I may be the greaetst washer toss player in washer toss history.,

I won't go into too may gam details since I am sure you probably saw it. We sat in the bleachers just to the fair side of the right field foul pole. Unfortunately, that put us exacty one row in front of Pudge's Posse, probably the rowdiest Marlins fans in the building. They had whistles that they blew at ear-pircing volumes throughout most of the game. They did show a bit of mercy at least- they agreed to warn Chris before blowing when he made that request late in the game. On the brigh side, I have to take issue with reports that ter are't many Cub fans here. Perhaps its just where we are stting, butthe outfield seemed to me to be at least 25% Cub fans and simillary loud as in Atlanta. If the is a difference, it is taht the Florida fans are putting up a bit more resistance than the wee little indians did.

We just realised checkout time is now, so I need to go. Not even any time to clean up the hotel-tv-internet induced typos. We are one gam away from our first NL pennant in more than two of my lifetimes. Bring it home, Cubbies!

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Saturday, October 11, 2003

Clement shows true trade value

Imagine being Matt Clement for a moment. You scoff at all Mach 3 commercials and pitch for the Chicago Cubs. You put up a career high totals in wins this season and go greatly unnoticed for three reasons: Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Dontrelle Willis. Everyone with a pulse who listened to the FOX pregame show knows that Clement was traded for Willis before last season. Pundits were quick to point out how bad of a deal this was for the Cubs bringing up Brock for Broglio all the time. Clement had the chance to face the man he was traded for in game four of the NLCS this evening and prove his worth. He did just that.

The Cubs jumped all over Willis on route to a dominating 8-3 victory over the floundering fish. The home plate umpire had a consistent but really small strike zone and Dontrelle could not adjust early on. He walked three of the first four batters in front on Aramis Ramirez's first inning grand slam. It was the first grand slam in the history of Cubs postseason play.

Given the early cushion Clement just went out and retired Marlin hitters with little flair. He only struck out 3 men but walked only 2. He scattered 5 hits in 7.2 innings before giving way to Sir Tightpants to blow away the Marlins to secure the win. I loved watching Farns pitch with a large lead in the ninth. I think he has the tendency to use his curve too much in key situations. Tonight not wanting to walk anyone he just threw the heat and had a pretty easy go of it.

Lots of good things left from this victory. First and foremost the Cubs won a game that was not started by Prior or Wood. They also went ahead 3-1 with 2 games remaining at Wrigley. The Marlins have to beat Zambrano, Prior and Wood all in a row to advance to the World Series. If they should by chance finish the series tomorrow, they would have ample resting time to set the rotation anyway they like before the Series. Just a great game and a great performance when it mattered most.

Tomorrow the Cubs have the chance to erase years of pain and complete the third step in a four step process. It would be nice to clinch up at Wrigley for the party, but I would rather them not mess around. Plus, if they win tomorrow Northside Lounge Scott Lange would get to see another clincher. Scott was also there tonight, so stay tuned for a recap using hotel internet access.

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We're in a car, driving down the Florida Turnpike somewhere between Gainsville and Orlando. The atmosphere has grown desperate as the Cubs have let a lead slip away late in thegame. We have a printedlist of every radio affiliate for MLB on ESPN, the Marlins, andthe Cubs (did you know there is one in Valley, AL?), and we are methodically moving between them as atmospheric conditions dictate.

As we move through a particularly underinhabited secton of Florida, we are not finding any local stations and are relying on WGN to carry Pat Huges voice to us from some thousand-odd miles away. We enter a wooded section of highway as Randall Simon steps to the plate, and the trees turn our faint signal into pure staic, leaving us with no discernable signal for thefirst time in the ball game. Seconds pass... ten... twenty... we run through the Florida stations with no luck, and its back to 720. Stll static. Then, through the trees, through the clouds, somehow on word bounces of the aether and finds its way through thestratosphere to the anetenna of our 1996 Nissan Maxima.

... gone...

"GONE!? DID HE SAY GONE?" "I thought I heard 'gone'." "What did he say?" "I don't know!"

Incoming Nextel chirp
"Go Cubs!"

Outgoing chirp
"What happened?"

Incoming chirp
"Home run"

An hour or two later I was sprinting around a rest stop parking lot (the only reststop in Florida with WGN coming in loud and strong), leaping in the air and firing my hat to the sky. It was an ecstatic end to an exhilirating yet incredibly stressful game.

We will be at the erstwhile Joe Robbie tonight. I apologize for the typos, but this hotel web interface is a nightmare. Yarbage will not be updated today because he has witnessed my travails with it and doesn't want to go through it himself. Anyway, time for us to go. Go Clement, and go Cubs!

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Cubs win an unbelievable game

The Cubs, now 2 games away from exercising that darn goat curse, had to also exercise the spirit of Mickey Owen in pulling out a 5-4 11 inning game. I will give some of my thoughts in list form (can you tell that the vaunted unnumbered list is one of the few HTML tricks I have "mastered").

  • All of Dusty's moves were golden this evening. Simon on the double switch putting him in position to hit the homer, Goodwin getting the triple for Miller, Glanville hitting the game winning triple, Borowski staying out for the 10th, etc. All moves that had to be made and worked out in the end.
  • Speaking of Borowski in the 11th. It is sad that Remlinger, Sir Tightpants and Joe are the only reliable pitchers in the pen. He could not take Joe out because the pitcher's spot was due up in the top of the 11th. If he puts Remlinger in for the bottom of the 10th, he has to lift him in the 11th and then Alf or Veres has to protect the lead. That is something no one wants to see.
  • I was really nervous about this game before it started because Redmond is one of those lefties ala Hampton that never seems to give up the back breaking hit. I remember that game he pitched against the Cubs earlier in the season and it seems like all smoke and mirrors. I certainly do not want to see him again.
  • Store it away - Todd Hollandsworth has seen every pitch from Borowski perfectly. In game one he had a long AB that resulted in a double and in this game Joe could never put him away. I will fear this matchup for the rest of the series.
  • I am not saying that baseball is struggling in south Florida, but if my eyes were not deceiving me, one of the banner ads on the scoreboard was for the Cleveland Clinic. Did they outbid the Boise Chamber of Commerce. Are there no Ford dealerships in Miami. Odd.
  • Wood was not as dominating as other starts, but at least 2 of the runs scored against him were the results of bloop hits.

Like I mentioned earlier, the Cubs just got a huge win this evening. It is nice to see the Cubs boot one but have the other team choke on the basepaths. I don't think I can explain just how important this game was. If the Cubs lose, they might be faced with bringing back Prior on short rest in game 5. These pitchers have terrible records and then you might have to bring back Wood on short rest as well and have no clear game 7 starter. Now, you can send out Clement and Zambrano and hope to steal another game with no fear of the series coming back to Chicago. Personally, I think one (if not both) of Clement or Zambrano will get a win in this series. It might as well be tomorrow when Scott is in attendance.

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Friday, October 10, 2003

Planes, Trains, Autombiles, and Buses

I live in an apartment about two miles from the home venue of our first round victim, the Atlanta Braves. As such, it was very easy for me to make it to see the games in person. When Chris suggested I get in on their Miami getaway plan, I hesitate only a moment before signing on. I knew I had a meeting for work in Panama City, Florida, Friday, so that would just make it easier right?

After several hours of phone calls and internet searches, I now have an itinerary. Let us just say it is slightly more complex than I had expected.

  • Thursday, 8:30 a.m. EDT- Board a Greyhoud bus 218 miles to Dothan, AL
  • Thursday, 12:30 p.m. CDT- Taxi 3 miles to Dothan Enterprise car rental
  • Thursday, 3:30 p.m. - Rental car 85 miles to Panama City, FL
  • Friday, 8:00 a.m.- Rental car 5 miles to Gulf Power Plant Smith for meeting
  • Friday, 12:00 p.m.- Rental car 85 miles back to Dothan
  • Friday, 3:00 p.m.- Picked up in the Yarbagemobile, 618 miles to Miami, FL
  • Saturday, 1:00 a.m. EDT- Arrive at hotel to be named later
  • Saturday, 7:00 p.m.- Cubs/Marlins, Game Four
  • Sunday, 4:00 p.m.- Cubs/Marlins, Game Five
  • Sunday, 9:00 p.m.- Dropped off at Miami International Airport
  • Monday, 11:00 a.m.- Take off on AirTran 2151, 280 miles to Tampa, FL
  • Monday, 1:30 p.m.- Take off on AirTran 584, 457 miles to Atlanta, GA

Five days, four modes of transportation (five if you count MARTAing to the airport), roughly 1800 miles, and certainly worth every minute. Or, it will be if we win anyway. Dennis will have the post-game on this one, and I am sure you can expect something good at Al Yellon's site as he will be at tonight's game.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Playoff thoughts

As I nervously await another must win game for the Cubs this evening, I thought I would grace the loyal Northside Lounge readers with some random thoughts from my exhausted mind.

  • Note to Dusty - Lenny Harris is not good, he was not good for you and he is not good now. You should try to get him to bat against you. Putting in Guthrie thinking Lowell would pinch hit is unacceptable.
  • Speaking of Guthrie, add him to the list of pitchers I do not want to see on the mound ever again. He is now there with Veres. Both of them have no fastballs and play around with garbage pitches until down 2-0 or 3-1 and have to groove one. I would rather see Alf than either of those two and that is saying something.
  • Alex should play every inning of every game from here on out. Even if he hits .100 his defense is better than Ramon's.
  • Every postseason a player who normally does not shine steps out of the woodwork to be a hero. I have always guessed that Damian Miller would take this role for the Cubs, but he looks pretty bad at the plate right now. Looper simply blew him away last evening on three fastballs.
  • Why not play game 2 for the Cubs at 4:00. Wrigley is defined by day baseball and it would be a nice showcase. Plus, it would give people the chance to watch both ballgames. I guess the advertising people know something I don't.
  • I am not officially worried until the Marlins beat Wood or Prior. Even though Zambrano is a great pitcher, he is our number 3 and he faced their number 1. The Cubs almost beat them.
  • With the Cubs inability to get on prolonged streaks - good or bad - over the course of the season, I am not surprised that the first six postseason games went WLWLWL.
  • Why were the fans doing a mock chop last night in the stands. Please, we don't need that garbage to create a home field advantage. It was pretty sad to tell the truth.
  • Good move by Dusty last night to put Borowksi on the mound in the ninth. It did not work out in the end, but I love the thinking. I would hate to have seen Guthrie, Alf or Veres come out in that situation.
  • Talk about coming full circle in my mind - I was actually happy when Tom Goodwin batted last night.
  • Why was Karros not brought in the game in the 11th (could have been the other half of the double switch with Guthrie). Depending on the outcome of the top half of the inning, Baker would have to figure that the Cubs could end the game with a long one or need a pop to tie the game. By not putting in Karros a rally with a few hits is needed and your defense is weakened. I saw over on the Cub Reporter that Ramon hits Pavano well. Maybe Dusty was trying to get that matchup.

I suppose that is all I will leave you with at the moment. Enjoy the game this evening and hope that Prior has his A game. Of course the Cubs will win even if he has his C game.

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Sosa's Heroics Not Enough

The Cubs came as close as you can possibly come to stealing a win in Game One and having a chance to go up 3-0 behind Wood and Prior, but in the end it wasn't to be. After being staked to a four run lead, Carlos was cruising right along until the third when he gave up three homers and the lead in what seemed like seconds. Alex Gonzalez hit another big homer late to tie it, but Joe gave up his first runs of the postseason on three weakly hit ground balls and one legitimate single. Sosa tied it with two down in the ninth, but Mark Guthrie gave up the game-winner to Mike Lowell and that's all she wrote.

Dennis argued that Baker blundered by going to Guthrie in the 11th. He contended that going to a righty would have brought Lenny Harris out instead. He's got a point, especially when you look at Lowell's large platoon split (although that is somewhat mitigated by Guthrie's reverse split). Of course, its all kind of moot, since Baker's intent in bringing in Guthrie in the first place was to avoid facing Lenny Harris! Seriously. I kid you not. Click the link if you don't believe me. ""Yeah, I anticipated they'd bring in Lowell," Baker said. "But in that situation, I was down to three pitchers [actually four: Guthrie, Veres, Juan Cruz, Antonio Alfonseca]. And if I brought in a righty, they had Harris over there... so I took my shot with Lowell."

Is there a manager in the history of baseball with a greater ratio of people smarts to tactical smarts? I think the answer is no.

As nice as it would have been to steal this game, it still wasn't one we could have reasonably expected to win going in. We now have Prior and Wood, in games that are very nearly must-win on paper. Tonight's opponent is Brad Penny, a good right-handed pitcher with no appreciable platoon split. There's no pitcher in baseball I would rather have on the mound than Mark Prior. Let's go Cubs!

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Tuesday, October 07, 2003

National League Championship Series

Now see, that's not a stupid name at all.

The Florida Marlins will visit Wrigley Field tonight under clear skies with temperatures in the 60s. I am of the opinion that winning the Central division was a great accomplishment, and knocking off the league's best team in the first round was a marvelous feat as well, but I must admit that the folks who point out that we were this close as recently as 1989 do have a point. It would take a pennant for the Cubs do accomplish something that they haven't done before in my lifetime.

For the Atlanta series, I shied away from making an actual prediction but did say that I thought we would get at least three top notch starts and if we could score a few runs and win those games we would take the series. The fact that I was exactly right about that proves the old blind squirrel theory once and for all. I might as well push my luck though, so here's what I think of the NLCS.

The Marlins pitching staff scares me more than the Braves did. Josh Beckett was very good all year long and has peaked in September and October (2.26 ERA since mid-August and averaging over seven innings per start). Brad Penny hasn't been as consistent, but over the last half of the year he was still very good (3.42 ERA since July 1). He was hit hard in Game Two of the NLDS, but came back with 1.2 innings of scoreless relief in Game Four. Phlorida Phenom (and former Boise Hawk) Dontrelle Willis had a lousy August but ranged from very good to dominant the rest of the year. Unlike the Braves, I think one or more of these guys has the stuff to put up a shutout against someone, particularly someone with our offense.

Here's my gut feeling. We get Prior and Wood for four starts. It is possible to sweep those four starts, but more likely the bullpen, the offense, or a control spasm lets one get away. If we can take three of four though, we'll have three chances with Zambrano and Clement and need just one win. I think that is the most likely formula for victory.

There are a lot of series previews around, but the most detailed I have seen is Christian's so you may want to give that a try too.

I know of three Cubs Blog Army members going to Miami so far- Yarbage and myself for Games 4 and 5 and Al Yellon for Games 3 and 4. I expect the Marlins to be very tough, but I can't say the idea of a sweep and getting to see the Cubs take a pennant in person hasn't occurred to me. Considering the opponent I can't say its likely, but you never know.

One final note- Derek of Let's Play Two seems to have received a doubling in readership ever since people started googling for the phrase "Kerry Wood's wife." You see, Derek typed the words "Kerry Wood's wife is hot" in reference to Fox's nonstop camera coverage of her the other day, and ever since horny teenage baseball fans have been flooding his site with traffic. You may think I am only bringing this up for an excuse to get the phrase "Kerry Wood's wife is hot" posted to draw traffic for this blog, but you couldn't be more wrong. If that was my plan, I would be typing things like "Kerry Wood's wife naked" or "Don Zimmer nudes." Um, maybe not that last one actually...

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Monday, October 06, 2003

Cubs Win!

Parking lot celebration
One of our tailgating neighbors pops open his bottle of champagne after the game. We made sure his wife was the one who was planning to drive home.
If you've never stood and watched Joe Borowski stare down a hitter with two out in the bottom of the ninth in the final game of a playoff series, I heartily recommend it. It was the kind of night where you sit around in the parking lot afterwards, take turns remembering events from the game, and marvel at each of them in turn. It was a night of nerves, of exultation, and of a long teary embrace with my dad when Andruw went down swinging. It was a great night to be a Cubs fan.

Let's talk about the game. First of all, Kerry Wood. Every one of you who were slagging him two months ago can write out your apologies in long hand and mail them to Kid K c/o The Cubs (that's a little alliteration for you kids at home.) For the first five innings, the Braves simply couldn't touch him. In the sixth and seventh, the Braves had a few glimmers of hope but each time Kerry bore down to get the big inning ending outs. Heck, in the sixth the umpires actually gave the Braves a pity run and Kerry shrugged and finished the inning like nothing had happened. In the eighth, he was rolling again, pitching around Furcal's bunt single and escaping with no damage done. Just a fantastic pitching performance in one of the biggest games in over a hundred years of Cubs history. I guess he was feeling charitable so he didn't bother shredding Hampton with his bat as well.

Next up, how about the homer from Alex Gonzalez? Just when you think he will never get another hit, he hammers one out to dead center in the biggest game of the year so far. Credit goes to Cub Blog Army Soldier Chris Yarbrough who made Alex his pick to click before the game. He knew before we got to the park that there would be an unlikely hero, but he waited until shortly before entering to identify Alex as the man.

Lighting round time:

  • A routine 6-4-3 force at first
  • Kenny with the leadoff double
  • Aramis with the homer that Lenny Harris never would have hit
  • Moises Alou with two more hits to go .500 for the series
  • Joe Borowski. Could he be any calmer?
  • Dusty lifts Kerry for the pinch-hitter, gets an extra insurance run, and keeps Kerry fresh for the NLCS. Genius!
Cubs celebration
The scene from section 407 about five seconds after Andruw whiffed. Note Sammy and Kenny about to do the jump-five as Moises awaits his turn. Also, somewhere in there a civilian is cruising towards a security beatdown by second base.

I could go on all night, but I have to work tomorrow so this strikes me as a good time to wrap it up. Everyone who made it down here deserves a lot of credit. Tonight's crowd couldn't quite measure up to Game One's in terms of Cub fan intensity, but any team should be proud to have even tonight's level of support at a road playoff game. It truely was Wrigley Field South. Kudos also to a number of Braves fans who behaved with class such that Robert Fick could never comprehend. Right before Aramis' homer, a drunk who was harassing my father and I was escorted out thanks to a tip from the Braves fans sitting behind us. Also, a number of other Braves fans shook our hands and wished us luck on the way out. I don't know if I would be as gracious in defeat, so I must tip my cap.

Thanks to a little cajoling from Chris, I bought tickets for games 4 and 5 of the NLCS today so I'll be roadtripping to Miami next weekend. I think everyone should get to experience something like this at least once, and if once is good then twice must be better. Eight more wins. Bring on the Fish.

Edited to add
One additional note: I retired the Mark Grace jersey earlier this year. He's been gone for a few years now, and I figured it was time to let go a bit. The Hee Sop Choi jersey stepped in admirably, leading us to the 15 inning win over St. Louis, the six run comeback over St. Louis, and Kerry Wood in Game One over the Braves. Last night though, I decided the occasion called for something special. The Grace jersey came roaring off the hanger and into Turner Field, and when all was said and done we were headed to the NLCS. Thanks one more time, Mark!

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Sunday, October 05, 2003

Cubs eliminate the Fickin' Braves

Wow! That is about all I can say. Kerry Wood pitched another brilliant game "allowing" only 1 run on a blown call by the umpire striking out 7 and walking only 2. People have been wondering when Wood would step up and become an ace pitcher. Well, this series pretty much answers that question.

The Cubs will open up the National League Championship Series (read that again, man it looks great) on Tuesday with Zambrano on the hill. If the series goes the standard 2-3-2 with one day off for travel, then they should be set up to pitch Zambrano, Prior, Wood, Clement, Zambrano, Prior and Wood in the games with all of the guys getting full rest. There would be some room for changes in the middle games due to the days off, but I like this rotation.

This gives us a chance to get game one with a good pitcher albeit not our best our best pitcher at home. Then you get two games in a row of Prior and Wood with Wood being in a potential pivotal game 3 matchup. Let Clement and Zambrano have their shots if the situation dictates and then bring back the horses for games 6 and 7 at home. Hopefully, we will need only one of those for the pennant, but if we need both, I feel confident. Of course this is all subject to change.

Since Tim McCarver and his terrible grasp of baseball and its rules have rendered my entire body useless, I will sign off with happy thoughts in my head. Man, I am going to have a tough time sleeping this evening. Scott will have a post later this evening with an in person account and we will post some analysis before the beginning the NLCS.

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Saturday, October 04, 2003

Braves escape

Sammy Sosa came a few feet from tying Game Four in the bottom of the ninth, but instead the team whose style is exemplified by Robert Fick's cowardly cheap shot at Eric Karros lived to play a game five. I will be there, and I have twelve tickets. I plan to sell them at face value to Cubs fans who come by the tailgate, but if you can come email me and I'll hold one for you.

I am not in the mood to write more, but the party is on tomorrow afternoon in the Turner Field parking lot. Be there and see the least deserving fans in baseball go home with broken tomahawks and broken hearts. Email me if you want a ticket.

Edited to add:
Here is the AP story on Mr. Fick: Karros also took a beating. In the eighth inning, he caught a throw to first and still had his arm raised when pinch-hitter Fick came barreling at him and threw a forearm that was worthy of all-star wrestling.

The blow knocked the ball and glove free, nearly injuring Karros.

"It was an interesting running technique, that's a polite way to put it," Karros said. "He's pretty close to clotheslining me, too."

Karros grimaced in pain as plate umpire Larry Young came up the line to call Fick out.

"It's an elimination game and you've got to do what you've got to do," Fick said in a profanity-laced explanation. "I'm not saying I did it on purpose. But it's ... baseball."

All class, Rob, all class.

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Friday, October 03, 2003

The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

Greg Maddux was a great pitcher in his day, but Mark Prior served notice that there is a new best pitcher to have ever worn a Cubs uniform with a masterful 3-1 two-hitter at Wrigley tonight. The Cubs took advantage of a shaky Braves defense that was shaky all night long. Robert Fick opened the door by botching a Grudzialanek bunt in the first, and a wild pitch and a Randall Simon single plated all the runs Mark Prior would need.

We now have two chances to close it out. Bobby Cox looks to be going with his twenty-game winner on short rest in tomorrow's potential elimination game. I think its the right move since the alternative is feeding a lefty to our right-hadned lineup, but if he was going to use Ramirez at any point it strikes me as a panic move to bail on him now. As fun as seeing a game five win in person would be, I would much rather see Clement not take any chances and close it out here. Ortiz didnt have great control this year, and he was all over the place Tuesday so let's take some pitches and jump all over him early.

One game to go...

Updated to add:
Russ Ortiz will go on short rest today. He has done so once before on his career, on April 7 of this year. He pitched well, allowing just three hits and no runs in seven innings, but he did show signs of vulnerability. He walked three batters and was behind hitters all day, throwing just 49 strikes in 90 pitches. Its obviously way too small a sample size to mean much, but its food for thought. Not to be overlooked is the fact that moving Ortiz up also requires moving Mike Hampton to three days rest if a Game Five proves necessary.

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The Big One

Greg Maddux. Mark Prior. The one that got away. The one that hasn't. The recent history and immediate future of this franchise are summed up in a Game Three which shapes up as the biggest of the year so far. My impression is that most Cubs fans don't hold much hatred in their hearts for Maddux. He is no Matt Morris at any rate. Still, there is no better way to put the thought of a Hall of Famer slipping through our fingers behind us than having Mark Prior put a stamp on him and send him off.

Maddux's numbers look pretty average on the surface- 16-11, 3.96 ERA, and 5.1 K/IP. However, there is reason to believe he may be a good bit better than those figures would indicate. He was lousy in March and April (5.13 ERA), marginal in May and June (4.68), and since July 1 he has been pretty darn good (3.00). Furthermore, his peripherals are better than you might expect from the ERA. He was eighth in the league in WHIP and tops on the Atlanta staff in SNWL. If he has a weakness, it may be endurance as he made it into the eighth just three times this year.

Tailgate party pics
Between my lack of photography skill and laziness in taking pictures when I should have been, I didn't get many good pictures taken Tuesday and Wednesday. Heck, I didn't get any pictures of Chris Yarbrough and his Bama posse. The best one I did get is below and shows readers Tom and John shortly after they won an arguement with a drunken sherrif who attempted to coerce them into removing their Kerry K signs. If the Brave somehow manage to steal one of the next two, the party will be on again at Turner Field and I'll make sure to do a better job with the camera.

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Prior to the mound for game 3 this evening

Not much to say about the Cubs today. Everyone out there knows the situation - the Cubs after gaining a split in Atlanta head home to play a pivotal game 3 this evening with their version of Cy Young on the mound. This game could either set up the Cubs for a series victory or put their backs squarely against the wall. Here is hoping for the former.

I hate having a night game following a day off because it feels like 2 whole days off before seeing Cubs baseball again. I did pass the time by watching a predictible episode of Survivor and an excellent episode of CSI. I really like the edge they are giving Grissom this season. It will be interesting to see how far they take this angle.

After getting my fix of regular television I turned over the Fox to watch a spot of the Yankees/Twins game. While watching I saw a rather peculiar graphic. They were trying to contrast the grand Yankee history against the not so grand, albeit better than the Cub, Twin history by showing number of pennants, world championships and other metrics. Obviously the Twins fell short on the graphic but one entry was troubling. They stated that the Twins inception was 1961 and the Yankees was 1901.

The Twins actually descend from on the original American League teams - the Washington Senators. They of course being the famous team that led to the great line Washington "first in war, first in peace and last in the American League". Now, if the network did not want to count years in a previous city, that is fine, but then why did they list the Yankees as starting in 1901? The Yanks actually started in Baltimore and moved in 1903 when Ban Johnson decided his league needed a team in the biggest city in the country.

They should either count the entire run of the franchise or the years in which they were in their current city not different methods for different teams. Am I the only one that notices and cares about stuff like this? Probably. Anyway, Scott or I (or both if you are lucky) will have reactions to game 3 either tonight or tomorrow .

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Thursday, October 02, 2003

Missed opportunity

If I had to choose a word to describe tonight's game, that word would be "less fun." The tailgate was another big success, as I actually arrived in the Tuner Field Blue Lot to find a space reserved for me by several of the guys from yesterday's party. Apparently hungry Cub fans make for loyal friends. With the grilling down to a science, we had brats and burgers dished up in no time.

Earlier in the day, Tom (who drove down from Illinois with his brother John to tailgate with us and see the Cubs) had the brilliant idea to make a ton of Ron Santo signs. All together we maybe made twenty or thirty Santo signs and gave them to Cub fans who happened by. We instructed everyone to save them till the top of seventh ("our" seventh inning stretch) and then display them all at once. We had hopes that Pat might spot them and mention them so Ron could hear they were there back in Chicago. I've got no idea if it worked but it was fun trying.

And then there was the game. We had our chances to steal one, and we really should have finished Hampton off early. I didn't care for the IBB to Furcal at the time, and not just because it turned out badly. Pitching to Furcal, you've got two open bases and two batters you can fool around with before you get to the nightmare Sheffield/loaded situation. By putting Furcal on, you put yourself just one walk from that situation and basically force Veres to throw good pitches to DeRosa. The only way that makes sense is if DeRosa is a much worse hitter than Furcal. Furcal's got him by 100 points of OPS this year, but that isn't nearly enough to sacrifice the runner and the wiggle room.

And yet, we head back to Chicago with a split in Atlanta and home field advantage. We are throwing Prior, Clement, and Wood, and Atlanta has to beat two of the three to knock us out. Anything could happen, but I think we are in great shape.

Thanks to everyone who came to Atlanta to represent Cubdom, and a special thanks to those who made it to our tailgate parties. It was a lot of fun meeting some very cool people. As I told a few of you tonight, I expect my hospitality to be returned when I come up for the World Series in a few weeks.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Cubs fall in game 2, take split home to Wrigley

In the last game played this season at Turner Field (hopefully!), the Cubs had a chance to bury the Braves early loading the bases with no outs in the first innings after plating a couple of runs. Atlanta pitcher Mike Hampton settled down to strike out the side and leave the scoring at two. The Cubs starter allowed the Braves a run in the first to make it 2-1. The Cubs would not score again until the 8th pulling even at 3. In the bottom half, the Braves scores twice on Mark DeRosa's double to provide the winning margin.

Lots of stupid stuff by the Cubs this evening. First of all, Dave Veres throws the ball 80 mph and most of the time he throws balls. I might be overreacting to the game, but I am always amazed how he gets people out. He managed to walk Castilla in the eight and intentionally walk Furcal before DeRosa's double (the Braves only extra base hit).

What was Randall Simon thinking trying to make second on the sacrifice fly in the eighth. Andruw Jones was obviously not going to get Glanville and he actually hits the cut-off man. Simon's error means that Sosa does not see the plate in the 9th. Also, why did Alex Gonzalez come in for Glanville after the inning instead of for Farnsworth. Then, you can lead off with a position player and not waste your last bench player in case it goes to extra innings. Maybe Dusty knew Veres would blow it.

There are some good things though despite my frustration. The Cubs go home 1-1 and have Prior in game three. I love the fact he is pitching this game. It should set the Cubs up for two chances to pull out the series - one at home and one with Wood. Farnsworth did a really nice job again this evening. Zambrano also looked much better. He gave up only singles and only fell into trouble when he started throwing chaneups and offspeed crap almost exclusively.

The Braves are a smart team and thus far have just put the ball on the outside corner and watched the Cubs lunge over everything and ground out weakly. They will figure it out eventually. ON the other hand, the Cubs pitching has been as good as advertised minus one member who should not have had the ball anyway. I like the way this series is shaping up. Scott will be on later with an in person account.

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Two-way Kid K

I was nervous today. All through work, and all through our tailgate party, I worried. I worried about our offense, I worried about the Braves offense, and I worried about Kerry Wood. Around eight o'clock, we finished packing up the food and I began walking toward a surprisingly loud stadium with my father. As we got closer, I was able to make out the words...

Let's Go Cubs! Let's Go Cubs!

As I rode up the escalator towards our seats, the chants rang in my ears and the nerves were suddenly gone. They were replaced with an excited energy. I was in a stadium full of Cub fans and we had come to win.

Early on, both pitchers seemed to be behind every hitter but both were dodging bullets. In the fourth, Alou, Ramirez, and Karros loaded the bases but Gonzalez, Bako, and Wood failed to plate even a single run. In the sixth, Alou and Ramirez reached again. Chris Yarborough declared that if Karros could reach, he wanted to see Randall Simon come out and pinch-hit for Alex Gonzalez. It was a very simillar call to the one Dennis praised Clint Hurdle for a couple weeks ago, and I thought it was a brilliant idea when I heard it. Imagine my shock when Dusty actually did it! Of course, Ortiz managed to get Simon swinging, but I still think it was a great move.

Paul Bako was up next and grounded out but the play allowed the tying run to score and brought Kerry Wood to the plate with two out and two in scoring position. The situation called for some more prognostication, and my dad was up to the challenge. I didn't hear it, but other witnesses swear that he announced Kerry's game-breaking double before he even stepped into the box. Not half bad, Dad.

When JoBo struck out the side to end it, we crossed over a section to walk out with a couple readers who made it to the tailgate party. I've got a picture of the K's they were hanging up, but I seem to have misplaced the transfer cable for my camera so the pictures will have to wait till tomorrow. Anyway, as we worked our way out of the stadium, we were engulfed in raucous Cub fans. People were beating on trashcans to give the crowd a rythym for a "Let's Go Cubbies!" chant. Strangers were high-fiving, hugging, you name it. At one point, a tall gentleman in a Prior jersey turned around and said "this one's for Ronnie Santo!" The whole crowd roared back, "RON-NIE! RON-NIE! RON-NIE!" The goosebumps were promptly out in force.

I know Al Yellon has had some great days at the ballpark lately, but I'll stack my night up with any of his, even the clincher last Saturday. There is just something about a mad celebration in the other team's park with a bunch of crazies half of whom drove 12 hours to be there. You would think with that kind of crowd, we would have gotten some love from the umpires. From where I was sitting (20th row, upper deck), the umpire was squeezing Kerry and they just killed us with the missed DP call at first. Thank goodness our guys are so tough they can do it even with fishy umpiring.

Tomorrow is Carlos Zambrano Day. It looks like a must-win for the Braves, but if Z's back is healthy they may not get it. Kerry had his way with the vaunted Atlanta offense, and I am certainly willing to watch Carlos treat them the same way. Gametime is 7pm, tailgate is at 4. See you there. Cubs win! Cubs WIN!

P.S. I see that Chris has already posted. He drove back to Tuscaloosa after the game, and already posted?? Hide the women and children, the Yarbage-mobile is going 120 down I-85!

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