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

Well...

... that wasn't really what I was hoping for either. And yet, if you've come looking for a quitter you're at the wrong blog. (FWIW, the guy who found us by searching for "Kyle Farnsworth naked" is also at the wrong blog.) You do all remember the Brant Brown game, right? That was six short years ago. Could things have been any grimmer than they were around 5:00 that afternoon? And we pulled that out, right?

Odds are this time Monday we're going to be wondering why there is no more baseball to watch this year, but the thing about odds is every so often they get beaten. Maybe this is one of those times. Maybe this is one of those years when a groundball goes through Jeff Bagwell's legs. Maybe this is one of those years when a glacial runner scores from second on Barry Bonds' arm to send Bonds home. Maybe this is one of those years when Neifi Perez pokes a miracle homer into the bleachers to save a season.

Anything is still possible, and if it happens its going to be a whole lot sweeter if you haven't given up to work on your fantasy football team in the meantime. Lets go Cubs.


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Darkest before dawn

Another day, another dispiriting loss, another missed opportunity. While the Cubs still control their own destiny, now our opponents both control theirs as well. Houston in particular, taking advantage of the laydown Matt Morris promised one year ago, has just three games against lousy opposition to win to force the Cubs to win out just to make a playoff.

Hawkins is once again taking the blame for this one, but to my mind the primary culprit is the offense. If they score more than two stinking runs in eleven innings, we win the game. Nomar (1-3, 3 BB), Sosa (2-4, 1 BB), and Glendon Rusch (HR!) performed, but everyone else... two runs in eleven innings. Throw out Rusch's homer and it was one run in eleven innings against a team playing out the string.

But there will be time enough for finger pointing after the season if we lose. Now is the time to focus on rooting the Cubs on to victory. I am not irrational enough to think my mental urging is going to affect anything, but there are 25+ guys in that dugout who wear the logo of the team I have chosen to support. I think are going to give their all the next four days to try to make the playoffs and I am going to be right there with them.

Aaron Harang (10-9, 5.03) against Mark Prior (6-4, 4.27) this afternoon. Harang has allowed a minimum of four runs in each start since mid-August. Jerome Williams (9-7, 4.41) against Adam Eaton (11-13, 4.73) out west. The Astros sit home and wait. We can do this. Lets go Cubs.


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Wednesday, September 29, 2004
 

Dog fight

Chicago8869--
San Francisco8869--
Houston88700.5

One of the many beautfiul things about baseball is the epic scale of a 162 game season. Teams' fortunes rise one month and fall the next. A team of marginal quality can do everything right for two weeks and run off twelve straight wins, but slowly, inexorably, the long months of summer seperate the wheat from the chaff. If one team is clearly superior to another, they almost always prove it over the long haul.

Here we have three teams, none of which is clearly superior to the other. Here we have three teams whose hopes rest not on superior talent, but on finding a way to somehow win one more game than their competition over the next six days. This is not the grueling marathon of April to September. This is three teams running a short, brutal gauntlet, where one inning, one pitch, or one swing can change history.

One of these three teams will find a way this week. I hope its ours. Let's go Cubs.


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No one said this would be easy


Well, the Astros have four games left and are one game back in the loss column while the Cubs are Giants are primed for a five game sprint to the finish tied for the Wild Card spot. This of course after Greg Maddux got torched by the lowly Reds in an 8-3 loss last evening at the ballpark. I have decided that I do not like Maddux against the Reds because for the second consecutive start against them, he gave up one big inning that killed the Cubs.


I would like to give some in depth observations about the game, but I did not see a lick of it. Why you ask? Well, because major league baseball has an insane blackout rule when it comes to the extra innings package. They blackout games in the home market when the team is on the road and the local television station decides to show the Best Damn Sports Show Period and whatever list show they are touting at the moment. You read that correctly. Even though Fox Sports Ohio chose not to broadcast the game, it was still blacked out. So Reds fans could not see the game even if they themselves had purchased the package. I understand blackouts for local television but this is just stupid.


Adding insult to injury is the fact that ESPN is having a total brain freeze right now as well. I figured that at 10:00 I would turn and see some highlights on Baseball Tonight. Nope, they were showing a new game show on the mothership and a WNBA game on ESPN2. I suppose they have to keep the hundreds of WNBA fans satisfied. Actually, I would wager they were forced to broadcast these games in order to get a part of the NBA television contract, but showing a game show instead of BBTN during the last week of the season is about the dumbest programming move since MTV took music off the station.


Adding to the misery is the fact I wake up this morning and the worst possible thing that could happen did happen as the Cubs failed to comeback, the Giants beat the fading Padres and the Cardinals continued to lay down to Matt Morris' favorite team. No matter how bad a team is a four game sweep is odd in baseball, so one loss in the series is not the end of the world. Hopefully they can rebound today and take game 3 and watch the other teams falter. I still think the Cubs have a favorable schedule and can get into the playoffs. Time will tell.


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Monday, September 27, 2004
 

12-5

May I just say that I am all about games that we lead big enough for Calvin Murray to snag the last out? I am too exhausted to post more now, but let me share an inspiring quote from my boy from the 404 Michael Barrett and then try to post again in the morning. This from after the plane flight back to Chicago for the regular season ending homestand:

"The thought of that being our last plane flight together is a bad thought," Barrett said. "I don't think any of us (want that). That was good in a way- you're on the flight with a loss and you're thinking that could be the last flight together. This group of guys get along so well, we don't want to see it end. Not now. We want it to end when we want it to end. I'm expecting great things this week."

Damn skippy. Lets go Cubs.


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Sunday, September 26, 2004
 

Road trip ends with whimper


11 days ago the Cubs started a monster road trip that would see them play 12 games in those 11 days. Two of the games would be on a mutual off day with the then still dangerous Marlins. Granted the schedule was easier than what they saw in the middle of the season, but the worst baseball teams still usually play better than .333 baseball. Given all those facts, I am sure most would have taken an 8-4 road trip.


Well, that is what we got after a 3-2 loss to the Mets this afternoon at the ballpark by the airport. 8-2 just seems like a failure since they started out 8-2 in the first 10. Believe me, I am happy with the end result. Sure it would be great to have an extra game on the Astros and Giants, but the fact remains that the Cubs gained a game on the Giants and maintained the status quo with the Astros and took 12 games off their schedule.


They are the only team that can win out and get in the playoffs. They have 4 games remaining with the woeful Reds. The Astros and Giants still have series left against good teams. It is not easy and pretty, but they still have to be considered the favorite. 3 of 4 against the Reds would be a good start.


No matter how much a blowhard like McCarver would like to convince himself that the losses this weekend were catastrophic, they are not. The Cubs lost two heartbreaking in Pittsburgh earlier this season and rebounded. They had a tough series against the Cardinals and did the same. In the end, the Cubs are still in the driver's seat.


First live poker tourney


I played in my first live poker tournament over the weekend. There were 10 or so satellites where the top 10% of people would get into the finals. Sadly, I busted out in somewhere around 35-40th place out of 150. The structure of the tourney made it really important to catch a hand early as you only started with about 30 big blinds.


I played pretty tight as was only involved in 5-6 pots before the break taking down one of them. I opened a pot with JJ but had to fold when the flop came with 2 overcards. The biggest hit to my stack occurred when I looked down at my cards to find KK. I open raised about 3 big blinds only to be called by the button and re-raised by the big blind. Both the players had played weak aces earlier in the tourney, so I called hoping to get some action with my kings. If they each held an ace, then only two more remained in the deck.


Of course the flop came with an A on it and the guy in the big blind led out. I thought about it for a few minutes and mucked my hand. The button called and eventually the big blind won the hand A-Q against A-3. I am trying to think if I made the best move by not moving all in before the flop, but I generally think at least one of them would have called and therefore would have busted me.


After the break, I had 5000 chips and blinds were 500 and 1000. I picked up AK suited under the gun to begin the session and moved all in to steal the blinds. I then pretty much treaded water, stole the blinds a few times by moving all in when I was the first to open a pot. Still when the blinds moved to 1000 and 2000, I was left with only 7000 in chips.


I posted the big blind and had three people limp to me including the big blind who completed to go all in. I squeezed out A-9 and decided to see the free flop in case someone had me outkicked. The flop came 9-7-4 rainbow and I decided to move all in. Button calls me and turns over K-4 suited for bottom pair. I was pretty happy to see that hand rather than something like 8-T or 5-6 which would have given more outs with the straight draw. Anyway, long story short the guy spiked a K on the river and busted me out.


Overall, I was happy with my play. Some people lament bad beats, but the guy did have a huge chip lead on me, I could have easily been on a draw, and he had good pot odds, so I do not mind the call. The thing I take from the experience is that I need to find the people who check around after the flop and work on stealing some pots since you cannot play tight with the low money structure. Also, I need to be more clear about some pre-flop strategy when I am low. I probably should have moved in with A-9 as any rational player would more than likely fold K-4. I will take this experience with me and hopefully get deeper in my next tourney. If Phil Hellmuth is reading this and would like to give advice, I am all ears.


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Saturday, September 25, 2004
 

Thanks, Tim

The Cubs blew a 3-0 lead with two strikes and two out in the ninth today, but I am actually pretty calm about it thanks to good ol' Tim McCarver. He was more of an idiot than usual today, insisting over and over again that using Dempster to face Piazza was a terrible idea because of Piazza's amazing track record of success against Dempster. That track record: a .995 OPS in 34 career plate appearances. Not only is the sample size tiny, but Piazza's huge success is a whopping 48 points of OPS better than his career average- a difference so tiny as to make the whole arguement irrelevant. Dempster shocked the world by getting a routine groundout. Wow.

So anyway, come the ninth inning Dempster puts a couple of guys on and McCarver starts saying the Cubs can't lose this game and make the playoffs. He repeats it a few times, building momentum, until it completely takes over the telecast. As it turns out, the Cubs did go on to lose the game.

The notion that a dissapointing loss ends the postseason hopes of a team that is leading the wildcard race is just bizzare. It blows my mind that they actually pay someone to speak such absurdities into a microphone. Of course blowing a winnable game hurts, but there are 162 games in a baseball season and every team in the history of baseball has suffered bad losses. Heck, we've had several wins this week alone that we pulled out in circumstances simillar to today's. One loss doesn't end a season. Without McCarver, I'd be tearing my hair out, but he has helped me remember that its just one game, we are still in front, and we still control our own destiny. Lets go Cubs.


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No let up

Things have started to fall into place for a bit, but with a little over a week to go this is no time to sit back and enjoy a few wins. Each game is bigger than the one before it, and we've got to get the most possible out of every game since you know the competition will be.

As such, I'm going straight to today's pitching matchup. Mark Prior (6-4, 4.59) will face Aaron Heilman (1-2, 4.86). Heilman is a tall righty who had a 4.33 ERA over 151.2 IP for AAA Norfolk before being called up a couple weeks ago. There was nothing in his numbers to suggest some hidden dominance waiting to break out, so we seem to be facing a guy who was a run of the mill pitcher in AAA. In theory, we ought to jump all over him. In theory. Prior is coming off just his fourth Prior-like start of the year, 1 run, 1 walk, and 9 K against Florida Monday. Most of the country will get the Cubs/Mets on Fox at 1:15/12:15. Let's go Cubs.


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Friday, September 24, 2004
 

Just keep winning

As I write, the Astros have come up with one in the seventh, one in the eighth, and three so far in the ninth, a rally from a 3-0 deficit that saves Houston from what would have been a soul-crushing sweep at the hands of the Giants. They have certainly acted as though a loss would end their season, using fifteen position players and seven pitchers in a seemingly straightforward 7-3 ballgame.I see the logic in what Dennis and others have been saying about the Dodgers/Giants matchup helping the Cubs if Houston would eliminate themselves. Still, I guess I just like would like to see the Cubs at the top of the standings list. Call me an irrational, sentimental fool. (7-3 now, headed to the bottom of the ninth.)

Regardless of tonight's outcome, the last three days have gone beautifully for the Cubs for the obvious reason that they keep winning. The good news is that despite the generally phenomenal play of all the contenders the last few week, we have more than held our own and remain in position to control our own destiny. Tomorrow Glendon Rusch (6-2, 3.69) takes on Kris Benson (12-12, 4.44). The Mets have hit righties significantly better than lefties (.736 OPS versus .702) which bodes well for Rusch. Benson as you remember was acquired at the cost of a substantial part of the team's future in order to propel the Mets to the playoffs and beyond. Um... right. So anyway, since the trade he has fluctuated between brilliant and dreadful, averaging out to a 4.98 ERA. In his three good starts he has had an 0.41 ERA, while in the five bad ones its 8.07. Here's hoping we get Glendon some runs and set the tone for the series early. Let's go Cubs.


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Thursday, September 23, 2004
 

Reverse Implied Pot Odds


This is what last night's game felt like to me. Let me explain, as it is another poker analogy. Pot odds are basically a simple calculation to figure if you stand to make money in the long run if you call and make your poker hand. Implied pot odds take into account how much extra money you will win by making a hand (say you know if you hit a flush your opponent will call your bet and earn you some money). Reverse implied odds are the opposite, how much money can you lose if your opponent hits a hand. It basically defines a situation where you are can either have a small victory or a devastating loss.


Imagine you hold AJ and the flop comes J-7-8 with the 7 and 8 being of hearts. This is a hard place to be. Oftentimes, you have the best hand, but there are a lot of draws out there. Your hand has little chance of getting better, but there is a great chance that someone will flush or straight you and take in all your precious money.


As I watched Sammy make the catch of the season last evening, I thought about this concept. For the Cubs a victory would be more a relief and a loss would be crushing. It was certainly not a comfortable game to watch. Thankfully, with timely pitching and a nice eye from the pitcher, they were able to hold on, gain a game on the Dodgers and separate themselves further from the Astros.


Personally, I would like to see the Cubs win and the Astros lose again tonight. Two things can happen when the Giants play the Dodgers, they split the games and tread water or one team destorys the pennant hopes of the others. Both of those help the Cubs. Assuming they take care of the Mets and Reds, they will catch either of the west coast teams due to the schedule. The Astros are a little bit more of a wild card, so lets get them down another game today and take care of the west later.


Lets play a game!!


What do these numbers represent: 1.50, 2.16, 2.70, 0.00, 0.00, 0.00. It is tempting to speculate that those are the probabilities of a statistician getting a phone number from six randomly selected NFL cheerleaders, but they are in fact the September ERAs of Hawkins, Dempster, Remlinger, Wuertz, Mercker and Dr. Tightpants respectively.


In case people have not noticed this bullpen is picking a real nice time to peak. Given the question marks of the other NL teams and the return to health and effectiveness of the Cubs team, do you think anyone wants to play the Cubs in the playoffs? Now, I reliaze that I am way ahead of myself, but if we can get in, this could be a real fun run. I am sure that the Cardinals with injuries to Rolen and Carpenter are keeping their eye on the Cubs coming up in the rear view mirror. Despite what the standings say, those objects are definitely closer than they appear.


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Just another routine ballgame

I've got to be out the door in four and a half hours to head out to a plant for work, so this will be short and sweet. Even when you've seen thousands of baseball in your life, baseball still finds ways to surprise you. Tonight it was a critical 1-0 win in the heat of a pennant race where the only run scored on a two-out, 3-2 walk to the pitcher. I've been looking all year for a game that would spark the Cubs to a huge win streak, but after seeing some miraculous wins followed by lackluster play I am not going to be fooled again. If this Cubs team is to make the playoffs, it looks like they'll get there not by a run of 1906-esque dominance but by scratching and clawing and fighting for every win they can get. Every game is huge. Let's go Cubs.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004
 

Gut punch


Faced with the easiest schedule of the remaining wild card teams, this was supposed to be easy. That of course was before LaTroy Hawkins blew a save giving the Pirates a series opening win. Obviously not good times.


I would write more but of the 26 teams on the Extra Innings package tonight, the Cubs are not one. Good thing I paid for that. Good thing is that only one of our main competitors will gain ground. I guess we have to try and get back on track tomorrow.


[Edited to add - 9:51] OK, I tried some of the famous Northside Lounge reverse psychology and typed those opening paragraphs after LaTroy had given up the tying run and not the winning run. The game went into extra innings where Patterson scored on a wild pitch after Alou struck out for the second out. Now, we need Dempster to hold on for the victory. He did some closing in Ioqs before getting recalled, so lets go Ryan.


[Edited to add (again) - 9:55] Scott and his tactics are pure genius. Dempster holds on for the win and the Cubs are in great shape to gain some ground pending the results of the Astros/Giants game. Lets go out and win game two tomorrow...wait a minute, we stink we are going to lose tomorrow.


[Edited by Scott to add- 10:56] You don't know the half of it. I was watching on gamecast, and the applet choked in the top of the tenth and showed Lee's strikeout while leaving out the wild pitch. As far as I know, its still 4-4. I flip over to my Civ3 game to occupy my mind and not go stark raving cuckoo for coco puffs waiting for the bottom of the tenth. I come back a few minutes later, and the applet says 5-4. The only logical conclusion is the Cubs have lost. I turn off my game and stomp around the house in frustration, cursing everything I can think of as I stomp. After ten or fifteen minutes have passed, I am calm enough to return to the computer only to find that the pitch went to the backstop, Flynn came home to score the winning run, and children are laughing and shouting like its a snow day at Mudville Elementary. You know I am good when my reverse psychology is retroactively winning games.


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Like kissing Lenny Harris

The Cubs missed an opportunity to take command of the wild card race, but did manage to hold serve by splitting the double header with Florida yesterday. Tonight we send Kerry Wood (8-7, 3.54) out to face Josh Fogg (9-10, 4.82). Fogg has been much better in the second half, posting a 3.39 ERA since the All-Star break incuding 6.2 shutout innings against us last week. Each win we pick up in this series with the Bucs is guaranteed to pick up a game for us over Houston or San Fran, as those two top wildcard contenders are meeting out on the coast. Tonight its Carlos Hernandez (1-2, 5.30) versus Brett Tomko (10-6, 4.26).

They're bigger all the time. Let's go Cubs.


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Sunday, September 19, 2004
 

Cubs get away in efficient fashion


One word to describe the game this afternoon - fast. The Cubs did not manage to get a runner past second base until the eighth and did not even have a baserunner until the 4th. They did manage to rally late though and pulled out a 5-1 win victory in about 2.5 hours.


While Paul Wilson was throwing up goose eggs against the Cubs, Glendon Rusch matched him in the early innings. He allowed only 3 runners in the first 6 - one on an error, one erased while trying to stretch a double into a triple and one taken down on a nice strike 'em out throw 'em out double play. A double and single in the seventh did plate the first run and it appeared as if Rusch would be the tough luck loser.


I suppose it would only make sense that the offense would struggle today. It was supposed to be Clement's turn to pitch and they never do well for him. It just took the team until the 8th to realize who was on the mound. In the eighth, Walker delievered a one out hit and was taken down for a runner (I did not realize he was so slow). Barrett followed with a ringing double down the line and the game was eventually tied on Grieve's sac fly.


The Cubs got 4 runs in the ninth thanks to a leadoff error on a play where apparently the umpire blew the call - at least according to the Reds broadcasters after the game. Dusty used a well timed hit and run with a contact hitter in Ramirez and Alou then smacked a 3-0 pitch in the gap to provide the lead which would never be lost.


The only really funny thing I noticed at the ballpark today was an ad for mlb.tv on the scoreboard. They said it was the best way to follow the Reds while oversees. I wonder what happens if you go overseas. Again the ballpark was more vocal for the Cubs and I saw a lot more blue than red. I even sat next to a nice older woman wearing a "This old Cub" shirt.


My jersey collection now includes all three official jerseys and the batting practice jersey. The road grey was the only one to bring a loss this weekend. I will have to make sure it gets a win next time. All in all a pretty good series for the Cubs. If they play .750 the rest of the way, they should be fine. They are 6-1 in their last seven heading into a big doubleheader tomorrow. Hopefully Prior and Clement at up to the task. Personally, I am hoping to continue my personal hot streak with favorite teams as the Colts and the Vols both won this weekend.


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Glendon the Good Pitch(er)

Just when I was wondering if the magic had worn off a bit, Rusch came back with a magnificent performance to take the series from the Reds today. Michael Barrett was the hitting hero today, going 3-4 with a key double in the game-tying eighth and a two-run insurance double in the ninth. I have a new theory on Barrett- what if, just maybe, there is a net zero amount of clutch heroics for everyone born in a certain week in each city? Then it would logically follow that each blown shootout penalty kick, last-inning softball letdown, and brutal river suckout I (10/28/76, the ATL) have suffered over the years has just been building up the karma bank for Barrett (10/22/76, the very same 404) to go absolutely hog wild this fall. Just something to think about...

I'm going to get this posted and get out of the way so I don't push Dennis' on-the-scene report from the GAB down the page again. Before I go though, I want to alert you to the new Cubs Chronicle, helmed by Jason Steffens. I usually don't write up new and changing Cubs blogs, as there are just so darn many of us that I don't have the time. Jason is a special case though, both because he was the immediate inspiration and mentor for Dennis and myself to start the Lounge and because of the quality of his work at the old site. Do yourself a favor and check it out. If you don't have time to add another blog to your daily routine, drop Yarbie. He's nothing but a sellout to the corporate media monolith anyway.


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Lousy night

I didn't see last night's game because I was off losing money to a bunch of drunk rednecks. AA cracked by J4 SOOTED. Still, it had to be better than watching the Cubs blow a chance to pick up ground on just about everyone, losing by one run, with Wendell apparently getting another Cubs runner shot down at the plate like he was Old Yeller. Suddenly we are relying on our sixth starter to save us from failing to win a series from a team that we were making look like the Lake Woebegone Whippets up until, oh, twelve hours ago.

Fortunately, I've got a new sunny outlook on life, so none of this bothers me at all.


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Frustration


From start to finish that is the best way to describe yesterday's experience in downtown Cincinnati. I live about 35 minutes from downtown, so I left about 90 minutes before the game because I like to get all my eating done before the start of the game as I am a score keeper. I also had no interest in seeing the Joe Nuxhall retirement ceremony.


It seemed like a reasonable plan except I underestimated Cincinnati's ability to handle traffic. With the ballgame, a Van Halen concert, and Octoberfest all downtown plus a Grambling football game letting out, it took me about 80 minutes to get to my work parking lot - thank goodness I could park there and not have to look elsewhere. I stopped by the office to get some aspirin for my newly acquired headache and headed for the park. In the end, I actually wound up missing a couple of batters - first time that has ever happened.


Right away when I sat down, I knew it would be a fun night from a crowd persepective. The game was sold out due to the Nuxhall thing, but a ton of Cub fans managed to scalp some tickets. The left field upper deck bleachers were almost entirely covered in blue shirts. Give credit to the Reds fans that did show up though as they decided they wanted to take back the ballpark and cheered loudly.


Moises Alou tried to play the hero as Lee and Ramirez did the previous nights hitting two homers including one that was part of a 3 run sixth inning that staked Maddux to a 4-1 lead. Then the wheels fell off. Looking like the Maddux of old for the first 5 innings walking no one and inducing ground ball after ground ball, Greg looked his age in the sixth giving up 5 runs on a couple of doubles and homers. The last homer being Pena's second of the game - none of these cheap.


I felt bad for Dusty as he was in a no win situation. Obviously, he would like to see Greg get that 15th win so he left him in the ballgame after getting two outs in the inning. Even after giving up the tying run, Baker left Maddux on the hill hoping he would wiggle out and the Cubs would score in the 7th.


It looked like the Cubs would come firing back in the seventh. Patterson, who has cooled off a bit in Cinci, bunted for a single and managed to injure the pitcher in the process. He then stole second off a newly inputted catcher and was there with no outs. Neifi Perez then decided to try and slap bunt one and lined out the shortstop. Not sure I see the logic here. If you want to bunt, make sure you at least get it down to move the runner. Otherwise at least pull the ball and make sure we have a chance to move a run closer. Trying to meet somewhere in the middle leads to a useless out. If Patterson gets to third, Ramirez's fly ball gets the Cubs a run. As it stood, it got him to third where he was stranded after Freel made a great play on an Alou smash.


As frustrating as the 7th was, the 8th was worse thanks to our old friend the 3rd base coach. With one out Sammy hit a ball into the upper deck - no small task. Singles by Grudz and Walker put runners on 1st and 2nd for pinch hitter Ben Grieve. He smoked one into center and right away I knew the runner would try and score. I even whisped to my wife as Pena was loading up, "this is going to be a close one".


Grudz was out by about 3 feet, Patterson flew out to end the inning and the Cubs never really rallied again. A couple of points on the play: 1.) If you just stop Grudz, you have bases loaded with 1 out and a lot of different ways to score. Patterson's fly ball would have scored the run. 2.) Before the hit, Baker pinch ran Goodwin for Walker. Walker can play second, so why not put in the good baserunner for the tying run rather than the winning one. Grudz took a horrible path around third and maybe a better baserunner gets us the run.


All in all it was an exciting game but the wrong team wound up on top. It is more frustrating when the Cubs knew before the game started that they could gain ground in the wild card with a win. Today becomes a pretty big game as they don't want to split with the Reds. Rusch takes the mound against Farnsworth punching bag Paul Wilson.


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Saturday, September 18, 2004
 

Cubs take Reds behind woodshed

It is a very busy weekend in Cincinnati. There are college football games at Paul Brown Stadium today, Octoberfest all weekend downtown, a nationally televised Sunday night NFL game and baseball games. Of course with all of the other things to do and a really bad baseball team, I suppose no one can blame the common Reds fan from letting their ballpark turn into a hostile environment for the home team.

For the second night in a row, the Cubs fans were more vocal than their Red couterparts. Also, the Cubs took down the Reds 12-4 behind 5 RBIs from Derrek Lee. I am usually not one to make bold predictions, but if the Cubs continue to play games where they have one player drive in more runs than the other team, they will be in good shape. They should have thought of that earlier.

The biggest managerial mistake of the night happened when Dave Miley brought in Mike Matthews in the 6th. He is a lefty and doesn't everyone know that you should not turn Carlos around at the plate. OK, I kid, but it was nice to see the pitcher blast off on one. Maybe the extra batting practice I saw him taking yesterday (from both sides of the plate) helped.

Carlos was able to dominate with probably 80-85% of his best stuff. He had trouble finding the zone at times and was determined to injure his pitching hand on comebackers, but his overall line was good. He pitched 7 innings allowing only long homer to Sean Casey. I am actually glad Casey hit the homer because otherwise, Dusty might have been tempted to leave him in for the shutout.

The wife and I had excellent seats for the game. I usually pick one game a year and pay a little extra for the seats. We got club level seats right in front of the corporate boxes right behind home plate. The seats are padded and a little wider not to mention they bring your food to you. A nice experience and one I might try again next season. I would try to trade in some tickets to today's game, but it has already been announced as a sellout. It is the night where the Reds are honoring long time announcer and player Joe Nuxhall. If his speech tonight is anything like his broadcasting expect long periods of silence.

Olympic soccer gold meadlist Heather Mitts, who is from Cincinnati, was in attendance to throw out the first pitch. I have mentioned before in this blogspace the Reds odd policy of having a ceremonial first pitcher and catcher. Basically a way for the Reds not to get involved with any ceremonies. Some CEO threw out a pitch yesterday to his son. Well low and behold Mitts, who is not exactly hard to look at, got to throw to a player. Adam Dunn presumably won the lottery among the single guys in the clubhouse.

One last note about the ballpark. The Reds have a little video montage they show before the players take the field. Intimidating music comes over the speakers while they show players taping wrists, pounding gloves, and doing other game preparation. They show each player with his game "tools" (Casey with a bat, Graves with a ball, Rose with betting slips - OK, I made that one up) and they start looking away from the camera and slowly turn their head making eye contact and being tough. It is unintentionally funny with only the players. It gets even better when they get the manager involved. Of course instead of holding a bat or a ball, they show him with his lineup card. I am sure the Cubs were shaking with fear when they saw Miley staring at a piece of paper and then directly at them.

The Cubs look to stay hot this evening as Greg Maddux looks for his 15th win for the millionth season in a row. They could use a little help in the race. They are 7-3 in the last ten and have lost a game because San Fran is 8-2. I imagine the tide will turn soon and the Cubs will be ready to strike as they continue to play the weak sisters of the division.


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Friday, September 17, 2004
 

ARam leads Cubs at Wrigley South


Its been a long time since the Cubs have been in Cincinnati thanks to MLB's ability to not find a sensible schedule with a flashlight and a map. They were here for the opening series of the season and have now only managed to make it back. Given the Reds are out of the race and have been for awhile, I expected to see more blue than red. I was not disappointed. The sheer number of fans was not as many as last season's September games, but the ratio of Cubs fans to Reds backers was likely greater than one not to mention we were a lot louder.


The story of the game was obviously Mr. Ramirez. The first two pitches he saw resulted in a screaming line drive homer and a double to the right center field gap. His second homer came deeper in the count. When he came up as the potential go ahead run in the 7th, Reds manager Dave Miley decided to go to the pen to protect his lead. It did not matter as Ramirez just unloaded on one to give the Cubs the win. Speaking of this homer, how crappy is it that Ryan Wagner gets a loss? He is only in the game because of a Casey error and then serves up the long ball to get the L.


My wife and I had a chance to see some baseball history as Ramirez came up in the ninth with a chance for a 4th homer. I have not seen a replay of the entire AB, but it looked like the one strike pitch was the one he had a chance to hit and he fouled it back. Oh well, 3 homers, all the Cubs RBIs and a victory is probably enough for one man.


Wood had a real workman's like effort never really getting set until the later innings. I was dumbfounded when he led off the 7th still down a run and at about 90 or so pitches, but I guess it worked out in the end. This is probably the reason why players like to play for Dusty.


A few funny things happened at the park last evening. They had a contest where a person could win tickets to an upcoming Reds game. Problem is they had a season ticket holder play the game. They even said as much in the introduction.
Lastly, it is commonplace for the third basemen to relay bunt coverages to the infielders using signs and then tell the pitcher what to do. Ramirez had to tell Perez as well since he is new to the team. Perez also tipped off the whole ballpark to a Patterson steal. He only adjusted his helmet from the top once and it was right before the steal. He must have been conveying that he got a sign. I told my wife to watch Patterson and he shot off.


OK, that is enough of report number 1 from the GABP. Hopefully the weather and the outcomes hold for this evening.


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Vertigo

In college, my alarm clock was on the opposite side of the room from the lofted bunk in which I slept. When it went off, I would jerk awake, leap out of bed, fly across the room, and shut the alarm off, all without actually really gaining consciousness. So one day the alarm went off, and I flew out of bed and headed across the room as usual. Unfortunately, instead of arriving at the clock against the oppoiste wall, I somehow smacked face first into the wall on the left-hand side. Confused, but not really awake, I pointed myself back in the right direction and headed off once again. Two steps later I had run back into the wall. Good times.

I tell you this story because its a much more entertaining anecdote than this morning, when I woke up with vertigo for the second time in my life but this time didn't crash into anything. Six years ago the doctor told me that it was probably an inner-ear infection that would take care of itself promptly, and indeed within five or six hours I was no longer dizzy or nauseous at all. This time it has taken a bit longer, but after 18 hours I am 60-70% better so it looks like everything will be just fine.

I did manage to weave my way out to the TV for the first couple innings of another big win tonight. I saw Kerry manage one of those absurd behind the back stabs that major league pitchers seem to make far more often than I ever do in softball. I also caught the first of three Ramirez round-trippers before a wave of vertigo sent me back to bed. I suppose its nice to have nausea induced by something other than an impotent day from our offense.

Tomorrow Big Z will face another minor-league veteran, 27 year-old righty Luke Hudson. Hudson hasn't had great strikeout or walk numbers in his six starts this year, but he's been effective by keeping the ball in the park. In the minors it was just the opposite as he posted 102 K, 29 BB, and 11 HR in 97.2 IP. The continued hot streaks from the opposition are frustrating, but all we can do is take care of business on our end. Let's go Cubs.


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Wednesday, September 15, 2004
 

BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

I am so fed up with that no good Sammy Sosa. Doesn't he know he is old and selfish and washed up and we all hate him and wish he was dead? How dare he crush two more homers for five RBI and lead us to another win and a sweep of the Pirates? What nerve. And I was really dissapointed in the fans- they actually cheered him! I thought we were together in this burying of the guy who has carried the franchise for most of the last decade. How could they jump right back on the bandwagon? Solidarity, brothers!

Now that I've filled my sarcasm quotient we can move on to some personal news. I have a whole new outlook on things. Starting with CP's game-tying homer last night, I suddenly find myself seeing how wonderful life can be. Since that moment, everything has been coming up roses. Of course, Corey hit the game-winner an hour or aso later. This morning a criminal went to jail for attempting to violate my home. After coming home to check it out, I stopped on the way back to work for a Cuban at the super-cool hole-in-the-wall grocery store that A) only real Atlantans (and you) know about and B) makes crazy, crazy good Cubans. I was in such a good mood after picking up my sandwich that I literally danced (kind of jerked back and forth spasmodically) in the driver's seat on the way back to work. When I got there, the spot next to the spot next to the front door on the first level of the parking deck was open. The Queen spot in a 2,000 car deck and it was all mine! I got home from work and boom, Cubs win, Cubs win! And so on.

Now I am still a realist. I realize not everything will always go well. There will be down times here and there between tonight and the day I die, but I vow in front of Blogger and everyone that I am going to work to remain upbeat and enjoy the sunny, happy, wonderful goodness that each day brings. Hurray!

Also, if the Cubs lose tomorrow I'll bring this policy up for review. That's all.


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One for the good guys

When I purchased the new house I live in, I had my APD crime analyst friend check out all the numbers for the surrounding blocks. He told me that it was one of the safer areas around town and that this street in particular was relatively crime-free. Then of course I was robbed within three months of moving in. The cops couldn't get any prints and couldn't do much of anything to help me.

Today the pendulum swung back towards the good guys. My neighbor spotted someone walking through my yard and then stopping by the side of my house this morning. He immediately called 911, then watched the guy break into my crawlspace, drag an extension ladder out, and head off. My neighbor headed after him with a baseball bat, at which point four squad cars arrived, chased the guy across the street and three blocks through a park before apprehending the bastard and taking him off to jail.

Knowing a criminal will be brought to justice for trying to break into my home feels good- 12th inning walkoff homer good. I accepted some risk when I chose to live intown rather than out in sterile soulless surburban commuter hell, but obviously I'd rather have the benefits of city life while dodging the drawbacks. I doubt either will read it, but thanks a million neighbor Dave and Officer Baker of the APD. You made my day.


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Tuesday, September 14, 2004
 

My best friend has a first name...

... it's C-O-R-E-Y.
My best friend has a second name
it's W-A-L-K-O-F-F!

Well, I already waived the option to say "I told you so," so I'm just going to let the song speak for me on the matter of our beloved centerfielder. I'll just point out a few other heroes:

  1. Samuel Peralta Sosa- I realize boosting Sammy isn't the popular point of view lately, but that didn't stop me with dreamy Corey Patterson a couple months ago and its not going to stop me with Sammy now. The gorgeous sliding catch and on-target throw to first for the DP goes straight to the defensive plays of the year DVD, but he also had two nice at-bats late in the game. He fought Torres for nine pitches in the bottom of the ninth, and hit one the opposite way with enough mustard on it that Jose Castillo couldn't make the play. I am sure all the too-cool-for-school crowd were booing him like crazy just the same.
  2. Neifi Perez- I have no particular faith in him, but there is no arguing with the potentially game-saving play he made in the top of the twelfth. When Wellemeyer's throw to second was behind him, Neifi managed to arrest his momentum, make the catch while staying on the bag, and get off an accurate throw with enough juice on it to get the batter at first. It had particular resonance for me since my softball team's second baseman failed to bail me out on the mirror-image play a couple weeks ago. If only Neifi was a Southern Company engineer... and hey, his bat would probably be an asset in our league.
  3. The Pen- Six shutout innings, with six strikeouts, one hit, and one walk. Got some critical help from the defense as mentioned above, but still a great job.
  4. Corey Patterson- I'm sorry, but I can't help myself. Corey Corey Corey Corey Corey Corey! All right, I'm better now. Let's move on.
  5. Me- Finally, the lion's share of the credit has to go to none other than yours truly. I mean come on- did you read the post I made after two innings? Has anyone, ever, in the history of the CBA, employed reverse psychology to better effect than the Scottster did tonight? I think not.

Every game is huge. Let's go Cubs!

Edited to add: Can anyone explain to me how Al attends games, goes home, writes a longer post than me, and gets it online before me, despite his spectating-blogging commute of Wrigley-home versus mine of living room-to-computer room? That guy is unreal.


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Tuesday night

Four hits and four walks allowed in the first two innings for Matt Clement. The guy hasn't been right for several starts now, and the Cubs have apparently failed to properly evaluate his status between his last outing and tonight. Still, is there any law against getting him out while this game is still winnable?

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Monday, September 13, 2004
 

Headline goes here

I have had a terribly difficult time finding headlines for posts lately. The headline should categorize the big story of the day, and its about impossible to figure out what the heck the story is with the Cubs this year. One day they win, next day they lose. One day Corey Patterson is the most hated man in Chicago, the next he is Ty Cobb. One day we rally for a stirring win over the thorn-in-our-side Marlins, the next we show no fight at all in an 11-1 mauling. What is there to be said?

Tonight its Cubs and Pirates, as Greg Maddux meets Frank Brooks in a matchup featuring a combined 302 career wins (Maddux 302, Brooks 0). It would be nice if we could keep that ratio right at infinity for another five days. At Nashville Brooks mostly pitched out of the bullpen. He's a lefty and his stats scream "soft-tosser"- 55 K and 22 BB in 83.1 IP- so apparently the Pirates hope our slugging lineup will go to pieces at the sight of a southpaw yet again.

The games get bigger with each passing day. Let's go Cubs.


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Sunday, September 12, 2004
 

Two quick notes

1- I just checked the Giants/DBacks score on my way to bed, and saw that according to espn.com Arizona scored -1 runs in the fifth. We might be counting on the wrong team for help there.

2- I didn't watch the Cubs today, and they pulled off a thrilling come from behind win. I listened to the Fuzzy Bees on the radio until they went down 17-7 with just a few minutes to play and I turned it off in frustration. Final score: Tech 28, Clemson 24. What?!? Yeah, three touchdowns in the final seven minutes, including one after a botched Clemson punt with twenty seconds left in the game. Awesome. I am considering going on media blackout for the rest of the season.


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Saturday, September 11, 2004
 

The game that saved the Cubs season?

Well, there was a lot to like about that game. Wonderful duel between arguably the two most exciting young pitchers in the game. Cubs fight back to within one by chasing Willis and scoring off new relief ace Guillermo Mota. Sammy Sosa dropped to sixth in the order and tuned out the fickle, booing masses enough to smack a game-tying single in the eighth. Derrek Lee, who was leading the Marlins to a World Championship eleven months ago, took a big step toward leading us to one by cracking a three-run double later in the inning. And LaTroy Hawkins, who had as of yet not made the closer's job his own, struck out the side in the ninth on nine beautiful pitches. (Told ya.)

Its too bad I didn't realize it was on WGN instead of FOX today, and spent the afternoon watching it on the Gamecast. You might say that was my fault, but I prefer to blame Fox since it usually really is their fault.

Attention now shifts to tomorrow afternoon's matchup of A. J. Burnett (6-6, 3.93) and Glendon Rusch (6-1, 3.63). I'm not sure what Nomar's status for tomorrow will be, but obviously I hope he can go. All the good that was done today can be doubled or wiped away depending on the outcome of tomorrow's game. Let's go Cubs.


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Thursday, September 09, 2004
 

Good Grief

I figure everyone is bummed out about the Cubs, so I'll cheer you up with a heartwarming tale from the softball league. You remember the last tale of human triumph from the softball league, right? Go back and read it to set the tone.

Yours truly, in happier times.
So anyway, the playoffs started tonight. As usual I have to pull teeth to get people to agree to come. Even the guy who started the team in the first place bails out, but finally I have nine firm commitments. We call the most dedicated guy on the team, and he says he has a friend who will come and be the tenth, so we are set.

So, obviously, neither Mr. Dedicated nor his friend show and we play with eight. We get pounded on all game, and eventually this garbage team we are playing is leading 23-8 going to the bottom of the last inning, and talking trash to boot. We plate a couple runs, make a couple outs, and I come up as the potential last out of the game. Now understand, for the year I have solid numbers. However, as the potential last out of the game, I am like 1-8. Its uncanny. However, I am not going to let it happen again. Although the game is way out of reach, I am determined to not make the last out for once. I grit my teeth and bear down. I take the first pitch high for a ball. The second pitch is to my liking, and I turn my hips, turn my wrists, and snap a line drive base hit to center! Its the small victories that count.

Oh, and then seven straight batters reach safely and I come up again to line out and end the game with the tying run on deck. Boo ya.


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Beatings will continue until morale improves

Everybody loses games- even the best teams. They lose to terrible teams, they lose looking ugly, and they lose without putting up a fight. The thing is you've got to play up to your potential the rest of the time, so when you get shutout by the etiolated Expos it trims your lead from eight games to seven or some such. With the Cubs last night, it trimmed our lead from .5 games to we ain't got no lead no more.

The Astros, Marlins, and Giants all won last night, all picking up a full game on us. This shouldn't come as a huge surprise, seeing as how they are all hotter than an out-of-control Genesis probe on reentry. On the morning of August 15, we were 63-53. We led the wildcard by a game over San Francisco, 5.5 over Florida, and 7 over Houston. Since then, the Giants are 14-9, the Marlins are 15-4, and the Astros are 20-4. That's a combined 49-16, .753 winning percentage, 122 win full-season pace for the three teams. Throw out the Giants, and its 35-7, .833, and a 135 win full-season pace.

There are five teams within two games right now. The odds against all four of our opponents simultaneously going in the tank are enormous. You figure at least one of them will play .600 ball the rest of the way. Its possibly one could play .700, or .800, or friggin' .833 ball the rest of the way. The point is that we will have to get hot. We will have to outplay the best of those four teams, and that's going to require a minimum of 17-9 or so over the twenty-six games we have left to play. Is it possible? Sure. Is it probable? For the first time all year, I am not optimistic.

Suckout on the river (or canal)
Last night, the US stole a point in a game in which they were outworked, outhussled, and outplayed, and for 92 minutes even outscored. Then, Cobi Jones (who played one of the ugliest games you'll ever see) pulled the ball out of a pond in front of the goal and tapped it home (for one of the ugliest goals you'll ever see. From halftime on, it was the worst national team performance in recent memory, but somehow, someway, we walked out with a precious point.

In the first half we looked decent, held most of the possession, but really weren't creating a lot of particularly dangerous chances. Panama made a couple substitutions at the half, and suddenly it was like the field was tilted toward Kasey Keller's net. Time after time, the US would get the ball, lose possession after one or two touches, and the Panamanians would be roaring in on goal. Eventually they forced one in, and looked on the way to a deserved 1-0 win until Cobi somehow got a foot on one. They say the key to qualifying is just win at home and draw on the road. We're halfway home and we are 3-3. I'll take it.

Hurricane issues
For anyone who has mailed me recently, I am not ignoring you. Frances has knocked out my home phone and DSL for four days and counting, and work won't let us access webmail anymore so I am temporarily cut off. Let's hope Bell South gets their act together before this monster arrives.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2004
 

So many chances

Despite a huge day from Corey Patterson and men on base throughout the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelth innings, the Cubs just couldn't find a way to beat the Expos tonight. As painful as it was to watch Nomar-inspired rallies die time and again late, the worst part is probably Clement leaving early with back pain for the second consecutive start. With a grueling schedule the rest of the way, we were already going to be stretching outside the top five starters. Now, with Clement a question mark and Prior not much better, there's no telling which warm bodies we are going to be putting out on the mound down the stretch.

On paper we are still in better shape than the Astros, Marlins, and Giants. The trouble is that we've let all three of them in the race (with the Padres not much further behind), and it won't do to beat one or two. We've got to beat all of them if we want to make it to October. Every game is huge, and they're bigger with every day that goes by. Let's go Cubs.

Edited to add:I tried to post this last night, but between Blogger acting up and the intermittent DSL service provided by my friends at Bell South it wasn't happening. Now its the day after, and I can say that I still feel all the frustration from last night PLUS I find I am a good 20% more miserable thanks to the effects of waking up early after a long extra inning loss. Good times.


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Tuesday, September 07, 2004
 

Frances

Last night I had written out a little post about the impending storm, but since my Bell South DSL goes out every time a storm comes near (even before the rain actually starts) I didn't manage to get it posted. Their customer no-service (tm Clark Howard) people continue to tell me that they can only diagnose it if someone comes out while its down, and nobody can come out while its raining since they are busy with other things. Of course, its only down when its raining, so there we have an arguement more circular than a plan view of Antonio Alfonseca.

I woke up around four a.m. with the power out on my street (but not the next one over). I couldn't go back to sleep for the next ninety minutes or so, partly because the AC and fan were off and partly because I was listening to the many trees in my backyard sound like they were preparing to come through my roof. By the time I woke up, the rain had nearly stopped and the only real sign of the storm was a few twigs and leaves on the porch. Other places in Atlanta seem to have been hit harder, but I pretty much got by unscathed.

Its a relief to get a win yesterday, especially since the Giants and Astros have forgotten how to lose. Matt Clement (9-12, 3.44) will face Sun-Woo Kim (3-5, 5.37) tonight. Kim has pitched worse in his twelve starts (6.32 ERA) than his 26 relief appearances (4.29) and he's been worse since the break (6.25) than before it (4.92). If I didn't know better, I'd say it looks like a perfect situation for Matt to pick up a win.


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Saturday, September 04, 2004
 

Ching and Bling down El Salvador

People who have watched the US go through World Cup qualifying know to expect dirty, Fick-tastic play from many of our opponents and officiating ranging from clueless to corrupt. Today's 2-0 win over El Salvador ranked right up there with any of the great Peter Prendergast boondoggles of the past. The goals by Ching and Donovan were quality, but the story of the game was the incompetence of the crew from Trinidad & Tobago. He whistled the US for phatom fouls throughout the game, but evened things up by showing a second yellow to a Sallie for... wearing jewlery? The necklace citation forced El Salvador to play down a man for the majority of the game. He showed unimaginable tolerance for Salvadoran keeper who had to have the stretcher brought out for him four seperate times (once when he didn't come within ten yards of making contact with anyone), but hit Connor Casey with a yellow for diving from across the field when Casey allowed himself to go down as a Sallie grabbed his collar. Another highlight came when he somehow missed the Salvadoran goalie kicking DaMarcus Beasely in the face as DMB landed on the ground after a try on goal.

The lesson I've learned after watching CONCACAF qualifying for the last eight years is that to get to the World Cup, the team must enter each game with the goal to find a way to tune out violent crowds, thuggish opponents, and incompetent refs, and find a way to get the result. What matters is that when they wake up in the morning, the US will be at the top of the group and healthy for Wednesday's clash with Panama.

Oh, and I stole that headline from a Big Soccer poster. Forgive me.

Cubs news
Frances has ground to a halt over West Palm Beach, and the result for the Cubs is no games all weekend. MLB.com speculates that we may makeup one of the games in Chicago and play the other two as a doubleheader on the mutual off-day on September 20th. The scheduling is going to make it tough on our pitching staff, but picking up an extra home game mitigates that somewhat. I suppose with Glendon Rusch available we are better equipped than most teams to deal with the doubleheaders.

In the meantime, all we can do is sit around and hope for some help. The Giants came from 7-1 down to win again today, and they, the Padres, and the Astros are a combined 4-0 while we sit. Sigh.


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Thursday, September 02, 2004
 

Go, go, go, on 7-2-0

My employer sent me to our plant in Panama City for some work Wednesday morning, so naturally I looked for an opportunity to get my baseball cap collection going again. On the way down Tuesday night I tried for a Columbus Catfish game, but when I arrived in the stadium parking lot I found myself in a monsoon downpour. I called a friend for a radar check, and based on his forecast I took off for Florida. I found today that the game was indeed called, so I suppose I made the right decision.

Driving on down to Panama City, I was retracing part of my route from last October, when I enjoyed one of the most memorable games of my life in a car with Chris and Justin Yarbrough thanks to the wonders of WGN's nightime signal. Thus it was entirely appropriate that my drive featured a call on the cellphone from Mr. Yarbrough himself telling me that he has accepted a sportswriting job in El Dorado, Arkansas. I went to their website hoping to see a "El Dorado News-Times hires identical twins" headline like the one in the Great Muppet Caper. But I digress. Congratulations Chris, and don't forget to mention me in your Pulitzer acceptance speech.

Anyway, on the way back I stopped in Montgomery to see the AA Montgomery Biscuits and the Mobile Baybears. The Biscuits are in their first season in Montgomery, but they have their act together. The stadium is one of the best I've ever been in- neck and neck with PNC Park among modern facilities. I don't have room to list all the cool features, but I'll offer a few. There are railroad tracks in left field, and four or five trains went by during the game. (I have no idea how the pitchers concentrate enough to throw a pitch with the railroad whistle sounding, but they seemed to manage.) There is a path set up so you can walk all the way around the outfield wall, putting you between the train tracks and the foul pole. The park itself is mostly a modified historic train station, with offices, ticket windows, and even luxury suites tucked in to it in a seamless way. The merchandise shop has the best selection of any minor league stadium I have been to (six so far), and the concessions are better than most major league stadiums. I had a footlong brat when I arrived and "two hot biscuits with toppings" around the seventh inning stretch.

The game itself was good as well- a pitcher's duel that turned on a disputed double down the line for the visitors. The homeplate umpire (who appeared to be female although I am not certain) called it fair, and the visitors got all three of their runs for what turned out to be a 3-1 win. The rest of the game the crowd howled "FOUL!" every time Mobile hit one foul, no matter how obvious it was. Good times.

When I got back in the rental F-150, I got the radio on and heard that we were leading 2-0 with one out and nobody on in the bottom of the eleventh. Naturally we immediately give up two hits and a run and are a homer away from the worst loss of the year. Fortunately Corey came in to get a dying pop-up and save me from a miserable 2.5 hour ride home.

All eyes now turn to the Caribbean and Hurricane Frances. America's greatest living writer explains the situation in the Sun-Times. Its a big series with the Marlins lurking just three games back. Here's hoping for a minimal hurricane impact on Florida and at least two out of three for the Cubs.


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