The Northside Lounge
A Chicago Cubs blog with an occasional tangent on pop culture
Thursday, October 28, 2004
And then there was one...The White Sox haven't won one in forever and teams like the Astros haven't won one period, but its the Cubs and the Red Sox that have been linked as long as I've been around. Now there's just us. That said, I am thrilled for Varitek and Pedro and Mark Bellhorn and Theo and all the Red Sox fans all over the world. Congratulations one and all!
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Win one more for NomarI read today that the Sox have voted Nomar a full playoff share. Knowing how things turned out, I sort of wish he could be there to be part of things. The Sox still have one key player from my alma mater, but it would have been nice to see Nomar in the dogpile if and when it ends 86 years of frustration. He did as much as anyone for that franchise while he was there, and his reward was to have the media pronounce him inferior to Derek "Just past a diving" Jeter. Hopefully he'll have a smile on his face after Keith Foulke records the final strike one more night this week.
Monday, October 25, 2004
Baseball's best fansI came across this site via Baseball Think Factory today. I take back all my shots at the St. Louis folk- they clearly do in fact have baseball's best fans.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
FinallyYankees fans have had the last eighty some-odd years. Tonight is the night for the rest of us. With each Johnny Damon home run or perfect Derek Lowe inning, the ten people gathered around my poker table cheered and exchanged high fives. I imagine the scene was being repeated all across America- people with no particular allegiance to Boston coming together to pull for the Sox with all their might. Tonight, finally, it was enough.
My college roomie, a Massachusetts liberal if ever there was one, called me during the seventh-inning stretch and announced that the game was in the bag. I was terrified, but he just shrugged off my worries of a jinx. Of course, Terry Francona chose that moment to bizzarely take out a strong Derek Lowe and replace him with his Game 1 World Series starter. Apparently my old roomie was chastened enough to perform a sacrifice or other voodoo ritual, because Pedro somehow calmed down and got out of the inning. None other than Mark Bellhorn helped get the runs back, and the next thing you know they are celebrating on Landsdowne Street.
Now maybe all those chuckleheads I've argued with- the ones who repeat what Tim McCarver has been telling them all these years about how gosh-darned clutch Jeter and his band of merry men are- will listen to what I've been trying to tell them. Jeter and his Yankees aren't better, smarter, tougher, or more clutch than anyone else. They've simply been good players who got some breaks. If the greatest collapse in the history of sports doesn't prove that to people, I don't know what will.
Now can someone please take A-Rod a hanky? I'd hate to have him sit there crying all night.
Monday, October 18, 2004
BaseballIs it a great game or what? In the half-hour of television I got to see two thrilling finishes to two of the most taught, gut-wrenching games in any sport all year long. A year ago it was us going back and forth between ecstasy and death's door. Maybe soon it will be our turn again.
Congratulations to the players and fans of all four teams tonight.
Sunday, October 17, 2004
CBA Prediction Results, Part 1Back before the season, I collected predictions from sixteen of the best and brightest soliders in the Cubs Blog Army. I came up with an intricate and overly complex scoring system and tracked the results, with the winner to take home a PSA-10 graded Ryne Sandberg rookie card from my collection. Today I present the questions and answers, with the actual results to follow as soon as the MVP balloting is made public. Please take the opportunity to point out any errors you see in my answers, especially with the latest ejection and longest homer questions. I looked those up as best I could, but there was no single clear source to consult so I could have made an error. Thanks!
Question 1- How many games will the Cubs win? 89
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Good timesThe Cubs season ends in a spasm of finger-pointing and self-loathing. The postseason is highlighted by the strong performances of the Astros (blech), Cardinals (oh come on), and Yankees (why me?). And then just when I was thinking sports were such a lost cause that it was time to take ESPN off my DirecTV package...
Now I watched a youth tournament Eddie played in last year, and he was savaged on the message boards after failing to put away several golden chances in front of the goal. Well kids, Happy learned how to putt. In addition to scoring a couple minutes into his first ever international game on Saturday, he poured in three more last night to put his strike rate at 8.4 goals per 90 minutes. I realize he may not continue to score at quite that rate, but he could drop down to, say, five or six goals scored every ninety minutes and still be a handy guy to have around.
Some explanation on the movie posted I lifted from Big Soccer and placed to the left: Eddie did interview for US Soccer last week. They asked him which console he preferred, XBox, PS2, or GameCube. His response- "I don't play video games. I'm a grown-ass man." A line like that followed by four WCQ goals in 40 minutes will make you a Big Soccer folk hero every single time.
So anyway, 6-0. Awesome. Its like your college football team went out and convincingly handled a lesser opponent for most of the game, then let the freshman phenom run for 200 yards in the fourth quarter. I can't say I am over the last week of the Cub season, but I'm getting there.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Discretion and ValorLast night Curt Schilling pitched with an ankle that was popping with every pitch, causing him to lose four mph off his fast ball not to mention any semblance of control. The result was a yawning six run deficit when he left the game, a gap that the Sox offense was almost but not quite able to close. "Almost but not quite"- story of the Sox lives, not to mention our own. Schilling said he had a "terrible bullpen session" before the game, so chances are he knew he wasn't going to be able to pitch effectively last night. He could have talked to Terry Francona, Francona could have thrown Pedro on six days rest, and the Red Sox could have won the game. Instead, Schilling and the Red Sox coaches placed Schilling's machismo ahead of the welfare of the team. What if Schilling had been forthright with his coaches? What if Joe Borowski had come clean at the beginning of April? What if Francona and Dusty had valued honest communication with their players? I suppse we'll never know.
USA v PanamaI haven't been talking about the US soccer team lately, so let me catch you up. A satisfactory, business-like 2-0 win over El Salvador Saturday night has put the US in command of their group. A win at home tonight over Panama team that is a heavy underdog on paper would send the US through to the hex (final stage of North American qualifying.) Of course unlike baseball, soccer isn't played on paper so nothing is assured. Still, everything is going according to plan and all that remains is to snap the last link into place tonight. The game is at 7:30 on the deuce (that's espn2 for you kids out there.)
Monday, October 11, 2004
NLCSAs I type, Houston is up big and barring a monumental collapse (always a possibility with the Astros) its going to be Cardinals/Astros in the NLCS. Gosh that sounds fun to watch. I hope my friend gets done with System of the World soon so I can get started on it.
I really am going to have contest results, just as soon as I can get a spare hour or two.
Sunday, October 10, 2004
Limatime!Congratulations to Jose Lima on pitching what will probably be the game of the postseason. He's been a favorite of mine ever since I saw him clowning around with teammate, coaches, and kids in the stands during BP a few years back. He seems like a super-nice guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, and today he shutout the best lineup in baseball for nine marvelous innings. Kudos!
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
and now for something completely different...... good news! The SunTmes reported today that "Broadcast reports in San Francisco have Sonny Jackson possibly replacing Wendell Kim as third-base coach for the Cubs, with Kim shifting to first. First-base coach Gene Clines reportedly would replace Gary Matthews as hitting coach." Jackson has experience as a third-base coach, and even participated in this, perhaps the only third-base coach performance art I've ever seen.
Its hard to believe a Bay area TV or radio outlet bothered to get into third-order ramifications of the deal, but maybe that was just Mike Kiley making things up as he went along. Still, a happy rumor is better than no rumor. Give us back the runs Wendell waved away this year and I might be grilling brats at Turner Field right now.
Monday, October 04, 2004
I liedNo CBA Prediction Contest winner for a couple weeks yet, as I forgot that one of the questions is "which Cubs will finish highest in the NL MVP voting" and I can't very well answer that yet.
Sunday, October 03, 2004
89 winsThat's one better than last year... so how come it doesn't feel better?
If you missed the game today, Chip announced that he would be moving on and hinted that Stoney might be too. It figures- just when I was beginning to warm up to Chip, he's gone. If the fiasco Thursday night costs us Stone too, it will be an even bigger dissapointment. Maybe I'll be able to figure out some way to get Pat and Ron synched up with my Direct TV next year.
At any rate, the Astros finished their sweep of the Rockies to clinch the wildcard this afternoon. This locks in the eight playoff teams and gives me a chance to decide who to root for. Here goes:
8- St. Louis Cardinals Jim Edmonds, Matt Morris, Tim McCarver, and a brief cameo from Will Clark a few years back. If that weren't enough, they are the self-proclaimed "best fans in baseball" (who filled Busch to 75.1% capacity, eleventh best in baseball despite a 105 win season.) Plus, I'm against anything our mouth-breathing almost-literate commenting friend Gene is for.
7- New York Yankees I'm pretty sure I hate the Yankees even a little more than I hate the Cardinals. Still, if we get the nightmare World Series matchup I will be holding my news and rooting for the Yankees. The reason is that Yankees fans would barely even notice another World Series win. They buy all the best players and win nearly every year, so its just not going to make much difference to them. Cardinals fans on the other hand would be running their mouths about 2004 for decades to come. That's reason enough for me.
6- Houston Astros Next up, another NL Central rival. Familiarity breeds contempt, and I see plenty of Astros games. I'm also weary of hearing about what wonderful gutty gamers their stars are, entirely because they are A) white and B) adverse to wearing a clean hat on their heads. Call me crazy, but I don't see anything too endearing about white trash bikers who try to cover their tracks with lame truck washing stories.
5- Anaheim Angels The Angels are the first team on the list I don't actively dislike. They did however win a championship all of two years ago, and if we've got to wait centuries that should at least have to wait three years.
4- Minnesota Twins I've had a soft spot for the Twins ever since they beat two teams I didn't like in the World Series- the Cardinals in '87 and the Braves in '91. Lately they've been making a habit of exposing one of the great frauds in the history of the game. Finally, I got to pal around with one of their biggest fans this summer at the SABR convention. Add it up, and its enough to qualify for the first division of my playoff favorites.
3- Boston Red Sox This is almost entirely because I want to see them beat the Yankees. Their reprehensible fan and media treatment of Nomar (awfully simillar to how we treated Sosa this year, actually) has soured me on them some, and Bill Simmons conversion into a Yankee-esque gloater hasn't helped either. They do still have the greatest catcher in college history, and a dynamic starting pitcher I think is pretty cool. Ah well, like I said, anything that irks Yankee fans works for me.
2- Atlanta Braves Wow, if you had asked me in my childhood, the Braves would have been dead last on my list of tolerable World Series winners. I even rooted for the Yankees to beat them in '96, just to spite the bandwagon Braves fans that surrounded me at the time. Eight years later, the bandwagon has emptied out despite the franchise fielding a team whose success gets more amazing every year. I'm sympathetic toward anyone that the mainstream fans seem to disrespect, and that applies to the Braves last fourteen years in a big way. Finally, if they win a pennant I can go to another World Series game and redeem the terrible experience from the game I spent $250 to see in 1999.
1- Los Angeles Dodgers I'm a baseball fan because of my dad, and in addition to the Cubs he also loves the Dodgers. Why? I thought you would never ask.
My grandfather (who worked out for Cubs scouts alongside Phil Cavaretta when both were in high school) took him to his first baseball game at Wrigley Field when he was just five. Being the kindly soul he is, he heard everyone cheering for the Cubs and felt sorry for the Dodgers. After the game my grandfather took Dad down to the edge of the field where a Dodger handed them a Roy Campanella bat that had been broken during the game. My grandfather urged Dad to send the Dodgers a thank you note. A few weeks later Dad gets back a three page handwritten letter from Walter O'Malley, thanking him for his note and for being a Dodgers fan. That's a good reason to me.
So there you have it: the eight playoff teams ranked in my rooting order. Here's hoping next year discussing this issue is moot. Back tomorrow with the winner of the CBA Prediction Contest.
Saturday, October 02, 2004
That's all, folksApparently putting every bit of your heart into something doesn't mean its going to work out. With all the chances I've had to learn that lesson you would think I'd have figured it out by now. I've been pulling Charlie Gordons for twenty some years.
Disappointing as the final week was, this wasn't the historic collapse/choke some have made it out to be. The Cubs were 16-13 in the final month- not amazing baseball but not terrible either. We've won eighty-eight games, equal to last year's total with a game left to play. All this despite injuries to Prior and Wood that took away twenty-plus starts from them and comprimised their effectiveness for perhaps as many more.
The window is still open for this team to contend. Jim Hendry will have lots of interesting choices to make this winter, and we'll be here to keep an eye on him. I'll be back tomorrow with some thoughts on trying to enjoy the playoffs even though we're not going to be participating. Monday I'll have the results of the prediction contest (PSA-10 Ryne Sandberg rookie card on the line!), and after that we'll be writing about the offseason, poker, US WC Qualifiers, you name it. Hopefully the pain will ease soon.
Just 135 days till pitchers and catchers. Lets go Cubs.
Friday, October 01, 2004
And they pull you back in...
After just a terrible stretch of games against the Reds, the Cubs entered play this afternoon down a game in the wild card standings to two teams with only three to play. The standings, schedule and overall karma was not riding with the Cubs, but as loyal (or maybe stupid and deranged) fans we still clung to a brief piece of hope.