Monday, October 31, 2005

First Monday of the Hot Stove League!

It was avery active October 31st in Major League Baseball. The Cubs continued to try and find a way to Dusty-Proof their 2006 team. Glendon Rusch signed a two year deal worth $6 million total plus incentives. Rusch signed the deal with Hendry contingent on the fact that he'll get a shot to start:
"He wasn't interested in hitting the market; he just wanted a fair chance to be a starter," Hendry said. "I personally felt that he's done everything for the club in the last couple of years that we've asked of him."

I have no idea how fair of a shot Dusty will give Rusch to start. Glendon has not looked that good coming out of the pen. Rusch could be a decent number five starter. The problem is with the Cubs injury-prone pitching staff he's two pitches away from being their number three. Rusch is not a number three. It'll be interesting to see what Rusch's role is when the team breaks camp.

Silver Bats
DLee and Mike Barrett won silver sluggers today. That silver bat won't help teach Barrett how to call a ballgame or block a splitter in the dirt.

Other MLB stuff
There were a few other moves of note in MLB on Halloween.

The biggest news came out of Boston where GM Theo Epstein walked away from his job with the Red Sox. Boston's boy genius was the toast of New England last fall when the Red Sox ended their 86 year drought winning the Series. Now Epstein has chosen to leave the organization that he followed as a kid. I know egos get involved in these things. But still, looking at the Sox situation from afar: how can you let the GM that won your first world series in 86 years walk? It wouldn't surprise me if Theo popped up with the GM job in Los Angeles before the GM meetings next week.

In Houston, the Astros have extended Phil Garner. I guess Drayton McLane didn't watch the World Series. I actually think Garner is the worst manager in the NL Central. (Yes, I do think he's worse than Johnnie B. Baker) Let's face it, Garner sucked in Milwaukee and he was worse in Detroit. How do these managers get into the recycling bin? If Garner can be recyled. I'd say our old pal Riggs deserves another shot.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Two more places to get drunk

While our neighbors to the South celebrated their World Series victory with a ticker-tape parade. Fran Spielman snuck this into the Bright One on Friday:

Cubs fans will cheer from 2 new roofs

October 28, 2005

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter Advertisement

Die-hard Cub fans who like to watch their favorite team from the rooftops along Waveland and Sheffield will have two more private clubs to choose from, under a zoning change advanced Thursday by a City Council committee.

Veteran rooftop owner Tom Gramatis plans to build two more private clubs on land at 3615-19 N. Sheffield that has long housed a Red Top Parking lot.

Both buildings will adhere to the existing 61-foot height limit. That's even though local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) has a pending proposal to allow rooftop clubs overlooking Wrigley to build up as high as 69 feet to preserve their bird's-eye view of the ballpark even after a 1,790-seat bleacher expansion is built.

Protects the neighborhood

"If you're going to have elevators for handicapped access, if you're going to have two fully fireproofed, enclosed staircases, as required by the code, you need" a greater floor area ratio than current zoning allows, said Tom Moore, an attorney representing Gramatis.

"This is a temporary zoning change that all of these safety measures can be put in. And then the agreement is to zone back and to make the building fit in to the existing residential character of the neighborhood."

Like other recent rooftop zoning changes, Gramatis has signed a Tunney-demanded "covenant" that protects the neighborhood by guaranteeing that there will be no change in front-yard setback and no bars or ticket brokers on the ground floor, Moore said.

I find it rather ironic that on the day the Sox celebrated their championship in a parade that went past city hall, this news was coming out of city hall as far as baseball on the northside. Two more rooftops will mean more money in the Tribsters pockets. It will also mean two more places for fans to get drunk and watch the ballgames.

What does any of this have to do with what happens on the field? Absolutely Nothing! This is par for the course. You'd think I would have figured this out by now.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Cubs re-up Todd Walker

According to ESPN-1000, the Cubs picked up Todd Walker's option today. I believe the number was $2.5 million. This makes some sense. That is not a bad price for a second sacker that can hit.

Still, I don't really expect the Cubs to have Walker on Opening Day 2006. Signing Walker, gives Jim Hendry some flexibility in the trade market this winter. All of baseball can afford Walker and he hits.

I don't care for the guys defense. I can't stand the fact that he's always looking for a camera, cell phone, tape recorder or writer to make a comment. I hope Hendry deals him.

A conversation with Wrigley Field

Yesterday, 1060wester John Dooley posted a comment that I think deserves to run in this space. Dools has a great angle, and I share his frustration. Here it is:

Good for them.
Folks, this is what a world champion looks like.
Last Saturday, I stopped in front of Wrigley and said to it, "are you going
to do anything constructive in your life?"
I seriously did this.
Next to me was a bird.
The bird was confused.
I said, "Yes, bird. It's true. Something is different about today. A
Chicago team is in the World Series!"
The bird looked up at Wrigley.
"No, no. Not there, silly. It's NEVER going to happen there. I know, I'm
just as confused."
And then the bird walked away. A bit confused.

I'm happy for my relatives that are Sox fans. My uncle Pat in Madison. My dad's side is a south side Irish family...but he became a Cub fan at 12 when they moved to the NW burbs. I live with the thought that nothing, nothing ever good will come of this team again.

I think of our fans: worthless, rich, cell-phone talking, drunk, stupid, and ignorant.
I think of their fans: Small, yet loud. Toothless, yet grinning. Not the smartest, yet always wanting to know more.

Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen created a hunger that Wrigleyville will never provide. A necessity for a world championship that doesn't exist on Addison and Clark. They got BALLPLAYERS. Not guys with numbers, or assumed talent. It wasn't about money, but more about dirt. And in the end, the grit won. The man with the greasy shirt won. The woman who was smoking with a pregnant child won. That cabbie named Oscar who listens to Rooney on ESPN won.

The carnival that is Wrigley Field, and the parade that is the Chicago Cubs have now graduated to farce. There is not a team within 40 YEARS of the Cubs futility in mark of world championships in the history of baseball.

Some will blame it on Phillip Wrigley's insistence on not bringing in lights after World War II. Others will blame it Black Cats, goats, and an unassuming fan. Even more will blame it on the Tribune, Mr. FitzSimons, Dusty Baker, and the players of yesteryear.

But the truth is the Cubs have never gotten BALLPLAYERS. When they did, they won...but never found the right cast to bust out the ladder rounds of October. The 84, and 03 teams had the most BALLPLAYERS, but withered in the end due to a lack of mental toughness.

The excuses are there.

But the real lesson to this are the Sox fans. The ones who never really made excuses. No goats. No Black Sox curse. No real mentions of Dybzinski, or Eric Soderholm's lack of speed. Just anger. Anger at a management that wouldn't
get the job done.

That anger will never exist at Addison and Clark. As long as they sell cotton candy and little teddy bears, and kids come in their SUVs prodded along to the parade with their mommies and poppies...nothing will change.

Two years ago we were on a bus with two other guys that lived the same smacked-down embarrassing life that we had. Now, those two guys have gotten off the bus. And we have been left....thinking of when that next stop will come.

But til then, I'm taking a nap. I'm getting my rest. I'm putting my money on five Charlie Weis championship stops before my Boys in Blue do a damn thing.

So, to the doldrums.
Where the North Side has slept for now a 98th year.

I'm trying to find the bird that JD was talking to for a follow up. Maybe I'll head down to Wrigley Field and have a little conversation with her this weekend after a few cold ones.

Have a good weekend everyone. Go Badgers! Go Bears!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

White Sox win series, what's it mean in Cubdom?

Well "they were dancing in the streets of Chicago lastnight", as Harry would have said. Unfortunately they were the streets south of Madison.

Cub fans felt different emotions. Some were happy for the city or their friends and/or family that happen to be Sox fans. Others were pissed that we have no more bragging rights with southsiders. (I was never really sure what bragging rights we had. It usually seemed to come down to having more fans or a better ballpark. I said this a long time ago: "MLB ain't a popularity contest, it's a professional sport which means the bottom line is wins, pennants, and world series rings.") Still, many more Cub fans are indifferent to the whole thing.

Regardless of what we think about the Sox winning, we are all probably wondering the same thing: "What will the Sox Championship mean to the Cubs?" Under the current management team I don't think it means a damn thing. BUT, I do think there is a slim chance that the Tribsters may move the ballclub. If that were to happen all bets would be off.

So, Congrats to the White Sox and their fans on one of the most amazing playoff runs we have seen, since the three round format started. I'm jealous and envious.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

How bad is the NL?

Tired this morning. Watched all 14 innings last night and didn’t get to sleep until well after 2. I suppose if I were a Sox fan, I wouldn’t have slept all night and would be all nerves until the first pitch tonight. I don’t think that the Sox or their fans will have to worry.

The Astros are done. I said last night that Oswalt would have to pitch his ass off for the Stros to win the game. In the 6th inning, the 20 game winner threw 46 pitches, crapped his pants and gave up the lead. If I had been drinking, I would have sworn that there was a Cub pitcher on the mound.

The Stros did come back to tie up the game at 5 in the 8th, but lost the game on a solo HR to Geoff Blum in the 14th inning and a walked in run. I thought that only the Cubs had miserable relievers that walked in runs in winnable games.

Going into this series, I thought that Houston would have trouble scoring runs. They struggled against the team from St. Louis, but got great pitching to keep them in games while they struggled to push 4 runs across the plate. Last night there were 15 runners stranded on base and Houston’s closest chance to win the game in the bottom of the 9th faded away with El Duque getting two key strike outs with the winning run 90 feet away. I almost turned the game off to get some sleep, but kind of knew that the Sox would once again pull it off.

A couple other thoughts from the game:

Why did Fox keep showing the Quaker Oats guy?

I think I finally tuned out all of the endless Fox promotion for television shows that I will never watch.

I don’t ever want to see instant replay in any form in MLB. Judgment calls by umpires go both ways from dropped third strikes and phantom hit by pitch to wrong HR ball calls. This would just give Fox more fuel to ruin the broadcast.

Joe Buck was offended by Randy Moss simulating pulling down his pants in a game, but was completely mute when you could clearly read the lips of Crazy Carl and Scrap Iron after the Crede HBP. Where's the moral outrage Joe? Jackass.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"Pinball baseball" on display

The World Series will be played for the first time in the Lone Star state tonite. As a Cub fan, I have watched more than my fair share of games at Enron Field/Astro Field/Minute Maid Park. Whatever they call it, the brand of baseball you see in Houston is unlike anything you see in any other park in the big leagues.

You see, somebody got a little too cute whan they designed this retractable roof ballpark. A popup to leftfield can find it's way very easily into the Crawford Boxes, above the scoreboard (supposedly the Crawford Boxes are 315' from home plate, pitchers would question that measurement). From there the field jets out into left center. In left center a yellow line seperates homeruns from balls in play. The yellow line makes for many tough calls for umpires.

Above LF and LCF, an 1860's replica train rides on a track when the Astros hit a homerun. When you reach centerfield you find the only hill in play in MLB. They call it Tal's hill. The ten degree slope is 436' from home plate. As if the hill isn't enough of a challenge, they put a flagpole on it. Gaius Marius and I used to laugh when the Beege was manning CF for the Astros. More than once we saw him go up the hill and nearly get killed by the flagpole. That thing could do some serious damage to a CF. White Sox CF Aaron Rowand had better be careful running around out there.

So Minute Maid Park will give you the cheap homerun down the lines (not just the Crawford Boxes in LF it's only 326' to RF). No wonder Carlos Zambrano loves to hit in the Juice Box. Still in CF and LCF the park is gonna take away some balls that would be out of any park. Like no other park, pitchers have to pitch to this ballparks dimensions. Otherwise it will be a quick nite and trip to the showers.

I am a fan of most of the new parks. My favorite new parks are SBC Park in San Francisco, Safeco Field in Seattle, Petco Park in San Diego, and I like Camden Yards in Baltimore because it started the retro park craze. I like the new ballparks. But Minute Maid is a ballpark that tried to put in as many quirks as possible. When you have as many quirks as the Juice Box, it's pretty likely one or several of them will come into play in a ballgame. It really is playing baseball in a pinball machine.

Tonight this "pinball baseball" that makes purists cringe will be on display in Houston. This isn't some regular season series against the Cubs or Reds. This is baseball biggest stage. It's like the World Series is being played at Riverview.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Are the Tribsters selling the Cubs?

According to today's Crain's Chicago Business the Tribune Company might be considering the unthinkable, selling the Cubs. The timing of this is very interesting. Tribune shares have fallen 27% this year. CEO Dennis FitzSimons is looking to improve shareholder value without breaking up the core holdings in print and broadcast media.

I have long thought that the lack of a face for the Cub organization has hurt this franchise. I hope the Tribsters sell the team to an SOB with an extremely large ego. The ego of a single owner encourages winning a lot more than the shareholders looking at financial statements.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Team O'Destiny

The Chicago White Sox run toward the World Championship continued on Sunday night. On a rainy Chicago nite, the southsiders hero in the bottom of the ninth would be their leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik. Throughout the first half, Podsednik was the table setter for the Sox. Tonite Podsednik tipped the World Series table over. His ninth inning homer was dramatic. It will go down in World Series and Southside baseball lore.

Two plays that took place earleir in the ballgame reinforced to me that the White Sox have the baseball gods on their side this postseason.

  1. In the third 1060w friend the Beege dropped a routine popup that allowed Pierzynski to score. A.J.'s gotta be the most annoying player on this team. Still if you were a fan of the Sox you'd have to love A.J.
  2. The other play that told me the White Sox are a team of destiny took place in the 7th. With two outs and two men on Wheeler hit Dye. The replay showed the ball actually hit Dye's bat. Qualls replaced Wheeler and Konerko hit a World Series Grand Slam. The Sox led 6-4.

Many teams get breaks throughout a season. How many take advantage of their breaks? Throughout the first half of 2005 and now in the postseason the White Sox have taken advantage of every break. They've been lucky, but they've also been good. The Sox have gotten every break during this playoff run. It started with the error by Graffanino. Since that play, things have snow balled, has any call went against the White Sox? Now the southsiders are two wins away from their first championship since 1917.

Incognito on the Southside
On Saturday nite, I saw my second World Series game in person in my life. I was fortunate enough to make a roadtrip to Atlanta back in 1999 to see Game 1 between the Braves and Yanks. As you get older road trips like that become fewer and far between. So it took the World Series coming to Chicago for me to make a visit. It was difficult for me to go at first. I had all the thoughts about "why isn't this on the northside?", "What went wrong in '84 and '03?"(why do I keep replaying these moments?), "am I a bad Cub fan for going?".

Once I got to U.S. Comiscular all of my baseball fandom kicked in. This is the World Series for god sakes. If you can't enjoy this there has to be something wrong with you. I did enjoy the game. I sat next to a gentleman who was probably in his early 70's. An oldtime Chicagoan that can tell so many stories about baseball heartbreak. This guy wasn't worried about the past. He was enjoying his teams time in the sun. I am happy for the long suffering White Sox fans. The Johnny-come-lately's and "Cubs Suck" crowd may piss me off. Still I am happy for their loyal fans like the guy I sat by.

Regardless of what happens in the coming week, we are about to put another cap on an exciting baseball season. As I get older I find my appreciation for the game growing. The drama that we get to witness every October is like nothing else. The Pujols homer in Game 5 of the NLCS, Podsednik's homer tonite, the dramatics from just this postseason go on and on. Even though my team may never win, I love the game. The playoffs and World Series remind me of that every October. When do pitchers and catchers report to Mesa?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I guess teams can bounce back

Contrary to what I thought, the Houston Astros were not down and out following their crushing loss Monday nite. On Wednesday night the Astros closed Busch Stadium and celebrated their first NL Pennant in team history. Roy Oswalt was magnificent for the second time in this NLCS.

I am very happy to see the Genius, the Cardinals and their fans are going home again. Hopefully that shithole ballpark will be blown up in the morning. My favorite moment of the game was when Edmonds misplayed the ball in center. Edmonds has had the reputation of being a great defensive centerfielder (thanks in large part to ESPN). Through the years how many times have we seen him fuck up against the Cubs? I'm glad people got to see Jimmy do his thing on the national stage.

Now the Astros will come up 55 and meet the White Sox on Saturday night at U.S. Comiscular. Everything points toward a well pitched series. That probably means we'll see a couple of 15-12 ballgames (especially at two homer-happy ballparks).

So the Astros who were dead and buried on Memorial Day are now going to the series. The wild card has made it possible for teams that play awful in April and May to still have hope. I'm sure Cub management will use the 2005 Astros as an example of why they are still alive in an upcoming season, when they find themselves 15 games out on Memorial Day. A bunch of other bad franchises will do the same thing.

So this year we have seen the Astros and White Sox win pennants. Both broke their long droughts. But fear not, the beat goes on at the ivy covered burial ground.

Monday, October 17, 2005

One strike

I bitch and moan about 5 outs in the 2003 NLCS all the time. I'll probably do it for the remainder of my life.

If the Astros lose the next two games in St. Louis, their fans will be talking about "one strike". Monday night the Astros came within one strike of their first World Series berth in franchise history. With All-World closer Brad Lidge on the hill the pest Eckstein shot a single through the left side. Crybaby Edmonds walked and 18 year old Albert Pujols hit a homerun that is expected to touchdown Wednesday morning at 10:42.

The turn of events was even hard for this Cub fan to believe. Two years ago when Gaius Marius and I left Game 6 of the NLCS we agreed that the Cubs were done. It is really hard to overcome moments like these in a short postseason series.

Tonight, I wonder if the Astros can come back from this. They will head back to St. Louis for Games 6 & 7. If I were an Astro fan, I wouldn't be booking my trip to Chicago for the weekend.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Redbird Meltdown

The Cardinals have been best team in baseball this season. So down 2 games to 1 in the NLCS, tied 1-1 what does the Genius do? The Cardinal skipper lost all composure and got himself ejected in the seventh inning following a walk to Berkman.

La Russa was tossed in the seventh after Jason Marquis walked Lance Berkman to load the bases with one out. La Russa completely lost his cool upon being given the thumb by Cuzzi, making his way onto the field and engaging in a fierce argument with Cuzzi. Crew chief Tim McClelland eventually intervened, but play was delayed while the tete-a-tete went on.

In the top of the eighth inning, St. Louis now trailing 2-1, with a 3-1 count Jimmy Edmonds decided he too would argue balls and strikes with Cuzzi. Edmonds met the same fate as the Genius. This Redbird team that was composed all year, lost all composure in this important NLCS game. The Cardinals would lose the game 2-1. They now trail Houston 3-1 with big game pitcher Andy Pettite heading to the hill on Monday night.

Edmonds and the Genius were just following a longstanding St. Louis tradition: meltdown and fight with the umps. The Cardinals are the organization that brought us the Joaquin Andujar tirade in Game 7 of the '85 World Series.

Following the ballgame Edmonds and LaRussa did the classy thing. They both blamed the Umpires:

LaRUSSA: Well, normally when you miss some chances like they had the last couple of days, it normally comes back to haunt you. That's why I say on the end, our organization does a great job of playing against the other side. We don't play against the umpires. Come hell or high water are we going to play against the umpires? Normally when you have chances like that and they don't capitalize, you steal a game or however you describe it.

EDMONDS: I've been playing this game for 12 years. I know what's going on. I'm not trying to get thrown out of a playoff game. I don't think I was adamant. I wasn't trying to do anything special. I was just trying to ask a question.

Yeah, they really have a classy group of guys in St. Louis.

Sox on the brink...

It ain't the way we dreamed it would happen, is it Cub fans? I figure that around 10:30 tonight or 10:45 Tuesday night Mayor Daley will say: "to hell with homeland security" and sound the air raid sirens throughout Chicago, ala his father in 1959. This will be the first pennant winner for Chicago in my lifetime.

Yes, Virginia there is a thing called the World Series and the Chicago Cubs, they're not invited. I have followed baseball since the late 70's. In that time I have seen these midwest teams in the World Series: Tigers, Indians, Brewers, Cardinals, Royals, and Twins. You add the Sox to that list and there is only one team in the midwest that has not played in the Fall Classic since 1982. Our beloved bruins.

I saw the Sox play in Spring Training at Tucson Electric Park. When I got back to Chicago, I told my Sox fan friends that I didn't see many wins on either side of town this summer. Well, I was right about one side of town.

Next Saturday, the World Series will begin inside the City of Chicago. (I cannot believe I just wrote that sentence). The baseball world will turn it's attention to 35th and Shields. Meanwhile on the Northside, we focus on whatever we can not to think of what should or could have been in 2003 and 1984.

Sox will finish this thing off
I know, I know Sox haters. The Cubs had 2 game leads in both 1984 and 2003 and blew it. Shit like that only happens to our jinxed team. Guillen and his staff have a team that won 99 games in the regular season and they have a chip on their shoulder. The southsiders don't take anything for granted. Put that all aside, the real reson that I see the Sox closing this thing out is their starting pitching. Contreras throws tonite and if there is a Game 6, Tuesday, it'll be Buerhle.

Hey jealousy
I am big-time jealous of the White Sox success. Kenny Williams built a team that could win in any league--based on pitching, speed and defense. Williams did all of this on a smaller budget than that being allocated to Jim Hendry from the Tower. It's not how much you spend, it's how you spend it.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the 2005 Chicago White Sox and their fans on winning the American League Pennant.

College Gridiron
Saturday was a day of Fantastic Finishes throughout College Football. Here in the Big Ten we saw Wisconsin beat Minnesota on a blocked punt in the final second of the game (please explain why the 'sota punter didn't take a safety?). Michigan beat Penn State on a touchdown pass with the clock at :00.

Still the best finish was in the most hyped game of the day (and probably season). Notre Dame and USC played a classic in South Bend. I never thought the Irish had a prayer against men of Troy. Notre Dame played USC better than I had envisioned. They even thought they had the game won, the student section started making their way onto the field. Still, somehow SC pulls out the miracle at the end. That was probably the biggest test USC will face this year en route to their third straight national title.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

An open letter to the ANGRY members of Cub Nation

Dear Fellow Cub Fans,

I understand the pain and anger that we are all going through. Since October 14, 2003, being a Cub fan has really sucked. It's been painful. We were force fed a group of malcontent players in '04 and a group of second division players in '05 by Andy MacFAIL and Jim Hendry.

This October, like no year I can remember, there is venom in Cubdom. It seems that alot of anger is being vented at the Southside team. That's your choice. Still, other anger is being vented towards the Tribsters for the bleacher teardown. That's your choice too. What I don't sense is any anger toward those that I feel should be held responsible: Andy MacFAIL and Jim Hendry. These two are responsible for the inferior product on the field.

This organization has sold us false hope and nostalgia of the good ole days. This management group has blamed injuries, players, media, and yes you the fan when it was convenient to do so. They have never admitted that it was a bad idea to build a ballclub around a bunch of injury prone players and a manager that does not have a clue how to manage. Instead they plan on extending Baker and Hendry this coming spring. Rewarding these two for nothing.

You have every right to be angry fellow Cub fans. Target whatever and whoever you want right now. I just hope that come February, next spring and summer you hold the men responsible accountable.

Yours Truly,


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

media creature: Weds nite TV debacle

Major League Baseball has taken it's fair share of criticism in recent years for it's piss poor marketing of the game. To be fair they have done some things right. The wild card has been a hit and they really have done a great job making games available through many different media outlets. You can now access TV and radio feeds of your favorite team anywhere. Games are found on the internet or through MLB Extra Innings or on XM Radio.

When this guys in charge is their any question why baseball pisses all over itself.

Still this is Uncle Bud's Show, so you know something is gonna go wrong. MLB decided to let local Fox affiliates choose the game you would watch in your region tonite. So as Game 2 of the ALCS was playing throughout Chicago, Cub fans were unable to see their Central Division rivals play game one of the NLCS. If you are a fan of one of the teams in the final four and find yourself out of town, well good luck. I guess you have a 50/50 chance of seeing the game you want.

How the hell does this happen? I know the other game was on FX. (according to Fox: FX is available in over 86 million U.S. households.) I'm not so sure about those numbers. I'll tell you this. I don't get FX on my DirecTV package and I rarely see it in hotels when I am on the road for work.

Why couldn't they start one of the games at 4:00 and the other at 8:00? Last week teams played day games throughout the ALDS and NLDS. Fans take off work and go to the games (accept in the ATL). Why not a late afternoon game? The NFL or NBA would never think of such a stupid plan. Of course neither of those leagues has a used car salesman as commissioner.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Larry's back and so are the rest of Dusty's merry men

Forget the rumors about the Tigers taking the Cubs pitching coach. Larry Rothschild not only had the chance to leave Dusty and his staff, he had the opportunity to sign a three year deal with the Detroit Tigers and work with his old friend Jim Leyland. According to today's Trib Rothschild will be back and so will the rest of Dusty's staff.

It looks likeDusty is not the mystery candidate in Los Angeles. Despite wishful thinking by myself and others. Baseball bigfoot Phil Rogers reported in Sunday's Tribune that Ranger pitching coach Orel Hershiser is a strong candidate to replace Jim Tracy in LA:

Don't be surprised if Rangers pitching coach Orel Hershiser emerges as a serious candidate to replace Tracy in Los Angeles, where Tommy Lasorda still has influence.

It looks like we have another year of the same ole shit on the Cubs bench to look forward to.

Monday, October 10, 2005

MLB Playoffs: the two inning save

Lastnight watching the Yankees/Angels ALDS game I noticed Mariano Rivera got up in the bullpen in the Yankee half of the seventh even with the Yankees down 2-1. The Bombers rallied and Rivera came in and sealed the ballgame with another 2 inning postseason save. The future Hall of Famer now has recorded 34 postseason saves, 12 of which have went 2 innings or more.

Managers, besides Joe Torre, are starting to realize that when you need a win in the playoffs using your closer for two innings is a good option. Ozzie Guillen went to young Bobby Jenks for the 8th and 9th in the White Sox 5-4 victory in game 2 versus Boston. In this era of specialization getting to the closer is often a challenge. So why not pitch your closer for two innings and hopefully chalk up the victory. This from Barry Rozner's column last week:

The Ozzie files

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen had one of his best outings of the year Wednesday, and no decision was better than to call on Bobby Jenks to start the eighth. It wasn’t gutsy, it was smart, and not just because it turned out well.

The crowd was antsy, but Guillen stuck to his guns. If Jenks is your closer, you go to him there — day off today or no day off today — and if you lose with him, so be it. Not enough managers are willing to use the 2-inning save in the postseason.

If Dusty Baker had done that in Game 6 of 2002 World Series, or Game 6 of 2003 NLCS, the Giants and Cubs might be wearing rings today.

Ahhh Barry, you had to bring up the painful memories of Dusty's mis-management in the two biggest games of his managerial career. I really could care less about the first. The second sparks my worst baseball memory. In that (2003 NLCS Gm 6) nightmarish eighth inning who did Dusty Baker turn to? A worn down Mark Prior, followed by the Farns and Mike Remlinger. (Antonio Alfonseca pitched the insignificant ninth.) Cub closer Joe Borowski never even got the ball in the Cubs most critical game in the past 60 years.

I apologize for bringing up that painful game in 2003. I cannot help but think and reflect on that game countless times each day--as I watch the 2005 playoffs. The Cubs are so far removed from where they were that night, it's mind-boggling. I guess it really just shows what we all know: this Cub skipper has no idea how to handle a pitching staff.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Wishful Thinking...

Chuck at Ivy Chat contributes to my hope that Dusty might end up back in LA...

Can Dusty be DePodesta's mystery candidate?

Girardi to interview with Marlins

While the Cubs have organizational meetings this week. The Florida Marlins are about to talk to the managerial candidate that many of us think would be perfect for the Cubs. Joe Girardi has been granted permission to speak with the Marlins about the vacancy left from Jack McKeon's retirement.

"[GM] Larry Beinfest called and asked for permission and I approved it," Brian Cashman said of Beinfest's request to interview Girardi.

I have always felt that Girardi's familiarity with the Cubs organization and his time spent with the Yankees would make him the perfect candidate to manage the Cubs. It looks like we are stuck with Dusty.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Playoff musings

Jim Leyland, Cubs savior? Will Jim Leylend deliver anti-christ Larry from out midst? The last time Larry did anything was in '97 when Leyland managed the Marlins. Time to expand that resume Larry and ruin some young arms in Dertoit.

I thought most of yesterday's games were kind of crappy. I think that its a function of the broadcasters. It doesn't help much that the primetime Fox game was the McCarver / Buck booth. When will Fox Execs wake up and can these two boobs?

I think that best question during the ALDS is whether the Sox vs Sox series will get the primetime nod from Fox? Probably not unless another comeback is staged.

Would the Northsiders be relegated to having Chris Berman ruin a perfectly great playoff game had they made it? Probably not, I think we all would be safe in knowing that the game would get the primetime spot.

Great pitching performances from Contreras (best pitcher on the W. Sox staff since the break), Mussina, and Karen Carpenter, although Karen had a cramp in his finger and left the game.

Does anyone else think that the W. Sox might have blown their load in Game 1 and come out with a run or two in Game 2?

As reported to me yesterday by Corn Cobb Dress, a certain catterwauling Cub mascot was seen on the Southside in of course, full Cub regalia. I'm not one to bitch, but the season ended Sunday. It's probably time to get that uniform cleaned.

If Matt Clement was the Red Sox answer to Game 1, I don't even want to know the question.

Jake Peavy, the Padre pitcher who lasted 4 1/3 innings yesterday, left the game with a broken rib, and possibly two sustained in the Padre's clinching celebration. Way to leave it all out on the field. Especially, the opportunity to advance in the playoffs.

What will you see more of in the Padres / Cardinals series? Camera shots of the Genius or Trevor Hoffman save appearances?


Something called the NHL is starting tonight. I'm not sure what this is, but if David Wells holds down the Sox, I might make a switch to the Miami (Ohio) / NIU game.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Playoff Predictions...

Who do you guys have in your bracket's? (Bracket? what is this the NCAA Tourney?)

I'll take the Yanks and White Sox in the AL.

The Cardinals and the Houston's in the NL.

The Cardinals and Yankees will play in the series.

And the New York Yankees will hoist their 10,000th World Series Trophy at the end of October. A-Rod will be the series MVP.

(Just a prediction) Whatta you guys think?

2005 season, a final take (PART 2)

Mid-July (after the break)
The Cubs started the second half winning 5 of 6. On the 18th Jim Hendry made a move, sending Jason DuBois to the Indians for Jody Gerut. But the roller coaster ride continued as they dropped three in a row after that. One of the most frustrating things about the 2005 club is that they were never able to build any momentum.

On July 24, 2005 Neifi Perez gave the Cubs a big win with tenth inning Grand Slam in St. Louis that gave the Cubs 2 games out of three at Busch Stadium. The Cubs would finish 2005 with a winning record versus the Redbirds and the Wildcard Astros. But they would struggle with teams of lesser talent.

At the end of July, more news from the injury front came along. Nomar started rehabbing from his painful April injury. Kerry Wood was placed on the DL again. The Cubs announced that Kerry had started his last game for the 2005 Cubs. He would pitch out of the bullpen if and when he returned.

On July 26th Cub fans waited though a 2 hour 43 minute rain delay. Greg Maddux made their wait well worthwhile. Cub fans that waited out the delay saw history! Maddux became only the 13th pitcher in MLB history to record 3,000 strikeouts. Not bad for a guy who isn't exactly a fireballer. The future Hall of Famer brought professionalism to a team that had lacked it in recent seasons and he still a decent starting pitcher.

While 1060wester John Dooley headed for the unemployement line the Northsiders headed for the dog days of summer. July ended with the Cubs losing 3 of 4 to the D-backs. The Northsiders finished July 53-52, in third place 13.5 games behind the Cardinals and 4.0 games out of the Wild Card.

The Cubs entered August still with hopes of winning Wild Card. Jim Hendry tried to bolster his lineup by trading Jody Gerut for Matt Lawton. Lawton became the Cubs leadoff man. By August 10th those hopes were gone. The roster would also change. Mike Remlinger was let go on the 5th and Nomar, Scott Williamson and Kerry Wood came back to the team. An eight game losing streak saw to it. (This was their second 8 game losing streak and their third streak of 7 or more losses.) By the 10th the Northsiders had fallen to 7.5 games back in the Wild Card and they now trailed the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.

The Dusty Watch was on. Despite taking 3 of 4 from the Cardinals mid-month the Cubs were not going to find their way back into the race. They would fall apart in August going 10-18. Carlos Zambrano did his best to get the Cubs back into it. It wasn't enough. Ramirez would go on the DL August 24th, he missed the rest of the year. Nomar volunteered to play third. He would play there the remainder of 2005. The Cubs began dumping players. Lawton went to the Yanks, Hollandsworth to the Braves. Despite the horrible play at Wrigley Field in 2005 (more on that later) Cub fans were able to celebrate Cubdom when #23 was honored by having his number retired on August 28th.

The Cubs would finished August 63-70, now only a half game in front of the Reds. They trailed the Redbirds by 21-1/5 games. They now found themselves in seventh place in the NL Wild Card 8.0 games behind the Phillies. The Cubs had pretty much reached rock bottom and still there was a month to play.

Dusty Baker has always prided himself on his teams having good finishes. He would really be challenged in September to get this team back to .500. The Cubs started September showing they had not quit. The Boys in Blue won 8 of 10 to start the month. Baker was finally playing Matt Murton everyday and he was producing.

Still their was growing indifference in Wrigleyville. Gaius Marius looked ahead to 2006 and begged the Tribsters:

now that even the diehards have been forced to concede, let the offseason demolition begin -- please! destroy it! destroy it all! i see only these pieces as unassailable in the 2006 reconstruction: lee, ramirez, barrett, zambrano and prior. and i'm frankly not too sure about all o' those.

On September 17th, the Wrigley Field faithful saw the Cardinals clinch the division. The Redbirds would end up winning 100 games. The Cubs seem to be miles back.

September ended with the Cubs 79-81. They had 2 games to play in Houston. The Cubs could end the year at .500 and knock the hated Astros out of the playoffs.

It ain't what we dream of as Cub fans. But the Cubs did play 2 games in October. They had the chance to finish .500 and knock the Astros out of the playoffs. Neither happened. On the last day of the season the Astros clinched the Wild Card. Painfully the Northsiders watched both of their division rivals clinch playoff births in 2005.

The Cubs would finish 79-83, 4th in the NL Central. Closer to the Pirates than the Cardinals.

A Final Look
It's hard to find very many positives in a team with a $100 million payroll that finishes behind the Milwaukee Brewers. Still the Cubs had several:
  • Derrek Lee was hot all season. The Cub first baseman turned in one of the greatest single-season performances in franchise history. Lee won the batting title and would have been an MVP candidate had the Cubs stayed in contention.
  • 24 year old Carlos Zambrano solidified himself as the Cubs best starting pitcher. Carlos recorded a 14-6 record, a 3.26 ERA. El Torro pitched a career high 223.1 innings, he made a career high 33 starts and allowed a .212 batting average against. (Haelping himself at the plate: Carlos finished with a .300 batting average with 1 HR and 6 RBi)
  • Ryan Dempster did a great job as the teams closer. Dempster recorded 33 saves in 35 opportunities (the best save percentage in the NL). Dempster and Will Ohman were the only positives in a bullpen that needs to be rebuilt.
  • Arams Ramirez struggled defensively at third. Still his offensive numbers were what we have come to expect from Ramirez in an injury plagued 2005. Ramirez hit .302 with 31 HR and 92 RBi.
  • Rookie Matt Murton made a case for a starting position in 2006. In 140 AB's, Murton hit .321 with 19 R, 7 HR and 14 RBi.

Jim Hendry will have to overhaul this team this winter. We have plenty of time to discuss the Cubs many needs. Still I wonder if they have capable people in place to build this franchise into a winner.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

2005 season, a final take (PART 1)

Usually when the Cub season ends I find myself sad. This year I don't feel that way at all, come to think of it I didn't feel that way last year either. There is some form of relief that I feel when I realize I won't waste any more time on the addictive hobby that is Cubs baseball. Over the next month we will have the good fortune of watching the best baseball has to offer--the Playoffs. But before we get into that and before the hot stove heats up I'd like to take one last look back at a season that had many Cub fans scratching their heads.

Last offseason was very bizzarre for the Cubs. Although the Northsiders were rumored to be in the running for Carlos Beltran they never made a serious run at the outfielder. The look of the 2005 team began to finally unfold when Jim Hendry dealt Sammy Sosa to the Orioles for Jerry Hairston and two minor leaguers.

After months of doing nothing Hendry had to make some moves. He soon added Jeromy Burnitz and Todd Hollandsworth inherited the everyday left field spot. Along with Patterson these three would make up the worst Opening Day outfield in the NL. Still the Cubs had hope with an infield of Lee, Walker, Nomar and Ramirez.

Spring Training
Spring Training brought us the annual questions about the health of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Both would only pitch a combined 12 innings in the Cactus League play.

Neither of the Cubs aces would be on the mound on Opening Day. It didn't matter as the Cubs destroyed the D-Backs at the BOB(or whatever it's called) 16-5. The home opener was fun until LaTroy Hawkins entered. Still Optimism, Beer and Jager ruled the day:

We will have the remainder of 2005 to bitch and moan about LaTroy Hawkins, Corey Patterson and the rest of the Cubs mistaken ballplayers. Friday was a day to enjoy being a Cub fan. LaTroy Hawkins tried to be the Grinch and steal Opening Day. My hangover tells me he failed.

As April moved on the injuries came fast and furious. Todd Walker, Nomar, and of course our favorite fragile phenom Kerry Wood went down. Super-sub Neifi Perez would find himself a starter for the Cubs most of the year. The Cubs finished April 12-11, they were already 3.5 games behind the front running Redbirds.

By May 5th 1060west's guru Gaius Marius was telling us all what we had:

this is your 2005 chicago cubs. they were never going to be great, and they aren't. i don't think one can expect radically more than what we've seen -- and shouldn't have to begin with, so any disappointment is limited only to whatever
irrational optimism you adopted before april began. 82 wins remains a reasonable target for this team to hit -- but playoffs seem a distant possibility, more distant than the prospect of a deeper slide into the second half of the NL.

Truer words were never spoken. Still you have to play the games and the Northsiders did. On May 6th I saw the Cubs lose to the Phillies on one of the weirdest plays I have ever seen. With a one run lead and one out, the bases were loaded in the top of the ninth. Polanco hit a line drive back to Hawkins. LaTroy fired to DLee to double up Jose Offerman, but the ball hit Offerman's helmet and went into the stands. 2 runs scored and the Phillies led 3-2, which would be the final. Yeah, this team was inventing ways to lose ballgames. By the end of the first week in May the Cubs would already have their first seven game losing streak.

By mid-May Dusty had finally decided to try Ryan Dempster as his closer and a new star player was emerging at first base. When the Cubs and Sox met May 20-22 it was a battle of two teams going in different directions. Mark Prior made sure the Cubs didn't get swept at home throwing a complete game on Sunday the 22nd. Our frustration with Dusty continued to boil.

Then on May 27th the unthinkable happened. Mark Prior was hit in his right elbow by a line drive off the bat of Brad Hawpe. An MRI showed that Prior had a compress fracture. Before May would end Hawkins would be gone and speculation about dismantling the team had already started. Even with all of this the Cubs finished May on a 5 game winning streak. They finished the month of May at 26-24 in second place, now 6-1/2 games behind the Cardinals.

On paper the June schedule looked like it would very difficult. The Cubs returned from the West Coast going 6 and 1 on the trip. They salvaged a game with the Blue Jays. On the second weekend in June the Cubs would play their most hyped series of the year. The World Champion Boston Red Sox came to the Northside. Red Sox Nation invaded with them. The Cubs took the first game 14-6 behind Greg Maddux. Maddog homered in the ballgame. I'll vote the Friday game my favorite game of the season! On Saturday it was a little closer but the Cubs prevailed 7-6. On Sunday a BoSox fan actually told me he thought this was the Cubs year. I laughed, next Manny hit a BOMB onto Waveland. It was a fun party weekend in Wrigleyville and the Cubs had taken 2 of 3 from the Mighty Red Sox. It wouldn't get much better than this.

Following the Red Sox series the Cubs lost 5 of 6, including a sweep in the Bronx by the Yankees. The Cub had landed pretty hard. Korey Patterson's struggles continued. GM labeled Korey the least productive player in the NL for June. He was right (by July 7 Korey would be sent to Triple A). During the last weekend of June the Northsiders took two of three from the best team in the AL the White Sox at U.S. Cellular. Sunday was a dramatic 2-0 shutout by Mark Prior pitching his first game in a month. The June Roller Coaster would end with the Cubs going 14-13. The Cubs record stood at 40-37 they were 8.5 games behind the Cards, but they were right in the middle of the NL Wild Card race just two games behind the Braves.

Reality hit the Cubs and us fans early in July. The Cubs lost their first seven games in July. Add the loss on the last day of June and they had an 8 game losing streak. To end the streak Hendry sent Korey and Jason Dubois to Iowa. Matt Murton and Adam Greenburg showed up and the Cubs swept the Fish in Miami playing some of the best ball they had played all year. The Cubs went to the All-Star break 43-44.

Lee and Ramirez represented the Northsiders in Detroit at the midsummer classic.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Falling like dominoes?

Los Angeles – Could the end of the Dusty Baker era in Chicago be starting in Los Angeles? As the Dodger season crashes and burns at Chavez Ravine. Dodger skipper Jim Tracy has went to GM Paul DePodesta and asked him for a contract extension. Tracy, who has one year left on his current contract, has an opt-out of his contract. He can invoke the opt-out in a seven day window once the 2005 season is over. According to the LA Times:

…Tracy would consider leaving if the Dodgers refuse to provide an extension and he can get a multi-year deal somewhere else.

The Dodgers have not determined whether to give him an extension, and one high-level official said it is a close call.Should the Dodgers decide not to meet Tracy's request, they could fire him shortly after the season and would be responsible for his 2006 salary only if he couldn't find another managerial job.

Speaking hypothetically, DePodesta said the Dodgers would not wait until after the opt-out period to fire Tracy "out of respect for what he's done here."

Unlike earlier this season, when DePodesta appeared to be headed for the door, the Dodger GM seems to be safe. The LA Times again:

DePodesta's status also has been a topic of conjecture. He has three more years on his five-year deal, and a high-level Dodger source said Tuesday that McCourt remains supportive of him and that he is in no danger of being fired this off-season.
Lastnight following the Dodgers final home game, a 3-2 loss to the D-Backs, Tracy took a swipe at DePodesta’s roster moves:

"If there was any disappointment from my end, it's that several of those components from a year ago were not in the clubhouse at spring training in Vero Beach," Tracy said, obviously referring to the likes of Adrian Beltre, Shawn
Green, Alex Cora and Steve Finley, not to mention catcher Paul LoDuca, outfielder Juan Encarnacion and setup man Guillermo Mota, all jettisoned in trade-deadline deals last summer.

"Familiarity goes hand in hand with success, in my mind. … Some of the elements we had last year that made us successful were [not here]."

What the hell does this have to do with the Cubs. Nothing really. Unless you believe, like I do, that the Dodger gig is Dusty's dream job.

I see the spat between Tracy and DePodesta leading to the departure of Jim Tracy (the last Cub player to wear #23 before Ryno). The vacancy in the Dodger Dugout Is a great opportunity for the embattled Baker. It puts Dusty back on the west coast. It gets him out of Chicago a place he is not comfortable. He will join an organization he knows very well. Dusty was a star player for the Dodgers and the fans remember him fondly. He managed against them with the rival Giants. He can go out there, play Tommy Lasorda, and try to stick it to the Giants.

Baker enters 2006 a lame-duck manager on a team that has regressed since he took over. Although Jim Hendry and Andy MacFAIL preach consistency, they would have to love the chance to let their p.r. nightmare Manager go. This also protects Hendry and Mac-sweatervest-FAIL. They can blame the last couple of seasons on Baker and bring in another big name (see Uncle Lou). So when this job comes available sometime next week it would not surprise me at all to find out Dusty has asked for permission to talk with the Dodgers.

UPDATE October 3rd: Jim Tracy is out as Dodger manager. DePodesta termed it "a mutual parting of ways." Click here to see the LA Times article on Tracy's departure.