2005-07-29T22:32:29.093-07:00You know, I just can't get enough of bashing the Score. You see, Chicago's onetime favorite sports talk radio station got trounced in the ratings this past quarter. The usual excuses were bandied about, from Rick Telander's insanity, to Mike North just needing to find his footing in the mornings. Anyway, one of my favorites was that a big part of the reason that WSCR was lost the ratings battle for the 2nd quarter was that ESPN 1000 is the current home of the first place White Sox, broadcasting all of their games. It's an excuse that I expected, for the simple reason that WSCR has signed a contract to begin broadcasting the Sox games next year, thus they were basically building up the product that they'll soon have. Well, in today's Tribune, Teddy Greenstein pointed out that Mike Murphy's evening show on the Score had pretty good ratings against the first hour of ESPN 1000's powerhouse afternoon drive show, Mac, Jurko and Harry, and decent ratings overall. That's nice for WSCR now, but evidently nobody's pointed out that during the 2nd quarter, Murphy's show is usually going up not against Mac, Jurko and Harry, but the White Sox broadcasts. And if the White Sox games can't outdraw a hack like Murph in the ratings, the Score may have just made a very dubious investment.
2005-06-04T09:11:20.816-07:00Every day I ride the Metra train into downtown Chicago to work, and after several years of doing this I have begun to notice some strange behavior from some of my fellow commuters. I have decided to point out their evil ways to them, so that they might repent and be saved.
2005-05-06T20:56:28.723-07:00Some people toil in obscurity for years before they reach the big time. Well, in their faces, I only toiled for 3 months. Joe Aiello has invited me to join the staff over at View From the Bleachers, so I'm taking my baseball ramblings over there. I will still be posting on this page occassionally, and am hoping to get my brother to take it over full time. Anyway, thanks to the few of you who read my stuff over here, and if you liked it, check me out at the new place.
2005-05-05T07:00:39.376-07:00Last night, the Bulls, Sox and Cubs all played. Since channel 9 has turned their weeknight programming over to the WB(a decision that ranks up there right now as one of the dumbest of all time), I wasn't sure where the Cubs game would be on. According to the paper, the Bulls were on CSN, the Sox on CSN+(which is CLTV) and the Cubs were on CSN+2. Unfortunately, at this time, CSN+2 does not exist. So, thanks to Comcast's foresight, I didn't see any of the game until CSN picked up the feed following the Bulls postgame show (which came in right after Barrett had tied the game). Now, I'm still not exactly clear why the Cubs weren't put on WCIU (unless that network didn't think that pre-empting "Cheaters" was worth it), but one thing is clear so far, Comcast Sports Net is thus far, a joke. This conflict is just another in a long line of glitches for CSN. The productions themselves are often marred by technical glitches (the most unforgivable being the loss of sound and picture several times during the Bulls 1st playoff game) and their post game coverage is nothing special. I guess this shouldn't come as a surprise to me, since the network is owned by all 5 major Chicago sports teams (yes, I realize I'm being generous by referring to the Blackhawks as "major"). I mean, who knows more about turning in a half-assed effort than these franchises?
2005-05-03T21:16:18.113-07:00Today's 4-1 loss to the Brewers reminded me so much of last year that I don't even want to talk about it. So, since I'm already thinking about the 2004 Cubs, I'm going to present you with a review of the recently released book Cubs Nation, by Gene Wojciechowski.I'll start off by saying that I've been anticipating this book since I heard that Wojciechowski was working on it, in November of last year. I'm an avid reader, and I particularly like sports books (especially those about my favorite teams) but it was more than that. You see, while victory and triumph look good on TV, nothing serves the written word better than failure. Take a look in any bookstore, and you'll find a lot more books on Enron than about successful companies. That's because with failure usually comes conflict. And the 2004 Cubs were heavy on both. When ESPN the Magazine carried a small article by Wojciechowski in March which detailed Sammy Sosa's early exit from game 162, and the subsequent boom box smashing by an unnamed Cub, well, that just wet my appetite even more.So I'm sorry to say that I was disappointed by Cubs Nation. You see, the full title is "Cubs Nation, 162 Games, 162 Stories, 1 Addiction". And the book delivers on that. Wojciechowski gives a short capsule review of each game, followed by a report on some aspect of being a Cub fan, or an interview with someone who's either a Cub fan, employee, or involved some occupation which the Cubs affect. The stories and interviews are very good. Wojciechowski has an easy writing style and his book seems to very much capture the essence of the groups of people that make up Cubs Nation, from the umpire room attendant, to the ball hawks on Waveland to the organist to the bookies in Vegas who Cub fans are constantly enriching, Wojciechowski covers them all. Unfortunately, this book could have been written about any Cubs season. The majority of the on field focus is on the Cubs NLCS collapse in 2003 (note, if you cannot think about games 6 and 7 without weeping, do NOT read this book) and while there are extensive player interviews, most of these sit downs involve questions about what it's like to be a Cub in general, never really giving us any insight into what it's like being a 2004 Cub.It's my feeling that while Wojciechowski has written a nice book, he missed out on a golden opportunity. To put it simply, we all know that this team spent all season fighting itself and media, instead of its opponents, yet Gene never really dishes the dirt. We get nothing substantial on Sosa's deteriorating relationship with Baker, his teammates and management, Wojciechowski just sort of tells us that well, Sammy's numbers are going down, and hey, he left early that one time. Likewise, what we get on subjects like the Merker/Stone feud, the Zambrano/Edmonds incident and Kyle Farnsworth's descent into madness is pretty much what we read from the beat reporters at the time. There's an early chapter dealing with new trainer Dave Groeschner and the injuries to Prior and Wood, but he disappears from the book after that, with his firing noted in a throw away line in the epilogue (no mention is every made of the constantly changing timetable on Todd Hollandsworth's injury).So my beef with Cubs Nation is this: the 2004 Chicago Cubs were laden with talent and expectations. They fought with umpires, opponents, fans, the press and each other. They collapsed horrificly in the final week of the season, while seemingly more preoccupied with their own broadcasters than the games they needed to win. I could write a 350 page book on this team, just stringing together the rumors and psychological problems that floated around that team. Yet Wojciechowski drops the ball. He had virtually a free run of the clubhouse, and since he wasn't a beat reporter (or even a reporter for a local publication) there really wasn't much that the players could do to him in terms of retribution. I wanted the dirty secrets of this band of nitwits l[...]
2005-05-01T21:07:09.456-07:00The Cubs lost 2 of 3 to the Astros this weekend, giving them a record of 12-12 on the season. Here's what I learned from the 3 games:
2005-04-29T20:18:55.586-07:00There's been a debate raging over at the Desipio message board over the uselessness of Jose Macias. Some feel Jose should be given a one way ticket back to Montreal (which conveniently lacks a baseball team, thus sparing fans everywhere), while others feel that such treatment is too harsh, and that Jose is actually a fairly competent utility man. I can't really agree with either of those assessments. Jose is a bad player, yes, but he's not the worst player in the majors (I reserve the right to retract this statement). He made this team essentially as the 25th man on the roster (and might not have if he didn't have a guaranteed contract) but the problem is, Dusty Baker doesn't use him like the 25th man.
2005-04-28T20:41:59.080-07:00During the course of internet surfing, you come across a lot of dumb stuff. One of the more lucid sports columnists on the internet is King Kaufman over at salon.com. The rest of the site I can take or leave. It's unabashedly liberal, but mostly in a bad, whiny sort of way, as opposed to the good forklift kind of way. Anyway, they're celebrating the 4th birthday of Salon Premium. Which means that for the last 4 years, you've had to either pay a subscription fee, or watch an internet commercial in order to read the same crap you used to read for free. Sounds like a reason to celebrate.
2005-04-26T21:20:21.960-07:00God forbid the Cubs stay over .500 for more than one day. Carlos Zambrano is now 2-1 in 5 starts with 2 ejections. The man knows how to take a no decision. Did anybody think that the Cubs bullpen would be able to hold that 2 run lead following Z's ejection? Me neither. The Cub bullpen is a total shambles right now, and the Reds know what the rest of the league knows; if you can knock the Cubs starter out with a two run lead or less, there's a good chance you're going to beat them.
2005-04-25T21:02:26.326-07:00Well, the Cubs have put together a fine 2 game winning streak, bringing them above .500 for the first time since Opening Day. With Corey Patterson out due to the flu, Dusty Baker was forced to play Neifi Perez, Jerry Hairston and Jose Macias in what looked to be a pretty anemic lineup. All they did was put a 10 spot up on the board. Of course, due to some sort of Faustian bargain(perhaps it's a by product of Perez's), another Cub player suffered an injury in exchange for the victory. At this rate, the only ambulatory players on the team in August will be Neifi! (who is seemingly unstoppable), Carlos Zambrano (who would throw a 2 hit shutout from his deathbed) and LaTroy Hawkins (because we'll never get rid of him).
2005-04-24T20:16:52.460-07:00The Cubs continue their mediocre ways, pushing their record back to .500 today. It was a pretty good game, Kerry Wood only gave up 2 runs (a good outing for him this year) but was only able to pitch 5 innings due to shoulder tendonitis. The guys in the broadcast booth made it sound like a precaution due to the weather, but I guess we'll learn more about that tomorrow.
2005-04-24T20:02:00.910-07:00The NFL draft wrapped up today, and the Bears are getting mixed reviews for their selections. I don't fault them for their first round pick of Cedric Benson (although I would have preferred Mike Williams), but their second round pick, Mark Bradley, a WR from Oklahoma appears to be a bit of a reach. The Bears needed help at receiver, but Bradley looks like a project to me, and the Bears already have several wideouts under construction as I write this. Maybe I'm wrong, and Jerry Angelo has gone and found an offensive version of Charles Tillman, but considering Angelo's track record on drafting offensive players, I'm not expecting much. I was actually much happier with the drafts of the Bears NFC Central foes. Despite having woeful defenses, none of them took a defensive player in the first round. And Minnesota managed to outsmart themselves and pass on Mike Williams to take Troy Williamson who is less of a sure thing. While I'm not pleased with the prospect of the Bears facing Williams twice a year in Detroit, I much prefer the prospect of Joey Harrington throwing him one-hoppers to Dante Culpepper heaving him bombs.
2005-04-23T19:49:08.660-07:00Cub pitcher takes 1 run lead into the 9th inning. LaTroy Hawkins comes in, gives up lead, Cubs lose. Apply, rinse and repeat. Those who are waiting for Hawkins to come around as the closer shouldn't hold their breath. Today's loss was inexcusable. Hawkins was unable to hold a 1 run lead against the worst team in the Central Division under ideal pitching conditions (cold, damp and a 25 mile and hour wind blowing in). I hold out no hope for this guy, it's been obvious to everyone he can't close, and while we hoped in vain that the excuses offered for LaTroy were legit (he didn't know the league, he was developing an out pitch, he doesn't pitch well in back to back games) today's effort has me officially closing the door forever on this guy as a closer. If Dusty Baker trots this guy out again in the 9th to protect a lead, he ought to be fired. And Jim Hendry isn't blameless in this whole affair, either, he should have done SOMETHING when Borowski went down with his injury. The worst part is, Hawkins was a great setup man, but it's pretty obvious that part of pitching is mental. My question is, after taking such a beating as a closer, will Hawkins still be useful as a setup man, if and when the Cubs find a new closer?
2005-04-20T20:50:41.850-07:00Quick roundup from tonight's game-
2005-04-20T04:58:52.756-07:00The score about says it all. The Reds were never in yesterday's game after the first inning. That inning belonged to Corey Patterson, who homered in the top half, and took away a two run homer with a great catch in the bottom of the first. Prior dominated the Reds from that point on, giving up 4 hits, with the only run scoring on a throwing error by Nomar. Other than that miscue, no complaints about this game. Hairston and DuBois both started, Derrek Lee continued his hot April, Aramis Ramirez showed signs of breaking out and Michael Barrett finally got a couple of hits. If this Cub team can put together efforts like last night's consistently, they're going to be a threat in the division. We may find out more tonight, with the Cubs heading to St. Louis for two games. While the team isn't yet firing on all cylinders, they're definitely picking up speed. They say that hitting is contagious, so here's hoping that Nomar catches what the others have got.
2005-04-18T20:38:42.026-07:00I'm trying not to make this a daily feature here, but Mike Murphy is again pissing me off. Following tonight's loss to the Reds, Murph started his postgame show by touching on several points where Dusty Baker could have been second guessed, and also questioning whether something was amiss with Kerry Wood. That's fine, except after going over these things briefly, Murph then turned to his new agenda, ripping Bob Brenley and stumping for Steve Stone. First Murph hammered on Brenley for being too much of a homer, then he sarcastically asked if Dan Plesac was going to be fired for 2nd guessing Dusty Baker on Comcast's own postgame show. Murph's got an agenda, and it's getting a little tiresome. Stone serves as a baseball analyst for the Score now, and it's no secret that Steve and Mike are friends. But the fact is, Steve Stone resigned his position with the Cubs, he was NOT fired. And I'm a little sick of the woe is Steve crap that's coming from Murph and his ilk.
2005-04-19T06:59:43.923-07:00Well, this was supposed to be the start for Kerry Wood. All the kinks were out, all the rust was off, and he was facing a team that he's dominated throughout his career, in a park where he'd never lost a game. His offense even showed up, staking him to a 4-0 first inning lead. So what happened? Do you even need to ask? Wood got nickeled and dimed for a couple of runs and then Cincinnati blew it open in the 6th inning and tied the game at 5-5. Glendon Rusch breezed through the 7th, but for some reason Dusty Baker chose to start the 8th with Jon Leicester, who loaded the bases on 2 walks and hit batsman, then induced a 5-2 double play, then gave up a towering double to Jason LaRue to make it 7-5. Another good question for Baker might be why he did not walk LaRue with two out and runners on 2nd and 3rd. A walk would have brought up the 9th spot in the order, and Cincy had only one pinch hitter left on their bench. One could also question why Baker decided to go with Leicester in this spot at all, since he hadn't pitched in over a week.
2005-04-15T22:24:08.496-07:00Much to the chagrin of the Uncouth Sloth, a couple of people in Chicago, still listen to 670 the Score (okay, me, Mike D and Chuck). I don't know why, but after tonight's Cub game, I turned on Mike Murphy's show. Maybe I'm a masochist, maybe it helps my self esteem to laugh at idiots on the radio, or maybe I just like to listen to a guy who's voice apparently emnates from the world's largest nostril. Whichever the case, I didn't have to listen for too long before I got a little angry with Murph. See, I actually agree with him that Dusty Baker is a lousy manager, but Murph seems incapable of blaming GM Jim Hendry for any of the teams failings, when the sorry state of the bullpen is Hendry's fault. I like most of what Hendry has done during his tenure as GM, he's shown a knack for making the big trade at the right time to give his club a boost down the stretch. But the simple fact is, when Hendry first came on the job, he said his first order of business was to fix the bullpen, and now, 3 years later, it's still not much better than it was in 2002. And the fact that the bullpen's shortcomings may have cost us and NL pennant in 2003 and a Wild Card spot in 2004, means that Hendry does have some answering to do for this. But not the way Murph sees it. Somehow, the bullpen's failings are all due to one Andy McPhail, who, while a total weenie, hasn't been running the on field baseball operation for some time. Mike seems to think that it's Andy's fault that Hendry only has the 5th highest payroll in the league. Surely, no man could build a respectable bullpen with those kinds of restrictions. Unless that person is running the Minnesota Twins, who through trades and call ups have put together one of the best pens in the league. Hell, you don't even have to be that smart, as evidenced by Kenny Williams and the White Sox, who, while they lack a dominating closer, have a very deep pen, which they're going to need to win close games with their brand new pop gun offense. The truth is, Hendry has failed to build the bullpen, and it has cost the Cubs. Because almost every team knows that if they knock out Chicago's starter with a 1 run lead or less, there's a very good chance they're going to come back and win that game.
2005-04-15T22:04:17.746-07:00The Cubs lose to the Pirates tonight, and there's plenty of blame to go around. The Cubs failed to score with 1 out and the bases loaded, with Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee both looking bad in their at bats. Jerry Hairston broke the wrong way on what turned out to be the game winning double and Carlos Zambrano gave up 3 homers, two to catcher David Ross, who the Dodgers let go because they preferred Paul Bako. Not to be outdone, Dusty Baker continued working towards his goal of leading the league in questionable managerial moves. He continues to believe that because Mike Remlinger is a left handed pitcher, he can get left handed hitters out. Remlinger came in a gave up the tying run, then in the following inning was left in the game to face Rob Machoviak and Darryl Ward, both of whom hit the ball hard, and scored later in the inning when Chad Fox was brought on to finish the job that Rem had started. Also, with the score tied in the top of the 8th, Baker chose to pinch hit for Jason DuBois with Todd Hollandsworth because, well, seeing as how DuBois had homered already in the game, the only reason I can think of is that Dusty was playing the goddamn lefty/righty matchup again. When are managers going to realize that sometimes it's okay to go against the "percentages"? In this case, I might have considered the fact that DuBois is a career .300 hitter to Hollandsworth's .260.
2005-04-13T20:34:18.830-07:00If I ever win the lotto (or aquire an obscene amount of money somehow), I know one of the things I'm going to do with it. I'm going to hire Bill Simmons away from ESPN.com, and pay him to write what he really thinks about ESPN and it's idiotic announcers, horrible anchors, ridiculous shows and brutally bad website. Just because you know he's dying to do it.
2005-04-13T20:31:05.426-07:00So the local media was all jacked up, because the Cubs were playing a double header that would feature "a pair of aces" in Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Well, they might want to rethink that headline, and Wood was knocked around for 4 runs in the first inning, and the Cubs were never in it, losing game one, 8-3. So of course Mark Prior, who everyone was worried about after his sore arm and bad minor league start, came out and pitched a gem, with the Cubs winning that one by the same score, 8-3. It was a day to defy logic, as Dusty Baker blew our minds by starting Neifi Perez in both games, and Neifi followed it up by getting 6 hits in 9 at bats. Anyway, the Cubs should be happy with their split and after taking Thursday off, they'll play the team that always has the cure for what ails them, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Oh, and the opener of that series will feature the Cubs REAL ace, Carlos Zambrano.
2005-04-12T19:55:30.416-07:00Since Mother Nature refused to cooperate on Tuesday and rained out the Cubs, most of the rest of us were forced to find some other way to amuse ourselves. Jerry Hairston used his time off to go on the Score and beg forgiveness from Dusty Baker. Hopefully it works, and we won't see much more of Neifi in the starting lineup. Meanwhile, it looks like other people were hard at work as well. In fact, the West Virginia lawmakers were so busy trying to wrap up their work session, that apparently they voted through a bill that made English the official language of that State without even knowing it. Evidentially, one of the sneakier members of the legislature stuck the provision onto an existing bill, and since congresspersons have a lot more important things to do than actually read the laws they're voting on, nobody caught it.
2005-04-11T21:14:55.116-07:00When word came down that Todd Walker would be out for 4-6 weeks with a knee injury, almost every Cubs fan thought "well, at least it'll mean more AB's for Jerry Hairston, which will get Patterson out of the lead off spot". Well, that just goes to show that we haven't been paying much attention during Johnnie B. Baker's managerial tenure. Most of us were surprised to see that Neifi Perez was batting 2nd and playing 2nd base today. Baker's stated reason for this, that Perez has seen more of starting pitcher Adam Eaton, was utterly ridiculous. If that's the justification, then Hairston will never play, because he's spent his career in the American League. But Hairston evidentially took the news hard, expressing his disappointment to reporters and saying "the best news I've heard the last two years is that I'm an unrestricted free agent at the end of this year". Only a week into the season, and already the Cubs have a potential clubhouse problem on their hands, caused in part by the guy that they got when they traded their other clubhouse cancer, Sammy Sosa. And while it may seem minor, this situation has the potential to spin out of control, quickly. There are 3 parties to blame here. Let's take a look at each one.1. Dusty Baker - Baker's fault is the most obvious. I'm not as high on Hairston as some others are, but he's much better than Neifi Perez, and light years ahead of Jose Macias. Yet Baker started Perez, and used Macias as a pinch hitter in today's 1-0 loss, while Hairston rotted on the bench. The latter is probably due to Hairston's comments to the press, brought about when he found out Neifi was starting. But what about that decision? Baker's strength is supposed to be his communication with his players. Baker knew that the press had anointed Hairston the starter, and should at very least told him immediately that Perez would be the second baseman today. Instead, Hairston was sucker punched by the decision, and gave a candid reaction to the beat reporters, which will not sit well with Dusty.2. Jerry Hairston - While Hairston may have been right to be angry at his snub today, he was wrong in the way he handled it. A terse "no comment" to the reporters would have been enough to get his point across, with out publicly airing his grievances in a way that he had to know would bring repercussions from Baker. Dusty has talked all spring about eliminating "snitches" in the clubhouse, and this was what he meant. Hairston should at least gone into Dusty's office and aired him out there in private. In addition, while I think Perez and Macias stink, I don't see where Hairston seems to believe that he's owed something. He alluded to his previous record in the majors, but his career stats are just north of mediocre. Jerry seems to think that something was promised to him, somewhere down the line, and while the newspapers speculated on his role, I don't recall anyone from the Cubs stating it.3. Jim Hendry - Let me say that I am not a Hendry hater. I think he's done a good job overall putting the team together that last few years. But he failed to do his homework on Hairston. While I'm surprised at how quickly Jerry became disenchanted with his role, I'm not surprised that it happened. Hairston lost his job to a much better player in Baltimore, and he let it be known he wasn't happy at all. Hendry brought him into pretty much the same situation in Chicago: an established 2nd baseman, who Hairston would spell, and an uncertain outfield situa[...]
2005-04-11T06:59:02.810-07:00So after a tough loss on Friday, the Cubs bounce back to take 2 of 3 from the Brewers. Saturday's game featured a brilliant effort by Carlos Zambrano, who pitched 7.1 innings of one hit ball, had two hits, drove in a run, scored a run, sang the National Anthem, and sold beer in the stands between innings. The press can hammer Big Z for his emotional outbursts all they want, but that doesn't change the fact that he's the best damn pitcher in the National League, and the absolute joy he demonstrates whether he's stiking a guy out, hitting a home run or making a horrifyingly bad headfirst slide into 3rd base is a thing of beauty.
2005-04-08T20:15:23.443-07:00Well, the Cubs lost today, and I can't say they didn't deserve it. Just about everything that could go wrong for the team did. Less than 6 innings from your starting pitcher? Check. Stranding runners in scoring position? Check. Inability to generate offense against a mediocre (at best) pitcher? Check. Blown save? Check. Bad defense? Check. Lot's of walks for the opposition? Check. Lot's of strikeouts from the Cubs? Check.