Thursday, June 26, 2008

Credit Due

Why can't you fix Pie, too?This page has a lot of love for Lou Piniella for single handedly turning the Cubs organization around. But there has been a lack of acknowledgement of a big part of the turnaround.

Gerald Perry was brought in with minimal fanfare. What he's done to the Cubs' team approach to hitting in less than one year is nothing short of remarkable. Yes, dumping idiots like Caesar Izturis and Michael Barret while adding patient hitters like Kosuke Fukudome are part of it. But it's more than that.

It was noticeable earlier in the season when there were games where no player swung at a first pitch nearly two times through the lineup. Then you see the improvement in the OBP of guys like Aramis Ramirez. The steady approach of Ryan Theriot. The turn around of Jim Edmonds.

Gerald Perry doesn't get enough credit for this. The Cubs' approach to hitting is a big reason they are 20 games over .500. Gerald's the man in charge of that area of the team.

Yeah, he's not a miracle worker or Felix Pie would be here and Alfonso Soriano would only be insulting with his defense. But that the team leads the majors in OBP and scoring is a credit to the work Perry's done in the last 16 months.

Give that man a cigar.

Out With The Old

A new website for those of you missing Hot Dog Boy:!

Strangely familiar...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Now Starting at Iowa

TEAM   CLASS  PITCHER             IP   H   R   ER   BB   K   ERA     
CHC AAA Samardzija, Jeff 6.0 7 3 3 2 5 4.50 L (0-1)

Not bad for a first start. Let's hope scouts were watching.

And, elsewhere:

TEAM  CLASS   PLAYER,            POS   AB   R   H   BI   AVG     
CHC AA Castillo, Wellington C 5 2 3 3 .340 HR (3)
CHC AA Craig, Matt 1B 5 3 4 2 .366 2 2B (6)
CHC SS Ridling,Rebel 1B 3 0 2 2 .375
CHC SS Vitters,Josh 3B 4 1 1 0 .333 3B (2)

Who is Castillo? Is he a prospect? Good catchers have high trade value.

Profiles in Chutzpah

Mike and JayGenerally, reading Jay Mariotti is like listening to WSCR in the mornings. Today, you can kind of combine the two. And what Jay does, given what he has just gone through with his own contract is simply jaw dropping:

We only can hope that the end of Mike North is the beginning of decency, professionalism and couth in Chicago sports radio. Oh, some desperate shop might hire him, hoping to capitalize on name recognition at the expense of dignity and wobbling ratings, but so what. This is a day of civic celebration, a chance for sanity and lucidity to reign again in a racket filled with smut.

One only hopes Jay wrote the column with irony. Reality suggests that Jay simply doesn't understand that if you replaced the words "Mike North" with "Jay Mariotti" throughout the column, the column would still work.

Now, Hot Dog Boy's exit from the Chicago air waives is a huge plus for intelligence everywhere. Give that broadcasts of some of his schlock have passed other stars known to have planets, life on those worlds are sure to be celebrating today as well.

But for the messenger to be a guy guilty of the same things he's cheering the demise of?

Which makes more sense?

"It was the best favor North ever has done for his hometown, prompting CBS Radio to yank the contract and leave him without work."


"It was the best favor Mariotti ever has done for his town, prompting Sun-Times News Group to yank the contract and leave him without work.

They both work perfectly. Too bad only 50% is reality.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Down The Tube

George Carlin was fond of asking why things would go "down the tubes"?

"What tubes?" he'd ask. "Have you seen any tubes? Where are these tubes? And where do they go? And how come there's more than one tube?"

If he'd ever seen Rich Hill, he'd have known.

Hill is headed for Arizona. Not as part of a trade, unfortunately. It was only about 8 months ago when people were still trying to cobble together statistics to defend Rich Hill. Today, the Cubs' brass is trying to cobble together a remediation plan.

As Hill goes down, Jeff Samardzija has been promoted into Hill's slot at Iowa. This sounds like a plan to get Jeff some more visibility to setup trades that clearly need to be made. With Eric Patterson, Micah Hoffpauir, and Matt Murton all contributing and the Cubs needing at least one more starter, these guys and at least one of the Sean's (Marshall and Gallagher) will be the principals in any such dealings.

What looked to be a thin minor league system may just have enough guys performing well at the right time to allow the Cubs to add the one more piece they need to lock down a pennant.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

From Bad to Lazy

At the end of the 8th inning tonight and the Cubs well on their way to a sweep of the first place Chicago White Sox of the AL Central, I found a Sport Radio and headed out for a late night run. I did not listen to the flagship.

It's only fun listening to WGN in rerun. The highlights of Ron Santo not knowing what is going on are priceless. But not if you want to follow the game itself. Instead, I flipped over to WSCR's Two Curmudgeon's: Steve Stone and Ed Farmer.

As the ninth inning started, I was treated to a treatise on how Lou Piniella was mis-managing his bullpen by warming up Scott Eyre, Carlos Marmol, and Kerry Wood, but only using Bob Howry. And using Howry despite only giving him 20 pitches to warm up (Stone countered Farmer's assertion that it was 20 by saying it was 8 pitches, but Stone was trying - badly - to joke that Howry got 8 in the pen and 8 more pitches on the mound).

As Ryan Dempster showed he was gassed, Farmer wondered how many pitches Dempster had thrown. There was a pause, and then he spewed this gem:

"I can't find the pitch count here at Wrigley Field!"

Yo, Ed. Let's be blunt. You suck as a play-by-play announcer. You could be passable as an analyst with a decent lead in the booth. But as a lead, you elevate Justin Guarini to acceptable.

But this? Just because you can't see the ribbon board along the left field line at Wrigley is no excuse for showing your anti-Cub feelings. First, don't you have a spotter in the booth tracking stuff like this for you. And, second, don't you have YOUR OWN SCORECARD?

Not just bad, but a lazy ass. WSCR is about to launch Hot Dog Boy from their lineup. They'd do themselves a favor to have you in the same cab.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Down On The Farm

CHC SS Josh Vitters 3B 4 0 2 2 .286

CHC SS Mark Pawelek 2.0 1 2 2 3 2 9.00

So much hope for high picks...

Jiggled Protons to Determine Season

With Carlos Zambrano headed for an MRI, the pressure builds further on Jim Hendry. Being a short timer (new ownership will have a new GM next season), Hendry has to do something now to ensure this team does not repeat last season's three-and-out playoffs.

He was going to have to get a starting pitcher sooner or later. The later option is now gone.

The targets should be C.C. Sabathia, Randy Wolf, Jake Peavy, and Rich Harden. Wolf is included in this list because he's available and would probably come cheap. The other three are much better targets.

The dilema will remain how much is Hendry willing to pay? Given his job status, he may be willing to overpay to get one of these guys and empty out the minor league system. That may not be something the incoming owner wants to see happen.

The take here is to go ahead and overpay. The Cubs' minor league system doesn't seem to have anyone coming up of the quality of Sabathia, Peavy or Harden. Who cares if you dump three starting pitchers who will never be better than a Dick Ruthven level pitcher? A good owner is going to realize that the Jim Hendry minor league system isn't exactly the talent pool equal to the IBM training program in 1968.

But the biggest key for Hendry is not to make the same mistake he made in 2004. Alex Gonzalez did the team a big favor that year by getting hit by a pitch and breaking his wrist. Jim Hendry availed himself on that opportunity with Rey Ordonez. Nomar didn't show up until 2 months later.

Don't wait, Jim. Give up whatever it takes. Go get a difference maker. Now. And don't wait for Z's MRI results to become public and possibly weaken your hand.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Was There a Game On?

Rumor has it, the NBA Finals were the Lakers vs. Celtics. I looked for it and all I found was this:

Where's Kareem?

I downloaded it, but couldn't work it under Vista.


DHing Nuances

With the Cubs headed to Tampa to play the Devil Rays, Lou Piniella is likely to give soon-to-be All-Star Geovany Soto a day as DH. Well, that's what the papers say. There are doubts here that Lou will actually do that.

See, if Geo is the DH and Henry Blanco (aka Hank White) catches, and Blanco has to leave the game, Geo can enter the game as the catcher. But if that happens, the DH is lost for the rest of the game. The pitcher would have to bat in the spot vacated by Blanco.

Now, the odds of Blanco getting hurt are pretty small and the need to play by NL rules for part of a game is not exactly a daunting task for an NL club.

But why bother? Just give Geo a full day off. Rumors are that Matt Murton is being recalled (to the cheers of Glenview children everywhere). Let Matt DH. He's well suited for the roll.

Friday, June 13, 2008

All Comeback Baseball, All The Time

Let me here you chirp now!Wednesday Night was skybox night at the Schaumburg Flyers game. Dragging Murton's Boys with me and with them each still having school the next day, we bugged out in the 8th inning. The Flyers were down 8-3 in the eighth, but who cared? We'd rented a sky box with 20 other people (OK, work clients - like I'd pay for a sky box out of my own pocket!). The kids were gorged on hot dogs, chips, cake, cookies, popcorn and Sierra Mist. They'd seen Harry Canaray sing the seventh Inning Stretch from the box next to us. Time to head home and have them conscious for school in the morning. All that was missing from a great night was a Flyers win.

They scored 3 int he 8th and 3 more in the 9th and won 9-8.

Same thing yesterday at Wrigley.

Hey, hey, now....Lunch with a friend at Goose Island. Good seats about 15 rows off the field (but far down the right field line). A few beers to make the first sunburn of the year ignorable. The wind ranging from blowing gently out to left to howling out (and how did a game like this end up with only 5 runs scored?). A White Sox fan talking trash in front of us.

Aside: Is this so White Sox fan or what? The guy starts yapping that the Sox lead in first place is bigger than the Cubs' lead. "Give it time," we tell him. His response: "It's a marathon, not a race!"

Anyway, Edmonds goes yard to make it a "Brokeback Throwback" day. You can feel that this will be a win and you can't leave.

Ah, the commitments of school again interfere. Civic duty ahead of extra innings. When Reed Johnson took one for the team and the win, the Kennedy Expressway was in sight.

Maybe you all should pay me to go to games and leave early?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Yes Sir!

Taxpayer Relief

It looks like Jim Thompson's stupid idea #4,647 is dead:

A plan to sell Chicago's Wrigley Field baseball stadium to an Illinois state authority stalled on Monday after Tribune, the ballpark's owner, clashed with the state over how to finance the deal.

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA) said Tribune believes the acquisition would require the transfer of sales and amusement tax revenue from Wrigley Field for the next 30 years.

The authority also said that Tribune thinks the deal would require new taxes or transferring funds the authority has already pledged to projects at another baseball stadium on Chicago 's South Side.

"ISFA cannot agree to this," said the group's chairman, former Illinois Gov. James Thompson.

Tribune said in a statement the authority's plan to buy and restore the field would violate the rules of Major League Baseball, and would not be in the interests of its employees.

That this deal is dead should be rejoyced by anyone who pays taxes to the State of Illinois. The scheme was needless from the beginning. There was no compeling public interest for the state to own the stadium. And it's pretty clear from this that the statements that there would be "no cost to taxpayers" was your standard political lie.

But there's another fun nugget buried in the story:

Without selling the team, the ballpark and more properties, the Chicago-based company risks defaulting on its debt.

This is the key to the whole sale of the team. Sam Zell has principal payments to make on the billions of dollars he borrowed. A good chunk of the cash he need to pay off the debt is tied up in the Chicago National League Ball Club. The more he can get out of the Cubs, the fewer dollars he needs to get by selling other assets.

What does this mean?

It means that the Cubs will be sold to the highest bidder. For all the stuff we hear about how this is a greased deal for the John Canning crew, they are still going to have to come up with, or at least match, the biggest offer.

Those of us holding out hope for a Don Levin or a Mark Cuban, all hope is not yet lost.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Hey, Derrek! Go Back To April!

Last year, Derrek Lee looked lost as a player at the plate. He was swinging at pitches he has no business swinging at. He was taking pitches he usually pounded. He didn't look injured, he just looked lost.

Then, 2008 started and it was 2005 for Derrek all over again. With only 105 at bats, Lee posted a 1.151 OPS in April with 8 homers, 18 extra base hits, 23 RBI and 15 walks against 13 strikeouts.

It has gotten ugly since then. In over 140 at bats since he has only 12 extra base hits, 7 walks to 24 strikeouts,and 16 RBI. His average has dropped 90 points, OBP has dropped nearly 110 points and the slugging has been under .400 since May 1.

Lou needs to figure out what this guy needs. He doesn't look injured. He doesn't look lost like he did last year. He just looks bad right now. Whatever is wrong, Lou needs to figure it out. Fast.

This performance, if it continues, cannot be allowed to bat third for much longer.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Time to Pac Man

Any of you ever been up to Lake Geneva? Right off the lake is one of the last of the classic game rooms. You go in there and it's back to the 80's. Asteroids, Tron, Defender, Pole Position, Missile Command, Moon Patrol, Red Baron, Battle Zone. They're all there.

Not for much longer:

Come September, when the tourists head home and school begins, this dimly lit room, awash in garish blinking Day-Glo— boasting machines so authentic they still bear the cigarette burns of 1982—will go silent. Donkey Kong will lay down his barrels, and Ms. Pac-Man will cease to chomp. And Gameland, a block from the lake, a charming staple of Chicago day-trip culture since it opened in 1944, will close for the season, and for the last time. So go now. The machines will be auctioned off. The plugs pulled. Its demise was inevitable. Its problems are the problems of any arcade—the rise of the Xbox, old machines, big electric bills, an overwhelming lack of youthful interest—and its lonesome decline more prolonged than a bad actor's death scene.

Very sad. While there are still ways to play the old games today (on a PC or on a home made cabinet), nothing beats taking turns standing up in front of a tilted TV screen trying to get the track ball to line up the cursor and blast a smart bomb.

I guess this is the downside of aging. Well, this and death. Dying I can deal with. But no more Zaxxon, Frenzy and Rally X? I guess it's MAME from here on out.

Long Arm

Great story over at The Cub Reporter from down in Arizona:

Oneri Fleita was in attendance at Fitch Park again today, sitting high atop the tower between the four fields, from where he could simultaneously watch both the "sim game" on Field #2 and the EXST game on Field #3. And he certainly made his presence known, too!

In true Larry Himes fashion, Oneri went ballistic not once but twice, the first time when he noticed 2B Jeffrey Rea (who is at Fitch Park rehabbing from a quad strain) hitting in the simulated game while dressed only in a t-shirt and shorts (not an unusual outfit for an "off-field" workout at EXST, BTW, especially for a rehab guy who is only cleared to take BP).

ONERI: (yelling at Rea): "Where's your fucking uniform?! You think you're a coach? This isn't Mississippi State! Get the hell off the field!"

At first I don't think Rea knew that Oneri was yelling at him (in particular). He just stood there behind the batting cage, leaning on his bat and talking to the other hitters. I think that's what really got Oneri mad, because that's when he mentioned "Mississippi State" (Rea played college ball at MSU).


And then in the bottom of the 1st inning of the EXST game on Field #3, Josh Vitters scored standing up on a two-out RBI single to LF by Carlos Perez, but Vitters just barely beat the throw to the plate and almost got knocked off his feet, failing to slide because on-deck hitter Kyler Burke didn't get into position near home plate to coach the runner. So Vitters scores and gets a high-five from Burke, and then Burke ambles up to the plate for his AB.

ONERI: (yelling at Boise manager Tom Beyers, who was the EXST game manager today): "Get a fucking pinch-hitter up there, Tommy! If he can't coach the runner, he can't play! The runner can't score standing up like that! That's how guys get hurt!"

Lou Piniella's influence is being seen at all levels of the organization. Lou is the most important, positive influence on the Chicago National League Ball Club since the hiring of Dallas Green.

Long Live Lou!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Jennifer Morrison gets the Mischa treatment if the Cubs winMaybe Olivia Wilde can pitch for the Cubs. Her "House" charachter certainly has the right name.

You really can't blame Lou Piniella for goign with a thirteen man pitching staff. The offense is clicking and the starting pitching isn't. Going back to last Friday, here's the innings posted by Cubs' starters:

Ted Lilly - 3.0
Ryan Dempster - 5.0
Sean Gallagher - 5.2
Carlos Zambrano - 5.0
Jason Marquis - 5.0

No wonder Lou is going nuts in the dugout. Reading his lips is half the fun of watching a broadcast these days. Last night, leading 9-3, Lou burned through five relievers to hold onto what should have been an easy win.

The Cubs are going to need one more starter capable of going over 6 innings if they want to both survive the season and, more importantly, beat a competitor in a playoff series.

Word came from a conduit to the Not So Secret Source that C.C. Sabathia is on the Cubs wish list. Initial thoughts are that, while CC would be a welcome addition to the Cubs, you have to think that the asking price will include no less than Carlos Marmol.

You also have to think that the Indians look at their division and see only the White Sox and Twins ahead of them. The Indians know they aren't out of this yet.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Checking The Ballots

Who cares about Shrillary? Geovany Soto continues to lead the All Star voting for catcher in the National League.

So do Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano. Fukudome makes sense, but Albie? Let's just choose to blame the people in the left field bleachers as suffering from being hit in the heads by fly balls Albie has dropped.

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