Tuesday, January 31, 2006
What Does Mr. Market Know?
Tribune earnings are released tomorrow. And TRB has fallen through $29/share.
Anyone want to bet that the Trib announces some restructuring including sale of non-core assets?
After the Rental - Airplane!: Don’t Call Me Shirley Edition
Hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since this movie hit the screen. I first saw it at the Dundee Theater in Omaha, Nebraska on Dodge Street. My great-uncle Dave owned the theater. Not yet being of driving age, my mother drove my sister, my cousin Laura and me over to see it. The three of us sat down in front, not wanting to sit near the parental types.
Of course, the loudest howls of laughter in the theater came from mom. The three of us ducked down, not wanting to be associated with the lunatic that was in uncontrollable hysterics at the sight of Robert Hayes and his "drinking problem."
Afterwards, we asked he if she liked it. "Not really," was her reply.
To this day, she's never lived down that response.
So, Friday night I snatched up a copy and the Wife and I showed it to the Six Year Old. While the joke that the Hari Krishnas "gave at the office" (David Leisure in his pre-Joe Isuzu days) was beyond him, once the heart at the Mayo Clinic started bouncing around the doctor’s desk, he was all over it.
The movie still holds up after all these years. The bulk of the jokes still work as they were deliberately written to be timeless. The Wife and I were still laughing at "We have clearance, Clarence. Roger, Roger, what's your vector, Victor?" That Zucker-Abrams-Zucker chose to parody movies that are classics instead of what was then current (writers of Shrek, please take note) is also a big reason the flick still works.
This edition comes with a commentary track, a pop-up trivia track, and a “long haul” version that interrupts the movie every few minutes or so to show interviews with cast and crew. The interviewees include Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrams, David Zucker, Robert Hayes, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, Lorna Patterson (Randi the stewardess), the little boy who spends all his time in the cockpit, his parents, and Al White and Norman Gibbs aka the two "Jive Dudes." Best anecdote: Graves explaining how a twelve-year-old boy kind of recognized him in a grocery store check-out line. Graves leaned over to him and said, "Have you ever seen a grown man naked?" which resulted in the boy's mother grabbing the boy's hand and yanking him out of the store. Conspicuously absent from the interviews was Julie Haggarty.
One downside to the interviews is that they can only be watched while playing the full movie. There's no way to just see the 30 minutes of interviews by themselves.
The commentary track was terrible. While many of these tracks are pretty bad to begin with, I haven't been that bored since the Anita Bryant concert. How three guys who wrote one of the funniest movies ever could be so dull and bored is beyond me. Maybe the rule for all commentary tracks should be to have a bottle of scotch and a 24-pack of beer in the room.
The only thing really interesting from the commentary was the sad news that "Autopilot" Otto is gone. It seems he rotted in one of the Zucker's garages. Vinyl only lasts so long, I guess.
Rating: Triple for the movie. Single for the special features.
Monday, January 30, 2006
It's Not Easy Staying Green
This may be the most boring week in sports. The only sports news to come out is all Super Bowl blather. Sure, the NHL, NBA and college basketball still have games. But no one I know watches the NBA and the NHL, and college hoops is in that no-longer interesting period that comes between non-conference play and conference tournament time (also known as simply, "conference play").
So, before we get to the next "After the Rental," this interesting tidbit popped up in my in-box.
Strong holiday sales at the State Street store have given Federated Department Stores Inc. bosses second thoughts about their controversial decision to deep-six the Marshall Field's name.
"We are looking for ways to continue the Marshall Field's name and keep the name alive,"says a spokesman ..."
Sounds like someone in New York realized that there was still some equity in the Field's brand.
I've never understood why some companies choose to throw away the value in the name of companies they acquire. My first employer, American National Bank, was absorbed by Bank One and the name was retired. Why wouldn't they just sell the name to another bank? Wouldn't that benefit the shareholders more than simply retiring the name?
Sounds like a smart decision may be forthcoming from Macy's and green Frango boxes may be in our future.
Friday, January 27, 2006
22 for $3.65 Million
Mark Prior avoids arbitration.
The Market Chat Continues
Gotta hand it to the Trib. After four consecutive closes setting a new 52-week low, the stock is up today. Perhaps it’s because of what some major media companies are doing. Look at this.
A major media company is selling its consumer "venue entertainment" division in an effort to focus on core operations.
It’s also interesting that Dan Snyder of the Washington Redskins is prominently mentioned. Why would a sports team owner have interest in an entertainment industry that determines its success by improving the quality of its venues and attracting people to go through the turnstiles? Oh, you mean amusement parks and sports teams have a lot in common?
CBS is exiting consumer "venue entertainment." Crains reported that the Trib could do the same.
It's clear to everyone outside of those that bleed Tribbie ink that the groundwork for a sale of the Cubs is being laid.
Oh, and to the idiotic question that I'm sure someone will ask: "How do we know a new Cubs owner won't be worse than the Tribune?"
How COULD a new owner be worse? In 24 years of ownership, the Cubs have had six general managers (Dallas Green, Jim Frey, Larry Himes, Ed Lynch, Andy MacPhail and Jim Hendry). The Cubs have had 16 field managers (Lee Elia, Charlie Fox, Jim Frey, John Vukovich, Gene Michael, Frank Lucchesi, Don Zimmer, Joe Altobelli, Jim Essian, Jim Lefebvre, Tom Trebelhorn, Jim Riggleman, Don Baylor, Rene Lachman, Bruce Kimm, and Dusty Baker). They have posted teams that have won 3 division titles, and 1 wild card. They have 8 winning seasons and 16 losing seasons including 6 seasons with 90 or more losses.
Under the Trib, the Cubs have failed to make the playoffs at an 83% rate, they have had massive instability in the front office, massive instability in the field management, and a thin pipeline of future talent.
What could a new owner do that's worse?
Yeah, being afraid of the devil you don’t know is such a concern when the devil you know has his pitchfork in your sphincter.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
There will be a lot of chat today about the 20th anniversary of the Chicago Bears win in the Superbowl. I'm sure many of our generation will make this their "Kennedy Moment" and recall exactly where they were for the game (Delta Upsilon fraternity house, Iowa City, IA).
But that's not the anniversary I want to reflect on today. Two days from now will mark 20 years since the space shuttle Challenger exploded claiming the lives of Commander Francis Scobee, Michael Smith , Judy Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe.
That was my "Kennedy Moment." I was getting dressed for class when someone ran down the dorm hall and yelled, "The space shuttle blew up!" All we had was a black and white TV in the room. We turned it on and all we could see was a still frame of the fireball.
To say that we quickly forgot about the thrill of a football title would be an understatement.
We later studied the incident as part of my MBA program. We learned about the management screwups at Morton Thiokol that cost seven lives, billions of dollars, and an incalculable amount of corporate reputation.
If you recall the specifics, the Challenger launch was delayed several times, once because of accommodations to Vice President George Bush’s schedule, once because of a hatch problem, and once because of cold weather. Cold weather was known to cause problems with the O-ring seals on the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters. These problems were noticed in a 1985 flight that was launched in extremely cold weather for Florida.
The 1986 Challenger flight saw temperatures as low as 8°F the night before the launch. The next morning, engineers at Thiokol were all against the launch, but management wanted a thumbs up. After ongoing debate, a senior executive at Thiokol, Jerald Mason, said that a management decision was required. Mason said to Bob Lund, VP of Engineering, "Take off your engineering hat and put on your management hat." The engineers changed their opinion from against a launch to launch recommended due to inconclusive data. This "engineering assessment" was given despite no engineers having part in writing the recommendation and with their refusal to sign it.
A few hours later, Challenger was destroyed.
A full accounting of the story can be found here.
In the 20 years since, the human flight space program has never fully recovered. The space station sits in need of a purpose. The shuttle fleet is grounded again having only 1 successful launch after Columbia was destroyed. Talk of manned missions back to the moon and to Mars is just so much pie in the sky. It's too bad, really.
There is something majestic and awe inspiring about manned space flight. People like Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Gus Grissom, John Young, Jim Lovell, Deke Slayton and all the other astronauts of that era were truly heroes. They showed us we are only limited by our imagination.
They may not have brought a smile to your face the way William Perry did, but they were more deserving of our admiration.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
More Interesting Than Just Ivy
Yes, this blog is turning into Market Chat. Didja see the announcement today from CBS, Warner Brothers and Tribune? It seems that the WB and UPN will each cease independent operations and merge into a new, single network called CW.
Ignoring how stupid of a name that is, the side story to this is that Tribune Broadcasting has agreed to a 10-year contract which calls for Trib owned stations to carry CW shows. The details are still to be announced, but this could mean that the Trib could switch KCPQ (Seattle), KTXL Sacramento, WXIN (Indianapolis), WTIC (Hartford), WXMI (Grand Rapids), and WPMT (Harrisburg) from Fox affiliation to WC.
But what does this have to do with the Cubs? Well, with all that content to show on WGN now in the evenings, starting at 7 PM Central time, wouldn't such a contract preclude WGN from showing Cubs games and force them to show Smallville, Everwood, and Veronica Mars?
And with the Cubs gradually INCREASING the number of night games (the bulk of which will be on weeknights), that means fewer games on WGN, right? Doesn't that further reduce the synergy of owning the team and a station to broadcast the games on if you have to reduce the number of games broadcast?
It certainly looks like the starts are aligning for a sale at 1060 West Addison. And that will be good for fans.
Yes, a new owner could do worse than the Trib, but the Trib offers no upside of desiring a winner over profits. That minimizes the chance to win. New ownership offers something that the Trib refuses to give its fans now.
Monday, January 23, 2006
From Wall Street today:
NASDAQ Index: +0.77
S&P 500: +2.33
Dow Jones Industrials: +21.38
NYSE Index +51.65
S&P 500 +2.33
Russell 2000 +3.22
Good day for the market.
Oh? Trib was down $0.15 to a new 52-week low? I guess we can't ascribe Tribco's loss to anything but this.
Anyone have an opinion, now that the stock has closed below the psychological threshold of $30, that the auto trades have been cleared out and there's more room for the stock to fall?
Thank God It's Over
Check this carefully worded statement:
"It's clear that the episode at the United Center last week, and its aftermath, evolved from some misunderstandings. This has produced regrets from all parties involved. Common sense strongly suggests that we collectively put this episode behind us and move on. That's what the Davises and Michael Axelrod plan to do, and we hope everyone else will, as well."
Sounds like the Davises got off easy. And, given WSCR's report that Kendra Davis was involved in a traffic incident that included her throwing a cup of coffee at another driver, sounds like the Davises got of REALLY EASY!
Friday, January 20, 2006
Anyone see this? Tribune Company stock slipped $0.77 to $30.05 today, right at its 52-week low. This follows a $0.99 drop yesterday, and a 28% decrease over all of 2005. The Trib cited the following reasons for the drop:
Revenue from newspapers was down 4.2% due to the timing of Christmas on Sunday (fewer ad buys cost $6mm in revenue) and the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma in Florida.
Advertising revenue in the publishing division fell 4.5% including a 5.2% decrease in retail ad revenue and a 9.6% decline in national ad revenue, mainly at the Los Angeles Times.
Circulation revenue was down 3.5% from volume declines at most of its newspapers.
Broadcasting and entertainment group revenue (the group that includes the Cubs) in December declined 11.9% with television revenue down 10.1% on weak ad revenue in most markets.
So, with all this coming down the pike, anyone think that a sale of the Cubs is more or less likely?
If management decides that the company needs to "focus on core business" to turn around that area's performance, it's very possible, even probable that the Cubs would be sold. Given the Crain's articles and other sources discussing a possible sale, and given the Cubs' penchant for tipping their hand about future moves, I'd venture that it's no worse than 50-50 that the Chicago National League Ball Club has a new owner this time next year.
As this page suggested, it might even explain Andy MacPhail backing off contract extensions for Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker in an attempt to not saddle a new owner with sunk costs.
With the expected firing of morning bores Marc Silverman and Carmen DeFalco from their jobs talk show hosts at ESPN 1000, now seems to be a good time to rate them (TV and radio) from 1 to 14. For the sake of including Pat Foley, we'll include the Blackhawks. The rankings are:
1) Tom Thayer - Tom may not have the most color or flair, but he does praise what needs to be praised and does call things out when they should be called out. What's sad is that mere competence places you at the top of the list. This is CHICAGO, the #3 media market and #2 sports market IN THE COUNTRY. We should have excellent announcers, not simply decent.
2) Pat Foley - He's actually better than Thayer. Much better. In fact, he's the best play-by-play man this town has had since the exit of Jim Durham. The only thing that prevents him from being #1 is that no one ever listens to him. Got an issue with me, Pat? Take it up with the Wirtz's.
3) Pat Hughes - While he does a solid job, what's missing from his work is something that we were reminded of last summer when WGN replayed Harry Caray and the "Sandberg Game." When the Cubs played poorly, Harry got angry and disgusted. He emulated our feelings. Pat can only seem to muster sadness. I want to hear someone as frustrated as I am. That's not Pat.
4) Bob Brenley - Wasn't very good at the beginning. Got more and more critically analytical as he grew back into the job. And as the teamed deserved the criticism.
5) Len Kasper - Gives a solid call of the game and is a fan of Desipio. He seems to "get" the purpose of his job: Describe the game and not promote himself. That said, he comes off as a standard rent-a-mouth broadcaster. He's also younger than me. That gives him time to grow into the job. Here's hoping he does.
6) Darrin Jackson - Was Len Kasper at one time. Never developed.
7) Ed Farmer - Broadcasts in monotone run on sentences. Maybe he could be a writer here. He's bad. John Rooney will be missed.
8) Tom Dore - His picture is in the dictionary next to "Bland."
9) Johnny Kerr - Used to be amusing. Now just boring. Adds nothing to the game unless the game is good. And Bulls games generally aren't.
10) Ken Harrelson - Would be better if he wasn't always personalizing his attacks on other broadcasters. Instead of coming off as an elder statesman of the medium, he comes off as a bitter, washed up dud who blew his chance as a GM and never moved up to the Big Time in broadcasting.
11) Jeff Joniak - His high pitched, whinny voice would be tolerable if he had anything to say. Can't paint a picture of anything. The call of Nate Vasher's field goal return for a TD consisted of, "Vasher at the 20... Vasher at the 30... Vasher at the 40! Vasher at the 30! Vasher in for the TD!" How about a picture, Jeff? Anyone with him? Sideline, down the middle, making moves? Anything, Jeff?
12) Neil Funk - Lost out to Tom Dore for picture rights in Merriam Webster.
13) Bill Wennington - Scientists have finally discovered the cause of the mysterious jumps in time that radio listeners have noticed between Neil Funk's descriptions of the play-by-play of Bulls games. These "time hops" are actually filled with Bill Wennington's voice.
14) Ron Santo - This page's love of Santo the player and distaste of Santo the broadcaster is well documented.
Inc.) Chris Singleton - Just hired. We'll see
Inc.) I hear the Blackhawks actually have a color broadcaster. Unless it's Darrin Pang or Dale Talon, I have no idea who it is.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
By now you've probably heard that Nathan Mallett
is going to jail for three days after running on to the field at last month's Steelers-Browns game.
What's interesting is that Mallett won't be allowed to watch the Super Bowl on TV or listen to it on the radio.
Here's a better idea.
If the Steelers make the Super Bowl, Mallet should be given the Ludivico treatment and be FORCED to watch the game.
Hell. Good enough for Stanley Kubrick and Malcom McDowell, good enough for some mullet head from Cleveland.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Five Cubs are headed towards arbitration. The concern here is not that these players will actually get to hearings, nor is the concern that they will get "too much money." (Aside: this page hopes the players get the most they can possibly get instead of letting the Trib pocket the cash) No, the real concern is that management will use the raises these players receive as an excuse to avoid spending more money later.
To sum up the demands:
- Carlos Zambrano has asked for $7.2 million while the Cubs have countered with $6 million.
- Mark Prior has asked for $4 million while the Cubs have countered with $3.3 million.
- Juan Pierre has asked for $6.5 million while the Cubs have countered with $5 million.
- Jerry Hairston has asked for $2.6 million while the Cubs have countered with $1.95 million.
- Will Ohman has asked for $775,000 while the Cubs have countered with $500,000.
In short, the Cubs are looking at close to $19 million for these five players. That would bring the 2006 payroll to close to $100 million. Just as we estimated.
Doesn't that mean that the Cubs are out of money until July? I guess patience is subject to a self-imposed salary cap.
Ask and Ye Shall Receive
Carlos Bernard and his Cubs Mug from "24."
I've got nuthin'.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
The Jack Bauer Power Hour Retuns
Thank God there's meaningless TV to watch again. I mean, more meaningless than the Bears and the 2006 Cubs. "24" at least is good popcorn fun. So many questions. And I've got one good (relatively well known) spoiler.
So, four people knew Jack was alive: President Palmer, Tony Almeida, Michelle Dessler, and Chloe O'Brian. Palmer and Michelle are dead. Tony's in surgery. Chloe's as straight as a Kyle Farnsworth fastball. Who blabbed?
I see Carlos Bernard managed to work his Cubs mug into his one scene.
Kim Raver is very pointy.
Is it US Government protocol to store nerve gas inside public airports?
Hobbit cannot run a counter-terrorism unit.
Why does Nathanson want to frame Bauer? Aren't there easier targets?
Despite the plot holes, 24 is still the most fun show on TV. And it gets even better in a few weeks when Kim shows up...
Yes, Elisha Cuthbert will be back!
No world on the cougar.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
That Was Fast
You've gotta like it when you have the family all settled in for an afternoon of playoff football. Some sweet and sour meatballs are ready. A pizza is in the oven. Some chili is ready to slurp down. And some Costo caramel apple pie and carrot cake left over from the Giving of the Hebrew Name to the Little Girl last night to finish it off.
And then, 75 seconds later, the football game is over and all that's left to do is eat.
I thought there was a possibility that the Bears could get blown out. I figured it would happen if Jones fumbled twice and Grossman threw three picks.
I never figured it would happen on 430 yards of offense. And if anyone wants to point Brad Maynard which way is forward, before next season would be nice.
We sat here all afternoon trying to decide if we had seen a team that came in so overconfident that they laid an egg or if we saw a team that was as fraudulent as the 2001 team. Perhaps a little of both. But what do you take away when your opponent is down to their #3 running back?
Ah, well. 30 days to spring training. Another 90 for Dusty to get launched. Things to look forward to.
You're nuts if you think sitting the starters hurt them. They lost this one in their heads. The Minny ha ha game was irrelevant.
What's the line on Ron Rivera getting a head coaching job now?
Hey Lovie. Down 8 with 3 minutes to play, how about some hurry up offense? Even if you get the TD, if you miss the conversion, don't you need some time to go onside and get the field goal? Or were you that afraid of letting your defense back on the field?
Saturday, January 14, 2006
It's Been A Long Time
20 years plus three days ago, I kneeled in my basement and painted a bedsheet:
23 YEARS OF MISERY ARE ENDING!
SUPERBOWL XX HERE WE COME!
The date was January 11, 1986. The Bears were hosting the Los Angeles Rams the next day in the NFC Championship game. Two of my friends and I were going to Soldier Field to scalp some tickets.
I was a freshman in college then. The concept of 1963 seemed as remote as 1776.
Let's just say that 1986 doesn't look like 1776 in the rear view mirror.
Tomorrow, the Bears play the biggest game they've played since that date. Yeah, January 26, 1986 was the Super Bowl, but it was anti-climactic. That NFC Title game was the real game. With the snow flakes, and Wilbur Marshall laying out Barry Redden, and Marshall picking up Dieter Brock's fumble, that was the game that still makes the real Bear fan well up.
This 2006 team only is missing the one thing 1985 had: Inevitability.
I dunno if this team will win tomorrow. I know I will be extremely disappointed if they lose. In 2001, the team was a fraud. We knew they were ripe to not just lose, but be blown out. They lived up to expectations.
This 2006 edition is expected to win.
Go win it, guys.
P.S. I still have the banner and we didn't get in the stadium. We ended up watching the game from a pizza joint.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
On The Couch
Yesterday, Greg Couch went to town on Jim Hendry. This page's opinion of Jim has ranged from warm support (acquisitions of Nomar and Lee) to down right disgust at times (failure to add to bullpens in 2003 and 2004, passing on Tejada, Thome, Beltran, and holding on to prospects too long). Well, Couch summed up WHY frustrations are felt with Hendry. And he paralleled Hendry's work with that on the South Side of Chicago:
Over the years, the Sox took significant chances, failed, took significant chances, failed, took significant chances, won the World Series.
The Cubs signed Jacque Jones, didn't want to overpay for Furcal, didn't want to give up too much for Tejada or lose those hot prospects.
The Sox blow all their prospects in an attempt to win now, now, now and again. And the Cubs? They sing the same tunes:
Don't want to overpay. Don't want to lose prospects. And darn the luck, they finished second in the running for the big deal.
They didn't get Furcal because they didn't want to overpay? They are still below last year's payroll and also have a huge new revenue stream in the expanded bleachers.
Jim, when are you going to spend the money?
"We're in a situation where if the right opportunity comes along, we can still...''
Cubs fans already can finish that sentence.
The Cubs still have money to spend and prospects in hand. And the Sox have a World Series. The Cubs' true colors stand out even more now with the Sox as the background.
This is the real point of why Jim Hendry's reign is looking more and more like a failure. This page has called it the "gutsy move." Jim never really made one until this year with the acquisition of Juan Pierre, and the overpayment there was more likely do to having to makeup for the Furcal Fiasco than truly being aggressive in getting Pierre.
What's really scary is that Andy MacPhail is letting Hendry continue to run the ship without a contract extension. Despite asking a really stupid question in his column today, ("skeptics should ask themselves this: Who were the last GM and manager to have the Cubs within five outs of the World Series?" Answer: Who were the last GM and manager to blow leads in two consecutive years and then waste the highest payroll in team history on a sub-.500 team?), Mike Kiley correctly notes:
What the situation seems to demand is a forceful stand by Tribune Co. bosses. Go ahead and give Hendry and Baker their extensions in February or March, before the season gets under way, so that the leadership will be viewed as setting a tone.
That's a far more courageous approach than delaying the extensions until any public furor can be muted by tacking them on to a winning streak. If you like this team -- and many critics don't -- say so by rewarding Hendry and Baker now.
Well, courage doesn't mesh very well with TV ratings and profits.
More importantly than the message a contract extension would send, does Andy MacPhail really want a GM with a short-term time horizon (and desperate to save his job) holding the keys to the long-term needs of the organization? Isn't a desperate GM more likely to do something crazy, like trade a Felix Pie for a Kevin Mench? Or sign a Jacque Jones for three years?
Dusty Baker aside, Andy MacPhail needs to resign Hendry now or let him go. In fact, this should have been done months ago.
In this page's opinion, Hendry should not be retained. However, so long as Andy MacPhail stays in the president's seat, keeping or firing Hendry is irrelevant. This page has a severe lack of trust in Andy MacPhail's ability to hire the appropriate GM.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Keeping Costs Low
On the day Jacque Jones was introduced to the local media (which included a live berating of Jones by WSCR's Mike Murphy), all the questions were directed at the future of the Cubs brain trust. Will Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker get contract extensions? Well...
Hendry ... closed the door on questions regarding a contract extension for manager Dusty Baker. "It's not a topic I want to get into now or in spring training," Hendry said. "I haven't given it a thought."
Hendry likely won't discuss an extension for Baker until he gets one himself. Both are in the final years of their contracts, although Hendry is considered a good bet to return, while Baker's future is murkier.
And look who made an appearance:
Cubs president Andy MacPhail said Tuesday he will consider during spring training whether to give general manager Jim Hendry a contract extension before deciding at a later date when to make the expected commitment.
So, why the hemming and hawing? Why the delays? You'd think that Andy MacPhail would be in a hurry to lock in Jim Hendry. After all, if Hendry goes, that would put MacPhail on his fourth general manager, with the preceding three all fired (as opposed to quit/retired). If you are keeping score at home, the three would be Ed Lynch, Andy MacPhail, and Jim Hendry.
Not many bosses can survive replacing three operations managers before the board of directors hires someone else to pick the operations manager. Given that, you'd think Andy would want to lock up Hendry fast and be able to say that he has the right guy. And that would lead Hendry to extend Baker so that Hendry would be able to say that he has the right guy as well.
Let's widen the field of view. Is there any reason Andy MacPhail might want to avoid long term contracts in the Cubs management?
There is one.
There is a circumstance, one that has been discussed in high profile media reports, which would make a strong case for the Cubs not to have huge dollars committed to management.
That would be if the Cubs were sold.
One strategy before selling is to reduce costs and allow a new owner to assume an unburdened asset. Any new owner is going to want to hire his own management team. And that owner is not going to want to be burdened with the cost of eating service contracts for management he doesn't want. Nor would the Tribune look to reduce the selling price for the team because of another $15 million to $25 million committed to a lame duck GM, front office, and field management. Not extending Hendry means not extending Baker which means not having $15 million to $25 million in cost to employees that a new owner will not retain.
With all the reports in Crains and other sources about the Trib looking to divest non-core assets, the actions reported today only further the notion that the real estate at 1060 West Addison is for sale.
And, if the Trib needs a good 1031 Exchange partner, please e-mail me.
After the Rental - Wedding Crashers
Call me old, call me humorless, call me anything you like, but so help me, I don't see why this movie was such a hit. Sure, the first thirty to forty minutes were hilarious. The opening montage of the five weddings was as funny as anything on screen in a long time.
But after that? Eh...
Vince Vaughn digressed back into what he always is of late: Fast talking and angry. I guess since the diner scene at the end of Swingers, all Vince can do is the smug-hostile thing. Hell, that's all he did in Made.
Isla Fisher may have been the best part of the whole movie. Her insane red head bit was probably the funniest stuff in the last half of the movie. Rachel McAdams was OK, but the part kind of limited her. She was much better in Mean Girls. And she's prettier as a blonde.
Owen Wilson was flat, but that's his schitck, right?
Perhaps what finally killed the movie was Chazz. Can anyone explain WHY Will Farrell is considered funny? His whole act is Adam Sandler's, only taller with curly hair. And much less funny. Which is a good trick!
Frankly, I think this movie is an example of what low expectations we all have for movies. Twenty years ago was the age of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Fletch, Stripes, Animal House, Naked Gun, Risky Business. Those were movies that were funny from start to finish.
When was the last time a movie as good as those hit the screens? American Pie? Decent, but not even close to the ones listed above. Comedies, and movies in general, have gotten so bad that when a decent one comes out, its stature is elevated above what it should be. Look at the drooling over Lord of the Rings. That trilogy consisted of three good movies that had great moments at times. But are any of them or the three collectively among the greatest ever? Please...
Perhaps if Hollywood focused on the comedy writing first and the casting second (clearly the motivation behind this project was, "Let's get Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn on screen -- anyone got any ideas how?"), movies would be better than they have been the last 15 years. Had Wedding Crashers been released at the same time as Porky's, it would have been ignored as much as Private Lessons.
Ivy Chat score: Single, out trying to stretch into a double.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
So, Bruce Sutter, my second favorite player of my youth, finally got in the Hall of Fame. Good. Well deserved. For 2 years, he was the best player in the game.
So what that he is the only pitcher in the Hall that never started a game? If Dennis Eckersley is in, then so should Sutter.
My only regret is sharing the pleasure of Sutter's election with Cardinal fans.
Now, we only need the see my favorite player from my youth get in the Hall. Perhaps if he stopped broadcasting Cubs games on the radio....
Monday, January 09, 2006
So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good Night!
Yes, he's gone. And while the champagne bottles are popping here at Ivy Chat HQ, today's celebration needs to be tempered by another realization. This is not a moment of victory, but a moment to acknowledge another colossal failure by the Chicago National League Ballclub.
Corey Patterson was to be a cornerstone of the franchise for the first decade of the 21st century. He was going to be a new breed of Cub in the Alex Rodriguez mold: Speed, power, defense. Instead, he became the poster boy for everything wrong with professional sports today: Expectations of immediate return on investment, failure to teach, and ego.
Corey leaves Chicago as a prime example of how NOT to promote a young player AND as a prime example of how NOT to behave as a young player for whom everything came easy at the amateur level.
There is more to see about this deal. Like, "Do the Cubs have to pay any of his 2006 salary?" The final punctuation on this story may not be written for a few days to come.
All that said, "WHOOPIE!!!!!"
The New Guys
Welcome to Nate Spears and Carlos Perez. You guys could never play an inning at any level and you could be the two most welcome players the Cubs add this year.
Year Age Level G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO Avg Obp Slg Ops
2003 18 Rk 56 180 38 52 7 5 1 19 18 5 40 32 .289 .427 .400 827
2004 19 A 97 371 50 102 12 11 5 37 7 6 47 63 .275 .358 .407 765
2005 20 A 112 445 63 131 30 6 6 41 8 4 36 82 .294 .349 .429 778
Totals: 3 yrs 265 996 151 285 49 22 12 97 33 15 123 177 .286 --- .416 ---
Year Age Level W L ERA G GS CG GF IP H R ER HR BB SO
2000 18 Rk 3 6 3.39 12 11 0 0 63.2 56 35 24 1 42 51
2002 20 Rk 2 2 2.63 12 5 0 0 37.2 35 18 11 2 17 32
2003 21 Rk 5 5 2.01 12 11 0 1 58.1 52 23 13 4 11 58
2004 22 A 3 5 3.53 15 14 0 0 79.0 67 41 31 7 28 77
2004 22 AAA 0 0 36.00 1 0 0 0 1.0 4 4 4 1 1 1
2005 23 A 11 8 4.28 27 27 0 0 151.1 168 84 72 10 61 146
Totals: 5 yrs 24 26 3.57 79 68 0 0 1 0 391.0 382 205 155 25 160
Korey is gone. And with him, the moniker "Korey."
The Chicago Cubs on Monday dealt the center fielder to the Baltimore Orioles for two Minor League players, shortstop Nate Spears and left-handed pitcher Carlos Perez.
More in a while...
Ivy Chat gets it's first mention in a mainstream report. And it's regarding the Minnesota Vikings.
This site is now forever linked with The Huffington Post, Shelly the Republican, Firedoglake, Hullabaloo, Residual Forces, and Blog of the Moderate Left.
I'll bet they all feel like taking a shower today.
Voice of the People
Over at the World Wide Leader In Pay for Web Access to Useless Sports Commentary, they are running a poll on this week's Bear-Panther tilt. At the time I voted, I was in agreement with the majority on all but question 11.
1) Which team will win Sunday's game in Chicago?
62.3% Chicago Bears
37.7% Carolina Panthers
2) How many points do you think it will take to win this game?
16.2% More than 20
9.3% Fewer than 10
3) Which team will get the best of it when Chicago has the ball?
65.9% Carolina defense
34.1% Chicago offense
4) Which team will get the best of it when Carolina has the ball?
80.2% Chicago defense
19.8% Carolina offense
5) Which quarterback would you rather have?
75.6% Jake Delhomme
24.4% Rex Grossman
6) Which running back would you rather have carrying the ball 25 times?
57.8% Thomas Jones
42.2% DeShaun Foster
7) Which star would you rather have anchoring your defense?
75.5% Brian Urlacher
24.5% Julius Peppers
8) Which secondary makes like tougher for opposing quarterbacks?
73.3% Chicago: Nathan Vasher, Charles Tillman, Mike Brown, Chris Harris
26.7% Carolina: Ken Lucas, Chris Gamble, Marlon McCree, Mike Minter
9) How much better is Chicago's offense with Rex Grossman at QB than it was with Kyle Orton at QB?
54.0% Significantly better
36.4% Slightly better
9.6% No real difference
10) Which coach would you rather have preparing your team for a playoff game?
52.8% Lovie Smith
47.2% John Fox
11) On a scale of one to five, with five being the toughest, how tough a place to play is Chicago?
Total Votes: 40,217
Until proven differently, Soldier Field is a very weak home field advantage for the Bears. Since 1985, they've won two home playoff games and lost four. Bear Weather has shown itself to be a myth of Loch Nessian proportions. The new stadium seats fewer fans than the old configuration. I'd have to think (I have not been to the flying saucer yet) the noise factor is lower than at the old place.
Why would anyone think that Chicago is a tough place to play?
Sunday, January 08, 2006
Looking at the results from this weekend's slate of NFL games, something stood out about the winners and losers.
Here were the postseason records of each of the starting quarterbacks entering this weekend's games:
Tom Brady - 9-0
Mark Brunell - 4-4
Jake Delhomme - 3-1
Byron Leftwich - 0-0
Eli Manning - 0-0
Carson Palmer - 0-0
Ben Roethlisberger - 1-1
Chris Simms - 0-0
Anyone want to guess what the four losing QBs had in common?
Now, is anyone scared when they see Rex Grossman's record?
By the way. The early forecast for Sunday is 55 degrees. Not even Bear Weather.
This is gonna be a short fingernail week.
If you read the Tribune today, you may have noticed an advertisement for next weekend's Cubs Convention. It listed the titles of the activities scheduled. Ivy Chat is pleased to provide exclusive details as to the actual subject matter of the events.
All set against another gratuitous picture of Denise Richards.
Friday, January 13:
5:00-5:30 pm: Opening Ceremonies (Rehersal for 2016 Summer Olympics)
6:00-6:45 pm: Autograph Hunt Game (First one with Sharon Panazzo wins)
7:00-9:00 pm: SportsCentral Live (Win a prize if you can get Jim Memelo to curse on the air)
7:00-8:30 pm: Cubs Bingo (Winner of "Cover-All" game gets 10 minutes to explain to Dusty Baker that Neifi Perez stinks)
Saturday, January 14:
9:00-10:00 am: Meet Cubs Baseball Management (Your last chance to say "Good Bye" before the purge)
9:00-10:00 am: What's Up Doc? (Learn the pitching staff's 2006 "Tommy John Disease" surgical schedule)
9:30-10:30 am: Cubs Jeopardy! (Not a game. An analysis of the position Andy MacPhail's job will be in should the team finish under .500)
10:00-11:00 am: The Kids Interactive Room Challenge (Matt Murton breaks down the swing of John Mabry)
10:30-11:30 am: Not For Women Only (Picking up singles at Wrigley)
10:30-11:30 am: Celebrating 20 Years of Vine Line
11:30 am-12:30 pm: The Skipper and His Crew (See Dusty Baker call Larry Rothschild "Perfessor")
11:30 am-12:30 pm: Hitting Clinic (Hosted by Carlos Zambrano)
12:00-1:00 pm: "27 Outs" (An in-depth review of Corey Patterson's first 30 at bats of 2005)
12:30-1:30 pm: World Baseball Classic (Sponsored by the Cuban Sugar Growers Association)
1:00-2:00 pm: Covering the Ivy (Cubs' Operations VP Mark McGuire's backup plan had the green screens obscuring the rooftop views failed)
1:30-2:30 pm: Voices of the Cubs (Harry Caray gives a clinic from beyond the grave on how to announce without sucking up to the Tribune Corporation)
2:30-3:30 pm: A Collection of All-Stars (Special appearance by the New York Yankees)
3:00-4:00 pm: Wheelchair Cubs (A remembrance of the 1945 Cubs)
3:00-4:00 pm: For Kids Only Press Conference (Darren Baker answers questions about his T-Ball team)
3:00-4:00 pm: WGN-TV (Guests include Holly Marie Combs, Kristin Kreuk and three "Beauties" -- Geeks already in attendance)
4:00-5:00 pm: How do you Spell Relief? (T-O-M-K-E-L-L-Y)
4:30-5:30 pm: Pitching Clinic (Special appearance by the Chicago White Sox)
8:00-midnight: Rock & Roll Revue ($5 beers and well drinks to make you forget how much you paid to revere a fourth place team)
Sunday, January 15
9:00-10:00 am: Meet Cubs Business Management (No questions about finances, ticket prices, Premium Tickets, MLB.com IPOs, please)
9:30-10:30 am: The Kids Interactive Room Challenge (Kids steal home as Michael Barrett lobs balls into a simulated outfield)
10:30-11:30 am: Down on the Farm (Learn where Cubs prospects have been disappearing the last 12 years)
Friday, January 06, 2006
"You're the pride of Chicago..."
He was one of my dad's favorite musicians. Great stuff. Gotta go find those albums again. And a turntable.
Korey For Nuthin' And Your Chicks For Free
Rumors abound that Korey is about to be traded to the Orioles for a prospect who would not be one of the O's "top five or so prospects."
So, with the options of getting a low ceiling prospect for Korey and risking keeping him at a salary of about $3 million, OR non-tendering Korey and letting him just go away, Jim Hendry chose the riskier option.
Instead of suggesting that this is dumb on so many levels, we give you a cheap thrill with this pic of the newly, officially single, Chicago suburb native Denise Richards.
I don't care how some people think she got her career. And that is how she met her ex-husband, Charlie Sheen. Or that she may have been the worst "Bond Girl" ever. Or that her eyebrows were scarier than the bugs in Starship Troopers.
I just care that she makes people ignore how bad the writing is on this blog for a few seconds.
The Cub world seems to be all wound up about Mark Prior exercising his contract option and electing to go to arbitration this year. Did Jim Hendry piss Prior off by allowing Prior's name to be dragged around in Miguel Tejada trade rumors? Does Mark Prior want to head back to the West Coast when he becomes eligible for free agency and this is a way to express his displeasure?
Let's look at Prior's original contract.
Prior signed his original deal in late 2001 for the 2002 season. At that time, he signed a four year deal guaranteeing him about $10 million over the four years. While that seems to be expensive for a draft deal, note that it covers the first year of arbitration -- year 4.
Part of the deal was, that if Prior earned enough major league service time before the contract was concluded, he could void the contract and go to arbitration. In other words, just because the Cubs and Prior signed a long term deal, the Cubs were not going to prevent Prior from going to arbitration, and earning a big payday, as soon as he was eligible.
The contract was a great hedge for Prior. He was locked into $10 million even if his career was a failure. But, if he progressed through the minors rapidly, he wouldn't have to finish his rookie deal to get the big arbitration dollars.
This decision by Prior has nothing to do with any current events. Voiding the contract and going to arbitration now was something Prior planned to do the minute he signed in 2001.
While Prior may indeed be pissed, may want to go to the West Coast, may be fed up with the Cubs, etc., this decision is not indicative of his feeling in any way other than his desire to maximize his career earnings.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
The "big news" of the day is that the Orioles have rejected a Tejada for Clement and Ramirez deal as insufficient.
But the back story is much more amusing.
It seems that Jeromy Burnitz backed out of signing with Baltimore, and two years guaranteed money, over contractual medical reporting language:
Howard Simon, Burnitz's agent, confirmed that the Orioles had made the best offer with the two guaranteed years. However, Simon objected to certain language in the Orioles' contract regarding the physical that players must take before the signing becomes official.
I can't begin to guess what that even means other than there is a clause that states, "Player must pee in a cup on demand."
The Orioles proceeded to do the right thing. They called Burnitz directly. He slammed them back:
They also spoke directly to Burnitz, who told the club that he backed out of the deal for family reasons. The Pirates make more trips to California, where Burnitz was born and where his family is.
So, let me get this straight. Burnitz gave up $6 million because the Pirates make 3 California trips per year (San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco) versus Baltimore's 2 (Los Angeles, Oakland)?
Dunno about anyone else, but if it's worth $6 million to spend three days in San Diego, I'm living in the wrong city.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Separated At Birth
Laura Quinn, Age 22.
Using computer modeling, Ivy Chat has projected what she'll look like at age 45:
And at 65:
...with another Kerry Wood won't be ready story in the paper, will anyone foolish enough to waste their time (and dollars) at the Cubs Convention have the stones to ask Jim Hendry if allowing Wood to pitch in a meaningless August was a smart thing?
...and the Mike Tice firing was just brilliant. Zygi Wilf wasn't even interested in sharing a podium with this man. That's a smart business decision for Wilf. After all, Tice let his players run wild with cruises and Whizzinators. Those actions only cost Wilf a few hundred million dollars in stadium finance. All that and people still think Wilf should have fired Tice with a press conference and a podium? A memo showed the world (and the Minnesota state legislature) that Tice got what he deserved -- a kick out the door and nothing else.
...so Dave Kaplan's sources say that the Cubs for Tejada deal is not only not dead, but that Mike Flanagan is pushing Baltimore owner Peter Angelos for the kind of deal the Cubs could actually win. Flanagan knows the Orioles are no better than fourth place with Tejada given the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays. Getting a Mark Prior doesn't help. And with attendance is down by over 1 million fans since 1997, one player isn't going to bring fans back. Winning will. Kaplan says that Flanagan wants to trade Tejada for four top prospects. Now, the trick will be getting Angelos to agree.
...the ultimate irony is, of course, had the Cubs ever done such a dump back five or six years ago, they'd be a much better team right now. But, like Angelos, Andy MacPhail is afraid that the lack of a marquee name would result in lower attendance and lower profits. The further irony is that it's probably time for the Cubs to do what they want the Orioles to do.
Hell. Tradng vets for lotsa young talent has worked for Florida twice.
Monday, January 02, 2006
While the Bears await final playoff scheduling, their 2006 regular season schedule has been released:
Home: Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins.
Away: Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, New York Giants, New England Patriots, New York Jets.
Early prediction: 11-5. Sweeps of GB and Detroit, a spilt with the Vikes. Wins over San Fran, Buffalo, Miami, Cardinals, Rams and Jets.
As to the remaining games this year, I think there are only two teams the Bears cannot beat in the playoffs: New England and Indianapolis.
In the NFC, they can beat and can be beat by anyone. I don't see them winning at Seattle, but it wouldn't surprise me. I can't see them losing at home to anyone other than maybe Washington or New York behind a nova-hot Eli Manning. And Manning hasn't been nova-hot.
Best road to Detroit:
Washington over Tampa.
Giants over Carolina.
Washington over Seattle.
Bears over Giants.
Bears over Washington.
For whatever reason, a rematch against Carolina is the more foreboding. I have no idea way.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Two articles in two papers focus on the two big names on Cubs fans' lips: Mark Prior and Miguel Tejada.
In the Tribune, Phil Rodgers makes two salient points in a mostly lucid column. First, he states that Tejada will be traded. Given, Miggy's recent outburt, he likely will. Good for Miggy for mouthing off. Had Mark Grace been a little more vocal like this, perhaps the Cubs might have been pushed to improve the team. Instead, Grace was happy to smile and collect checks.
Miggy ain't that. He wants to win. Bully!
Rogers other key point was this:
No team needs Tejada more than the Cubs, but it's hard to imagine they are going to get a deal done
Bingo. The only glimmer is Hendry's acquisition of Garciaparra. In that case, Hendry got a guy who was on the outs with his current team. The player in question also had very questionable health. Not the case with Tejada.
Being realistic, you have to think that this second chance to get Tejada will be blown by the Cubs. And so would go 2006.
The other article was a Sun Times piece on Mark Prior. It seems that, despite the trade talk, he's going to the Cubs Convention.
I guess we finally see the tremendous downside of being a professional ballplayer for the Chicago Cubs.
May your best day of 2005 be your worst day in 2006.
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