Wednesday, November 30, 2005

By Any Other Name

I had no idea that the Christmas tree on Capitol Hill is called a "Holiday Tree." Fellow Illinoisian and Speaker of Da' House Denny Hastert is trying to get the tree correctly named:

Hastert, R-Ill., in a letter to the Architect of the Capitol, recommended that the annual Capitol Holiday Tree, as it has been called the past several years, be renamed the Capitol Christmas Tree.

"I strongly urge that we return to this tradition and join the White House, countless other public institutions and millions of American families in celebrating the holiday season with a Christmas tree," Hastert wrote to Architect Alan Hantman.

I can only guess that the politicians on Capitol Hill didn't want to offend Jewish and Muslim voters with a "Christmas"-named object on federal government property (so what that the White House has had a Christmas Tree for over 100 years).

Well, here's an opinion from one of the people the Congress was trying to avoid:


The holiday season is getting a lot wider.Having it called a Holiday Tree can only create more problems for us non-Christians. All I need is for the Six Year Old to come home and ask, that, if we can't have a Christmas Tree, can we have a Holiday Tree? It's easy enough to explain to a six year old that Christmas Trees are for Christians. Now I'd have to explain that he can't have a Holiday Tree?

There will never be a Christmas Tree, Holiday Tree, Hanukkah Bush, or a Kwanzaa Whatever in my house. If the Congroids want one, so be it. Call it by its right name, please.

A Meaningless Lead

Rafael Furcal seems to be leaning toward singing with Chicago. Good. Not great, but good. Furcal is a desperation signing that the Cubs wouldn't need had they not been cheap and signed Miguel Tejada two years ago. And, while Furcal is a good player, he's no Tejada.

He is also, at times, not very good. Just last year, through June, his OBP was .292. Getting Furcal is required because he fills two holes for the Cubs. Not many other players are out there that are available who can do this.

But, just because he fills the holes doesn't mean that he's going to fill them as well as Cubs fans would like.

Hendry has been negligent the last three years in addressing leadoff and bullpen. He's now overpaid for two setup men, one of whom just smells of career year. He's going to have to over pay for shortstop. Bad planning on his part. Those who fail to plan...

Furcal will be a good signing because it's a must sign guy, not because he's an exceptional player.

And I don't want to hear anymore garbage about "good news coming" until it comes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Season On The Brink

Jim Hendry got the Cubs to spring for a first class ticket to Atlanta so he could personally recruit Rafael Furcal last weekend. From Bruce Miles' angle, it looks like Furcal will make up his mind between the Braves and the Cub before the Baseball Winter Meetings (incorrectly named according to resident nitpicker Brian).

What should scare you is the fallback plan should Furcal decide that Bobby Cox is a better man to manage a career than is Dusty Baker:

If Furcal decides to remain in Atlanta, the Cubs say they're comfortable with a tandem of youngster Ronny Cedeno and the veteran Perez. It's possible the Cubs will look at Florida's Alex Gonzalez as an option.

This is not a backup plan. This is capitulation. And, with the impending free agencies of Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano (both after 2008), wasting another year is a sure fire way to get these guys excited about staying with the team long term.

If Perez gets more than 50 starts as a Cub, for ANY REASON, the Cubs finish below .500 and in 5th place. Yes, only Cinci is worse than a Neifi Perez fueled team.

If Alex Gonzalez gets 50 starts as a Cub, call me in 2007.

Jim Hendry has bet the entire 2006 season, and maybe more, on Rafael Furcal. The cheapness that led to the decision not to eat Alex Gonzalez's contract and go after Miguel Tejada in 2004 looks more and more like negligence all the time.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Back to Business

Have you been to Hawaii? I have, twice. The first time was eight and a half years ago, right after The Fiance became The Wife. We toured Maui and Kauai with a short stop in Honolulu to see Pearl and the USS Arizona Memorial. The islands were gorgeous and we had a riot.

We also did not have children.

This time, it was Turkey on the Big Island with Murton's Kids, The Wife and The Inlaws. To say the trip was different this time is an understatement.

Some advice should you travel to Hawaii.

1) If you want to do things other than lie on the beach at your chosen resort, skip the Big Island. There is very little to do or see beyond the Kilauea Caldera (an active, erupting volcano) and Keck Observatory. And those places are LONG BORING drives from any non-Hilo based hotel you choose. Lying on the beach is your thing? This place is for you.

2) Don't take kids unless they are all older than five years old and DON'T HAVE TO TAKE NAPS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY!

I cannot stress point #2 enough.

I heard that, while on holiday, Jim Hendry decided to throw more money at ex-White Sox bullpen pitchers. Well, at least Hendry had enough sense this time to pick a pitcher in Bobby Howry that's had performances the last two consecutive years better than his career average than the career year Scott Eyre enjoyed last year.

So long as this signing doesn't chew up dollars needed to get two more top-of-the-order players (say, two of Rafael Furcal, Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo), a right fielder and another starter, it's an OK move.

Just so we're clear, no leadoff hitter and 2006 is a waste of time. That means Furcal or emptying the farm system in a trade for someone else. Given that two of the team's ten best are already in the majors, and one (he has a brother on the major league team for a few more weeks) put up big numbers while overqualified for his league, there's not much to trade.

Gonna be a long winter. And probably a long summer. Damn good thing I got my vacation out of the way early...

Friday, November 18, 2005

Vacation Time

Off for a week. Expect no updates for a week.

There will be a short pause while everyone says, "Who cares?"

Until then, here's some bodacious Jennifer Aniston ta-tas to attract Google's search engine.
What Bard Pitt gave up for Angelina -- Nice trade.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


The story on Scott Eyre is 2 years, $11 million. Yes. Correct. $5.5 million a year for Scott "career 4.52 ERA 1.52 WHIP" Eyre.

So, instead of BJ Ryan for $9 million as closer and $5 million to use Dempster as a setup man, we fans get the cheap route. We get a guy three and a half years older than Ryan. We get a guy whose ERA dropped 1.47 runs from 2004 to 2005. His 2005 ERA was 1.89 runs lower than his career ERA. His 2005 WHIP was 0.444 lower than his career WHIP (a lackluster 1.53). In short, Jim Hendry bought a guy coming off a career year. A a guy more likely past his prime, than in his prime like a BJ Ryan.

There's more:

Eyre's contract calls for up to $300,000 a year in performance bonuses. He will receive $100,000 for 70 appearances and an additional $200,000 if he pitches in 80 games. There is also wording that would give Eyre additional money should he become the Cubs' closer.

Great. Dusty now is incentivised to use Eyre as a closer.

Eyre is a nice addition as a setup man. BJ Ryan is an addition that a serious team makes.

Color me underwhelmed. Up next, just watch. Brian Giles, no. Bobby Abreu, no.

Dave Roberts? Yes.


The motion is seconded.

Terms are better than originally disclosed. Eyre will earn $3 million in 2006, $4 million in 2007 and another $4 million in 2008 (player option). the contract also includes a $1.5 million signing bonus. That makes the deal much more palatable.

It also makes BJ Ryan still an option if the Cubs are serious.

Glad and Sad

The hiring of Ned Colletti as the Dodgers GM looks to be a good thing. I used to work with Ned's brother (Doug is the Bears' radio stats guru), and "knew" Ned by association. What's sad was this report from the California Press-Enterprise:

Riverside native Dusty Baker might also have piqued Colletti's interest, but it could be difficult to pry him away from the Chicago Cubs.

See, Ned was with the Giants for 8 of the 11 years that Dusty Baker was the manager there. Some in the front office hated Dusty, others liked him. No one seems to know which camp Ned was in, but this article suggests that Ned might be a "pro-Dusty" guy.

That could lead to an early exit for Dusty, who basically has until February to find a new gig before the Cubs "offer" him an "extension" of his contract.

What's sad about that?

Alas, cold water is thrown on the scenario in the next paragraph.

Sharon Pannozzo, Cubs director of media relations, said the Dodgers had not contacted Chicago to request permission to interview Baker.

"If they call us, we will not grant them permission," Pannozzo said. "Dusty Baker is the manager of the Cubs."

One can hope this is just posturing. But the statement seems pretty lock tight.

Then again, Scott McClellan had lock tight denials about the CIA-leak investigation and look how that turned out.

Could the Cubs be hanging Pannozzo out to dry like a big wet shoe?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Why Miller and Kreutz Beat The Crap Out Of Each Other

What A Party!

Apologies to Gary Larsen...

Why the Ice Man Goeth

The trade of Jon Leicester to the Rangers for the dreaded PTBNL, this creates an extra spot on the forty man roster (currently, 36 spots are filled). With the Rule V Free Agent draft rapidly approaching, the Cubs need as much room as they can create to prevent more "Andy Sisco to the Royals"-type losses.

The following is an incomplete list of players that are Rule V eligible.

Billy Petrick
Bobby Brownlie
Brandon Sing
Brian Dopirak
Buck Coats
Carlos Marmol
Carmen Pignatiello
Chadd Blasko
Dwaine Bacon
Felix Pie
Jake Fox
Jason Wylie
Jae-kuk Ryu
Jon Connolly
Luke Hagerty
Matt Craig
Micah Hoffpauir
Ricky Nolasco
Ryan O'Malley
Sean Marshall

As of now, the Cubs can only protect four of them. My choices:

Nolasco, Pie, Sing, and I dunno who else. Ryu, I guess. No one else seems like they are read for anyone to risk a full season major league roster spot on them (Connolly) or, they just aren't very good (Brownlie).

It's been suggested that more room could be created by a trade of 2 guys off the forty man for one. If that happens, let's hope that Patterson is one of the two.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Waste Some, Want Not

As free agency crawls into its annual hope fest, it's worth reminding Cubs fans not to expect too much. Historically, barring the Mike Morgan, Danny Jackson and George Bell years, the Cubs have been cheap when it comes to free agents. And this weekend's back tracking on Rafael Furcal is just a reminder that winning takes a back seat to profit at Tribune Corporation (note: were I a stockholder of Trib, I would agree unless I felt that a World Series Title would jump the stock more than 3 cents of earnings).

Ah, but we're told that the Trib isn't cheap, just that they don't spend the money wisely. That statement is humorous on so many levels. Does it occur to anyone that the Cubs don't spend money wisely BECAUSE they are cheap?

Let's look at the 2004 season. Going into that year, the Cubs had a gaping hole at short stop. Sure, they still owed Alex Gonzalez $5 million, but what were they going to get for that investment? Mediocre defense, no offense, and a vacancy at the end of the year, that's what A Gonz was gonna give you in 2004.

So what should the Cubs have done? Well, Miguel Tejada was an option. You can't do that, someone will scream. You can't let $5 million worth of Alex Gonzalez rot on the bench while you pay Tejada $12 million!

Yeah, you can.

In the world of finance, the value of assets and the return from those assets is constantly monitored. There comes a point when the value and the return from an asset diminishes so far that you just erase the asset from your books and take a loss. This is known as a "write-off." The Cubs refusal (read: cheapness) to write off Alex Gonzalez meant they didn't waste $5 million. Instead, they lost A Gonz to injury and had to scramble for a short stop until Nomar Garciaparra became available. They missed the playoffs in 2004 and saw Nomar fail to contribute again in 2005.

So, the Cubs spent $3 million on A Gonz and $3 million on Nomar in 2004, then $8.25 million on Nomar in 2005. They missed the playoffs both times. Now, they have no short stop and may have to top $10 million per year to keep Atlanta from re-signing Furcal (only the entire 2006 season is bet on this move).

And Furcal isn't as good as Tejada.

If they had, instead, decided to live with A Gonz on the bench, effectively writing off his salary) and signed Tejada, you would have made the playoffs in 2004 as the offense would have been better and your backups would not have been Ramon Martinez and Rey Ordonez. The 2005 season would not have seen the soft-tissue injury prone Nomar riding the DL.

By not signing Tejada, what did the Cubs really save? They lost two potential post-seasons. How much extra money could the team have made by spending an extra $10 million on shortstop in 2004 and an extra $4 million in 2005? How many tickets to playoff games could have been sold? How many TEJADA jerseys? How would TV and Radio ratings have been in the fall? How many extra Tribunes would have sold? Ever hear the phrase, "penny wise and pound foolish"? They also lost two years of Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano's careers. They lost an amount of fan goodwill built up from the fluke of 2003.

Ironically, the real cost to the Cubs for not signing Tejada may exceed the actual cost of his contract.

The hope Cubs fans have is, that with the cutting and eating of $16 million of Sammy Sosa salary in 2005, the Cubs have learned their lesson, that they now understand the value of write-offs. The one thing Jim Hendry has done is not saddled this team with a lot of bad contracts (only Kerry Wood's and Michael Barrett's are bad). Time to start signing some new good ones.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Did That Say What I Think It Said?

OK. Speculation is running rampant in Boston about who will replace Theo Epstein. Jim Bowden has interviewed. Theo could return. But, for a Linda Blair moment, check
this article:

The Red Sox, if they were inclined to create a stir, could approach the Cubs about their general manager, Jim Hendry, who has a year left on his contract and has a strong background in player evaluation, a quality (Red Sox CEO Larry) Lucchino values highly.

Were Jim Hendry to leave prior to the start of 2006, only a 130 walk season from Korey Patterson would shock me more.

But someone else thought this a while back. A link on the right goes to's Unofficial MLB Blog. Burried in that blog was this nugget posted on October 15th. In that list of projected managerial movement, the author predicted that Hendry would be replaced by Jim Bowden for the 2006 season.

This is clearly innuendo sparked by speculation. But it sure is INTERESTING innuendo sparked by speculation.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Get Your Meetings Started

With the Baseball Winter Meeting starting today, all the talk will be focused on Rafael Furcal. Well, he can't go anywhere until Friday as that's the first day all 30 teams can negotiate with him and his agent. The papers suggest that Jim Hendry will try to pounce on him quickly.

That's a good idea if Hendry still wants Juan Pierre (who is a good idea). Once Furcal is a Cub, the Marlins lose some negotiating power as the Cubs won't need Pierre specifically as a leadoff hitter. They just need him because he's good and because Korey Patterson is a living hari kari sword.

Can we count on Jim to get this done? Perhaps. Bruce Miles runs Jim Hendry's greatest offseason moves. Once you look at them you realize the list isn't that impressive. Sure, Derrek Lee was a great deal. Todd Hundley and Chad Hermansen for Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros, also very good.

But the quality of the next move is up there with "The Phantom Menace." Here's hoping Hendry goes back and emulates the 03-04 offseason.

Primal Screaming

Abandon all exclamation points, immediately!Anyone who clicks on this link and does not cringe is not a Cubs fan. Yes, Neifi Perez is back. Poor Ronny Cedeno. All he did was do whatever anyone asked. Sure, his minor league numbers could be better, but 32-year old Neifi's couldn't be much worse.

Perhaps when the details are released on the contract we'll see that there are no incentive bonuses for games played or plate appearances or aging gracefully. With no bonuses to earn, Dusty Baker would probably give more playing time to Cedeno.

We can only hope, because 300 plate appearances from Neifi and the Cubs don't sniff the playoffs.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Which Year Is It?

The Chicago Bears are 5-3 and are a virtual lock for the playoffs, and likely a division title. But the confidence they inspire is minimal. The five wins are against teams with a combined 13-28 record. They've lost both games they've played against teams that sport a winning record.

A division title means a home playoff game. And that means a likely berth in the second round of the playoffs. Once you get there, anything can happen. Right? I mean, the Baltimore Ravens showed that a team with a mediocre offense and a good defense can win. Is this Bear team like that?

In Cub terms, is this Bear team 2003? Can they make a long playoff run? Perhaps. But I fear this is more 1998 - a season that concludes with a "We were just happy to be here" playoff loss.

An upgrade at WR and I might just believe it's 2003.

Too bad it's too late for trades. Anyone want to work out a release and waiver signing of Terrell Owens?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Unconditional Love

Back on May 28th, 1995, The Wife celebrated her 27th birthday. At that time, she was only the Girlfriend and had recently relocated to Chicago. Sitting around the house with the Middle Sister, I asked her what she wanted to do. "Let's go get a cat!" she said.

We weren't even living together, and The Wife-to-be was renting a friend's condo in the Hancock building. What that means is that the cat was coming to live with me.

Of course we look bored -- we're CATS!!!Two hours later, at Kay's Animal Shelter, we selected not one, but TWO black and white kittens. They were littermates, a boy and a girl. They were eight weeks old. The girl, was a healthy two pounds. The boy was a runt, barely a pound and a half and with a respiratory infection. We named them Phantom (because she looked like she had a black mask) and Tippy (his tail had a white tip).

Needless to say, they both became healthy and on the fat side. They were great pets. They played with us. They didn't cause too many problems. They were great with the kids. Never once did they bite when the kids were infants. They tolerated hair and tail pulling.

Phantom was the more social of the pair. She'd follow visitors around the house. She'd jump on the table near where you were talking just to make the visitor pet her. And she used to beat the tar out of her brother.

About a month ago, I noticed she was losing weight. Two weeks ago, I took her to the vet to see what was going on. Enlarged gallbladder was the diagnosis. Was she in pain? I asked. No. Just that I should watch her closely to see if it ruptured. I'd know if she started throwing up a lot.

Yesterday morning, I noticed she had stopped cleaning herself. Despite that, she ate her breakfast, sat on my lap and walked around the kitchen. The One Year Old pet her and Phantom, as she always did, took in stride the soft slaps that a baby thinks is petting.

At 9:00 PM, I went in the basement. Phantom was having a seizure. I called The Wife and said, "It's time." We explained to The Six Year Old (he was watching Star Wars III with us) that Phantom was too sick to get better. It was time to say good bye.

Back in 1991, The Mother and I drove my 16 year old cat to the vet. That cat was suffering kidney failure. It was a hard drive. This was part of my childhood that was going away. Last night, one of the first things I shared with The Wife went away.

It's not as hard when you are an adult. You know when you get the animal what it's like to have to say good bye. Also, we still have her brother and The One, Three and Six Year Olds had clearly moved ahead in the pecking order.

But, for ten and a half years, she was part of us. Every day. Unconditionally. We will miss her.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Riding The Roller Coaster

Call me The Bright OneIf there's anyone left who thinks Jay Mariotti is a contrarian, you must visit Tribune columnist Eric Zorn's blog. He goes through 11 months of Jay's dribblings to show how his opinions shift with the winning/losing streaks of the White Sox.

Some faves:

November 17, 2004 --(What Smart fans) want to know is how the Sox plan to win a World Series. Answer: They won't, as long as Reinsdorf and his people own the team. Please sell it.

April 4 -- The Sox will win 84 games and miss the playoffs.

May 15 --(The Sox) have the sweetest rotation in the sport ....And while I'm not about to predict they'll be the first local team in 187 collective seasons to win a World Series, they are built to last deep into September.

June 7 -- I can safely say the Sox won't win a World Series as long as (Jerry Reinsdorf) owns them.

June 21 -- I will state for the record today, on the bosom of Hawk Harrelson, that the Sox are crash-proof in this regular season. You may as well sit back and enjoy the next 31/2 months. They are not going to miss the playoffs. Hear me? The aren't choking. Got that

August 21-- When you see the Sox morph into a limp, feeble club that can't piece together a run, much less win a game -- I mean, is it wrong to mention early similarities to 1969?

September 22 --The Wheeze Sox....aren't good enough to think beyond the next game....So, this dark, doomsday drama inevitably careens toward a final three-game series in Cleveland.

October 27 --What they did, thanks to the feisty leadership of Guillen and foresight of Williams, was write a new blueprint on how baseball might be played in the post-steroids era.

If Jay were in politics, Jon Stewart would lead with him every night.

All Crazy In Chicago

Morning Drive radio time is about to get more interesting with the return of Jonathan Brandmeier to WLUP. Johnny B. was a staple of the high school and post-college days. His teaming with Buzz Killman was great radio, Chet Chit Chat used to be hilarious, and I once nearly crashed into a parked car after hearing a friend of mine get into an on-air fight with Johnny. My friend threatened to sue Johnny over a "Date Recorder" segment on which my friend's voluntarily gave out his home phone number.

Yeah Baby!Will his new show be any good now that Johnny is nearing 50? Will Bruce Wolf still entertain with the lobotomy line on sports? I dunno.

I'm more interested if this will give us more opportunities to see the New Loop Rock Girl, Erica Gustafson. They show plenty of her posing with a few microphones back on WLUP's web site.

Can she live up to the legacy of 1970's original Loop Girl, siren Lorelei Shark? That may be more interesting than Johnny's actual show.
Remember me from Rocky Horror?
I still vote for Lorelei. But Erica has a few things in her favor.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Typo of the Day

This site has more typos in it than Raphael Palmeiro denials. Given that, why not point out the best MSM typo of the day:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Quaker Maid Meats Inc. on Tuesday said it would voluntarily recall 94,400 pounds of frozen ground beef panties that may be contaminated with E. coli.

Comment with your best punchlines. All the ones I can come up with have something to do with salmon.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dusty Proofing

The Daily Herald has some key details on Glendon Rusch's contract.

Rusch will make $2.75 million next year and $3.25 million in 2007, with performance bonuses based on starts that could add $500,000 each year.

Jim Hendry is learning. Dusty Baker's key way of motivating his players is by trying to get them to earn all their bonuses. Dusty doesn't hate rookies per se, but he'll play a veteran over a rookie in order to get that veteran their incentive bonus. Rookies don't generally have those clauses in their contracts.

That's why a Matt Murton sits while a Todd Hollandsworth gets at bats. Holly had a "minimum at bats" bonus. Want to know why LaTroy Hawkins was the closer for so long? He had a bonus for games finished. Ryan Dempster didn't have one of those. Therefore, Dusty gave LaTroy every opportunity to earn that bonus.

It seems Jim Hendry wants Dusty to have Glendon start. Dusty is now properly incentivised. Expect Jerome Williams to work out of the pen or to be trade bait.

Look at This But Not At That

Where's Eric Hipple when I need him?In Sunday's Bears game, the Bears got "screwed" on a bad call by the refs. See, the Lions' Jeff Garcia, about to go down be sacked again, threw the football at no one to try to avoid being tackled. The Bears scooped up the seemingly live ball and ran it into the endzone for an apparent defensive score.

After some grotesque hemming and hawing and lobbying by Steve Mariucci, the refs declared it had not been a lateral pass, but a forward pass. The Lions were penalized for intentional grounding. The Bears lost a replay challenge and a time out.

All day yesterday in the papers, radio and blogs, all you heard about was this play. How the Bears were lucky to overcome this screwjob.

Why the silence on the play in which the Bears got the same break and prevented the Lions from getting a defensive score?

See, no one is talking about the play where Thomas Jones caught a swing pass, took three steps, and then fumbled as he was hit. The refs called that play incomplete. I don't think I saw a word in ANY of the papers about that play.

Selective memories, I guess. How about far and balanced? The Bears got a break and got screwed. It was all moot because the game got to overtime. Therefore, nobody got screwed.

Now, let's see the Bears finish their imitation of the San Diego Padres and worst division in their sport.

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