Preview: The Cub Ramble
The Cub Ramble
I like the Cubs. And deep dish pizza. I like that too.
Joe Morgan's General Ineptness & Cubs/Cards Random Thoughts
Joe Morgan kept talking about how "agressive" Dusty Baker is. Has he watched a Cubs game this season? Scott Podsednik has more stolen bases than our entire team.
Morgan's long winderd story about his "game-winning hit" in his first game as a pro shows how he will go to any length to talk about himself.
I wonder if Matt Lawton's conversation with Mahoney before belting a solo homer opposite field qualifies as "calling your shot." If I were Matt Lawton I'd be on the horn with the agent right now trying to lock up an endorsement deal.
According to Joe Morgan, Matt Lawton's homer was on a first pitch fastball, a feat even more impressive considering Lawton's home run was on the second pitch after taking a first pitch curveball. Touch em all, Joe.
As much as I want to hate Albert Pujols, he seems like a geniune nice guy and overall caring person (I remember an ESPN segment on how he donates a lot of money to various children's causes and whatnot). I'll tell you what, though, as nice a guy as he is he sure is a scary and mean looking SOB when he bats. I love it.
So Kerry Wood is making 8 million dollars as a set-up man and people cry that he is overpaid. My guess is that in ten years paying 8 million a season for a quality set-up man will be a bargain.
Speaking of ten years, did anyone think 10 years ago watching MTV that Dave Matthews Band would now be doing NFL promos, Blues Traveler would be hawking Busch Light, and Hootie would be crooning about spicy chicken sandwiches from Burger King?
That ESPN lady Erin Andrews is superhot.
What is up with Tony Larussa's tinted sunglasses during a night game? I've heard of people reading lips before, but the next time an opposing player reads a manager's eyes will be the first.
Final Thought: If in the beginning of the season, you would have told me that Mark Prior would start a game and Kerry Wood would come out of the bullpen in the same game, I probably would have assumed it would be Game 7 of the World Series scenario. My, how things change.
Cubs/Reds Random Thoughts/Useless Len Kasper info
Don't we all love Dusty Baker? I mean, the last 9 games we are 8-1 when Hairston leads off and he doesn't start. Don't mess with success, wait, we do.
According to Dusty Baker's statistics, in Matt Murton's 15 years of playing baseball he has never faced a right handed pitcher before. I mean, those righty/righty matchups are a bitch.
So, does Kerry Wood not understand what fatigue is? I mean, you throw 60 pitches you may feel something in your shoulder. Yes, this comes from throwing a baseball for an extended period of time. Kerry Wood is such a sally.
So Farnsworth is the new Detroit closer? Someone should explain to him that you cannot pitch yourself into a save situation if you are up by 5 runs. (If you saw the game today you know what I am talking about)
Useless Len Kasper info of the day: (paraphrasing)
"I talked to Mike Remlinger before the game and asked him about what he
does to stay loose during the season. He says there are a lot of different things guys do to stay loose and he does his own routine. Staying loose is really important."
And that was it. Thanks for the rock-solid info, Len.
And the Cubs lose.
Peace, I'm out.
Mariotti Blames Baker for Global Warming
Criticizing Cubs manager Dusty Baker is not new to members of the Chicago media; in fact, it has been good sport for some time. Baker has been repeatedly chastised for his handling of the bullpen, the overworking of his starters, and his overall in-game strategy tactics. Now, the media had turned to more worldly issues, more specifically, the topic of global warming.
Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti had this to say in a recent column:
“The good Rev. Johnnie B. Baker has turned into Professor Unnecessary Carbon Dioxide Maker,” wrote Mariotti. “Professor Baker has been the primary catalyst behind rising CO2 levels, and his personal greenhouse effect will cause the polar icecaps to have a faster meltdown than the Chicago Cub bullpen with a one-run lead.”
Baker scoffed at the criticism.
“Dude, everyone knows global warming is just a myth,” said Baker as he gnarled on a toothpick. “Myths are everywhere, man, but they ain’t true.”
When shown a bar graph that outlined the average increase in temperature of the oceans and Earth’s atmosphere over the past two hundred years, Baker refused to budge.
“Look, it is a just a feeling, man,” replied Baker. “Sometimes you got to look past the numbers. Darren woke up with a bit of a chill this morning. Did global warming cause my son to be cold? Come on, dude.”
Nevertheless, blaming Baker for global warming is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. There is still the matter of rising gas prices, problems with Social Security, and I-90 traffic jams that Baker must answer to.
“Man, this is crazy,” said Baker. “Here, want to try some Holy Water?”
Random Cub thoughts while wondering if Prior can give Nomar some tips in the batting cages
3 weeks ago, if you would have told me Michael Barrett would have the same batting average as Nomar Garciaparra on April 20th I thought this would have been a good thing.
The only negative aspect of watching Cub games on HD TV is the delayed signal - now I cannot sync up my TV and radio to hear Ron Santo shriek on cue.
Question: After 81 games, who will have a better record, the Cubs (currently 7-7) or the Bulls (47-34)? Discuss.
2005 Mark Prior looks like 2003 Mark Prior. Unfortunately, 2005 Michael Barrett looks like 2003 Micheal Barrett.
Kerry Wood looks ever so close to getting over the hump. We have been saying this for the past 5 years.
Some days the Cubs look unflappable and other days they look lost in the batters box. Some days their pitching looks solid while other days it looks mediocre at best. This is the definition of a .500 ball club.
Because Derrek Lee is having a solid April, does this mean he will slump from May-August and have a lights out September?
As science dictates, Greg Maddux is not getting any younger. Damn science.
If Corey Patterson doesn't win a gold glove this year then we should form a posse and go beat the snot out of Jim Edmonds just for the hell of it.
Question: Watching paint dry or listening to Bob and Len? Discuss.
Cub Agony: My Dearest Friend Returns
Being a Cub fan is not easy. The amount of frustration one has to endure is mind numbing, as was the case during last night’s debacle against the Reds. If someone asked me what it was like to be a Cub fan I would provide tapes of the following games:
2003 NLCS Game 6 v. Marlins (obviously)
Monday, April 18th: Cubs v. Reds
Last night’s game was the prime example of the "slow burn" of agonizing pain that Cub fans have experienced for almost a century. I would prefer Latroy Hawkins giving up a walk-off 3 run homer and the Cubs bowing 3-2 than what happened last night.
Monday’s game was a classic Cub tale. The offense comes out exploding looking as if it has the possibility to score thirteen runs. But as I watched the homers unfold, the cynical Cub fan inside of me was saying, “You know they will not keep this up. Besides, Kerry Wood is on the mound. No lead is safe.”
The worst thing that ever happened to Kerry Wood was striking out those 20 Astros back in 1998. They should remove that damn flag from Wrigley and pretend like it never, ever happened. He is the most overrated player in the league, hands down. Jay Mariotti says he should be traded, and although I’m not calling for Woody to be shipped out just yet, I will say that I have zero confidence when he takes the hill. You know his line before he even hurls (and I emphasize the word: hurls) a single pitch: 6 IP, 5 ER, 7 SO, 3 BB, 1 HBP.
In any case, I knew the Cubbies would have to do better than the 4 runs we put up in the first. Much better. Well, we didn’t. Aside from a Burnitz solo shot our scoring was done until the ninth.
In-between, of course, the slow burn was in process. Woody gave his classic un-even performance, which we are supposed to be happy about, because, hey, at least he didn’t get injured! The bullpen proceeds to give the game away after our most reliable pitcher, Glendon Rusch, gets injured himself. Better break out the Holy Water, Dusty. How many Cub fans agree with me: I would rather see Glendon Rusch start than Kerry Wood. It feels wrong typing it, but it feels so true.
So we blow the lead in the 8th, first we give up a made-up lead on that freaky double play and then we give up the lead for real. Oh, and by the way, Len and Bob could not have been any slower in figuring out what was happening when the Reds scored the phantom run on that bouncer to Aramis. Steve Stone would have called that play before it happened.
Yeah, and Barrett – it is called a baseball. You grip it with your hand and throw the ball on the correct trajectory so that it arrives in the glove of the player you are throwing it too. You are not a first-baseman throwing infield practice. Oh, yeah, and if you feel like getting a hit this season, that would be great, too.
Inevitably, tragically, and fittingly, the Cubs had an opportunity to tie or take the lead in the ninth. They failed. Was anyone really surprised? After the game I had an actual headache, and again, I was reminded of what it was like to be a Cub fan. Just in case I had forgotten.
Stop me if you've heard this before
The year may be different but welcome to the same Cub frustrations as last year.:
Our feast and famine offense goes into hibernation against sub-par pitching.
The Cubs leave runners stranded in scoring position.
One of our starters pitches admirably (Kerry Wood) as the offense scores just enough runs to lead by the slimmest of margins.
Latroy Hawkins nibbles with two strikes and leaves a ball over the plate. He blows a save. He gets booed.
The Cubs cannot lay down a sacifrice bunt. (I guess this isn't one of Jerry Hairston's strengths.)
Corey "Kid K" Patterson flails at a low and away breaking ball. He strikes out. He also gets booed.
Dusty Baker leaves a pitcher in too long and we lose in extra innings.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2004, err, I mean, your 2005 Chicago Cubs! (Note: If Kyle Farnsworth isn't good enough to pitch in this bullpen, then something is seriously wrong.)
A letter from Kerry Wood's balls to Kerry Wood
We met some cool balls at the bar other night. They actually used to belong to your friend Mark Prior. You know Prior, right? Don't you go shopping for tampons with that guy?
Anyway, like Prior's balls, we too haven't seen our owner in a while either. You can't pitch because you slept funny on your back? Seriously, Kerry, if any non-athlete who wasn't pampered by anyone and everyone tried to call in sick to work saying that he "slept funny on his back" would be told to get his ass in there, pronto. You are such a sally.
Actually, maybe it isn't even your back that hurts. These balls think that it is probably your arm again and this back business is Dusty and Hendry covering for your candy-ass again. Sally.
Cool, we're out. Going to hang out with Barry Bonds raisins, I mean balls.
Your misplaced balls
A letter from Mark Prior's balls to Mark Prior
What's going on? These are your nuts writing you a letter. We haven't seen you in a while and decided to check in. Actually, we haven't seen you since you were named a "pitching prodigy" at age 11. Remember that? You left us behind that day and we were replaced with a part of the female anatomy. It's too bad, because you have some real talent. All you need are some balls.
Now, it isn't all your fault we haven't seen you in a while. You simply don't know any better. You have been babied your entire life. Any pain, scrape or bruise was dealt with by expert, overly-cautious doctors. You became a giant wuss. It is not your fault, though, you simply don't know any different. Any pain you have now you still treat like a seven year old with a skinned knee. But, like we said, it isn't your fault.
We were reading the paper the other day and read a quote from your general manager, Jim Hendry. He said, "This is just something [Prior's] going to experience from time to time -- tendinitis, bursitis, whatever you want to call it. There's a lot of people in the Hall of Fame who went out 33 times a year and didn't feel the greatest every time out."
I don't know what it looks like from up there, Mark, but from down here it looks like Hendry is calling you out as a Sally who can't pitch through pain. Maybe if we were still attached to below your midsection this wouldn't be happening. But, like we said, it's not your fault.
One last thing, Mark. Do you know where we have been for the last 13 years? We caught on with a construction worker who makes about 15 bucks an hour. He works 50-60 hour weeks and works through bad knees, a sore back, and a shoulder he has separated three times. But you know what? He has never complained once. He shows up to work every day because he needs to feed his family. That type of thing takes balls. We are proud to be his balls. If you ever feel manning up and stop being a Sally let us know, a lot of people have their hopes depended on you.
But, like we said, it's not your fault. Really, it isn't.
Cubs: Cursed, unlucky, bad trainers, or damaged goods?
I have this friend who is probably not unlike one of your friends. For the sake of the article we will refer to him as Bob. I'll call Bob on a Tuesday and ask what he is doing the following weekend. If Bob says that "he might be able to hang out" that is Bob-code for a definite and resounding "no." If Bob says he will definitely be able to hang out, then this translates into a "maybe." If Bob says he cannot hang out at all, this is Bob-code for "I probably won't see you for a few weeks." Get my drift?
The point is: I like Bob, he is one of my good friends. I respect Bob and I enjoy hanging out with Bob, but when Bob speaks, his word is about as good as Barry Bonds, sans massive ego and roid rage.
Being friends with Bob is like being a Cub fan. I love the Cubs and will always support them - but when someone from the organization speaks I do not believe a word that comes out of their coniving lips.
Basically, I just read that Prior has "inflammation" in his elbow, which is most likely Cub-code for "you'll probably see the Fourth of July fireworks before you see Mark Prior pitch on a mound." Wood's shoulder? Cub-code tells us this means: "cancel playoff ticket orders."
I have never bought into the theory that the Cubs are cursed. I am too young to experience all of the decades of losing, and I also consider myself a sane and rational person who would not believe in curses.
But, seriously, something isn't right.
Something isn't right when your number 1 and 2 starters for the second year in a row have mysterious injuries and the fans are fed are a load of B.S..
Something isn't right when your trainers from the previous year get fired and there is one impending lawsuit.
Something isn't right that it is only March 14th and I am already having serious doubts about staying in contention past May.
Something isn't right when you haven't won a World Series in 97 years.
Is it too late to sign Matt Clement? It is? Damn.
How I would love for Hendry to say tomorrow "Wood will start Opening Day and Prior will be starting the day after."
Then again, this would be Cub-code for "We'll see them both in June."
Peter Gammons' Unhealthy Obsession
Has anyone else noticed Peter Gammons' obsession with Ken Griffey Jr., or, as Peter Gammons affectionately refers to him as, Junior Griffey? It is absurd how much he brings this guy up any chance he gets on TV or in his column (Update: I am right - check out his latest column on steroids and skip ahead to the last sentence: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/gammons/story?id=2002123).
It is almost sad. Every year Gammons talks about the imminent return of Griffey to past greatness and every year he is wrong. For your convenience I have outlined Gammons’ key dates for the 2005 season:
March 1st: Peter Gammons proclaims Griffey to be second coming of Christ on ESPN.com.
March 3rd: An EBay search by Gammons results in no customized "Griffey Jr." car-dashboard hula dancer found. A distraught Gammons begins construction on a homemade model.
March 8th: Gammons erects Griffey shrine at Reds camp, complete with pictures, video clips, incense, and sacrificial lamb.
March 12th: The video "Ken Griffey Jr.: A Seattle Mariner Retrospective 1989-1999" arrives at Gammon's house. No one sees Gammons for 4 days.
March 16th: A full-bearded Gammons emerges from his mansion, sputtering off phrases like, “Remember when he climbed the wall to rob that homer? And he wasn’t even on steroids!”
March 20th: Gammons says for the 1,735th time that Griffey never used steroids.
March 21st: A patent is placed on the phrase "Junior Griffey.” If anyone but Peter Gammons says this he or she owes Gammons a nickel.
March 27th: Gammons falls asleep staring at his 1998 Griffey and A-Rod “Dynamic Duo” poster, which has been hanging on his ceiling for seven years.
March 28th: Gammons awakes with drool marks on his pillow.
April 4th: Griffey tears both his ACLs during pre-game stretches. He is out for the season.
I have clairvoyance, and this is how the 2005 obsession with Griffey will go down. Nevertheless, allow me to say that I appreciate Griffey as a ballplayer perhaps more than any other ballplayer in the league. The man hustles, plain and simple. I hope he has a tremendous, injury free 2005 season. Other guys get injured playing flag football, falling down the stairs, or cutting cigars. Griffey Junior plays the game right – all out, every play, and his hustle results in unfortunate injuries. Oops, I owe Gammons a nickel.
Borowski was a juicer?
I have no proof, no here-say, no suspicious ramblings (besides my own), but I must say I think Joe Borowski was definitely on the juice during the 2003 season. All the evidence is there - guy who is not very successful, bouncing around teams, winds up in the Mexican League, then somehow manages to have an absolutely phenomenal season in 2003 getting 33 saves. Steroid testing is instituted, JoBo loses velocity, then gets hurt, and comes to camp this year looking like he lost about 30 pounds (Jason Giambi diet). If there were any more red flags we'd be in the Soviet Union.
Where did he get this magical ability to pitch all of the sudden in 2003? The purist in me wants to think JoBo honed his game through discipline and an intense weight lifting regiment. Then there is the skeptic in me, which says he pitched in Mexico (the place to get steroids, so I hear) and threw pretty hard when he came back. We hear of guys having to keep up with the others, so if an All-Star is doing it you gotta do the same to cash in like the other guys. Screw cashing in, JoBo was trying to put food on his plate. This guy was one step away from joining the California Penal Baseball League (assuming he tries to steal a car). Borowski had to do anything to make it back the bigs, and he got his $4 million. Now look at him - dropped velocity and an injury later - he is the new "Thin Man."
I hate to accuse Joe, who seems like a nice guy. But wouldn't any of us do the same while laboring away in the Mexican Leagues? Who knows. The cynic in me says Borowski was juiced.
I hope I am wrong.
Why I Believe Jose Canseco, and why you should too
1) He knows more about steroids than any of us.
2) He was around the players on a day to day basis; we were not.
3) He is the ONLY person to come out and talk openly about steroids. Everyone else has stayed mum and lied about it (Bonds, Giambi, hundreds of others). Why should we not believe the VERY FIRST one to spill his guts? There is no precedent of false finger pointing - shouldn't we take his word?
Obviously, there are reasons why we should not believe in Jose. He is a scumbag, he is pissed he didn't get to his 500 homers while Big Mac was treated like a king, and he is obviously out to score some cash. But, hey, I believe him anyway.
One last thing - and another blogger brought it up, as well as Rick Telander I believe - I am utterly sick of people defending the accused by saying: "He didn't use his steroids. He worked his ass off in the weight room - I saw him there everyday." I really believe that 90% of the public is so utterly stupid they would believe this alliby. Please. If you are on steroids - YOU DAMN WELL BETTER GET YOUR ASS IN THE WEIGHT ROOM, OTHERWISE YOU WON'T GET BIGGER! God, it's not like you shoot up with roids and it is a Bill Bixby turning into the Hulk type process. Ugh. Anyone reading this knows their baseball anyway, so I know I am preaching to the choir, but doesn't this make anyone else puke?
And by the way, Tony Larussa - you suck even more now. Go away.
Bob Brenly rips Cubs: Calls team 'solid contender' in 2005
When the Cubs and Steve Stone parted ways after the 2004 season, the team thought they had ridded themselves of overly-critical announcers.
They were wrong.
It seems that Cub players are already fuming over comments made by new color-man Bob Brenly. Brenly was a guest on “Sports Central” on WGN Radio 720 when he was asked to assess the Cubs chances in 2005.
“I like their chances,” said a contemplative Brenly. “The Cubs will be a solid contender in a competitive division. Nothing will come easy, though. The Astros are still a good ball club, the Reds with their improved pitching will be a force, and lets not forget that the Cardinals won over 100 games last season.”
Cub players were not pleased with Brenly’s ‘harsh’ assessment.
“The guy is a joke,” said an agitated Todd Walker. “He only ‘likes our chances?’ Give me a break. We are freakin’ awesome. Someone should tell this guy that if he is going to be our announcer he better fall in line.
Relief pitcher Latroy Hawkins agreed.
“That was a pretty damning assessment of our team,” said Hawkins as he sharpened his hunting knife. “Brenly hasn’t even announced a game yet and he already has in fourth place, behind the Reds. I mean, the Reds? Come on."
New Cub Jeromy Burnitz was perplexed and a little misinformed at the latest turn of events.
"Who the heck is Bob Brenly, anyway" asked Burnitz. "Where did he coach, Arizona? Like they have done anything in the last five years."
The Cub players are in the process of assigning new altercation roles for the 2005 season, roles previously occupied by the now-departed Kent Merker. Neifi Perez is the new “elevator tough guy” and rookie Jason Dubois is the “team charter flight confrontation director.”
“It is quite an honor,” explained an elated Dubois. “With any luck, I’ll be harassing announcers with the skills of a sever-year veteran in no time.”
Upon hearing of this player backlash, Brenly immediately hired three bodyguards to protect him both on the road and at Wrigley Field. He also has enrolled in a self defense class, along with fellow play-by-play man Len Kasper, who had this to say:
“The 2005 Cubs team will be the greatest team in the history of baseball,” said Kasper in a written statement. “I will be shocked if they lose one game.”
Still, Cub players are extremely wary of the new announcers’ opinions.
“So, Len Kasper thinks we are the greatest team in the history of baseball?” asked pitcher Glendon Rusch. “What about the history of sports? And, do not get me started on Bob Brenly. He is a closet Cardinals fan. He claims the Cardinals won 100 games last season? That is just his opinion.”
My Interviews with Kerry Wood and Todd Wellemeyer
When I was at the Cubs Convention a few weeks ago I got the opportunity to meet Kerry Wood and Todd Wellemeyer. What ensued were a few words shared, not much, but I guess enough to warrant an interview post in a blog. When I met the two perennial All Stars (Wellemeyer is the man - you know it) I was focused on not being the over-excited fan who mumbles out incoherent sentences. I instead wanted to be calm, collected, and hopefully say a few intelligent words that did not involve "You are the best" or "You have no idea how much this means to me." I really wanted to ask Wood about his dislike for salsa music or if he has much practice in the demolition of boomboxes with baseball bats. But that was a little too personal. So, here is my interview with Kerry Wood:
I walk up to counter.
Wood: What's going on, man.
Me: Nothin much, how are you?
(I hand Kerry Wood my Cub Convention pass to sign)
Wood: Pretty good.
(Kerry hands the pass back to me, autograph intact)
Me: Keep throwing it high and tight.
Wood: You got too.
So that was it. Dumb comment by me? Yeah, probably. I drew a blank, that is what came out. Could have been worse. Now, onto Wellemeyer.
Wellemeyer was kickin it in the photo booth. I noticed that the line wasn't nearly as long as Prior's, Bank's, Santo's, or even demi-god Michael Barrett. Don't people realize that Wellemeyer is the man? Anyway, I had a definite plan of attack for this one. A very vivid Cub memory is from the 2003 season - Todd Wellemeyer makes his first major league appearance in extra innings against the Brewers. He struck out the side in the 17th inning to record the save, in total bad-ass fashion. As the catcher walked out to the mound to hand him the ball, Todd said in exuberation, clear as day on the TV, "Mother-F***er, what's up!" My buddies and I read his lips, and to this date have been huge Wellemeyer fans. So, without further ado, my interview with Todd Wellemeyer:
(I sit down next to Wellemeyer)
Me: What's up, man?
Todd: Nothin much.
(My friend takes a picture)
Me: So Todd, what inning was your first save recorded in against the Brewers?
Todd: The 17th.
Me: Right, did you know after that happened the camera zoomed in pretty close on your face and everyone could read your lips?
Me: Do you remember what you said?
Todd: (still laughing) Oh yeah, I remember it. There was no stopping it.
Me: Well, good luck this season.
There you have it. My two interviews with future legends Kerry Wood and Todd Wellemeyer. Nice guys, considering they were being hounded for 2 days straight for autographs. I was hoping to meet Barrett but his line was too long, I think I saw him placing his hands on a blind guy's head and the man being able to see again. Then again, it was a long weekend, and my memory is a little hazy.
Thirteen Reasons to Feel Better About the Cubs (and Jeromy Burnitz)
I'm as cynical as they come, and sometimes it seems that all I do is look for reasons to believe the Cubs will fall flat on their faces next year. It really isn't that difficult to be pessimistic. We all know the reasons: Nomar is injury-prone, Wood is inconsistent, we have no bullpen, we have no closer, we lost 25% of our RBI's last year with Sosa & Alou, we strikeout too much, we didn't improve in free agency, Burnitz is a washed up has been (or never-was), yada, yada, yada. The list goes on. But, instead of dwelling on negatives, lets try and look at a few positives. For the 12 people who read this I hope it makes you feel better, and if I'm the only one who reads this, at least I'll feel a little better. So, here we go, reasons for optimism.
1) The Cubs have two straight winning seasons - and counting! Hasn't happened in 30 years, gotta count for something, right?
2) We had more wins in 2004 than in 2003. People seem to forget this, obviously because we fell short of the playoffs in 2004. Look it up, we had one more win. I know we should have had 10 more wins, but improvement is improvement. It really is bizarre that we seemingly overachieved in 2003 and won 88 games and underachieved in 2004 to win 89 games. In my eyes, we played like crap in 2004 but still managed to win more games than 2003. Improvement is improvement, at least from a numbers standpoint.
3) In 2003, the Cubs scored 724 runs. In 2004, the Cubs scored 789 runs (+65 from 2003). In 2003, the Cubs allowed 683 runs. In 2004, the Cubs only gave up 665 runs (-18 from 2003). What does this tell us? Yes, the Cubs certainly underachieved from a W-L column in 2004. But their run-producing and pitching improved. Expect them to be right around the averages of those numbers for 2005, which bodes well for having about 90 wins.
4) The Cubs record in one-run games last season was 19-30, which is atrocious for a playoff contender (The Astros were 24-18 and the Cardinals were a stellar 29-20). Chalk it up to too many strikeouts, poor situational hitting, bad on-field management, or pure dumb luck. The fact is a team as good as the Cubs with their amount of runs scored and lack of runs allowed should not have performed that poorly in one-run games. Expect the law of averages to take effect and our record in one-run games to even out.
5) Our pitching staff is no fluke. Provided Rusch can be a decent number five (and its not that difficult to be a decent number five, then again, ask the 2004 White Sox) our staff is second to none in the NL.
6) The Cubs' infield is a pure monster. They are most likely to hit 100 homers between the four of them. Homers aside, they are all simply good hitters. Lee and Walker get on base, Nomar is an excellent contact guy, and Aramis is becoming an elite player. Looking for optimism? Look no further than our infield.
7) Michael Barrett knows our pitchers better. After a year in which he did a decent job defensively and was a great surprise offensively, expect him to handle the pitching staff a little better (not that he did a poor job last year, but there is room for improvement).
8) The Farns will be on. He is usually good every other year (2001 - good, 2002 - bad, 2003 - good, 2004 - bad, 2005 - ????). Barring a trade, look for the Farns to throw strikes and the girls to swoon (they'll be swooning regardless).
9) Corey Patterson will take more pitches. We know his problems, Dusty knows his problems, he knows his problems. He has been working this offseason to correct his poor pitch selection. Don't expect 70 walks and an on-base machine, but expect improvement.
10) Clubhouse distractions should be kept to a m[...]
Cubs near deal with Sammy Sosa clone
I have always hated Sammy Sosa. Even when he was hitting all those homers, I hated that cute little hop (and his even cuter "warning track hop"), his selfish attitude, missing the cut-off man every time, 150 whiffs, and everything else about his me-first mentality. Then he became a cheater and a liar, and hating him became more popular sport in Chicago. Now he is gone, which should make me happy. And it does. But now I read in the paper:
"Cubs close to signing right fielder Sammy Sosa"
Wait, I thought we just traded this guy? Oh yeah, that's right, I must have read that wrong. We are close to signing Sammy Sosa clone, Jeromy Burnitz.
There are few players I hate more in MLB than Jeromy Burnitz, and the list is as such:
Jimmy's Top Six Most Hated MLB Players:
1) Sammy Sosa
2) Barry Bonds
3) Jeromy Burnitz
4) Matt Morris
5) Craig Counsell (I have my reasons)
6) Jamal Crawford (Doesn't play baseball, but this guy is a clown, thank you Isiah Thomas!)
I don't really care to elaborate on my most hated list, but allow me a few choice words on Burnitz (check out my previous post on the right hand side of the column: Jeromy Burnitz: Do not come within 200 miles of Chicago). He swings a freaking golf club at the plate, he looks like a fat mental patient, he swings so hard he nearly falls over, he probably has a better chance at making contact with extra-terrestrials, and he hasn't hit jack squat away from Coors Field in 3 years.
And we are about to sign this clown? What, because he is left-handed? I thought our three biggest problems last year were a reliance on home-runs, too many strikeouts, and sub-par defense. Burnitz makes us worse in all of these categories. Did I mention he looks like a fat mental patient?
We all know Hendry flies under the radar and many times makes moves which we don't anticipate (Lee, Ramirez, Maddux, Sosa), so the fact everyone is reporting this Burnitz stuff makes me hopeful that this could not materialize. But if it does, lets look at the bright side, which is, Cub fans will have someone new to hate. Another strikeout machine who will garner a few "ooohs" and "ahhhs" in BP but will go 1 for 4 with 2 K's in the game. Having a scapegoat is always fun (see Steve Bartman, but I don't blame that guy) and Burnitz could be my new Cub to hate.
Right here, right now, who wants in? I am starting the official "I Hate Jeromy Burnitz Fan Club" (IHJB). This club will coincide with the "I Love Todd Hollandsworth Fan Club" (ILTH).
Are you down with the ILTH? Look for it in the right field bleachers this summer.
Piazza marries alien; proves he is not gay
For those of you not in the know, Mike Piazza got married to an alien this weekend. Maybe it is the lighting, the giant alien eyes, the pose, the giant alien head, the makeup, or the fact that she is most likely uncomfortable from hiding her hideous alien tentacles, but this chick really does look like an alien.
Mike Piazza with his alien bride, who is scouring the earth for resources for her poverty-stricken planet. (image)
Blanco signs as Maddux’s personal assistant: New Cub also slated as back-up catcher
When Cubs GM Jim Hendry was looking to fill the back-up catcher role for the 2005 Cubs roster, he didn’t look at any offensive statistics whatsoever.
“I knew whoever I signed would hit better than Paul Bako anyway,” said Hendry. “Hell, bringing back Augie Ojeda came up in discussions.”
What really mattered to Hendry and the Cubs front office brass was character, the ability to be a team player, and how well he could take orders from Greg Maddux. One name immediately came to mind: Henry Blanco.
“We heard good things coming out of Minnesota about Blanco,” said an elated Hendry. “No one takes a dirty jockstrap to the wash better than Henry Blanco, and that really was the key.”
It was Paul Bako who was in charge of carrying Maddux’s game-worn jockstrap to the wash after games last season, as well as washing Maddux’s Ford Taurus, applying pre-game foot massages, and keeping at least three sharpened number two pencils in Maddux’s locker at all times. Maddux is a self proclaimed “crossword junkie,” and reportedly gets a little unnerved if his pencils are not precisely sharpened the way he likes.
“Greg is a pretty cool cat,” explained teammate Mark Prior, “but he is very particular about his crossword puzzles. When he pitches he never loses his composure, but when it comes to those puzzles, he is definitely no model of patience.”
Maddux was known to verbally berate the now departed Bako, albeit very subtlety.
“I think that was the thing that really hurt Bako, the way Maddux would tear him down so gently,” said outfielder Todd Hollandsworth. “This one time, Maddux was working on his crossword puzzle and the tip of the pencil broke. Apparently, Bako had over-sharpened it just a tad. Greg looked up and said to the locker room, ‘What’s a four-letter word for moron?’ No one knew the answer. Then Maddux said, ‘Bako!’ Those were the little things that ultimately led to Bako’s demise.”
Teammates claim that Bako’s low batting average was the direct result of the hazing Maddux applied daily.
“Maddux was a cloud that hung over Bako’s head every day,” said Prior. “I hope the new guy, what’s his face, can handle it.”
All reports indicate new Cub Henry Blanco can handle the job. His jock carrying technique was described as “extraordinary” by his Minnesota teammates, and he has spent the better part of the off-season practicing various pencil sharpening strategies.
“I’m confident I can meet expectations,” said Henry Blanco, taking a break from studying the finer points of dirty jock transportation.
Greg Maddux agreed.
“With any luck, Blanco will be a six-letter word for bitch.”
Sosa tests positive for cork: ‘Confused’ slugger mistakes cheating tactics
The other shoe finally fell on Major League Baseball, as Chicago Cub outfielder Sammy Sosa tested positive for cork, a league official said yesterday.
Although originally not thought to be among the list of banned substances, cork actually qualifies as a “performance enhancing drug” under baseball’s new steroid policy. Sosa tested positive for the banned substance after a urinalysis last week.
“Mr. Sosa made a colossal error in judgment, as well as in basic intellect,” said a league official who spoke under the condition of anonymity. “Apparently, he tried to inject himself with cork through a needle. When that didn’t work, he tried to rub it on his knee. Finally, he just wound up eating it.”
It is not known whether or not ingesting cork actually improves hitting performance, or even if it should be part of one’s regular diet.
“I would discourage even moderate cork consumption,” said the same league source.
The jig was up when Sosa came out to a morning batting practice with his bats completely covered with a white substance, later identified as a steroid known as “the cream.” The substance made the bats difficult to hold, and Sosa’s first swing resulted in the bat being flung wildly into the stands.
“I have never used the cream in a game before,” said a remorseful Sosa. “I just wanted to put on a show for the fans.”
The cream incident led to an investigation of Sosa’s locker and his belongings. Upon further inspection, league officials found an undisclosed amount of cork, as well as various needles, arthritis balm, and some salsa CDs that one league official deemed “intolerable.”
At this time, it is not known where Sosa obtained either the cream or the cork. Major League Baseball did concede, however, that the pieces of cork seemed to originate from numerous bottles of wine. It is unclear where the wine was purchased or who drank what is estimated to be an entire case.
Kyle Farnsworth was unavailable for comment.
Cubs.com Carrie Muskat: Horrible Writer
I know my writing skills are nothing to write home to Mom about, but I really need to get something off my chest about cubs.com "beat writer" Carrie Muskat. She sucks. She is absolutely terrible. She is about as insightful at writing about baseball as Ben Affleck is at making good movies.
Now, this really shouldn't bother me all that much as I get about 95% of my Cubs news from the Suntimes, the Trib, and ESPN.com. During the season I would cruise over to cubs.com for maybe a Todd Hollandsworth injury update. Speaking of Hollandsworth, lets take a look at the Carrie Muskat "mailbag" for some truly wonderful and insightful comments on Hollandsworth.
From cubs.com reader who apparently is not very bright:
Why are the Cubs so reluctant to start Todd Hollandsworth in the outfield? It seems to me they should (and maybe they are) seriously looking to replace Sosa and start Hollandsworth. He filled in beautifully last year after the "sneeze heard round' the world." -- Chris G., Downers Grove, Ill.
"Hollandsworth could be back with the Cubs. The risk is whether his right leg will hold up if he fouls a ball off his shin. He suffered a stress fracture in his leg in June, and admits now that he tried to come back too soon. The Cubs brass like Hollandsworth and he's running, working out, and hitting in a cage."
WOW!!! That is some great journalism there, Carrie. Lets see if I understand this. Hollandsworth's leg may OR may not get hurt again. Hmm, interesting angle on this one. And what is Hollandsworth doing this offseason? According to Muskat, he is "running, working out, and hitting in a cage." No kidding? It was always my understanding, that during the winter (or the "off-season" as some call it), running, working out, and hitting in a cage is the regiment of EVERY SINGLE MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER!!! Thanks for clarifying for me, Carrie, that guys take BP in a cage when it is snowing, stretch out the legs every now and then, and sometimes dabble in weight lifting. Carrie Muskat has opened a new door for me today.
Why anyone would e-mail her a baseball related question to Ms. Master of the Obvious is beyond me. If these idiots would simply pay attention to the news for 10 seconds or open a newspaper once a week millions of web surfers' time wouldn't be wasted with "What are the chances of Sammy Sosa being traded?" or "What's up with the Cubs and Carlos Beltran?" Ugh.
When not answering morons' questions, Ms. Muskat occasionally writes features for cubs.com. Take this article entitled: "Around the Horn: Catchers," which talked a lot about Henry Blanco. Of course, Blanco is the backup to my favorite player and possible demi-god Michael Barrett, who is and should be "the man," regardless of what Sally Sosa says. But I digress. Anyway, I read the Blanco article and was quite confused by a horrible writing mistake straight from a high school freshmen English class. Take a read, straight from Cubs.com:
"Blanco spent last season in Minnesota, and originally was expected to be a backup to highly touted Joe Mauer. But Mauer was hurt in the second game of the season and backup Matthew LeCroy was injured in the third game. Blanco became the regular, and batted .206 in 114 games. Why didn't Minnesota sign Blanco?
Greg Maddux wanted Blanco as his personal catcher in Atlanta," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said during Spring Training 2004. "If a pitcher like Maddux wants him behind the plate, that's good enough for us."
What???? Let me get this straight. The reason Blanco "didn't [...]
The REAL Carlos Beltran Press Conference
I managed to attend the Carlos Beltran press conference yesterday. When I woke up this morning, however, and opened the paper, I was shocked and appalled to find almost every one of his quotes taken out of context. I grabbed my tape recorder, played back the press conference, and compared his statements in the paper to his REAL quotes. Here are a few of the differences:
Reported quote (found at ESPN.com):
Carlos: "I couldn't be happier."
Carlos: "I couldn't be richer, err, I mean, happier. Yes, happier, that's the word. You'll have to excuse me, my English is still a little shoddy. In Spanish, 'richer' and 'happier' actually sound quite similar. So, allow me to clarify one more time. I couldn't be happier."
As you can see, the media left out the entire first portion of this quote. (Note: 'richer' in Spanish is 'rico' and happier is 'contento.' These sound absolutely nothing alike.) Nice try, Carlos! Here is another quote:
Carlos: "He (owner Fred Wilpon) told me, 'If you're happy in Houston, stay in Houston. If you want the big stage, come to New York. Sign with the Yankees or sign with us.' He gave me options. He showed me the kind of person he is."
This one starts out the same, but Carlos went on to elaborate further. Here is what is on my tape recorder:
Carlos: "He showed me the kind of person he is. Then, he showed me the kind of wallet he has. It was really big! Have you ever seen that episode of Seinfeld when George has that really big wallet? It was kind of like that. Anyway, he asked me if I needed some money for the cab ride back to the hotel. I said, 'Sure.' He then gave a cabbie $35,000, bought the cab, drove me to the hotel, and then ditched the cab on the road. I laughed, and he told me whenever I want to take a cab just do the same thing, because I can 'afford it' he said. We had another good laugh, and then I sneezed, and blew my nose with a hundred dollar bill. So yeah, what was the question again?"
This quote will never see the light of day, so if you are reading it right now, consider yourself lucky.
Finally, at the end of the interview a few more questions were asked and it went like this:
Reporter: So, are you looking forward to starting the season?
Reporter: What does it really feel like to be a member of the Mets?
Carlos: Wait a second, I'm on the Mets?
Dude, you're on the Mets.
One more thing about the Mets, then I'm done
The ONLY thing the Mets have going for them is that they almost hired George Costanza as head of scouting, I stress ALMOST. Instead, they went with Mr. Willhelm when Costanza was unable to get fired from his position within the Yankees organization.
Costanza would have been a great hire for the Mets. As assistant to the traveling secretary of the New York Yankees, Costanza single-handedly transformed the team into World Series Champions of 1996 and laid the groundwork for the three-peat from 1998-2000. Willhelm did his part, scouting the Mets all the way to the World Series of 2000.
Costanza's run with the Yankees was short-lived, though, as he was traded to Tyler Chicken for some chicken dogs, chicken twists, and "a kind of fermented chicken drink."
This man would have been the perfect man for the Mets scouting department, instead, Costanza left Tyler Chicken almost as quickly as he arrived, and wound up faking a handicap to get a job with Play Now, a playground equipment company. Too bad for the Mets, because Costanza surely would have bocthed those terrible deals for Floyd and Kris Benson from the get-go.
UPDATE: One more thing - I just read that Latin pop-star Ricky Martin will be touring areas of Thailand affected by the tsuanami. To this I ask the obvious question: Haven't these people been through enough pain and suffering already?
Carlos Beltran: BFD
So Beltran opts for the money, why should anyone be suprised. Did anyone think he actually was going to sign for less money with his agent, uber-demon Scott Boras? This is almost as beliveable as the statement, "Anyone wanna watch some NHL tonight?"
No one wants to play for the Mets. I believe it is in every player's contract, a permanent no-trade clause to the Mets. Just say the word: "Mets." It is a real ugly sounding word to say (Note: Being born in 1981 I harbor little to no ill will to those damn 1969 Mets). It is a more of a this generation thing, I just hate the Mets, and now I officially hate Carlos Beltran.
Beltran sucks, Kris Benson can vanish off the face of the earth (his wife can stay), Cliff Floyd can vanish with him, Mike Piazza is completely useless, and Jim Abbott has a better left arm than Tom Glavine. Lest we forget Pedro Martinez, who may be worth the 13 or so million this year and maybe next year but definitely not when he is 35 years old. Have fun with these scrubs, Carlos, you guys can polish your diamond studded shoes together while managing to win 70 games.
Beltran was simply not worth the money, not when we are going to have to pay Ramirez, Zambrano, Patterson, and Prior pretty soon. No one would take Beltran if it would cost us any of these guys (sans Patterson). This is a great move by Hendry. Lets look at the other upsides:
1) The Astros not having Beltran will cost them, lets say, 10 Wins next year. This is not a very generous estimate, considering they also have no more Jeff Kent and also perhaps no more Roger Clemens (though I have this creeping suspicion that he will most definitely return, he is simply too good to retire). Regardless, no Beltran, no Kent, no Wade Miller, lets also assume this means an additional 3 wins for the Cubs against Houston. Hence, the regular season is starting like this:
NL Central 2005 Standings
St. Louis GB 0
Chicago GB 0
Milwaukee GB 0
Cincinatti GB 0
Pittsburgh GB 0
Houston GB 13
I for one like the these Opening Day standings.
2) Are the Cubs in that bad of shape to start the season? Hell no. We signed our own guys with money left over to play around with at the trading deadline (whats up Juan Pierre and maybe a closer). Think about it this way: having Nomar for an entire season, a healthy Hollandsworth, FULL seasons from Prior and Wood, and perhaps Ordonez (hopefully offsetting the loss of our leading RBI man), we should be looking at an additional 5-10 wins EASY. The Wild Card should not elude us this time. Oh, and there is no way we will be that God-awful in one-run games again.
3) Signing a guy to a seven year deal is simply a huge risk. The Cubs do not need that risk, few teams do, and the ones that do either suck (the Mets) or have too much money to care (the Yankees). We are neither, so the Cubbies made the right call.
Thats about it for now. Beltran would have been nice, don't get me wrong, but that at that price tag. A healthy Magglio is just as productive, so we'll see how this one turns out.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Some things in this world are so incredibly absurd that they require no sarcastic analysis or shallow comments whatsoever. They are in a word, stupid, and any further criticism is entirely unnecessary.
The team name "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" is one of these things.
Jeromy Burnitz: Do not come within 200 miles of Chicago
So I read today our beloved Cubs are considering signing 35 year old free swinging (and I don't mean like Austin Powers) Jeromy Burnitz. (Cue dramatic music...repeat for added effect). Yes, you read correctly, Jeromy Burnitz. Those two words makes me want to take this pen sitting on my desk and stab myself in the neck to avoid any further misery.
Are you kidding me? This is the answer to the Cub's problems? Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the Cubs primary problem the fact that they hit an obscence amount of home runs (every single one of them solo, I think) and averaged about 29 strikeouts per game (sometimes there were those "passed ball" strikeouts)? So to correct this problem we sign a guy with more of an uppercut swing than John Daly? In the words of Tim Allen: Ehhhhh?
This is a freakin joke. Sure, the guy hit 37 homers last season and had an OBP of around 360. I don't care. He also struck out 112 times. In 2003, while playing for the Dodgers, he had a Bako-esque OBP of .252 and for the season his OBP was .299. These are in regular ball parks, so remember, you have to adjust his 2004 stats (.283, .356, .559) to Colorado, where sacrifice bunts have been known to leave the park. Seriously, a backup second basemen on a JV high school baseball team could hit .250 in Colorado with 20 homers.
Remember post-all star break of 2003? When we had a leadoff hitter? God, those were the days. Lofton would come up, take pitches, get on base, and good things would ensue. The pitcher would be rattled and would leave a hanger to one of our big guns. Now we have no one to take pitches and get under the pitchers skin, only guys who think it is 1983 and they are playing for Earl Weaver. The fact that we are considering Burnitz in left makes me wonder if Hendry is seriously trying to have an outfield that will exceed 400 strikeouts for the season. Gotta make SportCenter "Did You Know" somehow I guess.
Please Hendry, leave Burnitz on the scrapheap and let Hollandsworth play left. Or, better yet, put Sammy on waivers, sign Beltran, and move Holly to right. (Note: this will never happened). For the love of God, no Jeromy Burnitz. Useful on a Par 5, yes, useful on the Chicago Cubs, neh.