Saturday, September 30, 2006

"Get used to it, kid."

Smiles?  For what's inside?  Please...That's exactly what the man in whose garage we parked said to The Four Year Old as we got back in the car to go home. By used to it, I hope the guy meant the losing and not the seats.

So, I'm a stinking liar. When I said it would be a long time before I took The Four Year Old for his first Cubs' game, I really figured it would be at least to next season. But, two weeks?

Then again, the real reason was that it was impossible to turn down these freebies. Section 19 is directly behind home plate. Row 6 is now 9 rows off the field with the addition of the Premium Rows A, B, and C last year.

For the third time this year, I stepped into Wrigley Field. For the third time this year, I witnessed a loss. But, for the first time this year, boredom set in after the second inning.

Dad?  Who is this guy ''Andy Frain'' and why is he about to bash your head with a small baseball bat?That Friday game may have been the most boring sporting event I've ever attended in person, golf excluded.

Then again, being so close that you could smell Tim Mcclelland's deodorant was... Well, the view was good.

True item: The people in the seats behind us said The Four Year Old and The Seven Year Old were dead ringers for Matt Murton.

If they only knew what Google would turn up!

Friday, September 29, 2006

All Options Available

If you re at all interested in Chicago businesses, you've gotta love the Crains' e-mail service.

According to them (via the AP), Tribune Co. engaged Merrill Lynch and Citigroup to help them "explore strategic alternatives to create additional shareholder value."

Translating to common English, this means: Decide how many pieces to sell, set a price, and find buyers.

We should know before New Years Eve what the future holds for the caretakers of Wrigley Field and its contents.

Rumor Mongering

WSCR's Mike Murphy's show has really gone off the deep end of late. How he had a good rating book last quarter really shocks me.

That said, he did have an interesting rumor the last two days. He said that rumors abound that Andy MacPhail will leave the Cubs front office this offseason. George Offman backed him up on this and didn't even suggest people were lying! about the rumor.

Given Andy's recent meetings in New York working on the collective bargaining agreement, high profile rants in multiple newspapers and by David Kaplan on the WGN Mothership about MacPhail's failures, and today's note in various places that John McDonough has been seen meeting with Steve Stone, one wonders if there isn't some truth to the rumors.

It would be a nice start to the offseason.

The Great Collapses of History

Cygnus The Swan, A Few Hundred Million Years Ago
A little cramped in here

Wall Street, 1929
Curse you, Herbert Hoover!

Tacoma Narrows Bridge, 1940
Figures that the warranty just expired.

Berlin Wall, 1989
I thought Mr. Gorbachev was supposed to do it?

St. Louis 2006
I'm gonna kill Santo and his cat

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I'm Seven Today

Can't I have a jersey?
Brandon Alex.

Over half way to a bar mitzvah. Time for Matt Murton to start saving some scratch.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"We'll always have Fresno."

If you aren't watching Fox TV's "House", you're really missing a great show. Hugh Laurie is wicked funny as the nasty Dr. Greg House. Last night was something very special.

Round up the usual managerial candidates.Beyond the tear jerker moment with the autistic child at the very end, the riff on "Casablanca" was damn near brilliant.

Now, perhaps this page is biased as Casablanca is one of the five best films ever made. And I must say, picturing Dr. House in the Humphrey Bogart role was a bit of a stretch.

But Leighton Meester as Ingrid Bergman? I might have to take the modern interpretation.
Here's looking at nearly all of you, kid.


I am speechless. I am without speech. First, all around good egg Bruce Miles goes off on Andy MacPhail. Today? Phil Rogers takes his turn.

What was unique about this article was that it enumerated flaws in Andy's management style in terms of oversight.

where was MacPhail when Hendry needed help?

Where was MacPhail to help him defuse the Baker-Steve Stone mess down the stretch in 2004? Cooler heads should have prevailed on that one, especially since the melodrama played out as the Cubs were falling out of the playoff picture? Where was MacPhail when the Cubs were planting the seeds for the mess that would be their 2006 season?

Perhaps it didn't make a difference, but the club shouldn't have allowed Baker to return for '06 without job security. That's the wrong message to send, especially for a franchise with such chronic instability. I said it then and I'll say it now: The time to change managers or extend Baker was last fall. Yet MacPhail allowed that issue to bubble just under the surface into spring training and then into the season. It is Hendry's call on Baker, according to MacPhail, but Hendry couldn't resolve anything until he had his own extension, which didn't come until March.

Why not? Baseball's business is best done before the bats and balls come out, but the Cubs never seem in a hurry. MacPhail should know better.

This is what those of us in the reality-based Cub Fan community have understood for a long time. There has been a long line of continuity at the top of the organization. That there has been chaos below is the fault of the man on top.

There is a key reason why MacPhail has his job. And that is because the Cubs have been immensely profitable and have increased the franchise value tremendously for the Tribune (value that soon may be monetized).

But, as Phil closes, despite the good job on finances, there are other stakeholders being left behind:

MacPhail was hired as a builder of a baseball team, not an expander of bleachers nor an advisor of labor lawyers. He has done a good job for his company, yes, but what about the fans?

Oh, Phil. Some of them don't care. But 25,000 no shows suggest some of them are starting to figure it out.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Looking Familiar, But I Can't Quite Place It...

1912 - The North Atlantic
That band was great.

1937 - Lakehurst, New Jersey
Anyone seen George C. Scott?

1979 - Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania
The Pepsi Syndrome!

1988 - Boston, Massachusetts
It's got rack and pinion steering

2006 - St. Louis, MO
Where is Jim Edmonds' Alpo?.

Monday, September 25, 2006

What To Think?

Did the Chicago Bears beat yet another bad team yesterday, or did they pull out a gritty, gutty, road win against a Minnesota Vikings team that's actually pretty good.

The thought here is that it's a hybrid answer: The Bears pulled out a gritty, gutty, road win against another bad team, albeit not as bad as the Lions and the Packers.

Going into Sunday, what we hoped to find out was how good the Bears really are. learly, the defense is pretty damn good. Only 1 touchdown allowed through three games, two of them on the road, is pretty damn good. The question marks are still all over the offense. An effective Bears running game in 2006 seems as elusive as an alternative to fossil fuels. Rex Grossman, while stepping up big in the final minute, still has the occasional Mike Tomczak moment. Lovie Smith seemed to have no clue as to how to use challenges. All that went through my head when Lovie tossed the red flag on that goal line series was, "You're reviewing over a 5 yard spot? What if you need that challenge with 4 minutes left in the game?" Still a lot of questions surround this team.

Instead of figuring out how good this team is, our answer will need to be deferred until next Sunday evening. As of now, they are no worse than the NFL equivalent of the St. Louis Cardinals: A decent team in a putrid divsion.

After next week's game against the Seattle Waterfoul, we'll know which of those two teams is the NFL's version of the New York Mets.

Beyond the Bears and the Seahawks, the rest of the NFC looks pathetic.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Good Cause

One Scott Lewis has a web petition going to get Ron Santo in the Hall of Fame. While I'm not a big believe that web campaigns can do much beyond getting Joe Lieberman to lose a primary election, I'm a big supporter of the cause.

Ron may be a goof when it comes to broadcasting and baseball analysis, but he's always been one of my favorite players. He was a gracious host for lunch a few years back.

And he was a better third sacker than Frank Brooks Robinson.

Let Ron in the Hall. May Scott's efforts be fruitful.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Great Unwinding

The Tribune Company as we know it today stands a shadow of a chance of existing in its current form. By spring training next year, the Trib could change from the billion dollar market cap, national, king-of-all-media powerhouse that it is today into a privately held newspaper and sibling radio station.

Here's what we know from the board meeting the Trib held yesterday:

The company said late Thursday after a special board meeting that it intends to make potentially transforming changes by the end of the year.

The first move was to restructure two complex partnerships with the Chandler family that were a legacy of the 2000 takeover of the parent company of the Los Angeles Times. That clears the way for a new board committee of seven directors to work with Dennis FitzSimons, Tribune's chairman and CEO, on the makeover plan.

The short timeframe suggests the company, whose revenue continues to drop amid newspaper circulation declines, will move quickly beyond the plan it outlined in May calling for a combination of select asset sales, a $2 billion stock buyback and further cost cuts.

The key words for Cubs fans are, "beyond the plan it outlined in May". At that time, the Cubs were not projected to be part of any restructuring. Clearly, all those statements can now be ignored as the new position of the board overrules what was said previously.

Will the makeover plan include the Cubs? What we need to look for next are statements from players like Ariel Capital that hold large chunks of stock that have stated publicly their feeling that the Cubs should be sold.

Guess what Bloomberg has?

"We would welcome an LBO," John Miller of Ariel Capital Management, owner of 14.9 million Tribune shares or a 6.1 percent stake, said before yesterday's announcement. "An LBO is a much cleaner transaction, which would then allow the board to focus on long-term economics as opposed to worrying about the short-term concerns of Wall Street."

What Miller is saying is that they would welcome the company going private. This would entail the Tribune Company taking on a massive amount of debt. Far more than they currently have. This would then lead to the selling off of massive pieces of the company to pay off the debt.

Why does this page think that would include the Cubs? Several reasons.

First, the likely division to be spun off in an LBO would be broadcasting. Without a broadcasting arm, owning a ballclub to provide programming makes no sense. That means a sale of the Cubs would increase in probability.

Second, look at the person quoted. Ariel's wanted the Cubs sold for a long time. One of the reasons they would want an LBO is that it would almost certainly force the sale of the team and generate cash for core operations.

Let's temper this excitement with a big caveat. There is the possibility that the Trib could go LBO and sell everything off except: The Chicago Tribune newspaper, WGN Television, and WGN Radio. Is such a scenario, it would be possible to see a restructured Trib company continue to own the Cubs as it would clearly provide synergies to such an organization.

The hope at that point would be for different management. If Denis FitzSimons were to leave at that point, the hope would be that a new chairman would take a more civic approach to the Cubs and less of a shareholder value approach that the current board (correctly and appropriately) has.

What is imminent at this time is simply this: Major changes will occur at Trib Corp over the next 180 days. None of this can be bad for fans of the Chicago Cubs.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Huge, Huge Day

Today is a big day for the owners of the Chicago Cubs. The Tribune Corp. will have a Board of Directors meeting today at which the future of the company will likely be determined.

As the Tribune papers report:

Sources close to the situation expect Tribune Chairman and Chief Executive Dennis FitzSimons to present a plan at the meeting to unwind two complex partnerships that lay at the heart of the months-long dispute with the Chandlers, the company's largest shareholder.

If accepted, that in turn would enable the board to consider other restructuring options that had been prevented by the partnerships--most notably a tax-free spinoff of Tribune's local television stations that has been advocated by the Chandlers since June.

The Chandlers also are expected to present their strategies for boosting the company's lagging stock price. But despite heavy pressure from a number of quarters to spin off the Los Angeles Times, FitzSimons this week signaled he has no intention of doing so.

The story tomorrow will be the Chandlers and what their proposal is. The other interesting angle is the spinoffs of the TV stations. Most of the past stories on this transaction have suggested that WGN would not be a part of such a move. If that were to change, the rational for owning the Cubs dissolves.

This story, of the eventual sale of the Cubs, is far from over. Today, things just get a lot more detailed.

And public.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Lobbying Starts

If only it weren't so predictable. Over in the Sun Times, one John Jackson has a bit on intrigue on the 2007 season:

With so many spots in next season's starting rotation up for grabs and only so much money available to spend on free-agent starters, Wade Miller showed he might be a viable option from within.

Yes. The Cubs are already crying poor through the press.

This is a team that has lowered payroll each of the past two years. They are set to lower payroll even further in 2007 with the exits of Greg Maddux and his $9 million, Kerry Wood and his $12 million, the contract expirations of Juan Pierre and his $5.8 million and Aramis Ramirez and his $11 million, the Cubs have $38 million to play with JUST TO KEEP PAYROLL FLAT.

Now, we all know that the Cubs are more likely to cut payroll for the third consecutive year than to increase it. Why? Because there's no reason to improve the product if the fans don't insist via dollar votes.

But that they are going through the press already to tell us this is insulting. It's even more revolting when you consider that the Cubs are doing so not just before the season ends, but before season ticket renewals are sent out.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Closing Time

While the Chicago Cubs under Andy MacPhail may be a complete failure on the field, no one can say that they aren't well run from a profitability standpoint. And, they are also very, very lucky.

With the Chicago White Sox about to wrap up their defense of their World Series title with a 3rd place effort, the real winner in this is clearly the Cubs. The Sox needed to win again this year. Badly. They needed to win not just because they had a veteran team with a short window to win, but they needed to take market share from the Cubs.

Kenny Williams told us this last spring.

Well, with the Cubs stinking and having fan apathy start to become an issue, all the White Sox needed was a post-season appearence to really crack the stranglehold the Cubs have on this city.

Had that happened, it might have been a plus for the Cubs. Competition and declining market share have a way of prompting change.

Unfortunately, the White Sox not only failed to close out Detroit and Minnesota, but likely the Cubs, too.

Oh, and a note to Barry Rozner. Do you really think the extra starts the White Sox starters made kept them out of the playoffs this year? The White Sox starters pitched a whopping three extra games last fall. In the offseason they added a new starter and had a ready backup in Brandon McCarthy.

They played poorly. It (note for Brian: "It" being the extra starts the pitchers made in 2005) had nothing to do with 2006.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

With under two weeks to go in the Dusty Baker era, you are going to start to hear even more chatter about who the next Cub manager is going to be. Once the White Sox are eliminated, the Cubs managerial hunt will probably be the number one sports story in Chicago. That is, unless the Bears continue to soak up much of the media's attention (deservedly so).

When this story moves back to the forefront, will anyone in the media have the guts to ask this question of the candidates:

"How stupid are you to take this job?"

"What?!?!?" people will scream. The Cubs job is one of the greatest around. High profile. Well paid. Good payroll to keep your good players and recruit free agents. And, if you are the one that wins, you'll have your face sculpted in bronze and added to the row of civic titans at the Merchandise Mart.

All true. But this also misses one key point: Jim Hendry will be doing the hiring. And he may get launched before next season is out.

If Hendry is fired, then any new GM worth is salt will want to choose his own head coach immediately. Head coach? I'm sorry, I mean manager. I had a Jerry Angelo flashback for a minute there.

That's what needs to be asked of a Fredi Gonzalez and a Joe Girardi: Are you willing to come here under a lame duck GM?

If these guys are smart, they'll insist on a contract of at least four years and some guaranty that their fate is separate from Hendry's. If they don’t get that guaranty, all these high profile candidates would be smart to pass on the job.

There is a solution, and it's not a new idea. Make Jim Hendry the manger for 2007 and hire a new GM right now. This team is such a mess that 2007 is probably already over. Let Hendry manage the dreck he drafted and signed and give John Mozeliak or Rick Hahn or Mike Smith a year to evaluate what little is in the cupboard. Hendry was a decent coach at Creighton. He's already under contract to the Cubs through 2008. Let him have the team.

This is a move that makes perfect sense. That can only mean one thing.

The Cubs won't do it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wishing Health And Sound Advice

By now, nearly everyone still paying attention to the Chicago National League Ball Club has learned that Glendon Rusch has a blood clot in his right lung. What was interesting was this unintentionally funny line in Bruce Miles' story on Rusch in today's Daily Herald:

(Cubs trainer Mark) O'Neal and Cubs general manager Jim Hendry both credited team physician Dr. Stephen Adams for immediately sending Rusch to the hospital.

Thank God they didn't wait. Can you imagine where Rusch would be right now if the Cubs medical staff had actually taken time to examine him? That may have been the difference between Rusch's next hanging curveball and a surf in the dirt.

In all seriousness, here's hoping for a healthy recovery for Glendon.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm Four Today

At least you didn;t make me wear Cubs crap this year.  When do I get a car?
Geoffrey Scott

Yeah, I still owe you a trip to Wrigley. I think it'll have to wait...

Monday, September 11, 2006

The NFL Begins

I planned on posting a game-by-game breakdown of how the Bears projected out this year. 9-7 looked about right. Now, after beating Green Bay and seeing Detroit and Minnesota play?

Detroit - W
at Minnesota - L
Seattle - L
Buffalo - W
at Arizona - W
San Francisco - W
Miami - W
at N.Y. Giants - L
at N.Y. Jets - W
at New England - L
Minnesota - W
at St. Louis - W
Tampa Bay - W
at Detroit - W
Green Bay - W

The Seattle game seems to actually be a win, but, you generally screw up at least once at home. So, seeing the defense play well tacked on three wins in my book.

Other weekend thoughts:

If Fox wants to have their show on the road every week so Joe Buck can do the show and the play by play, maybe build a soundproof set? And... And... And... get the mikes... mikes... mikes... to stop with the reverb... reverb... reverb...

If WBBM insists on having Jeff Joniak and his castrato voice do the play by play, I have to make sure I sue Comcast to watch the games. See, for me, the radio was 2 seconds offset from the broadcast. That ensured I didn't have the radio on.

Also a note to Joniak. Stupid, stupid nickname attempt for Devin Hester. It will not even be repeated here for fear it might get accidentally catch on.

Oh, and about Devin Hester? Suh-weeet!

While it is fun to beat the Packers, it's not as much fun as it was 15 years ago. See, back then the Pack was trying to get good and their fans wanted to beat the Bears for validation. Smacking them down then was good because it kept them feeling miserable.

Today, the Packer fans are already miserable. All smacking them does is confirm what they already know. In the 80s and 90s, it was denying them advancement. Today, beating them changes nothing. Beating the Packers is taking Doyle Lonnegan for $500 grand. It's not enough, but it's close.

Lastly, the Tender Gitles got off to a 1-0 start as Jeremy Shockey caught one of Eli Manning's stupid waste-of-precious-time-at-the-end-of-the-game passes. I win on a stupid, stupid play. If that doesn't summarize the bastardization of the NFL by fantasy sports, nothing does.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Last Night In Florida...

Most of us know that Anibal Sanchez threw the first no-hitter in major league baseball in nearly two years. What many of you don't know is the reason why and the Ivy Chat connection.

Oh Chuck, can you say ''Thanks?''See, last night, one Geniene Miller sang the National Anthem in the pre-game ceremonies. Mrs. Miller used to live in Chicago and used to work with the writer of this little exercise in meaninglessness. Prior to her time in Chicago, she used to gallivant around Los Angeles with the woman who would become The Wife.

Figuring that this writer would be unable to find a suitable spouse in Chicago, Mrs. Miller arranged to have a prospect flown in from LA. Twelve years and three Murtons later, Mrs. Miller found herself singing to a sparse Marlin crowd. Her singing was the only hit of the night, at least for those of Diamondback persuasion.

I'm sure there are a few nasty jokes one could make at this time about how her singing must have had some numbing effect on Sr. Sanchez's cochlea and allowed him to concentrate better on the batters. But that would be a cruel thing to say about the person who married me off.

Instead, we'll close with a gratuitous shot of Mrs. Miller and the women she was going to introduce me to if the first fix up didn't take.
Any of you like gefilte fish?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

On The Down Low

There were so many fun nuggets in the Trib today, but they were overshadowed by the performance at Wrigley Field tonight.

Dusty Baker, trying to prove to future employers that he still has a pulse, tried to pick a fight with Salomon Torres. Yes, it's no longer names like Tony LaRussa that concern Dusty, it's Sr. Torres:

Pirates closer Salomon Torres jumped off the mound like The Who's Pete Townshend after striking out the Cubs' John Mabry to end the game Monday.

Was Torres' celebration a bit excessive for a game between two teams with the worst records in the National League?

Manager Dusty Baker wasn't pleased with Torres' twist, and it could lead to some problems before the four-game series is over.

"We'll see," Baker said. "We have three days [left]. I saw it."

Derrek Lee seems to have found some perspective in his old age.

"We have too many other things to worry about than to worry about a pitcher jumping around on the mound," Lee said. "We need to take care of ourselves."

I guess Dusty no longer considers himself part of the group Derrek is a part of.

This way down to the Chicago CubsAlso, Scott Moore was called up. This was done as a message to Aramis Ramirez that we don't need you. It was also a signal to the fans. This page is releaved that the Cubs have a ready third sacker in the minors. I mean, the Cub Farm System under Jim Hendry has done so well.

But, the real news of the day was clearly at Wrigley.

What? You think it was the Cubs being dubbed (or is it drubbed) the worst team in the National League? No. Cub fans have restored some faith to this heavy heart. Take a peek at this screencap from the 6th inning tonight:
Anyone there?
No one showed up. Outstanding. WAY. TO. GO. CUB. FANS.

This will get notice on North Michigan Avenue. This could lead to real results.

It certainly seems like Dusty's days are numbered. But, if Jim Hendry and Andy MacPhail comes back, the manager is meaningless.

As Dave Kaplan ranted on WGN last week, this team needs a complete clean out. A few more turnouts like this and it will be Colon Blow for everyone at 1060 West Addison.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Easy Living

It's been easy to ignore the Cubs this week. A new job, the Little Murtons started school, work on a golf outing, and, oh yeah. The Cubs are the worst team in the National League.

The writers in the local papers have also seemed to follow the lead of the Cubs and headed to the offseason early. Rick Morrisey played the "Whatever I say, you won't listen to" card today. I think that's good advice.

Dave Van Dyck had a little nugget that noted thus:

it was Phil Nevin who went looking for a trade and, in fact, initiated talks that led to his departure to Minnesota.

Nevin called Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on Thursday morning, saying he would like to play there for the September stretch drive, according to a story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Hours later, the deal was consummated between GMs Terry Ryan and Jim Hendry, with the Cubs getting a player to be named.

Nice to know that Jim Hendry has such a good club that he didn't try to trade a 35-year old free-agent-to-be.

The only real annoying thing that's been going around in the talk and chat circuits that really irked me goes something like:

"Jim Hendry got his contract extended this year, so he's going to be here. Deal with it!"

Let's see if I get this. Jim Hendry is being paid about $1.25 million per year through 2008. In the time he's been here he's overseen: A division winner; A team that choked the final week of the season; Two consecutive sub-.500 seasons; A 90-loss season; A minor league system that churns out injured pitchers; A minor league system that cannot churn out a position player; A major league team with ascending fan angst and apathy.

I also recall that, one year ago, a hall-of-fame track player who was causing fan angst was sent out of town. He was sent out of town at a cost of $15 million in cash.

So, Sammy Sosa goes and the Cubs eat fifteen large. Jim Hendry would cost less than one fifth of that to get rid of over two years, yet we are told to take Bobby Knight's advice and "relax and enjoy" what Jim Hendry is doing to this franchise.

Any fan who tells you to "deal with it" isn't a real fan. Hendry may be here next year, but we don't have to take it. If this franchise can take a $15 million hit for Sosa, so can they for Hendry.

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