The Northside Lounge
A Chicago Cubs blog with an occasional tangent on pop culture
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Saturday, November 27, 2004

What's worse than Bartman?

Imagine if you will: Cubs lead by one, bases loaded, two out, bottom of the ninth. Albert Pujols at the plate, Scott Rolen waiting on deck. Michael Barrett looks into the dugout, and sees Dusty pointing toward first! Sadly, neither LaTroy nor Barrett see anything wrong with this, so they intentionally walk Pujols to force in the tying run.

Rolen stands in. Hawkins doesn't want to give him anything, and soon the count is 3-0. Now the situation is truly dire. Hawkins sees only one option. An intentional ball four! The winning run is forced home! The Cardinals win the pennant! The best fans in baseball are burning down the Arch! Jim Edmonds is making out with himself in the mirror! THE %@&^!%@! CARDINALS WIN THE PENNANT!

That's the very best Cubs analogy I can come up with to try to help you understand what happened in Athens, Georgia today. Its not perfect- for one thing, the Cubs season rides on more than one game against the Cardinals each year. In fact, I'd venture to say we could get swept by the Cardinals- lose every single game- and still have a successful year. Not so with Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets football season is played on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Beat Georgia, its been a good year. Lose, and its twelve months of having to fall back on being one of the best handful of schools in the country as opposed to a laughing stock. You might think that would be solace enough to get over a stupid football game, and it is... mostly.

So that brings us to this afternoon over at the Cesspool of the South. The Bulldogs (naturally unencumbered by the desire to put up a pretense of academic standards) have jumped up on the underdog Jackets 16-0 at the half. Surprisingly, Tech fights back, and next thing you know they have the ball down only six with two minutes to play.

The Jackets drive down to the Georgia 20. First down, Tech quarterback Reggie Ball scrambles around and gains maybe a yard. Second down, he is sacked. Its third and 21 with 45 seconds left. Ball looks to the sidelines. The signal is... spike the ball? You've got two downs to go 21 yards and you are going to waste one of them to stop the clock in a game where you have 45 seconds and an absolute maximum of five plays left to run? Bizarre.

But not as bizarre as fourth down. Ball rolls right. He nears the sideline, and lofts the ball thirty yards out of bounds to avoid the sack. ON FOURTH DOWN! Dawgs win! Stand in the bed of your pickup truck, drink your moonshine and fire your shotgun in the air, the %^*%$!*&^ DAWGS WIN!

Its just hard to believe a coach and a quarterback could combine to make to decisions that poor in such a short period of time. An incompletion I could understand. A turnover I could deal with. But using the next to last down in your season to stop the clock when you've got all the time in the world, and then using the last one to avoid a meaningless sack? Unfathomable.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

Thank you to everyone who's come by this site in the last twelve months. This wasn't the best year in Cubs history, but it had its moments and I'm thankful we got to share them together. Just keep hanging in there, for as long as we don't quit we are sure to reach that mountaintop some day. Of course, I don't need to tell you that- if you were a quitter you wouldn't be a Cubs fan now would you?

Now go eat some turkey.

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Sunday, November 21, 2004

More on the brawl

David Stern announced suspensions this afternoon- 6 for Ben Wallace, 25 for Jermaine O'Neal, 30 for Stephen Jackson, and a full season for Ron Artest.

First on Wallace- he shoved Artest and threw a headband at him. On any other day that gets him one, maybe two games, and that's what it should have gotten him here. He should be punished for what he did wrong, not for the unforseeable consequences of what he did wrong.

Second, the Indiana players. The lengths of the suspensions seem about right to me, although it would have been nice if the league had been clear in the past they were serious about this issue and that harsh punishments would result. Heck, if they had done that then this probably never would have happened. Better late than never I suppose.

Third, the Detroit organization. Where was the security? Where were the club personnel whose job it is to prevent this sort of thing from happening? I suppose they were wherever the White Sox were keeping their security folks on Father/Son Day a couple years ago. Why not fine the Detroit organization? Why does Mark Cuban get hit with a hundred thousand dollars in fines every time he dares criticize Emperor Stern, but the Pistons get off scot-free for failing to provide a safe environment for a basketball game?

And finally, the good people of Detroit, Michigan. Not all of them of course, but the dozens who assaulted various members of the Indiana Pacers. The people who threw beers, bottles, chairs, and haymakers. The people who turned Saturday night from a normal basketball game into a riot. Nope, sorry, they get no punishment. No charges, no penalties, no nothing. Just the reward of getting to act like thugs and seeing the victims get punished for fighting back against them. Kudos, punk Piston fans. You win.

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Saturday, November 20, 2004

New low for fans

I just watched about an hours worth of the coverage of the melee in Detroit tonight. Of course the players should have showed restraint and not gone into the crowd almost no matter what the provocation, but I'm reserving most of my ire for the fan who threw the bottle that pushed things over the edge. Throwing a drink at a player is an incredibly cowardly act. There is absolutely no chance that sissy (John Saunders' word, not mine) would have had the guts to start something with Ron Artest if he hadn't thought he could hide in the stands and be safe from retaliation.

I said it when Redneck Billy Ligue attacked Tom Gamboa and I'll say it again now- if they would hit every fan who assaults someone with real jail time, these things wouldn't happen all the time. Everyone one of those fans throwing drinks and/or punches deserves prison and I hope they get it. Well, maybe the fat kid who went on the court to try to fight Artest. It looked like Jermaine O'Neal took care of him just fine.

Again, I don't condone the players going into the stands. I just find their behavior to be much more understandable under the circumstances than the cowardly actions of the fans.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

ESPN won't release O'Brien

ESPN has declined to release Dave O'Brien from his contract to allow him to take the play-by-play job with the Cubs. The Trib says the Cubs are moving on to Len Kasper of the Marlins or Matt Vasgersian of the Padres. I have never heard Kasper, so I am rooting for him. I've seen Vasgersian in too many obnoxious Fox Sports infotainment shows to think he'd be good. Of course, I am planning to try to synch Pat & Ron through XM radio with my TiVo, so hopefully it won't matter to me.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Final CBA Prediction Standings (finally!)

Aramis Ramirez finished tenth in the MVP balloting, higher than any other Cub meaning nobody got any points for the MVP question. As such, the winner of the mint Fleer Ryne Sandberg rookie card is Rob Letterly of The Uncouth Sloth (Parental warning- explicit lyrics and mature themes). Rob was closest to the pin on four answers, best of anyone in the contest. Congratulations to the Sloth. You'll notice he's celebrating by going on hiatus. Slacker.

You should also note the grace with which the second and third place finishers performed. Being the smartest Cubs Blog Army soldiers around, I'm sure either Dennis Goodman or Scott Lange easily could have just correctly predicted everything. Instead they graciously allowed another to take the glory. My cap is off to those two- gentlemen and scholars both.

I'll do a new prediction contest around Spring Training. This time I hope to open it up to bloggers and readers, but we'll burn that bridge when we get to it. On to the standings:

1Rob LetterlyThe Uncouth Sloth190.5
2Dennis GoodmanThe Northside Lounge189.5
3Scott LangeThe Northside Lounge186
4Brian HippCubs Now!174
5Alex CiepleyThe Cub Reporter173.5
6ChuckIvy Chat169.5
7Christian RuzichThe Cub Reporter167
8Jason SteffensClark & Addison Chronicle164
9Tim CrammEamus Catulli163.5
10Bill KellyRooftop Report156.5
11Al Yellonand another thing!155
12Derek BergerLet's Play Two142.5
13Chris YarboroughYarbage Cub Review141
14James L. CrockettJust North of Wrigley Field137
15Derek SmartThe Big Red C135
16DeShawn JacksonBad Century131.5

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The MVP balloting is complete. Here are the Cubs receiving votes:

10- Aramis Ramirez (1 4th, 1 5th, 2 7th, 2 8th, 5 9th, and 5 10th)
15- Moises Alou (3 8th, 2 9th, and 2 10th)
28- Carlos Zambrano (2 9th)

That seems about right to me, although which ever voters placed Aramis ahead of one or more of Bonds, Beltre, Edmonds, Rolen, or Pujols must be wearing some severely Cubbie-blue tinted glasses. Anyway, with the balloting complete I can finally relase the winner of the prediction contest. I'll have a complete list of the final standings up tonight.

In the meantime, here is an MVP 2004 (see how it all ties together?) tidbit to tide you over. If you recall, I am in the midst of a season with the standard rosters plus 10-15 legends players. My Cubs head to Houston to open a series with the Astros. My ace slot is up, so its Phil Niekro against whoever the Astro ace turns out to be. This unknown hurler takes to the mound in the top of the first, winds up in a full 1080-degree windmill, and fires a 100 MPH heater at the corner for strike one. This awes me, seeing as how MVP seems to use the slow gun and Dr. Tightpants' 97 MPH fastball is the fastest I've thrown. My mind reels at the possible identity of this scary, scary man. Nolan Ryan? No windmill. Satchiel Paige? Too pale. The announcer says... "and Johnson delivers strike one!" Walter Johnson. Nasty.

So Big Train follows with a 93-mph slider for strike two and a 70-mph slurve that completely pretzels Corey Patterson before it even gets to the plate. Jackie Robinson comes up next, takes two strikes and waves weakly at triple-digit heat for the second out. Two quick strikes to the Bambino and its eight strikes on eight pitches and Enron Field is rocking. Johnson winds, and winds, and winds, and fires the heater letter-high toward the outside corner and... CONTACT. George Herman Ruth destroys the pitch, depositing it 506 feet to the opposite field somewhere behind that ridiculous train in left-center.

Enron was dead silent. I was out of my chair shouting trash at poor computer Walter Johnson- "I've got your dead-ball era right here, BEYOTCH!!!" I only mustered two more hits in the game, but Knucksie went all the way for a nine-hit shutout and a 1-0 win. It was possibly the finest moment of my video game career. I'm not sure whether that's cool or incredibly sad, but I'm still smiling thinking about it.

Back with the final prediction standings tonight.

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Thursday, November 11, 2004

Things to do when there is no baseball

I completed an MVP 2004 season on the second-easiest level a few months ago, cruising to a World Series victory with a 159-3 regular season record. In the process, I met enough in-game goals to unlock 15 or so "legends" from the rewards menu. I started a season on the MVP (most difficult) level, but needed a break from the game so I let it lie dormant until the real season ended.

Now I am getting back into it. Through the draft and some agressive trades I've compiled a kick-ass core lineup with mediocre players who happen to be guys I like filling in the gaps. My pitching staff is shakier, but mostly able to keep us in the game. I've put up a 21-15 record, good enough for first place by a game over Houston. Here's the team:

Lineup vs righties (vs lefties is the same guys but a different order)
1- Corey Patterson, LF
2- Jackie Robinson, 2B
3- Babe Ruth, RF
4- Honus Wagner, SS
5- Roy Campanella, C
6- Aramis Ramirez, 3B
7- Hee Seop Choi, 1B
8- Milton Bradley, CF

Bench (rough order of use)
Mark Grudzielanek
Gary Matthews, Jr.
Doug Glanville
Scott Hatteberg
Rickey Henderson

1- Phil Niekro
2- Chan Ho Park
3- Kris Benson
4- Albie Lopez
5- Jose Lima

Bullpen (from ace to mopup)
LaTroy Hawkins
Kyle Farnsworth
Mark Guthrie
Rod Beck
Jeff Zimmerman

As you can see, I really had to skimp in places in order to get the star players I wanted. For some reason, I seem to have a lot more success with fast players than slow players. As a result, Bradley and Patterson have respectable numbers while Aramis, Choi, and even Campanella have struggled. Choi literally has a .250 OPS and ends up being pinch-hit for late in games. Wagner is leading the league in homers with 21, but the Bambino is coming on with 18 after hitting five homers in a 9-7 fifteen-inning triumph over the Dodgers last night.

Despite a number of nagging flaws, its still a very enjoyable game. The biggest difference in the highest difficulty level is you really have to work the count to get something you can hit. The computer pitchers will fan you on garbage out of the strikezone until you force them to throw you something good. Anyway, I'll be sure to let you know if the MVP-level Cubs manage to bring home a Worlds Championship. Try to contain your rabid interest.

Don't forget to thank a veteran today, and not the Lenny Harris kind.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

It could be worse

Yes, we haven't won a pennant in a long time. Yes, we've come tantalizingly close on several notable occasions only to fall short in the end. Yes, the mood has been pretty ugly, arguably all the way back to Game Six last year. Nonetheless, I'd like to present an example of a team that would be significantly worse to be a fan of: the Atlanta Hawks. Now the Hawks being a more miserable team to root for doesn't actually help me any since I root for them too, but perhaps it will help you feel a little better about your station in life.

My sister's boyfriend Mike bought Atlanta Thrashers season tickets for this season. With the NHL on strike, the ownership group is doing various things to placate the season ticket holders. Since the Thrashers owners also own the Hawks, they gave tickets to last night's Hawks game to any Thrashers season ticket holder that wanted them and so Mike and I went to the game. With last night A) being the home opener, B) featuring one of the three or four biggest stars in the NBA, and C) having thousands of free tickets given away, you might think the building would be full. Not even close. Oh, it was announced as a "standing-room only sell-out crowd", but my best guess is 50% of the seats were empty.

With years of ineptitude leading up to this season and the current rebuilding effort built around Antoine Walker and the corpse of Kenny Anderson, I was fully prepared to spend the entire night ridiculing the team.

After introducing the Cleveland players, the Morehouse drum line marched out onto the court to welcome the Hawks. Now I've been a sucker for black college bands ever since I saw that "Coke is It" commercial with the marching band when I was a kid, so this was a quick step toward winning me over. They announced the Hawks players (none of whom got a bigger crowd response than LeBron), and then brought out the Human Highlight Film with a real hawk on his arm. Dominique Wilkins is my second favorite athlete of all-time, so this was another big step toward winning me over. Finally, team captain Kevin Willis (returning to the Hawks after a ten-year absence at age 42) took the microphone and asked for... patience. Not support, not noise, not packed houses... but patience.

Now imagine if the Cubs captain were... say... Ryne Sandberg. Not Sandberg in his prime, but 2004 Ryne Sandberg. On Opening Day, he gets on the PA system and asks for your patience. How are you supposed to deal with that? You can't root for them because every win hurts their draft status for next year, but you can't even enjoy rooting for more ping-pong balls because Ryne Sandberg is out there hustling his butt off trying to win while collecting Social Security. How sad is that?

So the Hawks hung in for a while, leading at the half behind strong performances from Predrag Drobnjak (who?) and Royal Ivey (Who??). In the second half 0-3 Cleveland steadily pulled away, and in the end it was a fourth double-digit loss in four game for the Hawks.

Say what you want about the Cubs, but at least they give you hope before reducing you to a pathetic miserable wretch. But hey, at least Usher, Bow Wow, Ludacris, Jermaine Dupri, Andruw Jones, Michael Vick, and Emmanuel Lewis were at the game. That's something.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Time to kiss and make up

Well, maybe the elephant will remain in the room after all. ESPN has Katz telling Gammons that everyone is friends again and Sosa is (probably) staying. I think this would be a better (more likely to lead to a pennant/World Series) solution than giving away Sosa for pennies on the dollar. Plus, the better his relationship seems to be the more trade value he would have if Hendry does trade him after all. In other words, it can only help to have Sosa's man saying happy smiley things. Hurray.

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Monday, November 08, 2004

One state, two state, red state, blue state

I've had a hectic five days. Tuesday night I drove to Birmingham Alabama and spent the next two days watching election coverage in the hotel with occasional breaks for a concrete design seminar work was expecting me to attend. Thursday night I drove back to Atlanta, going straight to the first playoff game in our recreational basketball league. I had a quiet game (3/5, 6 PTS, 5 RB, 2 A, 4 S, 2 TO) but we won and that's what counts.

I got home from the game and began washing clothes and packing to head to NYC for my grandmother's surprise 90th birthday party. I got to bed around 1, and was right back up at 4:30 to get ready and make the early flight up. We landed at LaGuardia around 11 and spent the day in and around Manhattan. Saturday we went to Grandma's, sending her into brief episodes of near catatonic shock first when we appeared on her doorstep and then again when we marched into the restaurant and she saw the twenty assembled guests. It took her about a half-hour to settle in, but by the end of the evening she was moving around the tables, visiting with all her friends, and working the room like old times. Afterwards I went back to my aunt and uncle's place and crashed right away, but I am told Grandma stayed up talking to my mother till 5 am. Wild.

In my absence the news from the Northside seems to have been more of the same. The rumored Sosa/Green deal would work for me. Sosa has been in a constant decline for four years running now. His EQA has dropped from .367 to .330 to .300 to .277 over that span. Meanwhile Green's has gone .324, .321, .286, .280 over the same timeframe. I've got similar expectations for each of their 2005 seasons, and Green would come without the baggage that Sosa is carrying. I'm not desperate to dump Sosa at any cost, but this deal would remove the clubhouse problem without damaging our lineup so if DePodesta would bite I'd take him up on it.

In the infield, Neifi Perez will be returning for another year (or at least until his numbers are so terrible that he follows the Harris/Ordonez train out of town in mid-July.) Nomar still seems to be in the picture. I suspect he'll get 162-game money from someone meaning he'll probably be overpaid. Still, if the alternative is starting Neifi at short we might actually be best off being the team that overpays him. The ideal solution would be for Hendry to come up with an undervalued darkhorse candidate in a trade or signing, but I am not holding my breath.

Awards announcements began last week with the Gold Gloves, and Greg Maddux took down his 83rd win in the NL pitcher's category. I think its safe to say we won't be adding to our take in the Rookie, Manager, Cy, or MVP balloting over the coming ten days. I'm going to guess Big Z garners a few Cy Young votes, and perhaps Aramis will get some down ballot support for MVP. Don't forget I'll be posting the long-awaited final results of the prediction contest after the MVP balloting is made public.

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Monday, November 01, 2004

Hunsicker out in Houston

The Astros GM quit today, saying he would serve as an advisor to the team next year. While the Astros haven't ever quite gotten over the hump, the have been consistent conteders throughout Hunsicker's nine year run. Assistant GM Tim Purpura will step into the job.

I haven't spent a great deal of time analyzing Hunsicker over the years, but the simple fact that the Astros seem to be at or near the top of the division speaks volumes. During his tenure, Houston has had a reputation for acquiring pitchers other teams undervalued because of their lack of height. This strategy paid off in guys like Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller.

Only time will tell whether Houston's success under Hunsicker will continue. Still, after seeing the Cubs finish behind Hunsicker's Astros eight times in his nine year tenure (and only one game ahead in the exception year 2003), I am willing to take a gamble on a new guy. Welcome, Tim Purpura!

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