The Northside Lounge
A Chicago Cubs blog with an occasional tangent on pop culture
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Fresh from the 770 to you!I took the recap at TCR today, so if you just can't get enough of my sublime writing check out my take on May-retta's own Corey Patterson and his game-winning self.
Huge win!Not really, but if I stick to headlines that actually describe the team's performance I may use up all the English words to describe frustrating baseball teams. Heck, I was resorting to "Ugh" yesterday, and that's hardly a word at all.
Last night the Cubs took it on the chin despite scoring nine runs and sending their ace pitcher to the mound. The problem came in that said ace pitcher got knocked around, lost his cool, and was asked to leave the field of play by the umpire. The parade of releivers that followed wasn't any better, although you can't blame them entirely. For instance one particular releiver, a southpaw known for having a reverse platoon split, was again used as a LOOGY despite now being a member of a pen with more lefties than righties. The color commentator pointed out that calling up Ohman gave the Cubs four lefties, but that it was all right because one of them had a hefty reverse split perhaps due to his changeup.
Confidential to Jim H.: The guy you put in charge of your team is being outmanaged by Bob Brenly. Bob Brenly!!
The Cubs try to salvage the series and get back above .500 this afternoon. Its Aaron Harang (1-1, 3.70) against Dempster (1-3, 4.57). Lets go Cubs.
Monday, April 25, 2005
UghI was off to bed with a 10-3 lead in the ninth, but circumstances led to me staying up a bit more and catching the recap from the ap wire. It seems Dusty had to go to his new closer despite a seven-run lead, Fox's long history of arm problems, and the fact that he pitched as recently as yesterday. A few runs and an apparent arm injury later, out he comes.
Maybe its better that Hawkins not close if this is how Dusty would treat his arm.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Final words from the Cinci series
Yes, I realize I am a few days late on this, but I was in a training course for work the remainder of the week and did not have time to post. I am taking time out of my weekend because I care about our 30 readers (15 of whom are not family or college friends).
That is all for now. Hopefully the rain stats away and the Cubs can start a hot streak today.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Customer Service SillinessI've been having issues with my Bell South DSL account. Its hardly the first time, but I don't have a lot of good alternatives so I've stuck with them. After three or four calls to tech support in the last twenty-four hours, I ended up with a service tech at my house who seemed pretty sharp and ended up telling me that if I kept having problems I should downgrade to a slower service to maintain better connectivity. The connection continued to drop after she left, so I called Bell South to make the downgrade.
The billing person asked for my mother's maiden name before she would make changes to my account. I gave it to her. She said "that's not what I have here." I confirmed that it was indeed my mother's maiden name. She said "it may be her maiden name, but that's not what you gave us when we asked you what it was." I said I doubted I had failed to know my mother's maiden name, but that I was willing to provide any other piece of personal information she would like to confirm my identity. She reiterated "I understand this might not be your mother's maiden name, but it is what you gave us." I again offered to give some other piece of information. She responded "This is what you gave us. It starts with an 'S'." I started rattling off things that started with S until it turned out my father's first name "Stuart" was the right answer. Yee-hah.
So we went through the billing change successfully. When we were done, she went into a goodbye script, but with a twist. She said "It has been my goal today to provide you with excellent customer service. On a scale from 1-10, how would you rate my customer service today?"
I was taken aback. They normally transfer you to a third-party for this kind of thing, so you don't have to worry about hurting anyone's feelings to their face. But, despite the maiden name silliness, things had gone relatively smoothly so I said "seven." She replied "Oh! What could I have done to make things better today?" A bit rattled, and not in the mood to rehash the maiden name stuff, I said "Nothing in particular." Assuming I must not have understood the question, she replied "Ten being the highest, what score from 1-10 would you give me today?" Swallowing the urge to say "three and falling", I repeated my seven with the proviso that "seven is a good standard score- nothing outstanding, just a good solid seven."
Now I didn't really want to rip her since I suspect she was just following the script and flow chart she was given, but what the heck? Who thinks its a good idea to force customers to rate their customer support to the face of the person in question? And how is it possible to get decent data when you get to challenge the person if they don't give you a good enough score for your liking?
Oh, and then in the middle of this post my connection blinked off again. I guess I should have given her a ten.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
This Old CubI finally got around to watching my DVD of This Old Cub, the film about Ron Santo's battle with diabetes, the amputations to each of his legs, and lots of associated stories. It isn't the greatest piece of cinema I have ever seen. Although its told in a roughly chronologic manner, there isn't a good rythym or dramatic arc to the story. There are times when fairly random Wrigley scenes are thrown in for a couple minutes to fill time. I'm no music snob, but the song choices for the score are so obvious as to be distracting (e.g. some scenes from a Giants game are shown while a song about San Francisco plays.)
That said, it doesn't need to be a master film to work. Seeing a good-hearted individual bear what Ron Santo bears, and do it with nary a complaint or a word of self-pity, is incredibly moving. You could slap that footage on a DVD with no score or editing or anything else and still have a worthwhile product.
A few years back I got myself run over a transit bus here in Atlanta. They flirted with amputating my right foot, I spent six months in one of these, and it was a little over two years before I could walk relatively normally again. In other words, I went through about 2% of what Ron Santo has been through. I always felt like I did a pretty good job of keeping a stiff upper lip through my saga, but he puts me to shame. He's an inspiration. I highly reccomend spending ninety minutes of your time with this movie.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
The tale of two games
This one was supposed to be easy. The Cubs scored 4 runs in the first inning all after two were out and did it with the long ball. Patterson (batting third last night), Ramirez and Lee all launched homers off a battered Matt Belisle to stake Wood to the lead. Wood usually dominates the Reds, so this one should have been in the bag. Of course, this being the Cubs they decided to slumber on the lead and let the Reds chip away before getting even on a broken bat hit by Aurilla and taking the lead on a 2-out double by LaRue in the eighth.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
The Reds pitching stinksThis and other great insights in my Reds preview at TCR. Look for Dennis with some reports from the scene of the crime this week as the Cubs visit the Queen City.
FrustrationThat was going to be the title of this post, and it was going to feature bullet points like these:
But then Maddux settled down, Mr. April (dyk: there are 1220 hits on Google for the phrases "Derrek Lee" and "slow start" on the same page) cracked a two-run single and the practically automatic LaTroy Hawkins nailed down his second save in as many nights. The roar from Camden Yards via my living room television indicates the Yankees just got swept by the Orioles, so I guess you could say things are looking up.
I'll have a Reds preview up for TCR tonight, and then I'm off to LA for another week of joyous precipitator inspecting. Pity me.
Prediction Contest StuffI received sixty-five entries this year, 28 bloggers and 37 readers. I still haven't figured out prizes, but I'm sure I'll come up with something classy. Here is either the average answer or the most popular answer from the group, with a few notable secondary answers thrown in for good measure. You may remember that the average date for Maddux's 300th win predicted by the entrants in last year's context turned out to be the exact day it happened, so I'd reccomend printing a copy of this post and going straight to your neighborhood bookie.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Chortle chortleI'm in Mobile, AL, inspecting the precipitators at Barry Steam Plant, and I've learned an important lesson: don't ever agree to inspect precipitators at a steam plant.
However, there has been one upside- I did get the opportunity to catch some really entertaining highlights this morning. Not the Cubs doubleheader (although it was a huge relief to see Prior pitching well), but rather the Cardinals/Reds game. First of all, Mulder gives up six in five innings. Then, the Cards had first and second down three with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Eckstein hits a deep fly that lands over Adam Dunn's head, bounces on the track, and clears the fence by about a foot. The ground rule double puts the tying run back on third. The Reds then intentionally walk Larry Walker to set up Albert Pujols (Albert Pujols!) for the double play... and he obliges! A high-chopper to third, a leaping stab by Joe Randa, a bullet to first, and the game-ending 5-3 twin killing. You've gotta love it.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
That smell on my breath...
would be the vomit that I just threw up in my mouth. Granted I swallowed it right away, but I feel sorry for my co-workers the rest of the day. By now, we all know that the Cubs dropped a game 1-0 yesterday on an unearned run. I listened to the game on the radio and heard the phrases "strike out" and popped up" more than I would have liked. At least the bullpen pitched well (as did Dempster)and we get to see Prior pitch today, so things are looking up.
Let it go Indiana...let it go
This is a line from my favorite Indiana Jones movie. In the end Indy is reaching for the grail which is just out of his reach. His father has to tell him to just let it go so he does not fall into a chasm like the Nazi sympathizing woman before him. Why does this have any relevance for the Cubs? Well for the first week of the season, I have seen Chicago newspaper bandwidth clogged with comments from last season's announcers. I personally don't give a rip what Caray or Stone have to say about the Cubs. They are acting like people who got dumped and try desperately to get in the last word. They are trying to win the breakup. Seems pretty petty to be to be truthful. I don't blame Chip, he was handed the keys to the castle and he should have had the job for 30 years due to his last name alone, but the Cubs decided to go another direction. I can see why he is upset and why he would love to say these things, but why waste my time by printing it every week. I refuse to read this garbage for the rest of the season.
New in print
There is a new book out today about the Cubs. The author lived 4 blocks from Wrigley and chronicles all of the games from the perspective of being close to the stadium. He also had locker room access. I have read some of the extracts on ESPN's webspace and it seems pretty interesting. I would love to hear reviews from anyone who has picked up an advance copy. I think this one might be enough to pull me away from the poker books for a week or so (even though the poker game is getting better...two tourneys with co-workers last week and two cashes).
Tick, tick, tick
24 continued last evening with another stellar episode. This has been my favorite season of the four thus far. Just excellent story, pacing and action. Tony is all the way back with CTU although his famous Cubs mug is at his house (he drank Budweiser for breakfast through it earlier in the season). It has been a while since I have posted random thoughts on the show, so look for that later in the week. Just a reminder for me...have all of the people who care been keeping up with the show or should I write them in white font as to not spoil?
Sunday, April 10, 2005
QuickieIs anyone else getting annoyed with WGN missing the first pitch of half-innings coming out of commercial breaks? At first I thought it was my imgaination, but around the time we came back from break with Burnitz fielding a single in right I realized otherwise. But hey, I shouldn't complain on a day when we pulled out a win. Today's extra-inning triumph cancels out Friday's extra-inning defeat. Today's mediocre but enough to win Maddux start cancels out Tuesday's mediocre enough to lose Maddux start. Three up, three down. Yin and yang.
We start fresh tomorrow afternoon against the Padres' Adam Eaton (0-0, 5.79). I'd say it might be a nice chance to catch a good pitcher not at his best, but we are countering with Dempster (0-1, 17.18), a mediocre pitcher not at his best. That is indeed a 17.18 ERA. Yowzers.
I'll be in Mobile, AL on business all week. When I'm not at Hank Aaron Stadium catching the AA Bay Bears I'll try to post from the hotel. Lets go Cubs.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Hawkins ForeverOr at least until he does something to show he deserves to be taken out of the closers spot. That's the thesis of my new post at TCR. Please direct all hate mail to the comments section over there.
Also, you may have noticed the playoff odds meter hasn't been updated. BP said they'd be updating it daily this year, but not only have they not updated it even once but they don't have any updated stats for 2005. I suppose its possible they've moved all their stats into the pay-only areas. I'll give them another week or so before giving up on the odds-meter.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Little thingsOne of the tough parts about being a Cubs blogger as opposed to, say, a '72 Dolphins blogger or a Nadia Comaneci blogger is that you have to deal with writing about losing. We lost Tuesday, and I wasn't in the mood to rip Dusty's blundering pinch-hit decisions so I didn't post. We lost last night, and I wasn't in the mood to try to divine Dempster's future from the sample size he presented last night so I didn't post.
And yet I find myself thinking about baseball. Not about the Cubs, but about our company softball game Tuesday. And not about the game itself, but about sitting on the bench when the kid brother of one of our players saw me scoring our game and asked "can I do that?"
I showed him my way of scoring- draw a diamond as runners move around the bases, color it in if they score, write the fielders numbers for groundouts and circle their numbers for fly outs. He took my pen and followed my direction in recording the results of the next batter, and the next, and the next. By the end of the game he was merrily recording everything that happened.
We lost, we gave up 13 runs in the first inning, and I was 1-3 on three weak infield grounders one of which was a GIDP. The Cubs got whipped two out of three by a team that won 51 games last year. And yet, thinking of baseball makes me think of teaching a little kid how to score a baseball game, and that makes me smile. Hope it helps you some too.
And I also hope we win Friday so I don't have to post any more namby-pamby touchy-feely garbage.
Yuck and yuck
Well after flogging the D'backs on opening day the Cubs have dropped two in a row to lose their opening series. Yesterdays game was the first start by Ryan Dempster since 2003 and he showed good movement on pitches at times, but he was no where consistent enough to get the big out and get out unscathed.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
1-023 hits, 6 XBH, 33 total bases, and 16 runs. I suppose that's an acceptable start. At the very least, it was enough to cover for a mediocre start from Carlos Zambrano and propel the Cubs to an Opening Day win.
The BatsDerrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez are the two best hitters in this lineup, and they went a combined 7-10 with a walk, three doubles, two homers, six runs, nine RBIs, and plenty of applause from my couch. Burnitz got hits in three of his AB and struck out in the other three. I'd say that's his upside- its the prospect of days when his results are divided evenly between strikeouts and other kinds of outs that scares me. Corey was 3-5 with a walk. I was pleased to see him hitting the ball with some authority, but distressed to see a bit of early patience evaporating as the game wore on. I recall last year scoffing at the announcers saying his Opening Day homer was the worst thing that could happen for him. Today we saw him slapping the ball around the park but by the end of the day he was chasing as badly as ever. I don't find that result any more encouraging.
The ArmsCarlos seemed to have good stuff but lost his control as the day wore on. He gave up the uncharacteristic long ball to Jose Cruz Jr., and lost his composure when he made his exit. I think we're better off when he maintains personal control, but if you are going to blowup at the umpire I suppose its best to do it after you leave the game. Glendon Rusch was all over the place in his 2.1 IP. Hopefully it was just some extended spring training in a game that was in hand, and next time he comes into a close game we'll get the 2005 version. Of course, if I discount Rusch's wildness then I can't give too much credit to Bartosh or Wellemeyer for their relative effectiveness.
The OtherIn the car on my way home from work, they had a clip from the Tigers game on the radio. In it, Steve Stone said that Dimitri Young didn't consider himself a power hitter but in this situation he was liable to go yard. Then the pitch was delivered, and you know where it ended up.
That sort of psuedo-psychic prediction was Stone's forte, but when the hapless ESPN crew of Sutcliffe, Gwynn, and Dave O'Brien tried it blew up on them repeatedly. "Carlos Zambrano is one of the toughest pitchers in baseball to homer off of... deep to left, and its gone!" "Nomar doesn't see a lot of pitches, but one thing you can say about him is he will make contact and put the ball in play. Swing and a miss, strike three!" I just wish they would have predicted a season of Dusty Baker freezing out young players and running up 140 pitch outings on his starters.
I can't figure what I have heard about the Aramis contract. We already had him under contract for this year. He can opt out after 2006. So in effect, we've extended our commitment for three years in exchange for locking Aramis in for only one additional year. For that privledge we've agreed to pay him at the market rate for the next four years (if he chooses) despite the fact that we already had him at a cheaper rate for '05. Maybe there are details I am missing, but I don't see the upside.
Anyway, one day into the season and we are tied for first. Greg Maddux will face Russ Ortiz today. Ortiz wasn't particularly effective this spring (7.94 ERA, 1 HR, 10 BB, 7 K, 17.0 IP), so hopefully some of that will carry over. Go Cubs!
Monday, April 04, 2005
Play Ball!Opening Day is finally here. A week or two from now we'll know a lot more about where this season is heading. Baker and Hendry won't be able to spin their way out of it if Wood and Prior have been either unable to pitch or unable to pitch effectively. For one day though, I am going to not worry about that and just enjoy the fact that baseball is on my television. You've got until noon central if you haven't sent in your Cubs predictions (check here for details). Remember, its free and I'll hand out cool prizes so don't miss it.
Carlos Zambrano (0-0, 0.00) vs Javier Vazquez (0-0, 0.00)
Let's go Cubs!