The Northside Lounge
A Chicago Cubs blog with an occasional tangent on pop culture
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Wednesday, June 30, 2004
 

Frustration

Having no-shows leave you one short for softball and watching bloops fall between your three outfielders all through a doubleheader

Losing a one-run decision in your home park while the visitors are getting calls like they are Duke at Cameron

Knowing you are up against a lousy poker player, putting him all-in with garbage, and getting outdrawn

Paying $50 a month for a Bell South DSL connection that gets about 2 kbps unless you pick up the telephone and get a dial tone while it loads. Seriously.

Sigh. At least the Cardinals lost.


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Tuesday, June 29, 2004
 

TV Guide

Cheers To the Chicago Cubs, for pulling out a win against Houston tonight. I'd comment on the details, but I don't know what they are becase...

Jeers To Bell South dot net, for some tragically poor customer service. I've talked to them three times in ten days. They've diagnosed the problem as being with a service upgrade they did, even though the problem started before they did the upgrade. Last Thursday, they insisted on overnighting me a new modem to fix that problem (that is probably not what's wrong.) They said it would be here Monday (yesterday). Of course, today I called and they said the order was put in today and the modem should be here in 3-5 business days. When I responded with a shocked tone, they tried to mollify me saying it would be "3-4 business days."

I shall now attempt to use the power of the internet for good. Attention! Stay away from Bellsouth.net. Their service, once pretty good, has turned like the loaf of bread that's been on top of my fridge since I moved into this house.

I am now going to try to post this. I have learned that my bandwidth goes up from very poor to perhaps 56k quality if I open a telephone line when I try to load a page. Here goes... dial tone and... post.


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Monday, June 28, 2004
 

Happy Mark Grace's Birthday

Why am I at work? Isn't today supposed to be a federal holiday?

Anyway, I was fortunate enough to miss yesterday's game as I was helping a friend build me a full-size Texas Hold' Em table. Actually, I was watching as he did all the work, but moral support is important too. I don't think losing two out of three to first the Cardinals and then the Sox is the end of the world. We are not irretrivably far behind, there is still more than half the season to go, and we are just getting healthy. That said, slipping more than five games back would start to pose a real problem. Naturally, we get no break as we next face Pettite, Clemens, and Miller, backed by their shiny new centerfielder. Sigh.

In other news, my home internet connection is running as fast as Gary Gaetti right now. I can only load very low-bandwidth pages, and even then it takes several minutes. I am limited to Gmail, Google News, and Google Groups. Actually, come to think of it, if it weren't for Google my internet connection would be flat out useless. I can't even load the lite versions of the other big websites out there.

Since my internet is so rough at home, let me use this space to respond to the email I got this morning from Pittsburgh Rob. I am glad to hear that you have read Moneyball. We've got lots of other great books you can read that share Bill James' true message and what it means to you. You can also come to our weekly Sunday morning meetings where the statistician reads from the Bill James Abstracts. This upcoming Sunday's sermon is from the Book of James, 1986 Abstract. The topic is position scarcity. Bring your family; we are having a potluck afterwards and all are welcome.


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Friday, June 25, 2004
 

Bad day

First things first. The Cubs "bounced back" from a bitter 10-9 loss Wednesday with an uninspiring 4-0 shutout loss at the hands of our archrivals, handing them a series win and a three-game cushion on us in the Central. The "star" of the game has to be Rey Ordonez, for who else is useless enough to symobolize this day? He committed the error that led to all four Cardinal runs, chipped in a runner-stranding inning-ending ground out in the second and a GIDP in the fourth, and cost us a pinch-hitter in the seventh.

How can we go through this year after year? How can Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker spend their lives in baseball and not be able to recognize that Rey Ordonez is a bad baseball player? In fairness, this shouldn't come as a complete surprise. These are the same clowns that gave Lenny Harris 146 agonizing plate appearances last year. There are millions of Cubs fans in the world. We are spending our time, money, and what's left of our hearts supporting this team. We deserve better than management that is capable of gutting our hopes with putrid personnel decisions like this year in and year out.

And speaking of putrid personnel, who stinks worse than Wendell Kim? Wait, there's an answer to that non-rhetorical question: the people who put him out by third base every day. Think about it- if you go to the pound, get a stray mutt, and tie his leash to a post in the third-base coaches box, is the ensuing failure the dog's fault or yours? Actually, that's not a great analogy. The first priority for a third-base coach is to not give away outs and a dog, or a cat, or a steaming pile of manure would all be better than a man who is bound and determined to send home any Cub runner who somehow manages to round second.

My tone may be a result of yesterday's loss, but the underlying sentiment is not. For all their good moves (like the Pirates trade last year) and their debatable ones (like the Lee/Choi trade), the bottom line is we have a management team who sees Rey Ordonez, Lenny Harris, and Wendell Kim and fails to recognize that they are hurting the team. This is proof enough for me that any good moves they make can be attributed to blind-squirrel luck, and that if we win a pennant under current management they will deserve it as much as said squirrel deserves his nut.

Beltran
You've got to credit Houston management. With Beltran, Clemens, Pettite, and Randy Johnson, they have gone out and made the big deal time and time again. While teams like the Cubs settle for what they can find on the clearance rack, the Astros add stars and superstars, and I fully expect it to pay off for them sooner or later. This time, they add a young centerfielder, with speed, defense, and pop. They do it at the cost of one talented reliever, whose role is being taken by Brad Lidge anyway. What's best is they do it a full five weeks before the trade deadline, meaning Beltran has five extra weeks to help the Astros win baseball games.

Tomorrow I'll calm down. Tomorrow I'll remember that we are still eight games over .500 and just three back. I'll remember that there is still time to add talent. I'll remember that teams run by Jimy Williams and Tony LaRussa can't exactly be held up as the gold standard of management. I'll remember that we made just as many lousy decisions last year and managed to come pretty darn close. I'll remember all of that... as long as we don't lose to the White Sox.

And hey- it could be worse. We could be English.


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Thursday, June 24, 2004
 

Blow the place up


The Cubs sure find some creative ways to lose ballgames at Busch Stadium. Walk off walks, passed balls, misjudged fly balls are just some of the ways the Cubs have managed to lose there in recent years. When St. Louis gets a new stadium I will gladly push the button that implodes the old stadium.


The Cubs showed some fight last night clawing back twice to take a big lead. Of course walks, errors and small strike zones combined to cough up the lead. Mercker got hosed on the pitch to Sanders in the seventh, but that is life sometime. Pujois did a nice fist pump after recording the last out which is fine. He should be pumped up because two things are very clear - the Cubs are a better team and the Cards were lucky to win that one. Hopefully the Cubs can come back and take the series.


Not a real long post today, but I did want to highlight something I read yesterday. This is from the Sun-Times articles on the series opening win. Wavin' Wendell while commenting on sending Sammy home in the 8th said "There were two outs, and you gotta go. If somebody is going to get beat by 30 yards, I'm not going to send him. But they ran hard."


So now we know the upper limit Wendell uses when sending runners. As long as they do not get throw out by 30 yards. Of course the only problem is that 30 yards is 90 feet which is the distance from third base to home plate. Maybe he should lower that threshold to about 10 yards. Goodness gracious, no wonder we get so many people hosed at the plate, he will send them once they are inches beyond third base.


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Wednesday, June 23, 2004
 

7th heaven on the road


The Cubs have accumulated a nice 7 game road winning streak after eeking one out against the Redbirds last night 5-4. Winning on the road is tough even against poor teams, but the Cubs streak has been against teams that are over .500. Not a bad way to make up some ground. Again, the teams in the central have to be sick to their stomachs since they could not distance themselves more from the injured Cubs. The boys in blue are starting to get their horses back and are playing some great baseball.


Last night's game was an odd one mainly due to the Genius and his tactics. He let his starting pitcher hit for himself in the bottom of the 7th innings with 2 outs and and the game tied. Amazingly this worked as Marquis and Womack got back to back singles to give St. Louis the lead. Of course, if Bako simply catches a perfect Patterson throw from the outfield then the Cubs get out of the inning with no damage.


Fast forward to the top of the 8th and Marquis gives up a lead off single and is lifted after a sacrifice. LaRussa bypasses his set-up men and goes straight to Isringhausen. Actually this was probably pretty smart since Alou and Sosa were due up. Alou makes an out and Sosa had a great plate appearance ending in a walk to set up Aramis' game winning double. Funny part was that Sosa, like Luna for St. Louis, would have been out at the plate if the catcher would have caught the ball before attempting the tag.


Dr. Tightpants mowed through the heart of the order in the bottom half of the 8th and Hawkins got through the ninth to preserve a big series opening win. They will battle again this evening as the Cubs shoot for their 8th straight road win and a share of the NL central lead.


One last note about the ballgame and this deals with one of the popular national commercials running right now. It is Fox's commercial advertsing the All-Star game. It features players riding around in cars and handing out campaign buttons. There is also other election style imagary. They show lots of stars like Clemens, Hudson, Beckett, Gagne and others. There is only one problem with this - pitchers are not selected to the game by the ballot! Shouldn't this commercial feature only position players. Am I missing something here?


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Cubs win late again

I headed out to eat with the Cubs down 3-1. When I got back, the ESPN News ticker said it was 5-4 in the ninth. I was worried about flipping over to watch because I didn't want to jinx anything, but my friend sitting in my living room talked me into it. LaTroy promptly gave up a single to bring the tying run to the plate. Fortunately, he got Roger Cedeno and Jim Edmonds to ease the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and give the Cubs a 5-4 win. Credit Hawkins and the good Doctor for 2.1 innings allowing just one baserunner on a bouncing ball that snuck between short and third. Credit also the hitting heroes Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee.

Tonight is Glendon Rusch (4-1, 3.68) against Jeff Suppan (6-5, 3.65). Let's go Cubs.


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Monday, June 21, 2004
 

Things you thought you would never hear


OK, its an off day for the baby bears - always a tough day to write anything, but I heard some odd things over the weekend and thought I would share. Today marks the first it what should be but probably will not be a running column on "things you thought you never would hear."


#1 - Those Devil Rays are on fire
Believe it or not, the Devil Rays have won 11 games in a row and are in third place in the AL East. Given Toronto's troubles, it looks as if the Rays will not finish in last place this season. I am not ready to the love on Lou Pinella as Chip does at every chance, but I will admit that this is a good story. I also love how the media is spinning the D-Rays streak. They have not gotten so many games ahead of last place, they are not "x" games away from a .500 record. No, ESPN is reporting that they are 6 games behind the Red Sox. Like suffering Boston fans need anything else to worry about.


That ball was scrushed
Speaking of Chip Carey, he uttered this phrase in the ninth inning of yesterday's ballgame when Durazo smacked a LaTroy pitch down the LaLine. I suppose he got caught halfway between saying "scorched" and "crushed" and in the mean time made up a new word. It reminded me of Saturday Night Live's W parody during the 2000 election. Strategery.


Is that Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Ahh, nothing like the sound of the great American baseball song. Just hearing it makes me think of peanuts, green grass, Harry Carey, and strecthing with the sun on my back. Of course most of the time I hear it at ballgames and not at Chinese buffets. There is a first thing for everything though and Saturday brought about this odd one. I was dining at a buffet with the in-laws when the piped in music started blaring the famous song. I am sure it is no coincidence that I was on my 7th plate.


I think Sean Casey should be an All-Star
All Star ballot stuffing and campaigning is nothing new especially in Cincinnati who is so famous for it, the voting rules were changed at one point because the whole team was almost all Reds (you can look it up), but I had never seen a jumbo tron produced campaign during a game until I went to the GAB last week. There on the screen was Jason LaRue explaining to the fans why Sean Casey should be an All Star. No one reciprocated for LaRue.


That is all for now. The Cubs are red hot heading into St. Louis. Problem is that the Cards are just as hot. I suppose if no else can beat them, we will have to do ourselves. Should be a fun series and actually there is not very many games left against them after this series - and we don't play them at all after July if memory serves. Nice schedule making there...speaking of the schedule, do we get to play the Brewers this season?


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Sunday, June 20, 2004
 

Workmanlike

That's the best word I can come up with to tie together today's performances by my two favorite sports teams on the planet: the US Men's National Soccer Team and your Chicago Cubs. I'll start with the Cubs, since that is nominally what we do here. Big Z shook off a pre-game headache to hold the A's to one run over 6.2. He was a bit wild, walking four and hitting a man. When you strike out eight and keep the ball in the yard though, you've earned the adverb "effectively" in front of wild, and that makes all the difference.

Kent Mercker came in and LOOGied his way out of the seventh. Mercker who is- gasp- more effective against lefties, is a fine choice for the LOOGY role. Dr. Tightpants mowed down the 4, 5, and 6 hitters in order in the eigth, but Latroy had a little trouble in the ninth as he allowed a single, two doubles, and two runs. Mitigating my dismay with the inning are three things- (1) he was throwing strikes, (2) he kept it in the yard, and (3) we won the game. DIPS, past history, and common sense lead me to believe he's going to be just fine.

The Cardinals got the pleasure of getting shut out 6-0 today as well as getting to see Ken Griffey stand at home plate and watch three different deep fly balls (one of which actually went out of the park for his 500th career homer) follow their little parabolas in the sky. I can just hear the envy in Jim Edmonds' inner monologue as he watched Griffey preen for the cameras rather than run the balls out. Anyway, the loss pulled us to within two games of the Cards for first place in the Central, just in time for a three-game series at Busch starting Tuesday. As hot as we've been, we have actually lost ground to the Cards over the last few weeks. Before today's loss, they were 18-5 in their last 23. Two arch-rivals, both on fire, battling for first place... sounds like about as big a series as you can have in the middle of June. Should be exciting.

One small step for the US
As the rest of the soccer world focused on Portugal knocking Spain out of Euro 2004 today, we gringos were watching a game played on a coverted cricket field in front of perhaps a fifth of the home nation's population. The US got their ticket to the next round with a win and a 6-2 aggregate victory in the series, but the Grenadaian eleven can hold their heads high after netting a deserved penalty in the first and a lovely counterattacking goal in the second.

The game was played on a field that was more of a marsh than anything, a result of weather that went from sunny to torrential downpour and back every ten minutes. There were countless occassion where players would go sliding twenty yards down the field as though on a Slip 'n Slide, and any pass attmept on the ground had at leat a 50% chance of suddenly stopping cold as it hit a puddle. Still, we emerged with a win and no injuries, so I'll take it.

The second round of qualifying will begin August 18th in Jamaica. The US will play six games, home-and-away with each of Jamaica, Panama, and El Salvador with the top two advancing to the Hex (the final stage with the top six teams in the confederation vying for 3.5 tickets to Germany.) While the US is a clear favorite in this group, there are no easy games either. I'll be previewing each game as it comes up, so stay tuned.

Breaking the surly bonds of earth
Tomorrow morning around 10:30 EDT, Mike Melvill will attempt to become the first person to ever pilot a privately funded and developed ship into outer space and back. CNN is planning to carry it live, so take a long coffee break and check it out. May he dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings. Go get 'em, Mike!

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Return of the Cardiac Cubs

The magic is back. Michael Barrett strikes for a two-run game winning double in the ninth. If you need a recap, you are better off reading about it from someone who saw it or checking out a tremendously cool picture of the climactic moment.

Tomorrow its Zito vs Zambrano. You know the drill with our Z, and you probably know of theirs by reputation. Right now, Zito's ERA is sitting at 4.67, but he is on a streak of eight earnies in his last 26 innings over four starts. Also, most of his troubles have been with lefties, of which we have only two in the starting lineup. Finally, he's also been a bit DIPS-unlucky. Basically, expect a tough nut to crack.

Why did the Chicken cross the field?
To throw water balloons at the visiting first base coach, obviously. While you were all enjoying the dramatic Cubs win, I was in Birmingham to see the White Sox AA affiliate Barons take on the visiting Brewer-affiliate Huntsville Stars. It was the first time I've seen the San Diego Chicken in person, and I enjoyed the performance. A few of the traditionalists in our SABR group grumbled that he wasn't as good as he used to be, but showing the umpire an eye chart, beating up Barney, and leading a pack of five-year olds dressed as San Diego Chicks through the middle of the visiting pitcher's warmup tosses... that stuff never gets old.

While the home team's roster featured exactly zero players I had ever heard of, Huntsville's first three hitters were top prospect Rickie Weeks, Tony Gwynn, Jr., and uber-prospect Prince Fielder. Naturally the result was a 6-1 Birmingham win. The highlight of the game was Fielder's AB in the bottom of the eighth, with two out and men on the corners in what was a 2-1 game at the time. Birmingham went to the pen to get a lefty to face him, and with a 1-1 count he sent a chopper to the right side. The first baseman moved to his right, but it got past him and was fielded by the second baseman in short right field. The pitcher was slow to react, so with the first baseman's momentum taking him out of the play, there was only one way for Baron's second baseman Ruddy Yan to make the play. He did it by sprinting to fist and sliding toe-first into the bag. Fielder's foot landed on the bag about a quarter-step later, bringing his shin into contact with Yan's outstretched leg. Fielder, with his massive muscular frame going top speed, was sent cartwheeling through the air. He landed on his feet signalling safe, but the ump correctly made the out call to end the inning. Just a fantastic effort all around. Of course, the Barons promptly jumped all over the Huntsville pen to blow the game open, but at the time the play was huge.

At any rate, a good time was had by all. I've now attended games at four minor league parks to go with eleven major league parks. I've got a long way to go to catch up with some folks, but my hat shelf is coming along nicely.

Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
Turner Field
Yankee Stadium
Three Rivers Stadium
Fenway Park
Wrigley Field
PNC Park
Riverfront Stadium
(New) Commiskey Park
Shea Stadium
Joe Robbie Stadium
Hank Aaron Stadium (Mobile, AL)
State Mutual Stadium (Rome, GA)
BellSouth Park (Chatanooga, TN)
Hoover Metropolitan Stadium (Birmingham, AL)


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Saturday, June 19, 2004
 

All good things

Despite Sosa's return and perhaps the most favorable pitching matchup of the weekend, the Cubs let one go by the boards 2-1 yesterday. Sometimes comparing our ability to score against our ability to prevent the opposition from scoring seems like the old immovable object vs irresistable force thing. Anyway, today is Mark Mulder (8-2, 2.97) against Mark Prior (1-1, 3.07). That would be one heck of an exciting matchup to watch, but right about gametime I am headed out to join our SABR group in Alabama to see the Huntsville Stars visit the Birmingham Barons. Hopefully we can start a new win streak in my absence.

More gmail invites arrived this morning. Just email if you want one.


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Friday, June 18, 2004
 

A special message from Corey Patterson

Hey y'all, this is Corey Patterson. As you know, Scott and I are both from the ATL, so he's been kind enough to give me this space to say a few words. You fair-weather pinheads who've been booing me for the last month had better not have been cheering when I single-handedly slapped the Astros pitching staff all over Enron Field during our 5-4 win tonight. You had better not have been smiling as you watched Astros outfielders chase my three extra-base hits as they bounced around the warning track. For that matter, there had better not been one of you disloyal chumps who got any enjoyment at all out of my bunt single and game-tying run yesterday or the extra-inning bunting clinic I put on Sunday.

You see, I'm a twenty-four year old kid who is fast, strong, works hard, hustles, and generally does his very best to help the Cubs win baseball games. I'm also a pretty darn good center fielder with a .500 SLG season under my belt, and five straight years of rising OBP's in the major leagues. What compels some of you bandwagon posers to boo someone who, despite giving a full effort, happens to be in the midst of a five-week stretch of mediocre hitting is beyond me. Here's a tip: next time you are frustrated that someone who is working his tail off for the team isn't getting the results you'd like, try cheering for him. Then you won't look like a moron when the hits start falling in a few weeks later.

To the rest of you, thanks for hanging in. I shall reward your faith by asking Scott to continue to dispense gmail accounts to everyone who emails him. Six straight wins over .500+ teams. Let the good times roll.

This wasn't actually a special message from Corey Patterson, but it should have been.


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Thursday, June 17, 2004
 

In search of history...again


Last season I was able to see Sammy Sosa hit his 500th homer against the Reds at the Great American Ballpark. This afternoon I took a four hour lunch hoping to see Ken Griffey Jr. perform the same feat. I believe he will become the 20th member of the club and I would have then seen 10% of them. Not bad. Too bad it was not meant to be as he went 0-3 with a sacrifice fly.


Not all was lost though because I got to spend some time at the ballpark. As the saying goes a bad day at the ballpark beats a good day at work. Given my hectic work environment lately, I hardily agree. I figured it was worth a shot to see some history. I even managed to scalp a ticket four rows deep in right field. If I would have caught the ball, I think I would have taken seats behind the dugout for the September Cubs/Reds series in lieu of any signed memoribilia. Of course given the ratio of large tattooed men around me today, even if Griffey did connect my chances af getting the ball were slight.


I got my ticket fot $45 which was not all the terrible. I talked the guy down from $70, so I felt like a got a decent deal. Of course, this was money better spent that the $75 I lost playing poker the other night, but as another famous saying goes, "that's poker".


I have always loved card games and the recent poker boom is sucking me in (as well as the other blogger on this site who recently won an online tourney, so congrats to him). I have been playing poker since December and can best describe myself as a Corey Patterson at this time point. Being a statistician, I have a good head for the odds, I am decent at seeing the potential hands on the table and feel I have some ability. The only missing is discipline. I need discipline not to try and bluff out people too often, discipline to throw away a hand when it is a loser and discipline to only play quality hands in the first place.


During my money blood bath the other night, I was actually showing decent discipline. Cards were cold, and for the most part I was staying out of the way. I was only down about $15-$20 mostly from the blinds. Then, I caught a decent hand. I caught a pair on the flop and kept on betting into two people when it was pretty obvious I was beat. Bad disciplince, bad result. Well, that hand cost me about $15 and the remaining $15 or so was quickly gone as I went on tilt. No discipline.


I guess the key is to get back on the horse and start playing again. I just have to teach myself to be disciplined, just like I would love Corey to do. I wonder if it is easier for a baseball player or a poker player to lean new skills. I will keep you posted.


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Comeback Cubs

Cubs fall behind 1-0. They take the lead 2-1 in the top of the seventh, and then get two insurance runs in the top of the eighth. Sunday the script called for a bullpen collapse and eight more innings of baseball before the Cubs got the win. Tonight they did it the easy way, with Mike Remlinger and LaTroy Hawkins slamming the door on Houston for a fifth consecutive win. Aramis had three hits, while the much-maligned Corey Patterson had a bunt single that led to the tying run, a triple, and a fantastic catch to save a run and end the home eighth. Make sure to make yourself feel good by screaming BOOOOO at him next chance you get.

I'd like to give some credit to Dusty for his bullpen management today. Mike Remlinger came in the game for Francis Beltran with two on and two out in the seventh. Jose Vizcaino, a switch-hitter roughly equally effective from each side of the plate was the hitter, and Rem got him on a comebacker. Rem then hit for himself in the eighth, and stayed into face Berkman, Kent, Bagwell, and Ensberg. Of the four, three are right-handed and Berkman is a switch-hitter more effective against righties. Now I've been railing against the use of Mike Remlinger as a LOOGY ever since we started this little blog. He is simply a better pitcher against right-handed batters, year in and year out (.570 against righties over the last three years, .789 against lefties). If Dusty was just desperate to not use another reliver, then I withdraw my praise. If however, this marks a new usage pattern wherein Remlinger gets to face guys he owns instead of guys who light him up, then its a pleasant step in the right direction.

Tomorrow night its the pitcher inhabiting the body of Glendon Rusch (3-1, 3.95) verus Roy Oswalt (4-5, 3.86). The Cubs will be going for their first four-game sweep and their second six-game win streak of the season. It would be nice if the bats could jump all over Houston early so I can sit back and relax and enjoy a Cubs game for once.

Oh yeah: Gmail is going crazy with the invites, as I've received yet another batch. I've given out 10 or 12 so far, but I've got three more to the next three emailers. Hope to hear from you soon!


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Tuesday, June 15, 2004
 

All Ramon, all the time!

Ramon Martinez is keen. I like the cut of his gib and I think he's got that certain je ne sais quoi without which it don't mean a thing. His homer gave the Cubs the lead early and his two-run single off Octavio Dotel in the ninth gave them the lead late. Don't look now, but we've got a four game winning streak and from last week to next week we are likely adding three All-Stars to the roster. Not bad at all.

To celebrate the big win, I'm giving away the new Gmail invites I got this morning. Email me if you want one, free of charge.

Edited to add:All out of invites again. Keep and eye open and I'll post if/when they give me more.


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L

It wasn't quite as good as stopping the 300 Express in its tracks last summer, but putting a big fat 1 in the L column for Roger was still a lot of fun. There was no single inning that cost him, but the Cubs got one in the third, an Aramis homer in the fourth, two more in the fifth, and a Walker homer in the sixth. When the dust settled, Mark Prior had outpitched Clemens for five strong innings before being lifted with 92 pitches in the sixth. Jimmy Anderson came on and spared the bullpen with three strong innings before letting up a bit and allowing two runs in the ninth. I am sure having the rest of the pen rested for tonight is a big relief to all concerned, so kudos to Anderson and the Cub offense for making it possible.

Tonight its Z (7-2, 2.27) against Wade Miller (6-6, 3.99). The great Mike Kiley reported (sic) that Carlos had a sore right shoulder in the clubhouse on Sunday. Things like that scare me even when they come from a source with the credibility of Ahmed Chalabi, so I'll be hoping to see him look strong (even more so than usual.)


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Sunday, June 13, 2004
 

Marathon

I've tried and failed to write a decent wrapup of this game. It was just too long, with too many fluctuations of fortune for a writer of my limited talent to capsulize without spending all night on it. Therefore, its time for Lazy Points:
  • I caught nine innings of Cubs baseball today. That's because I turned it on in the seventh, after watching a soccer game (see below), playing three poker tournaments, doing two loads of laundry, cleaning the kitchen, unpacking the last three boxes of stuff from the apartment.
  • Its funny how despite twenty years as a Cubs fan, I can still think naive thoughts like "We've got the lead! I think the pen can hold it" after seeing us take the lead 2-1 in the seventh.
  • Nice inning for Beltran. I'll say it again- as much as I hate some of Dusty's strategic decisions, I love the confidence he shows in his players. For that alone he's a vast improvement over the previous tennant.
  • Funny how other teams can identify glaring weaknesses when Hendry can't. Walking Corey to get to Ordonez was obvious- I wouldn't have been totally shocked if Scioscia had not waited for the wild pitch to open first. Forcing in a run for a guaranteed out to end the inning is almost worth it.
  • In the Angels' three-run eighth, the pivotal at-bat was Anderson's game-tying homer off Dr. Tightpants. Kyle got ahead 0-1, and then Dusty gave up that advantage by pitching out. Vlad is just 14 for 19 over the last two years combined, and in a situation where his run only matters if Anderson scores too you have to figure he would have been staying put anyway. The Dr. missed with his next pitch, and Anderson took advantage of the 2-1 hitters count to homer and tie the game.
  • I am sure the Corey-haters will find a way to criticize him, but I sure appreciated the two extra-inning bunt singles. Laying down a sacrifice bunt in extra-innings so well that you beat it out despite the corners being in is a game-breaking play. Only some wretched situational hitting by Goodwin and Macias prolonged the game long enough that Corey had to do it again for the win.
  • Brutal luck for Hawkins in the eleventh. Molina was completely overmatched, and if he'd gotten anymore of the ball it would have been an easy game-ending groundout. Instead it took an unfieldable high hop and Vlad tied it back up.
  • Jon Leicester had his Wellemeyer moment today. No matter what his career holds, 15-inning game heroics will always be fondly remembered.
  • Pretty fair catch by Todd Hollandsworth. If it comes out of his glove as he runs face first into the wall, it could easily roll around in that corner while he tries to remember what day it is and Kotchman comes all the way around.
  • And finally Todd Walker singles in Corey "faster than a drawn-in third baseman's arm" Patterson for the win. Whew.
  • One guy I haven't mentioned is Derrek Lee. That's because he had one of the quietest 5-5, double, homer, two walk days you are ever going to see. Don't look now, but he has closed to within 100 points of OPS a certain Korean first baseman.
  • The bad news is we head into Houston with no day off, no fresh relievers, and a guy just off rehab set to pitch against the tough Astro lineup. Let's hope he can give us at least six and hopefully seven good innings tomorrow night.
  • Because I have nowhere else to put it, let me tip my cap to Kerry Wood for throwing a perfect game today. Of course it was A) against the Pirates and B) on a computer game, so its not quite as remarkable as, say, Randy Johnson's perfecto. I'd move up to a tougher level, but I can barely score any runs on Pro so I'm staying put for now
The trek begins
The US Men began their trip to Germany 2006 this afternoon in Columbus, Ohio, with a closer than it needed to be 3-0 win over Grenada. Every country with a FIFA association in the entire world gets to try to make it to Germany, and so the US begins their journey with a home-and-away series against a nation whose entire population could fit in the Rose Bowl with room to spare. My favorite Nat DeMarcus Beasely scored twice, and Greg Vanney added a third in injury time. The "Spice Boys" (so named because Grenada produces a third of the world's nutmeg supply) weren't the greatest markers in the world so DMB was wide-open for his goals, but the header was well-taken and the finish on the second was, dare I say, clinical. The second leg is in Grenada with a third of the nation's population expected to attend. The first tiebreaker is away goals, so if the US can net one Grenada will need five to survive. No mercy.

Let me close with a Reagan anecdote. If you are sick of hearing about him, just move on and come back tomorrow. I'm sure I'll stop mentioning him in every post soon. Anyway, you may remember our invasion of Grenada during the Reagan admininstration. The media hammered Reagan for his militaristic act of sending troops to Grenada, and the action is still the subject of jokes from that august body. You may be surprised, as I shouldn't have been but was, to learn that the people of Grenada generally consider Reagan a hero, and actually celebrate the invasion date as a national holiday called "Thanksgiving." Anyway, without futher ado, your anecdote from a speech in January of 1984:

Recently, one of our young lieutenants- (a) Marine lieutenant flying a Cobra- was off in Grenada and then went on to Beirut. And from there he wrote back to the Armed Forces Journal something that he had been doing. He said that he noticed that every news story about the Grenada rescue mission contained a line- every story- that Grenada produces more nutmeg than any other place in the world. And he decided that was a code, and he was going to break the code. And he did.

He wrote back and said, "Number one, Grenada produces more nutmeg than any place in the world. Number two, the Soviets and the Cubans are trying to take Grenada. Number three, you can't make good eggnog without nutmeg. Number four, you can't have Christmas without eggnog. Number five, the Soviets and the Cubans are trying to steal Christmas. And number six, we stopped them!"


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Friday, June 11, 2004
 

Cubs pound Cards; head west

I'd like to take a moment to thank the Cardinal pitching staff for making at least one day of this baseball season pleasant and relaxing. Nine straight hits is like a nice back massage for taking the stress away. The end result was a win that once again staved off the makings of a severe slump. It seems like we have been on the ropes for weeks now, but we keep coming back to steal a win and stay above water for another day. I can't tell if its bad to be perpetually on the brink or good that we are hanging in and getting set for a streak when everyone gets back in the lineup.

Having finished the series with the Cardinals, the Cubs now pay a visit to the hated Anaheim Angels. Can you imagine that before Bud Selig came along, we never got to play the Angels despite being just a quick 43-hour Amtrak ride from their fair city? Now, thanks to the genius of Selig, we don't waste time playing silly National League rivals when we could be engaged in an intense series with our traditional rivals from the suburbs of Los Angeles.

We will be sending Maddux, Rusch, and Clement to the mound to face John Lackey (3-7, 5.64), Bartolo Colon (4-4, 6.00), and Kelvim Escobar (4-2, 3.34). The Angels have suffered nearly as severe an injury plague as we. Currently, Darrin Erstad, Troy Glaus, Garrett Anderson, and Brendan Donnelly are key players the Angels are without. Despite this, they are nine games over .500 and just a half game out of first. Credit goes to Vlad Guerrero (1.003 OPS) and a trio of fantastic relievers- Kevin Gregg, Scot Shields, and Felix Rodriguez- who have combined for a 1.81 ERA over 115 innings. One problem they have had is a defense that is allowing balls-in-play to fall in at a .325 clip, second worst in the bigs. For comparison, the Cubs are at .288, fifth best in baseball.

Two side notes: first, someone on a forum pointed out the problem I was having with MVP Baseball. Apparently you have to hold the pitch button down to power up the pitch, despite the fact that just tapping the button to start the meter looks like it works. The difference is ten MPH on the fastball, and going from giving up 15 runs a game to a sharp 1-0 win in my first game armed with this new knowledge. I tell you, watching Alfonseca blow away Kerry Wood by some 12 MPH is enough to give you vertigo.

The second note: we had a Atlanta chapter SABR get together last night. I met the proprietor of beesball.com who brought up the fact that Bud has brilliantly arranged for the Blue Jays and Expos to play each other on Canada Day. The sight of seeing two Canadian teams play each other on this most beloved Canadian holiday would likely bring tears to the eyes of the throng of patriotic red-and-white clad fans... if it weren't for the fact that Selig scheduled the game in San Juan. Seriously. You couldn't make that up.

One last thing- this weekend its Tech vs The School Formerly Known as UGA in a best two-of-three superregional for a trip to Omaha. The games will be on ESPN at 2 EDT today, the Deuce Saturday at noon, and back on the mothership Sunday at noon if necessary. Look for Cubs draftee Eric Patterson leading off and playing second base for Tech, and Cubs draftee Micah Owings starting on the mound today and DHing the rest of the weekend. To Hell With Georgia!


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Wednesday, June 09, 2004
 

Not good times

Sosa can't take a full BP session because his back acts up again. The Golden Child gets rocked by our arch-rivals. Their wannabe thug starting pitcher throws at Derrek Lee and gets to walk home with a win. That worthless showboating hack Jim Edmonds hits two homers. We fall three and a half back of St. Louis and remain four out of first. We are reduced to hoping for a split tomorrow afternoon.

Does the fun ever start??

I am going to try to take out my frustrations on MLB 2004 now. The problem with that is that even on the easy level, the only way to avoid giving up long drives is to throw it way off the plate where they rarely swing anyway, and any long drive is trouble because human-controlled outfielders are slow as Ron Cey and twice as awkward. I hope nobody has a patent on blog-rants, because if they do then Jason is going to be working overtime defending the CBA from a cubic furlong of lawsuits.

Once I turn off MLB 2004 trailing by 11 in the fourth inning, I am going to get in bed and read a book in hopes I can find something in it to cheer me up. I'm not counting on anything.


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Spewing from my mind


I have not posted for awhile, so I am going to do what any lazy blogger would do in a situation like this, make a list of random thoughts on the Cubs, baseball and other topics. Away we go...

  • Now, I am not saying that the Cardinals are a bunch of dirty rotten liars, but not only do they list Pujois as 24 they also have Ray King listed at 242 pounds. There is no way either of these is close. King is starting to look like a left handed Alfonseca. Assuming that people who lose weight are off steroids, this guy must have Balco on speed dial
  • Chip Carey mentions how wonderful Ray Lankford is for laying off a year and then making the Cardinals in spring training. Doesn't the fact that Hector Luna, Tony Womack, So Taguchi and John Mabry all made the team make this accomplsihment less impressive? Ths is like being impressed when as eskimo wins a dog sled race over some guy from Florida.
  • Speaking of Chip Carey, I used to not really care much about announcers, but add me to the list of people who don't like him. When the Cubs played the Dodgers a while back, Extra Innings carried the Dodgers feed and I got to listen to Vin Scully. Wow, what a difference.
  • I am convinced in 20 BP swings I hit more homers out of Wrigley than Paul Bako. At worst we tie at zero.
  • How great was the signing of Todd Hollandsworth. He does not complain about PT, can spot start at 1B and the OF, hits bombs as a pinch hitter, takes walks, and is one of the smartest players on the team. Twice this past week he took an extra base on nothing more than alertness and hustle.
  • Budweiser is running a great line of commercials at the moment talking about Miller being bought by a foreign brewery. Miller probably thought they were clever running election style commercials this year, but they have to be dumbfounded by Budweiser's retorts. Personally, I am enjoying the battle.
  • 24 was great as always this season and soon I will write a longer recap, but this season was the first one that felt like it did not all take place on the same day. Regardless, the last 7 episodes were better than anything else on TV during that timespan.
  • For all of those participating in Scott's prediction contest, he forgot to tell you about one more category. You get points based on your proximity to Atlanta. Hey, it is not fair, but nither is a lot of other scoring systems (BCS) and Scott wuns the show. Look for the Atlanta native and habitual cheater to stay at the top of the standings.
  • For all you SABR members out there, the convention is in Cincinnati this summer. Scott and I will both be attending. Make sure to drop us a line if you are going. I would love to meet other bloggers or readers of this blog.
  • Scott emailed me a link to a Baseball Primer clutch hit where someone referred to the Farns as Dr. Tightpants. I think I should have patented that a long time ago. I might have been the first one to call him that. If someone saw it elsewhere first, feel free to clue me in and I will stop making this claim. I don't want to turn into Al Gore.
  • I added a new website to the side listing. A buddy of mine from college - Lou Pickney - works for Bubba the Love Sponge and maintains a website about his life in Tampa. Make sure to check it out as his commentaries on sports, TV, radio and other topics are worth reading. That reminds me, if you are a Cub blogger and not listed on the side links, drop us a line.

Well, that was fun. I should post more often. We will be this evening to recap Prior's first win of 2004.

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Cubs even series

I am really supposed to be at work already, so this will have to be brief. A welcome win last night, as going down 2-0 in the series would have been no fun at all. My favorite moment was watching Broadway Jim Edmonds wave at Derrek Lee's single as it bounced over his head, and then seeing him turn and jog back to the wall to pick it up. If that's not a gold glover, I don't know what is. Matt Clement came up with another solid performance, allowing two homers to Rolen but doing it with nobody on base.

This afternoon, its Mark Prior vs Matt Morris. I can't come up with any analogies that are A) appropriate to the magnitude of this matchup and B) not sacrilegious, so let's just say I hope our guy wins.


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Tuesday, June 08, 2004
 

CBA Prediction Contest and some free goodies

I updated this after the weekend series, but forgot to post it, so here goes. If you guys seriously let me win, you should be ashamed.

1Scott LangeThe Northside Lounge202
2Jason SteffensClark & Addison Chronicle190.5
3ChuckIvy Chat180
4Christian RuzichThe Cub Reporter168
5Brian HippCubs Now!165
6Dennis GoodmanThe Northside Lounge164
7Bill KellyRooftop Report163
8Alex CiepleyThe Cub Reporter153.5
9DeShawn JacksonBad Century153
10Rob LetterlyThe Uncouth Sloth144
11Derek SmartThe Big Red C136
12Al Yellonand another thing!133.5
13Tim CrammEamus Catulli133
14Derek BergerLet's Play Two120.5
15Chris YarboroughYarbage Cub Review107.5
16James L. CrockettJust North of Wrigley Field102.5

Oh, and I've got a couple extra gmail invites. If you have been dying for a 1 GB free email account from google, now is your chance. First emails get them.


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One run loss

I had people over to watch Game 7 of the Stanley Cup last night, so I didn't have the priveledge of watching another one run loss. I do know that we are now 6-9 in one-run games, and we are underperforming our Pythagorean projection by over three games. Its funny, but I haven't seen loads of Astros fans lining up to explain that they don't deserve their lead over us on account of their inferior rs/ra differential.

Anyway, in a close race, you've got to figure we are going to need to pull out our share of the one-run games. Having injured Joe out of the way should help with some of that, but it will take some luck and good timing too. Clement vs Williams tonight.


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Sunday, June 06, 2004
 

Cubs win one for the Gipper

The Cubs followed an eerily familliar script today, as for a second consecutive game they got great starting piching, fell behind 1-0, bounced back for the lead in the bottom of the seventh and some insurance in the bottom of the eighth before going home with a comfortable win (6-1 yesterday, 4-1 today). Aramis got the rally going with a wind-aided homer that just barely dropped into the basket. I saw a sign on WGN that said "Dear Pirates: Raise the anchor and set sail. We have major league teams to play. Sincerely, the Cubs. PS Thanks for Aramis." I hope for Pittsburgh Rob's sake that the Pirates telecast skipped over that one, as I presume it would get his goat on a number of levels.

One thing that made today's game nice was the strong performance by the bullpen. While Dusty is still not showing any particular awareness of each pitcher's strengths (i.e. using a guy consistently much better against righties as a LOOGY), we at least saw our three best relievers in a close game for once. We might have been seeing that all year, if only Joe had been honest with everyone. It seems he's been experiencing a "dull feeling" and hadn't bothered to tell anyone about it. Of course, the coaching staff deserves plenty of blame too. If we amateurs in the CBA have been speculating about an injury since spring training, surely they should have been asking Joe how he felt and demanding the full and complete truth. Its a shame that Dusty, Rothschild, and Joe all put Joe's need to be macho ahead of the team's success.

The Cardinals come to town for four huge games starting tomorrow. Hopefully our run of great starting pitching will continue and the bats will wake up against some get-well St. Louis pitching.


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Saturday, June 05, 2004
 

A win and a loss

TGIZ. Carlos and the Cubs gave us all a reason to step back from the ledge with a nice 6-1 win today. I left in the sixth to do a little shopping and catch a soccer game. At the time, it was 0-0, and its a good thing I left then because if I'd have seen Jason Bay lead off the seventh with a homer I might have gone looking for that ledge after all. Fortunately, the Cubs came right back to load the bases and then plate three runs in the bottom half on a Patterson RBI groundout and an Ordonez single. Holly and Lee followed in the eighth with an RBI groundout and a long homer respectively, and Beltran pitched a perfect ninth to finally subdue the Pirates. Did you know we are 6-5 against them this year? It sure doesn't feel like it.
On the flipside, Ronald Reagan passed away today. I try hard to avoid politics on this blog, partly because I want to make it about things everyone can enjoy and partly because I don't want to get into arguments with the vocal CBA members with views that differ from my own. Today, I'll make a tiny exception and say that I strongly believe Ronald Reagan was the greatest president of the twentieth century. He was the first president since at least WWII to take a stand for reducing the size, scope, and power of government. The reward has been 23 years and counting of a booming economy, both here and in the myriad free markets he nurtured in Asia and around the world. He is the person most responsible for freeing 400,000,000 people from the bonds of Communist dictatorship, and he did it with virtually no loss of life in military engagements of any kind.

Reagan will always be linked with the sport of baseball and specifically the Chicago Cubs. Of course, one of the first jobs Reagan held was as a play-by-play man for Chicago Cub broadcasts at WHO in Des Moines, Iowa. He became an actor and starred as Grover Cleveland Alexander in the biopic "The Winning Team." He stayed involved with sports all the way through his career and into the White House. If you have the Harry Caray tribute CD WGN put out at the time of Harry's passing, you can hear part of Reagan's call to the booth when Harry was returning from illness. He also joined Harry in the booth at one point, as you can see in the picture on this page. On Sportscenter, they had a clip of the Commander-in-Chief calling a single up the middle plating a rookie Mark Grace. As a sidenote, if anyone can help me find a recording of that inning, I'd be eternally grateful.

At any rate, all good things must come to an end, and today Ronald Reagan's life did just that. There was a time when I expected to be bawling my eyes out when this day came, but the past years of Alzhemeir's have spread the sadness out so that now its not so intense. Still, its sad to see a great man go. Thanks for everything, Dutch.

Ronald Wilson Reagan
1911-2004

Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts.


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Friday, June 04, 2004
 

Bitter

Sometimes, when the stars are aligned and the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place, the universe opens itself up for a few seconds to show you what's possible... and then winds up and kicks you right in the gut.

First of all, is there anyone who doesn't love Moises Alou right now? He's crushing the ball all over the park, he made an amazing ninth inning catch to temporarily bail Borowski out, and the throw to nail Mackowiak at the plate was a thing of beauty. If his throw would have been just a foot better, he would have ended the game with his second assist at the plate, and we would have had a game that ranks right up there with the great ones in Cub history.

Second, Mark Prior. I have missed that like I miss having a healthy right leg.

And that's just about all the highlights we've got. On the flipside...

No more excuses. If Joe Borowski pitches in one more key situation where Remlinger, Farnsworth, or Hawkins are options, Dusty is to blame. Not Joe. Not fate. Dusty. Borowski is getting hammered every time out. He's got an ERA over eight. EIGHT! He obviously isn't capable of succeeding right now. Stop trotting him out there to lose games. Today for instance, why on earth couldn't Hawkins stay in and pitch the ninth? What a horrible waste.

Did you know our starting SS is Rey Ordonez? Don't give me any garbage about injuries. There are at least one hundred better choices for starting SS in the world. Why can't Jim Hendry find one? First time up, popped out with a man on second. Next time up, struck out on three foul bunts. Third time up, he reaches on an error. Fourth time up, bases loaded strike out. Also, he committed an error. The thing is, that unlike Lee and Patterson, this is exactly what we should expect from Ordonez. He isn't a good hitter. He never was.

I could go on all night, but I am headed over to Tech to watch the Jackets in their first subregional game for the CWS. I hope it ends better than this afternoon's game did.


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Inappropriate Martial Metaphors

This is it. This is our turning point. Our line in the sand. Our D-Day. I realize baseball isn't war, but those are most apt analogies I can find. We've been getting kicked around all year long by scrub AAA teams like the Pirates, but it ends today. One day it will be over, and everyone will forget that this was the moment. This is when it turned. And it wasn't the mighty Fleet, it wasn't any fancy new weapon, it was a pitcher named Prior who captured a brain.

All right, I got carried into a little Starship Troopers there. The point is that many of us imagine the entire season riding on the Second Coming of Prior this afternoon. Derek at the Big Red C knows what I am talking about. It makes little rational sense. After all, if all goes well Mark Prior is going to make twenty some-odd more starts this year. If he gives up a few runs, or even god forbid loses the game, there's still plenty of baseball left to play. Yet I know I am not alone in counting on a game score of at least 100 out of our man Prior today.

Do the Pirates suck?
Ok, so above I just called them a AAA team to pick on Pittsburgh Rob. During last weekend's series, Ryan was taking out some emotion on the Bucs and called them a AAA team, and I promised to see how true that was today, so here goes.
  1. They are 23-27, .460, a record better than nine other teams and worse than twenty. That's borderline sucking.
  2. Pythagoras says they ought to have just 22.8 wins based on their run differential. That's about what they really have, so its still borderline.
  3. If you adjust their rs/ra numbers for their actual raw offensive data (singles, doubles, outs, etc), they look a little better- 23.3 wins. Still nothing too wonderful though.
  4. Adjust those numbers again, this time for the fact that the Pirates have been playing a tougher than usual schedule. That puts them up to 24.9 wins, or virtually .500. Tough to call that sucking.
  5. What about standout players? Well, young Oliver Perez has looked very good so far, posting a 3.20 ERA and striking out more than a man an inning. Offensively, Craig Wilson has been riding that ridiculous hair to a career year. He's got a fat 1.080 OPS. That's nearly 200 points above the best Cub (Aramis). Still, just two All-Star caliber players isn't anything to write home about.
The Pirates have been dreadful for a long, long time. Its been twelve years since they finished at .500. Still, its hard to call this a bad team. They've got a couple standout players, and enough other guys filling their roles that they are basically a .500 team. That said, they are still a team that a contender ought to beat. Prior (0-0, 0.00) vs Fogg (3-4, 6.90). No time to start like the present.

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Thursday, June 03, 2004
 

Darkest before the dawn


The Cubs dropped another game to the Astros yesterday due to poor hitting and poor work from the bullpen. Roger Clemens gave up only one run while running his record to 8-0. The injuries are catching up as the Cubs are 3-7 in their last 10 games.


Good news is on the horizon though. The best pitcher of his generation (so far) returns from the DL tomorrow to not only shut down the Pirates but to lodge a baseball in Mackowiak's neck. I have silently thought to myself that if the Cubs were within 5 games of the lead when Prior came back, then they would still win the division. Of course, this is when the rest of the team was healthy, so maybe I need to make that within five games when all the regulars return.


Regardless of changing predictions and conditions, Prior is back and the Cubs find themselves 4.5 games out of first. The good news is that they are only 2 games behind their main competition - the Astros and the Cardinals. I cannot see the currently first place Reds maintaining this pace all season. If they do, I will probably stab my eardrums so I don't have to hear all the bandwagoners in my hometown talk about their team.


Speaking of the Reds, they definitely have graduated from the Bud Selig school of public relations. They are off to a great start and the level of interest is growing in the city. I am sure they will see an attendance spike this summer due to the play. So, how to they ride out this new found momentum? They announce that their annual Reds Fest (like the Cubs convention only with less blue) will be cancelled for the next two seasons. They cited renovations to a convention center downtown as the cause although I am sure they could find somewhere else if they looked hard enough. Cincinnati is a pretty big town and has a few hotels. Nice move fellas. If you would have told the taxpayers they had to publically finance a new convention center in order to ever have the event again, Selig would have wept with pride.


Lastly, I am usually not all that impressed with the car decals showing Calvin urinating on things. Most of the time a hated Nascar driver or alternate brand of truck is the object subjected to the stream, but I saw a Volvo with Calvin relieving himself on the name "Bud Selig" on the way to work today. Cool.


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Wednesday, June 02, 2004
 

Survival

The Cubs have been dealt a brutal hand so far this year. Their three best players have spent large chunks of the season on the DL. Their fourth best player (Derrek Lee) has been mired in a season-long slump that has gone unnoticed because people are distracted by Corey Patterson's slump. Well Lee's OPS is .766. Patterson's is .744. The only difference I see is one of them can point to having been told that he needs to be less patient by his coaches for the last five years. What's Lee's excuse?

And then of course, despite the injuries, the slumps, and twice failing to plate even a single run with bases loaded and none out, the Cubs still have a chance to win a third straight over the Astros... right up until umpire blows a call at first and hands the game to Houston. That's got to be the best moment this crew has had since they forgot their pants Monday.

Its enough that I won our no-limit tourney tonight and it hasn't made me feel one bit better. Is it too much to say that the fate of the season, the AOL/Time-Warner conglomerate, global warming, and the entire free world rest on Mark Prior's start Friday? If he gives up one hit- even one- I am changing my name to Bernard and moving to Shreveport to start over as a short-order cook. Do you want fries with that?

Edited to add: I woke up this morning feeling slightly more sane, so I was going to apologize for my irrational rant. Then I suddenly remembered that our ace pinch-hitter when you need a homer off the bench was Rey Ordonez. Its so horrible I can't even summon properly indignant emotion. If I get an unjust speeding ticket, it ticks me off. When I got run over by a transit bus in the middle of a crosswalk at a four-way stop and the judge found me guilty of jaywalking based on the hearsay testimony of the bus driver, I just kind of shrugged my shoulders. What can you say? Rey Ordonez. Its enough to make me go crazy. Go crazy? Don't mind if I do!


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