The Northside Lounge
A Chicago Cubs blog with an occasional tangent on pop culture
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.
Darkest before dawnAnother 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.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
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.
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.
Monday, September 27, 2004
12-5May 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.
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.
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.
Saturday, September 25, 2004
Thanks, TimThe 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.
No let upThings 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.
Friday, September 24, 2004
Just keep winningAs 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.
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.
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.
Just another routine ballgameI'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.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
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.
Like kissing Lenny HarrisThe 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.
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.
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.
Lousy nightI 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.
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.
Saturday, September 18, 2004
Cubs take Reds behind woodshedIt 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.
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.
VertigoIn 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.
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.
One for the good guysWhen 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.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
My best friend has a first name...
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:
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.
Tuesday nightFour 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?
Monday, September 13, 2004
Headline goes hereI 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.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
Two quick notes1- 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.
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.
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Good GriefI 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.
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.
Beatings will continue until morale improvesEverybody 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 issuesFor 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.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
So many chancesDespite 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.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
FrancesLast 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.
Saturday, September 04, 2004
Ching and Bling down El SalvadorPeople 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 newsFrances 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.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
Go, go, go, on 7-2-0My 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.