Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Henry Blake's Secretary Has Learned...
From Radar Online:
Mark Cuban in Megabucks Bid for Cubs
Billionaire blogger Mark Cuban is more serious about buying a major league baseball team than he's been letting on. The tech entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner is set to offer $625 million to buy the Chicago Cubs from Tribune Co., according to a source familiar with the matter. "Mark is desperate to buy the Cubs," says the source. "He wants this so bad."
Wish lister #1. I may even hope the Mavericks win.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
With Ron Santo being excluded from the Hall of Fame once again, perhaps he can finally realize a few things:
1) He’s pretty damn lucky he didn’t get in. Beyond the fact that his exclusion has kept him very high profile, it’s also kept him employed. Given how awful of a broadcaster he is, WGN probably would have replaced him long ago had Santo been elected. But having him on every game keeps the controversy alive.
2) To listen to Ron continue to beg for induction is downright insulting to Cub fane everywhere. What? Has everyone forgotten the last weekend of 2003? Oh, ye of short memory...
"I'm so overwhelmed. I can't tell you how much this means to me," an emotional Santo said before the Cubs played the New York Mets on Monday night.
"I don't care if I get into the Hall of Fame. This is my Hall of Fame. And I really mean it. I can't explain it, but this is the ultimate."
I guess he didn’t mean it.
For Santo to openly campaign for enshrinement in the Hall after making this statement on September 28, 2003 to a packed Wrigley Field crowd and a TV audience is disrespectful to all of us fans. Santo said he didn’t need Cooperstown because he had us and his 10 flag.
3) The Hall of Fame’s Gang of 84 can finally be disbanded. While there is a certain logic to Joe Morgan’s assertion that there’s no reason for the Veteran’s Committee to vote in players who were passed over fifteen times by the Baseball Writers, there is follow on logic from that reasoning. If the purpose of the Committee is to right those wrongs made by the press, and the press has made no wrongs, it doesn’t take Mr. Spock to conclude that the Veteran’s Committee has self determined that it has no purpose existing.
Here's Bruce Levine telling off Joe Morgan. Great stuff.
Monday, February 26, 2007
And The Source of The Oscar Is...
I hear that Forest Whitaker won an Oscar for Best Actor last night. This puts him in fine company with other Oscar winners Nicholas Cage, Sean Penn and Cameron Crowe.
Oh, in addition to Oscars, all four of them collaborated on "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."
So, when can Phoebe Cates get an Oscar? No fair asking her dad, former Oscar producer Gil Cates, to swipe one for her.
The More Things Change...
From today's Daily Herald:
(Mark Prior) reported no problems and said he’ll be ready for the start of the Cactus League season.
However, Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild don’t plan to use Prior until the team is at least five games through the exhibition season.
From one year ago:
Mark Prior had a simulated pitching drill on the mound Friday, throwing with a towel in his hand rather than a baseball.
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Prior also threw a little on flat ground and will do so again Sunday. After that, Rothschild may have a better idea of when Prior can throw a ball off the mound in workouts.
Rothschild stressed that Prior is completely healthy and that the intention is just to ease him into spring.
"I don't have a plan yet for games, but he could pitch by the fourth or fifth one [in March]," Rothschild said.
Rothschild emphasized that being cautious with him is just smart and not the sign of anything being wrong.
At least these guys have minimized expectations for Prior this year by telling us any contribution from him will be a bonus.
But, please. Can we stop with the false hop cover stories? It's certainly seems that Prior through out his shoulder in September and October 2003 after injuring his achillies earilier that year. He'll probably never be the same again. The realists in Cub World know this.
But can the team just stop keeping everyone hopeful?
When he pitches well, we'll cheer. Until then Lou and Larry, please don't talk about him.
Friday, February 23, 2007
After The Rental - Prison Break
The Netflix que is filled with TV series these days. Why? Must of the new moviews that have hit theaters the last year have sucked so much that they aren't even worth renting. Given that, you hear that a series has good buzz, you wait for the season to come out on DVD, and you burn through 23 episodes in three weeks. You can then either stop watching or start the next season caught up top the rest of the world.
This is an especially good method for shows like "24" and "Lost" with their weekly cliffhangers. You think you have to wait a week for your next hit of crack, but then realize that all you ahve to do is hit the "play" button to get your fix.
This was certainly true of the first season of "Prison Break." Fox seems to have Monday nights locked in for serial-action-conspiracy night with both this show and "24" on back-to-back.
We won't rehash the first season's events here suffice to say that the tale was compeletly engaging. How would Michael be able to break out? How much did he squeeze into his tattoo? What about the guards learning of the plot? Why was this warden nice when every other warden in the history of TV and film was always a crook and a prick?
The show came up with engaging characters (Haywire's sceen taking his meds was hilarious), insane plot twists that remained in the realm of mind candy (Michael flooding the escape route), and just a hint of a larger consipracy.
Sadly, once the escape was completed, the show fell off the cliff. One of the reasons the show worked so well was that the prison itself was a character. The walls, the yard, the bolts made into allen wrenches, the guard house. All these added an element of consistency. Additionally, the claustrophobia of the cells and the prisons added to the tension and made it more likely the escape plot could be uncovered.
Now that the excapees are out in the open, the plots have gotten more and more ludicrous. The recently resolved plot of T-bag and his "family" and "C-Note" and his little girl actually made me uncomfortable watching. Hopefully, the writers can get some order and fun back in the show soon.
One of the other missing items is the tasty Robin Tunney. One of Chicago's own, she was killed off early in season two. While her character is not missed, she certainly made the screen better looking in her appearances.
We're probably stuck watching this show to the end of its run. Once invested in a show, we often end up vested. Here's hoping the writers get the fun back into this show or it's going to be a lot of bad lead-ins to "24".
Thursday, February 22, 2007
As always, there are multiple sides to every situation. Take Lovie Smith and his new contract negotiations. First, Smith fires Ron Rivera to maximize the leverage Smith has in the negotiations. Then, when the Bears show their typical lowball, Smith has his agent announce:
“We’re not close, we’re not encouraged, and based on where talks have gone recently, Lovie will be a free agent after next season. It would take an unforeseen breakthrough for this to get done. And we are being more than reasonable in this market.” - Frank Bauer
What Smith may fail to understand is that firing Rivera did not give Smith as much leverage as it appears. There is another head coach candidate who could come to Chicago on a moment’s notice who would make everyone forget that Lovie Smith was ever here. That person was a teammate of Rivera’s on the Bears.
That guy is Mike Singletary. Barring a change in this story in the next few weeks, I predict Samurai Mike to be the coach in 2008.
What is troubling about this story from the Bears side is several things.
First, the Bears should already know if they want Lovie Smith to be their coach for the next four years. If they don’t want him back, they should have fired him already. By waiting this long, you screw up any incoming coach’s ability to hire assistants as the pool of available talent has been absorbed by other teams making hires. They’ve also done Smith a disservice by not allowing him to find gainful employment elsewhere at a salary commensurate with his experience and performance.
Additionally, if the team doesn’t want Lovie back, they’ve done harm to the franchise by keeping him for 2007. If Jerry Angelo has determined that Smith’s in-game brain farts are such that they hold the team’s success back, then why wait for his contract to expire to get rid of him? In this era of tradable coaches, find a team and get a draft pick for Lovie. Then, move on and get the coach who you think would be better.
On the other side, if the Bears do indeed want him back, then being cheap is insane. This is a team that was gifted $450 million in taxpayer money in support of a business that has minimal financial impact on the economy. This corporate welfare has tripled the value of the McCaskey family’s investment in the team and grossly inflated their ability to take cash out of the business. It’s not like the team can’t afford to pay a head coach more than at least one other team (as of right now, 31 teams pay their head coach more than do the Bears).
Even more, if the team were to give Smith his market value starting in 2008, that equates to a salary of about $5 million per year from 2008 through 2011. So, let’s compare the four year extension that Smith turned down prior to 2007 versus his 2007 salary plus the first three years of his desired new salary.
Had Smith accepted the extension, he would have earned approximately $12 million over the 2007 through 2010 seasons. Under a “new” contract, Smith made $1.45 million in 2007 ($1.5 plus $15 million for years 2008 through 2010. That means, under a new contract, the Bears compensation to Smith would be $4.5 million more than what he would have cost a year ago.
That’s $1.2 million per year. That’s pocket change for a business that, according to published figures, generated operating profit of $51.5 million in 10 business days.
Now, there is one other angle that does fit what’s going on. It could be that Ted Phillips believes that no coach is worth more than $3 million per year and that a head coach is nothing more than the face that uses the talent provided by the real team guru, the General Manager. That would be a massive mistake for this franchise to assume that simply anyone could coach the Bears to a high level of success. This is not the early 90’s Cowboys that even Barry Switzer could coach to a title.
You can convince me that Lovie Smith is not the right guy for the job and isn’t worth $5 million per year. You cannot convince me that this team would be as successful under John Smith, Larry Smith, Dean Smith or Kate Smith.
The Bears have emerged from the despair of the Wanny (and the G.R.O.W. International) years. Management could put them right back in another dark age if they are not careful.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
..now that Ron Rivera has been fired by Lovie Smith, Lovie says, "I think you should trust me as a head football coach to put us in the best position to win football games. It’s as simple as that." This from a guy who nearly gave away a playoff game because he didn’t call time outs properly. I guess Lovie doesn’t know that: 1) Trust is earned; and 2) He’s never heard the Yiddish translation of trust me.
..and the new Spring Training hats and jerseys of the Cubs are about as ugly as the come. White “C”s, curving red ear highlights on the caps and two tone jerseys? Who designed these? Shoshana Lonstein?
..so it seems that when Zambrano spouted off last week that he was leaving the Cubs if “Big Z” wasn’t signed by Opening Day he was just overplaying what his agent probably told him to do. Jim Hendry’s downplaying of the comments followed by Zambrano’s backtracking certainly suggest that. Looks like Hendry took some unfair criticism over that.
..who gave President Logan a pardon so he could hang out in a condo near LAX? And is Jean Smart still with him or did they get a divorce? What will he tell Jack Bauer next week?
..can Prison Break get any worse (more on this soon)?
..but the silence on Mark Prior is confusing. No news generally means good news. But with Prior, no news could mean asystole. Ivy Chat will assume the positive on this story for now because reporters in Arizona would sniff out cuticle clippers near Prior if they thought he had a hang nail.
..and the blogroll has been updated. Farewell to those that haven’t posted since 2006. Welcome to Bad Kermit (and his anagram machine) and TJ Brown. Not sure if TJ is correctly categorized.
..not much support for contributing editors around here. Beyond the fact that thread hijacking is fun and often more amusing and interesting than the original thread itself, we don’t have much sympathy around here for people who accuse others of being pedophiles. Well, maybe support from plus-size support hose and a 48-DD bra, but that’s it.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Goose or Phoenix?
There's been a ton of chatter surrounding the Cubs and their plan to add ads to the outfield wall. People as far and wide ranging as WGN's Jim Memlo to ESPN's Mike Greenberg to Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin to talk-backers on this site have chimed in on the topic.
All these people make various points on why they don’t like the advertising. It's not aesthetically pleasing. It violates the architectural integrity of a landmark. It violates the field of play where advertising shouldn’t be allowed.
But there is also a recurring theme in their comments which is very telling. All of them also say something along the line of what Kamin said this morning:
The Cubs and Tribune Co. are now foolishly about to blur that line -- and open the door to further commercialization that would kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
That goose, of course, is Wrigley itself, which the Cubs have shrewdly shaped and marketed as a feel-good pleasure ground where you can enjoy the sweet scent of old-time baseball even if the team stinks.
That is 100% true. The Cubs are now worth potentially $650 million because of the way John McDonough has marketed the Wrigley Field experience.
That begs another question: Is the Wrigley Experience the only way to increase the value of the brand?
The answer is two-fold. The answer is "Yes" if the team stinks.
But, what if the team doesn't stink? Couldn't the team be as, if not more, financially successful by marketing winning?
Wouldn't it also be possible to raise a goose that lays golden eggs on a diet of winning instead of cuddliness? Why do the Cubs have to have their marketing focus stay on the beauty of Wrigley?
As I've heard recently from Cub brass, it's time to win. That means it's also time for a new goose to rise from the ashes of the Andy MacPhail regime. And if getting a few extra bucks to afford Cliff Floyd comes from placing underwear signs on the outfield wall means winning the last game in October, there will be support for that here.
Additional Point: Kamin also had this to say:
Perhaps Cubs executives will come to their senses and realize it doesn't make sense to pollute their beloved ballpark with ad clutter between the foul lines. That's what they did after they let Budweiser pop two signs directly beneath the outfield scoreboard from 1983 to 1986. When Budweiser's contract with the Cubs expired, the team decided not to renew.
Not to split hairs, but there is advertising every half inning at Wrigley Field within the foul lines. The LED message board under the scoreboard runs ads each time three outs are recorded. I suppose one could argue that these signs are not in the field of play but are in Home Run territory. Well, at least "Home Run Territory sponsored by The Cream and The Clear."
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
The Cubs have made marketing an important part of 2007. It started with the elevation of marketing guru John McDonough to the role of interim-until-the-team-is-sold President. Next, the team hired a manager with bonafides in the area of not taking any crap in Lou Piniella. After that, the team dropped $320 million on player salaries.
Not bad for a start.
We're now on to the next two phases of this process.
The first harkens back to the early days of the Dallas Green years. Anyone remember, "The Cubs are coming out of Hibernation!"? The 2007 version is much edgier:
One look at Piniella's intense gaze in the ad campaign touting the 2007 promotions and schedule, and it's clear these Cubs are not the cuddly type.
"We're going to win here, and that's the end of the story," Piniella proclaims in the advertisement, his steely look speaking far more than words.
Billboards featuring this slogan are now viewable on the Kennedy Expressway. There are only three words to describe how this campaign should make Cub fans feel.
Did the words "win" ever come out of Andy MacPhail's mouth? I dunno if McDonough will actually be able to get the job done, but at least he's having the team say the right things and project the right attitude.
The next sign that will get a lot of attention is the one going on the wall at Wrigley Field:
The green doors tucked into the ivy in the left- and right-field bleachers of Wrigley Field will be decorated with 7-by-12 foot advertisements, touting Under Armour's signature logo.
It's the first time the Cubs have allowed any ad or sign on the outfield doors. Jay Blunk, director of marketing and sales for the team, said the Cubs have been approached by other companies wanting to use the space. He said Under Armour was the "right fit."
There's going to be a lot of whining about this from a lot pf "purists." There's going to be screaming about the purity of the park and the uncluttered look.
Those will be the Wrigley fans speaking and not the Cub fans. They just spent $320 million to convince us to spend bux at the park. You don't expect them to do all they can to offset that cost? How can they unless they raise ticket prices? Through advertising.
Good luck. Do more of it if it brings in better players. Hell, this blog would gladly become "Barren Brick Chat" if another $50 million would go into payroll.
Two nice moves by President Pro-Tempore John McDonough.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Are Viagra Endorsements Next?
We're less than 24 hours away from the opening of spring training camps and we already have a trumped up controversy to discuss:
"Whatever happens, I don't want to know [anything] about a contract during the season. I want to sign with the Cubs before the season starts. If they don't sign me, sorry, but I must go. That's what Carlos Zambrano thinks." - Carlos Zambrano
Everyone has a nice winter. The Cubs add some decent players. The weather in Chicago is brutal and spring training is here to get everyone thinking spring. All is well. Until Carlos opens his yapper.
Let’s break this down a few ways and see what’s really going on here.
First, Carlos deserves the money. There was a time, not long ago, when Zambrano was THE BEST pitcher in the NL. His durability is unquestioned except by those that serve in the Roman Senate. He's on the minus (read: good) side of 30 years old. Big Z has earned his payday and he's worth the risk in dollars and years.
That said, Carlos is not yet a free agent. He's still only in his fifth year of service time. He should NOT get this year's contract torn up and get a huge boost this year to Zitospheric status.
Second, one of the reasons Zambrano is antsy is the Cubs own fault. They’ve spent money like there's no tomorrow (which there isn't for this ownership). Zambrano rightfully fears that the team will be sold, purse strings will tighten, and Mark Prior's genetic looseness will prove to be an airborne viral infection. Zambrano wants his moolah now while it's there.
And the Cubs have the money. They spread $300 million over 7 years. Don't suggest that they can't spread another $88 million over 6 years ($8mm for 2007 plus $16mm for 2008 through 2012). While this is not even close to a Maddux redux as some would have us believe, there’s no reason not to find a way to give Carlos his money now.
But Zambrano is ultimately to blame for his needless escalation. And that brings us to point, the third:
Zambrano said that if he doesn’t get a new contract by the start of spring training, he, "must go."
Carlos, we understand that you don’t want to negotiate during the season. But do you honestly expect us to believe that, if on the day after the World Series ends the Cubs offered you $150 million for 7 years that you’d say ,"No!"?
Don't negotiate in the media with mule muffins. Don't set insane standards like, "sign me now or I'm not coming back!" Want it over now? Fine. Even agreed. But don't crap us by saying "I must go." It's simply not true.
And don't sound like Bob Dole when you say that stuff, either.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Getting It All Together
It took a few days to compile the thoughts surrounding Super Bowl XLI. Here they are, for posterity and the 6 people that are interested:
1) If another team wants Lovie Smith as their head coach and that someone offers Jerry Angelo draft picks in exchange, Jerry should do the deal. Lovie is clearly a strong motivator. He's also a poor tactician.
Sure, the Colts would have beaten the Bears 8 times out of 10 games played. The problem with Sunday was that the Colts played one of the 2 games they would have lost. The gameplan was substandard and moves like failing to call time out with 30 seconds left in the first half are the kind of mistakes that cannot happen against a more talented team.
2) The Bears need to draft a QB early in the 2007 draft. With Rex Grossman 1 year away from being a free agent, with uncertainty if he can be any good, and with near certainty that he will be allowed to play out his contract, the Bears cannot enter 2008 with only Kyle Orton and Brian Griese as their only options.
3) Mike Brown IS the best player on the Bears defense. That teams ran roughshod on them as soon as he wrecked his leg speaks volumes.
4) The game really, really sucked from a quality point of view. They called Super Bowl V the "Turnover Bowl" because there were 11 turnovers in that game. What would you call this game? After the first quarter, the game looked more like a pre-season game than a title game.
5) Devin Hester's opening will go down as one of the top five most exciting moments in Super Bowl history. Too bad he chose the wrong camera to stare down after completing his return.
Ivy Chat returns in a few days. As will discussions of the coming spin off of Tribune assets.
And, coming soon, an announcement of something new. And potentially huge.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
What a Long, Boring Week It's Been
We're about 90 minutes from kickoff for Super Bowl II (as we only count the ones that include a certain team, from a certain Mid-western town, that starts with a "C", ends with an "O", and in the middle is "HICAG". And this is the first chance that I've had to scribble more than a few words on any topic.
It's been your regular Super Bowl run-up week. That means analysis in detail beyond the absurd, interviews that would make Crash Davis proud, athletes and coaches plugging whatever products that could sign contracts to endorse in the last 10 days, and a trumped up controversy started when Rex Grossman got disgusted answering the same stupid question for the 13 bazillionth time.
Well, we here at Ivy Chat will give you all the analysis you'll need.
This game is not going to be close. Two touchdowns will decide it. What we can't tell you is who will be on the winning side.
Super Bowl XLI will be decided by the two defenses, with the onus on the Colts defense. If the Colts can stop the Bears from running, they'll win going away. On the Bears side, if they can coax Peyton Manning into a turnover or two, the Bears will turn the game into a rout.
Based on his last three games, Manning is almost certainly good for at least 1 pick this evening. That means, can the Colts defense continue as they have in the playoffs and be run stoppers? Or, will the Colts revert to one of the worst run defenses in NFL history?
The betting here is that Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson get the better of the matchup. The betting here is that the Bears roll up close to 200 yards rushing today.
The betting here is somewhere along the lines of Bears 31, Colts 17.
If the guessing here is wrong, and the Colts D shows up, Manning will have three or four extra possessions with the ball. That's a bad recipe for the Bears.
If that happens, the Colts will get a lead. That will lead to Rex Grossman trying to throw two touchdowns with every single pass. And that means, Colts 41, Bears 20.
It's too bad that Mike Brown and Tommie Harris aren't in this game or there would be no doubt at all about a Bear win. But they aren't here. And that leaves some uncertainty.
But not enough uncertainty.
Expect the Bears to get rings with two diamonds in the center.
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