The Northside Lounge
A Chicago Cubs blog with an occasional tangent on pop culture
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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Too little, too late

On a day when the Diamondbacks tagged Greg Maddux for six runs and the bullpen for seven more, we at least did finally get a little help for the offense. Hendry traded Gerut straight up for Matt Lawton, practically forcing Dusty to add a guy with a decent OBP to his next lineup card.

Don't get me wrong- Lawton's a very useful guy to have around. I think he's an excellent pickup and well worth trading Gerut (and Dubois if you want to go back that far.) He's 33 and a career .370 OBP guy (.380 this year.) He's even got some speed- 49 steals in 70 attempts over the last three years, albeit only 16/25 this year.

The trouble is there is a long way to go. We remain four games out in a race where there are a whopping eight teams either ahead or within two games of us. Its going to take a hefty winning percentage to come from four back to fight off all those opponents. Its a closed system, and its extremely likely that one or more of those teams has to get hot, meaning we'll have to be even hotter to pull it out.

The one thing I wonder is whether Hendry couldn't have pulled this off back when the Dubois/Gerut deal was originally made? Or even earlier? Its not like the Pirates really needed to keep Lawton around as part of their pennant chase or anything. The impact of a move made on deadline day is inherently limited compared to the impact of the same deal made with more games left to play. I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, for this does look like another looting of the Pirate roster (albeit on a smaller scale), but if we come up one game short I'll certainly wonder whether two more weeks of Matt Lawton getting on-base might have made the difference.

Four back. Its not impossible, and adding Lawton makes it that much less impossible, but it remains an awfully steep hill to climb. Lets go Cubs.

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Felix Felicis

My alarm goes off for work at five in the morning. I therefore haven't seen the end of many night games on school nights this year. Last night was a case in point- I sat down to catch the first couple innings on TV. As it turned out, the first inning was plenty to satisfy any urge I had to watch baseball. I did listen to another couple innings on the radio as I was getting ready for bed, so I went to sleep with the Cubs down 3-2. I woke up (closer to 5:30 than to 5) and headed out to the computer to check the score.

I knew something was up when there were not one, not two, but three incoming IMs waiting for me from the night before, but never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that the trigger was an extra-inning grand-slam from Neifi Perez. I'm listening to the audio archive of the tenth inning over the internet as I blog and dress for work now. Yarbage told me yesterday afternoon that last night was the key game of the season, so if he's right there are good times a comin'. Sit back and enjoy.


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Friday, July 22, 2005

CBA Prediction Contest Update

Joltin' Joe from VFTB asked for an update, so here it is. Kurt Evans and Jeff Biddle are our leaders in the blogger and reader categories respectively. Jason Steffens and Christian Ruzich, the vanguards of the early CBA are both in the top five, and yours truly squeezes in between them. I'm not sure what I'll do if I end up winning my own prizes. Today's fun fact: of sixty-five entrants, precisely ZERO chose Derrek Lee as their Cub to make the All-Star game. That's two less than chose Corey Patterson.

Anyway, take a minute to silently thank contest sponsor Wrigleyville Sports, especially if you are in contention. After all, you could use your Wrigleyville Sports gift cards to purchase this week's featured product on their website, the Cubs bikini. No further comment necessary.

Rank Name Representing Points
1 Kurt Evans 120
2 Jeff Biddle Reader 117
3 Jason Steffens 114
4 Scott Lange 113
5 Christian Ruzich 112
6 Ned Macey 110
7 Dave Miyake Reader 105
8 Mike Weber Reader 103
9 David M. Geiser Reader 101
10 Paul Gibson 100
10 Phillip Dauer Reader 100
12 Joe DiMaria Reader 98
13 Patrick Lindsey Reader 96
13 Kevin Creutz Reader 96
15 Ken Kocanda 94
15 Brian Olmstead Reader 94
17 Graham Funk 92
18 Brian Pack Reader 91
19 Jay Rudak Reader 89
20 Joel Wilsnack Reader 88
20 Jason Cole Reader 88
20 Sean Hogan Reader 88
23 Alex Garton Reader 87
23 Rob Glowacki 87
23 Doug Papenthein Reader 87
26 Bob Sandheinrich 86
27 Chris Butler Reader 84
27 Dave Rehm Reader 84
29 Michael Roth Reader 83
29 Michael Grottano Reader 83
29 Jason Rieger 83
32 John Hill 82
32 Chris Troha Reader 82
32 Danial Bognich Reader 82
35 John Quelle 81
36 Cody Cahill Reader 80
36 Rob Letterly 80
38 Dave Lowitzki 79
39 Chris Yarbrough 78
39 Todd Andrews 78
39 Joel Reyes 78
42 Brian Stephens Reader 77
42 Tony Scott Reader 77
44 Jessica Rosner Reader 76
45 Eric Hanauer Reader 75
46 Full Servais 74
47 Derek Bruinooge Reader 73
47 James Crockett 73
47 Michael Jansen 73
50 Byron Clarke 71
51 Joe Aiello 70
51 Kermit Francis Reader 70
53 Michael Kenney Reader 64
53 John Marcus 64
55 Jeff Hajduk Reader 63
55 Al Yellon 63
57 Shawn Killian 62
58 Greg Harper Reader 60
59 Unknown Reader 58
60 Aaron Davis Reader 55
61 Mike Donohue 46
62 Caroline Basile 40
63 Scott G. F. Reader 38
64 John Wright Reader 26
65 Dan Schiller Reader 21

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Blow-up and blown out

It has been about 18 hours since the game ended yesterday and I am not fully recovered from the "performance". The best thing that can happen is to get another game started as soon as possible. Hopefully Carlos can be a stopper and get a much needed win against the Cardinals. Personally I do not think the Cubs can catch the birds, but they need wins regardless of who they are playing if they have any dreams of getting to the wild card.

Lets try and make a short list of all the bad things that can happen in a ballgame:

  • Catcher gets charged with an error for throwing to an un-manned base
  • Balking in the tying run
  • Double switching out your hottest hitter for a poor performing gremlin
  • Stranding runners on third with less than two outs
  • Having the earth open up and swallow your starting outfield

OK, the last one did not happen, but the other ones did. The Cubs managed to get a 5-1 lead and cough it up all while making the Reds bullpen look like Eric Gagne. It was the first time in my life I left a game early. Once Aurilla got a hit in the eighth to score the Reds 8th and 9th runs, I grabbed the wife and headed for the exit. The fireworks cracking in the sky behind me when I was a block from my office alerted me that the game was mercifully over.

Maddux failed to get strikeout #3000 leaving the game after only five innings. I can not blame him since it was very, very hot. My skin looks like a lobster after spending 8 innings baking in the upper deck. I was hoping to see some history, but such is life.

I really do not have all that much to say about this one. It hurts, it stinks and it made me realize that despite all the pleading, wishing, and hoping of Cubs Nation, they are an average team. I have been trying to convince myself differently all season. I cannot do it anymore. The bullpen is bad, the outfield is below average, they are not smart fundamentally and they have a manager that clings to poor players to make a point. Not exactly the recipe for success. To top it off everyone in the office today is mocking me.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Game 3 : COD

COD because the Cubs mailed this one in. By the third failed attempt to get an out on a sacrifice (which was ruled a hit for Freel in one of the worst examples of home town scoring ever), I was just hoping the Cubs would get all the bad play out of them and be able to move on. The feel of the team was completely different this evening.

Lets start with Wood as that is the main concern of Cubs fans. It was evident from the beginning that he was not comfortable on the mound. I could not tell if it was because of the heat or something else, but he was clearly struggling. He would miss with a pitch and then play with the dirt in his landing spot, or miss a pitch and go and grab the rosen bag. In the first inning, he had two strikes on Lopez and did not have a pitch to put him away before finally surrendering the long ball. Minus a play where he appeared to toe pick a ball to first to get an out (I am not sure since Sportscenter did not show the play) it was a miserable night for him. All we can do is hope that he will not miss too many starts.

Dusty pulled an odd lineup last evening. I was figuring, as well many others I suspect, that Gerut would be used as a platoon mate for Murton while Hollandsworth would become the thunder off the bench. When I got to the park I saw that Gerut was starting and Hairston was on the bench. Not a nice way to treat the man who was leading off during a nice winning streak. Hollandsworth and his .312 OBP got to play though and busted a lot of bats. Dusty likes to change things up and be loyal with sheer randomness. We now have some decent offensive options plus the ability to have a strong bench, but he stays loyal to Todd and couples him with Perez to have two automatic outs at the bottom of the lineup.

I was also shocked when Remlinger was the first pitcher into the game after Wood's departure. It was still early in the game and a perfect time for Mitre or Rusch, but he went with the short reliever guaranteeing lots of bullpen pitchers for the evening. Rusch was actually ready to come into the game if only the Cubs would have gotten to Remlinger's spot in the fifth. They did not, so Remlinger pitched another inning and gave up some runs after the ball got stuck in Walker's love negating a potential double play. The Cubs were able to pinch hit for Remlinger in the 6th, but then Dusty brought in Mitre after warming up Rusch, who would later come into the game in the 8th. Just a strange series of events.

One last Dusty rant and then I will put this game to rest - where is exactly where it should stay forever. The Cubs put together a rally in the eighth and a two out hit would have drawn the Cubs to within 2 runs. We needed a pinch hitter and Dusty goes with Macias. Nevermind the fact he is barely a replacement level player he was choosen as the guy to charge the rally. Of course he failed. Why not use Murton or Hairston there? Oh, yeah they are right handed and a bad left handed hitter is much more important in that situation.

OK, enough of that. I guess the Cubs are allowed to lay one egg a week. It does make this game very important for the Cubs. They would like to maintain momentum into the Cardinal series plus they have to beat up on bad teams to make headway in the WC race. As a side note, Maddux needs six Ks for 3000 in his career. I will be there to see him chase history this afternoon.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Game 2 success

You can tell it has been awhile since I have done this since my headlines are bland and stink more than Patterson's OBP. The Cubs - on the other hand- do not stink, in fact they are doing exactly what good teams do. They are beating the pants off the also rans in the division. They pulled out a 7-3 victory last evening on what was another hot and muggy night in the Queen city.

Mark Prior was no where near dominant, but he made big pitches when he had to and walked away with the victory. It is a testament to his skill to only give up three runs in a bandbox stadium when he was no where near his best. It was odd because it seems liked he could place his curve ball but had a lot of problems with the fastball. Prior killer Jason LaRue smacked a two RBI shot down the line on a ball that clearly missed its spot. Looking at the replay monitor, Prior left a lot of balls over the plate, but as mentioned before, he stepped up in the clutch including a huge strikeout of Griffey to kill a rally.

It was an odd offensive night for the Cubs. The first two innings they got a leadoff double, moved the man over (very un-Cub like) and failed to score him (sadly, very Cub like). In the third inning they get two quick outs and then go double, walk, homer to grab the lead. Aramis hit that homer and decided to add another one in the ninth for good measure. The blast caused some sort of injury to David Weathers - no world on whether or not it was whiplash.

My botched attempt at fame

Bare with me as their is some back story needed before telling my tale of woe. The sixth Harry Potter book came out last weekend and a local radio station was having a contest to win a boxed set of the first five. My wife has talked about reading these for awhile, so I told her that I would win them for her. It was more of a joke that anything else. Low and behold two days later I was the first person in with the correct answer to their trivia question and won the set.

Fast forward to last night where a colleague asked me to buy him a foam Cubs finger. I picked it up in the third when Aramis homered and decided it was good luck and held it the rest of the game. Two innings later, I look at my wife and tell her I am going to catch a foul ball with this foam thing on my hand.

In the bottom of the eighth Pena batted for the Reds and rocketed one right towards me. I stuck out the foam finger, had the ball smack my hand, but I could not quite close the hand around the ball and it bounced behind me to another gentleman (who did the right thing and gave it to a kid). The force of the ball not only stung the holy heck out of my hands, it actually put a tear in the foam finger. Reds fans in the deck below booed me for either missing the ball, wearing Cubs gear, or both. If only I would have caught the ball, maybe I could have gotten on Sportscenter for a nice foamy catch. Oh well, such is life.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Wrigley Report

Jeez, I manage to go somewhere and see the Cubs play and Dennis has to go steal my thunder. He always turns up when you least expect him!

Anyway, I'll try to make my recap of Sunday's game relatively brief since its 48+ hours old by now. Pittsburgh Rob, an occasional commenter on this very site, emailed a few weeks back saying Southwest had a sale from Pittsburgh to Chicago and he wanted to visit Wrigley Field for the first time. I certainly couldn't turn that down, so we rounded up the third of our three high school amigos and headed for Chicago.

Of course, Rob managed to lose his wallet in his refrigerator causing him to miss his flight, show up twelve hours late, and miss Saturday's game. Don't ask. We did manage to see Navy Pier and Rush Street Saturday, so that's something. Sunday we headed to Wrigley, got bleacher seats from a scalper, had lunch on Clark, and then headed in to seats reserved for us by Al Yellon. Growing up in Atlanta, Robert and I had always bonded over being fans of teams other than the Braves. As gametime approached though, Rob began to get increasingly vocal about just how little he thought of the steroid-using, NLCS-losing Chicago Cubs. This continued to build right up until Derrek Lee put the Cubs up 1-0 in the first, and disappeared for good when the Cubs stretched the lead to 6-0 in the third. Good times!

The only real drawback to the game was the intensity of the heat during the two third of the game when the sun was not blocked by cloudcover. Sweat just poured out of myself and everyone I could see with the exception of one bizarrely sweatproof lass a couple rows in front of me. I wonder how she does it. Anyway, the Pirates got a couple garbage-time runs before Sergio closed it out to run my lifetime record at Wrigley to 5-1.

After the game we went back to Navy Pier, rode the ferris wheel, took a really cool architecture cruise on the Chicago River, went up to the top of the Sears Tower, and closed things out with dinner in Greektown. All in all, an excellent trip.

So, to recap:

Plane tickets to Chicago$210
Three bleacher tickets to Wrigley$200
Pittsburgh Rob's stunned silence as the Cubs ran up the score Priceless!

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Game 1 success

It is 7:25 and my wife gets downtown to accompany me to the game. The game itself started at 7:10, but she had a late day at work and the missing of the first inning or so is not the biggest deal in the world. I see from the internet before I greet her in my company's parking lot that the Cubs are up 2-0. We make our way to the ballpark past the desperate scalpers trying to salvage some money after game time and enter the GABP about 5 minutes later.

Before finding our seats we decide to get some food to limit our total ups and downs for the evening. I peer at the scoreboard and it is 2-1 in what I think is the bottom of the 2nd. While waiting in line for my $24 meal consisting of a hamburger, chicken fingers, two fries and two waters I hear a thunderous crack of bat on cowhide followed by the deafening roar of the crowd. I look at my wife and say, "well looks like the game is tied." I peer out from the concession line to catch a glimpse of a mounted television. Much to my surprise, Lee is rounding the bases. A few moments later the scene is repeated and I correctly assume Aramis just lifted off.

When people covering the game or describing the game call the GABP "Wrigley-southeast" they are not joking. The fans were easily 3/4th in blue last evening. That majority in numbers equaled out to about a 90/10 split in regards to volume. I have been to games at Wrigley where the crowd was not as pumped as it was last evening. Lee even came up to the chants of MVP late in the game.

I was listening to the post game show and the Reds hack on the air was basically giving it to fans for being outcheered in their own stadium. He was basically calling them worthless. He then made fun of Cubs' fans for traveling to see the team when they are only near .500. So one group is worthless for not coming and the is worthless for coming to the ballpark. Me, I am just dumber for having listened to him.

I did miss most of the offensive fireworks on the night, but I saw some pretty good pitching from Williams. He is my favorite type of pitcher. He works fast, throws strikes and gets people out. The only inning he really labored in was the 7th and he looked physically beat on the mound. I can understand this since I was sweating in the stands and had done considerably less work. It was a very humid night at the stadium.

Homeruns are great, but to me the best AB of the night came in the 8th inning. The Reds had cut the lead to 7-4 in the bottom of the 7th, but the Cubs quickly put two runners on base with no outs. Lee flew out to center on a ball that he just missed hitting hard and Aramis popped out to keep the Cubs off the board. Barrett came up and looked pretty silly on a few pitches digging himself into a two strike hole. He fouled off a few pitches and finally flared a ball into right field to drive in a run. Sure it looks small now, but it put the Cubs up four, made sure they did not waste an inning, and most importantly of all gave the Cubs a nice two out hit. Just a good piece of hitting.

In the bottom of the ninth, there was a scary moment during warmups. Neifi airmailed one into the stands that hit a girl in the face. Both Neifi and Lee were visibly shaken by her getting hit. Lee had the dugout get him another ball (some guy took the first one in a truly classless act) and he walked over and hand delivered it to Cub fan. Perez continued to look in her direction as stadium staff tended to her injuries during the inning. She walked up the aisle near the end of the game with a pronounced bump already formed above her eye. If it were me, I would have stayed until the end of the game hoping for an autograph or something. Bottom line is that she appeared to have only the one knot for her troubles.

Cubs look to continue their hot second half play tonight as Prior takes on Luke Hudson. On paper, it looks like a mismatch, but after last September, I will never under estimate this team. Hopefully, I will check in again tomorrow with an update on another victory.

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Dubois for Gerut

The Cubs and Indians swapped fringe outfielders yesterday, With Jody Gerut arriving to give the Cubs a slightly different look in the outfield. Its a challenge trade, so I'll compare and contrast what I think of what the two guys bring to the table.

Age- Dubois is a year and a half younger and has about a year and a half more major league experience. Slight edge to Dubois.

On-basednessBoth guys hit for nearly identical averages in the minors, although Dubois tended to be a bit old for the leagues he was playing in. Dubois was pretty good at drawing walks (.090 isolated OBP in AA and AAA) while Gerut was a bit better (.102). In the majors, Gerut has lost some of that patience (.073) while Dubois has lost more (.048). A hitter becoming a hacker under Cubs tutelage? Shocking.

Slugosity- Dubois has always had some pop, but never to the degree that you would expect big major league home run totals out of him. His major league performance has been what you would expect from his minor league numbers. Gerut showed middling power through the minors, but raised hopes with a .215 ISO in a bit of a breakout rookie year. Performances in the subsequent years have been a return to form (.153 ISO last year and .102 this year.) He'll probably be good for better than the 1 HR in 138 AB he's had this year, but don't expect a return to 2003.

Platoonedness- Gerut has been much better against righties, particularly this year when he has gone 1-23 with no XBH against southpaws. Considering the sample size I'd expect his splits to trend back toward the mean, but considering his skillset and the presence of Hollandsworth, maintaining the split wouldn't be so bad since he'll be in mostly a platoon role.

Defense- This is the biggest advantage for Gerut. Hendry was quoted as saying he's above average in both corners and average in center. The range factors back him up (although the sample size for center field is fairly small.) I think Dubois could've been better in the field with more regular playing time, but its fair to say he was never going to be as good with the glove as Gerut.

Overall- This trade is unlikely to change the face of baseball history, but its hard to see any downside to it. Gerut is a useful third/fourth outfielder who won't hurt us in the field. I'd rather see him taking PA in left than taking them away from Hairston in center, but either way he should be adequate. Along with the recent callups, its tempting call the increase in players with on-base skills a trend. I don't want to count my chickens too early, but these could be the first steps toward a Cubs offense with runs scored totals commensurate with their slugging prowess.

I'll be back tonight with a recap of what was probably the hottest afternoon I ever spent at a ballpark Sunday at Wrigley.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Copa del Mundo de BĂ©isbol

I like the idea of a Baseball World Cup. I don't care for the idea of it being a side business for Emperor Bud. But with Alex Rodriguez having completed his heel turn by announcing plans to abandon his birth country and wrap himself in the Dominican flag, I'm warming up to it again.

Don't get me wrong- I don't really care what country A-Rod chooses to compete for, and I generally think its cool when people show their respect for their homelands. Heck, I've got a Danish flag in my living room and its been over a hundred years since one of my direct ancestors lived in Denmark. Nonetheless, when you A) join the Yankees, B) try to slap Bronson Arroyo with your purse, and then C) turn your back on the red, white, and blue, then yeah, that's enough reason for me to enjoy rooting against you. Of course, his tendency to chill the fortunes of every team he joins may be the only thing that keeps the US competitve when we face the Dominican Republic, so here's to you A-Rod!

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

TCR Roundtable

The good folks at TCR included me in their All-Star Break roundtable so go check out what I and others had to say.

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

Storm Party

The Cubs dodged a hurricane and blew away the Marlins, sweeping all three games this weekend by a combined score of 26-10. There were some things to like about this series. Obviously, the not losing was a welcome change. Wood and Maddux both looked very strong. The spark the offense showed was long overdue, and given that it coincided with the arrival of some of the youngsters it was even more heartening.

Still, the Cubs remain 12 back of St. Louis in the division and 6.5 back of the Braves for the wildcard. Worse, there are five other teams we'd have to jump over to claim that fourth NL playoff spot. Now is not the time to get our hopes up. Let's just relax, enjoy a Jeter-free All-Star break, get the kids some more playing time to open the second half and see where things go from here.

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Braves sweep

And that should just about do it. Mark Prior gets lit up while the Braves 5+ ERA starter three-hits the Cubs in the afternoon. Roberto Novoa throws fastballs to the leading home run hitter in the majors (who happens to have a well-known preference for fastballs) until he hits one out to ice the nightcap. The Cubs fall four games under, eight out of the wildcard and fourteen behind the Cardinals.

I said I'd have pictures and stories, but there's nothing I am really dying to show and tell. I understand Patterson and Dubois have been sent down and Murton and Adam Greenberg have been called up. What this will do about Dusty hitting Neifi Perez and Jose Macias at the top of the order I do not know.

Today was a lousy day. Here's hoping tomorrow is better.

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I went to my first wake a couple months ago, and I feel like I may be going to my second tonight. If the Cubs get swept in a double-header today... well, anything would still be possible but its hard to imagine the team recovering to make the playoffs. The rain is swapping the pitching matchups, giving the Cubs a decided edge in the afternoon game (now Prior vs Horacio Ramirez ) but a tougher row to hoe in the nightcap (Jerome Williams vs Smoltz).

Here's to the victim kicking open the casket, rising up, and sweeping the Braves today. I'll post pictures and thoughts when I get home tonight.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Things look grim. I'm having severe difficulty trying to find the words to express my frustration. Dusty. Neifi. Corey. Maddux. Now Lee hurt. I just don't know what to say.

The Cubs are staring at an eight-game losing streak if they don't either beat Smoltz tonight or win in front of me Thursday night. I was regretting that I was unable to attend the first three games in the series here in Atlanta. Now... sigh.

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Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Fourth of July!

I hope you are enjoying arguably the best holiday of the year (I'll accept petitions on behalf of Thanksgiving) as much as I am. I spent the morning waving a giant US flag and hollering at everyone who went by while running the world's largest 10k here in Atlanta this morning. I came home to catch some coverage of NASA hitting a comet (here's to cheap, safe, effective unmanned space exploration) like Derrek Lee teeing off on a hanging curve on the outer half. This afternoon its a cozy cookout at my place and then off to hopefully find a Cubs ticket at Turner Field tonight. If we can just please get a win it may well be a perfect day.

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Sunday, July 03, 2005


Its funny how fast things change. This team has run hot and cold, and so just when I start to feel good and post something optimistic Dusty drives the Cubsmobile into a tree and we're headed toward the second division (archaic term, I know) again. A month ago, it seemed like all our pitchers were hurt and yet the team went on a tear. Now the pitchers have returned (and seemingly looking like their old selves) and its losing streak time. The pitching matchup seems awfully favorable (Zam vs Drese), and I have extra personal motiviation because I am going to have less fun at Turner Field this week if I am watching the Cubs continue to spiral downward.

And speaking of consistency, Lance Armstrong crushed his main rivals in the first time trial of the Tour de France yesterday. I wonder if he's ever considered a second career as an outfielder.

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