Saturday, December 30, 2006

Things to do in Palm Springs When The President is Dead

Last night, The Wife and I were returning from a trip to one of this area’s gambling establishments where we’d just given back the winnings we’d made earlier in the week. As we approached the exit for The In-Laws house, there was a blinking sign on the highway:


How many times in one’s life will you actually get to be part of a State Funeral? You have to figure that for the other living presidents, getting to their funerals will be problematic.

When Jimmy Carter goes, he’ll be laid out at the Palestinian Consulate. Not going there. George Bush the First? They’ll lay him out at the Saudi Arabian Embassy. Not going there either. For Bush the second, no one will care anything about him at that point, so I doubt we’ll even know when it happens.

Bill Clinton will clearly have his funeral at the Playboy Mansion. Going to that would be one of the all time great parties. However, The Wife would probably nix any chance of attending.

So, we headed south and parked at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. From there, we were told to leave all cell phones, purses and cameras in our cars. A line of about 20 minutes ended with us being wanded for metallic items. Municipal buses then transported us on the 20 minute drive to St. Margaret's Episcopal Church.

We were greeted at the church by a scout wearing a sash of merit badges. He directed us to the chapel where we were handed a card with a picture of President Ford and a summary of his career on the reverse and a prayer card from the church and the Ford family.

President Ford always struck me as a "what you see is what you get" man. Midwest typical, some might say. The church certainly seemed to fit a man with such a personality. It was very austere with a non-descript ceiling, lightly stained glass windows at the entrance. There were no religious statues or noticeable architecture. Just a simple place for people to worship.

We entered the chapel down the center isle. About 5 rows in, we were directed right, between the pews to the aisle.

On the pulpit was Ford's casket, draped in an American flag, rested on a black bier. There was a single lit candle burning behind the casket, three green wreaths with white flowers, and, to either side of he casket, the American and U.S. presidential flags.

The casket was guarded by five men in full dress uniform representing each branch of the military - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. While we were there, the guard was changed. The movements of the guard were made in tight precision in total silence.

We moved quickly to the front, also in total silence. We lingered for a moment at the front, about 10 feet from the casket. Then, we were out and heading back to the buses. When we returned to the Tennis Garden, we signed a condolence book. The Wife commented that there might not be a heck of a lot of signers from Glenview, Illinois. While that may be true, the signers before us were from Ontario, Canada. There are probably not that many signers from there, either.

This morning, we saw Air Force One fly overhead as it flew the president’s body and his family to Washington. That capped a remarkable experience, one which, I expect never to repeat.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

From the West Coast Office...

Greetings from Palm Springs! It's 45 degrees and cloudy here, so suck on that all you sufferers of lousy weather back in Chicago!

In our absense, please enjoy this video that's been making the rounds. And, try to skip the last 15 ticks or so.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Another Bush

The Cubs have hired Randy Bush to be their assistant general manager reports the Tribune's online service:

Bush was one of a handful of special assistants to Hendry, along with Gary Hughes, Paul Weaver, Ken Kravec and former GM Ed Lynch. He won two championship rings with Minnesota in 1987 and '91, and was head baseball coach at New Orleans University when Hendry hand-picked him to join his staff in January of '05.

Bush's reputation as a top-notch talent evaluator made him an easy choice for Hendry, who is likely to travel less in '07 because of his recent heart scare at the winter meetings.

I'm glad to see that Bush is a top notch talent evalutaor, yet has only been with the Cubs for 23 months. I guess that means he is not really responsible for Angel Guzman, Corey Patterson, Andy Sisco, Ryan Harvey, Bobbie Brownlie, Luke Hagerty, Chadd Blasko, Brian Dopriak, ... You get the drift.

Someone remind us, who was in charge of scouting in those days?

And that brings us to Greg Couch's most recent column on the Cubs.

...the Cubs just lost 96 games. So they're looking a little like a 5-year-old begging for attention. Look how much money we've spent! Look at me! Look at me!

On top of that, the Cubs have absolutely no plan. They don't drive toward anything. Some teams are speed teams, some are power, some are pitching. Some develop through the minors. What is the Cubs' philosophy? Now it's the Great Band-Aid philosophy. Where are we bleeding? Quick, patch it.

But the Band-Aid philosophy beats their usual Give-kids-Beanie Babies philosophy.

Greg is right that this beats the old approach and that Jim Hendry continues to show no semblance of a strategy.

But, this is what this page warned about in the early fall. By not extending Jim hendry's contract when Andy MacPhail was ousted, trouble was sure to follow given the need for job preservation over long term progress.

What's next? A signing of a guy like Jason Marquis to a contract and have the GM suggest that he's a good pitcher because of a non-stat like wins despite being a failure in the presence of a proven great coach like Dave Duncan?


Monday, December 18, 2006

Thinking It Over

In the 4th quarter and in overtime, Lovie Smith showed Bear fans that he has the same concerns that we all do. Those concerns are the defense, the quarterback, and his place kicker.

With 1:17 left in the game, the Bears got the ball on their own 10 yard line. Cedric Benson proceeds to rip off a 9 yard run. With the team out of the shadow of the goal posts and a full compliment of time outs, Rex Grossman looked to the sideline to see what Lovie wanted to do.

Not much was the response.

One more run for Cedric and regulation was over.

Why not try to get into field goal range? Why not try some safe out patterns and see if you could win in regulation? Why risk the coin flip and never getting the ball?

Several reasons. First, for all of the Rex Renaissance of late, his mechanics show the coordination of a Sharon Panazzo press conference. Throwing off his back foot seems to be Rex's style, not an occasional mistake. Sooner or later that's going to get Rex in trouble. Lovie didn’t want that trouble to occur inside his own 20.

Second, the defense decided to let as more people get behind them than are behind Taylor Hayes. Lovie didn’t want to risk Rex going three and out, then giving the ball back to Tampa with 30 seconds and only needing 20 yards for a game-winning field goal.

Better to risk all of that in overtime.

As to Robbie Gould's problems, it certainly seems like Lovie thinks Gould has a confidence problem. While the kick on third down is smart football, there is only reason for the game winner to happen on first down. Lovie didn’t want to win on a TD. He wanted Robbie to get it to redeem his earlier miss and goose his confidence before the playoffs start. That's a smart coaching move.

What's obvious about this team is just how much they miss Mike Brown. As much as people say Brian Urlacher is overrated, and this page would be a part of that chorus those, Mike Brown is underrated. Injuries have derailed what should have been a stellar career. He makes a lot of what Urlacher does possible work with strong run support, especially in Lovie Smith's Cover-2 defense.

None of this really appears to matter. Hard to see anyone beating the San Diego LaDainian's anyway.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Two Dead Soldiers

A fascinating column from DePaul University's Peter Bernstein. Take a look at this graph:

Source: Chicago Sports Review

For every year from 1991 to 2004, the Cubs payroll was either the same as or exceeded ticket revenues. Since 2004, ticket revenues have exceeded payroll. This permanently lays to rest two canards stated by Tribune apologists:

1) The increase in ticket prices is used to offset increases in payroll.
As any finance person will tell you, ticket prices are set at the price where revenue is maximized, not where payroll is financed. And that price is set where supply equals demand. Bernstein show us that demand increased each time the Cubs had a good season:

“In other words, two things drive up Cubs ticket prices -- if last year's team was good or, if not good, if the team was at least better than the year before.”


2) The Trib wasn’t cheap, the just didn’t spend wisely.

Starting in 2004, the year AFTER the Cubs had their best season in 14 years, ticket revenue EXCEEDED payroll. That means the TV revenue, radio revenue, internet revenue, hot dog revenue, etc. WAS ALL GRAVY.

This team could have had Miguel Tejada, Pudge Rodriguez AND Carlos Beltran AND still made a profit commensurate with what the Cubs had made the previous decade!

Damning stuff from the DePaul economics department. Makes me proud to have a diploma from business department there.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Little Interest

Looks like Tribune Company isn't a very desirable buy right now.

The auction for parts or all of the Tribune Co. will likely result in a scaled-down sale of some units or no sale at all, sources say, as the company's decision fast approaches a first-quarter deadline.

Despite the lack of interest, the possibility of the Cubs being sold remains very high. That's for several reasons. First, the Chandler Family wants to see a positive return on their 20% interest in the Company, a return they are not seeing right now. Selling the company in pieces would generate cash and possibly realize a value greater than that of the current stock price.

But the other issue that will keep the Cubs at the top of assets potentially for sale is simply the debt load the Trib has. With the billions in debt taken on in support of a silly stock repurchase plan, the Trib does need to find a way to pay the dollars back.

They also need assets that are growing, generating new revenues and new profits.

Given the lack of new seats at Wrigley Field and the heightened payroll, the probability that the Cubs are a growth asset in the Trib portfolio is slightly less likely than is an investment in slide rules.

There remains little in the way of announcing a potential buyer for the team within the next five to six months.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Reanimation Has Its Limits

I just made my last yummy sound
Peter Boyle 1935-2006

The Thursday before my wedding, Peter stood next to me in line for Space Mountain at Disneyland. I wanted to say something to him and say how much I liked his work on NYPD Blue and in "The Candidate" ("Everybody Loves Raymond" was just starting). But he was with his daughter and I didn't want to bother him.

He, and his enormous shvanshtucker, will be missed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It Is Alive

Jim Hendry made an appearance on WGN Radio's Sports Central show this evening. He covered multiple topics including:

- Jim is alive. He's feeling better. And, contrary to Tom Waddle's suggesting that the heart problems were brought on by the short term stress of contract negotiations and the Late Fall Winter Meetings, this problem was in the works for a long time.

- Mark Prior is alive. His ability to pitch is a question less easily answered than is that of the future of the US Military in Iraq.

- No major acquisition is planned to fill center field. And Felix Pie is ready, defensively, right now, to play any outfield position.

- Jason Marquis sucked in September. Yes, Jim admitted that. But at age 28, it's worth it to take a flyer on a 28 year old guy with over 40 wins and 600 innings over the last three years.

It's wonderful to hear that Jim is feeling better. The proof that he's back to his old self is the emphasis of "wins" as one of the key issues for pitcher quality.

One of these days, the Cubs front office will make that great leap into the 21st Century.

Clearly, 2006 did not include that day.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Nickname Needed

Only recognizable to return teams from behind
Devin Hester is remarkable. A lock for the Pro Bowl, he's got a heckuva shot to win the NFL Rookie of the Year award.

A guy this exciting needs some nomenclature. We've had Sweetness. Samurai. The Hawk. Air Jordan. Ryno. The Big Hurt. Where do we go with Devon Hester?

I'm sure WBBM's Jeff Joniak has tried, again, to gain some traction with his insipid nickname. It will not be repeated here just because it is soooooo stupid.

Some ideas so far:

- The Galloping Hest (allusion to Bear History)
- Hester the Kick Return Molester
- Devin Avenue Expressway
- Skokie Swift

All these names suck. Ideas, please.

Tom Fornelli has scribed a little ditty to the Florida Photon (yeah, I'm still trying - it ain't working).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Let's Remember

Today is the 65th anniversary of "a day that will live in infamy." Right about now, in Hawaii, the survivors of the attack are gathering for what may be
their final reunion:

The survivors have met here every five years for four decades, but they're now in their 80s or 90s and are not counting on a 70th reunion. They have made every effort to report for one final roll call.

"We're like the dodo bird. We're almost extinct," said Middlesworth, now an 83-year-old retiree from Upland, Calif., but then — on Dec. 7, 1941 — an 18-year-old Marine on the USS San Francisco.

Nearly 500 survivors from across the nation were expected to make the trip to Hawaii, bringing with them 1,300 family members, numerous wheelchairs and too many haunting memories.

It's hard to believe that there are still 500 survivors capable of making the trip.

Hyland does accept the fact that their numbers are falling fast.

"We all have our turn and our turn is getting closer," he said.

But until then, they are drawn to Pearl Harbor, and to each other. Military historian Douglas Smith, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I., says they are proud of their service and eager to return "to their glory days," but most of all they revel in the bonds they formed long ago, when they were young.

The bond is so strong that some ask to have their ashes interred inside the Arizona, laid to rest with shipmates who were not so fortunate as to survive Dec. 7, 1941.

"They're coming home," Middlesworth said. "They feel they're coming home."

With all the crap going on right now in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's important to remember that the people fighting these fights for us today will have the rest of their lives shaped by these experiences.

Let us hope that the veterans of the War on Terrorism can meet peacfully in Kabul and in Baghdad in 2071.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Cubs have their hands in a lot of things this offseason. And at the Late Fall Winter Meetings today, the Cubs announced three more moves. The rundown:

1) Cubs sign Ted Lilly for four years and $40 million

This is one of those "had no choice" kind of moves the Cubs had to make after Jason Schmidt signed with the Dodgers. It is also the kind of move that never happens with Andy MacPhail around given Andy's "Frank Burns Snapper Purse" on the Cubs dollars. With the spending going on right now, one just has to wonder why they couldn't have done this years ago. Maybe it's not the Trib that was cheap, it was MacPhail. One thing is certain, if they have this money to spend now given the Trib's dire straits, the Cubs were clearly cheap in the past.

The fascinating thing about this signing is how it happened:

Jim Hendry has negotiated some big deals before, but he topped himself Wednesday when Ted Lilly signed a four-year, $40 million deal while Hendry was in a hospital bed.

Hendry was taken to a local hospital with apparent chest pains Wednesday afternoon and was admitted overnight for observation.

"Jim was hooked up to an EKG machine, and we got it done," said Lilly's agent, Larry O'Brien.

The Cubs declined to disclose Hendry's ailment, other than to say it was not "life-threatening," and a spokesperson said he would be out of the hospital Thursday morning.

"He's fine," said manager Lou Piniella, who drove Hendry to the hospital. "He's staying overnight. It's more than indigestion, but I don't want to get into it."

This site's issues with Jim Hendry have all been business oriented, not personal. Get well soon, sir.

2) Cubs trade Freddie Bynum to the Orioles for the dreaded PTBNL

Shudder! Do the Orioles still have the rights to Sammy Sosa?

3) Cubs hire Ryne Sandberg as manager for the Class A Peoria

This move seems to be a sign that Cubs management (Hendry, John McDonough) believes that they will be here a while.

See, with Lou Piniella already 63 years old, the Cubs must already be planning for Lou's exit.

Given the irrational exuberance some Cubs fans showed towards Joe Girardi, marketing man McDonough knows that the fans would love to see one of their beloved heroes as a future Cub manager.

The betting here is that the Cubs told Sandberg that, if he gets in a year or two of practice time in the minors and does a good job, the Cub job is his once Lou retires.

This is such a smart move on so many levels.

- Sandberg gets to decide if he likes the gig.
- The Cubs get to see if Sandberg has the capacity to do the job well.
- Sandberg gets to manage players now who project to arrive on the major league roster at the same time Ryno would.
- Attendance at Peoria games gets a boost.
- It makes for a great feel good story.

Again, it's nice to finally see a team make good, smart moves. Too bad it only took 60 years for it to happen.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Don't Light A Match

Sometimes, being polite, stinks.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sticking to Great

Over at renewed good friend Bleed Cubbie Blue, they've been compiling a list of the greatest 100 players ever to wear a Cub uniform. They've run through about 20 players and, so far, there’s been a big problem with the list.

Quite a few of the players listed suck.

See, when a team goes 98 years without winning, a significant reason for that lack of winning is a lack of great players. While it is quite easy to rank the top 100 players in Cub franchise history, it is actually rather hard to dole out the term “greatest” to 100 players as so few of them were great.

What we here at Ivy Chat have created (with some Desipiotic assistance), is a list of the 63 players in Cub history DESERVING to be included on a "greatest" list. We've also compiled a second list of 25 players who are "on the bubble" for inclusion on the list.

The criteria used were entirely subjective, save the need for the player to have played 3 full seasons in a Cub uniform. The main point is not who were our "favorite" players, but who were actually good. That eliminates the Ivan DeJesuses from consideration. If they sucked, they sucked and are not listed, even if they may have been one of the 100 best players to whom the franchise has issued payroll checks.

Here are the two lists:

Top Players in Cub History
Al SpaldingAndre DawsonAndy PafkoAramis Ramirez
Bill BucknerBill HandsBill LeeBill Madlock
Bill NicholsonBilly HermanBilly WilliamsBruce Sutter
Cap AnsonCarlos ZambranoCharlie GrimmCharlie Root
Clark GriffithClaude PasseauDerrek LeeDick Ellsworth
Dizzy DeanDon KessingerEd ReulbachErnie Banks
Fergie JenkinsFrank ChanceGabby HartnettGlenn Beckert
Greg MadduxGrover Cleveland AlexanderHack WilsonHank Sauer
Heinie ZimmermanHippo VaughnJack PfeisterJoe Tinker
John ClarksonJohnny EversJohnny KlingJon Lieber
Ken HoltzmanKiki CuylerKing KellyLee Smith
Leon DurhamLon WarnekeManny TrilloMark Grace
Mordecai BrownNed WilliamsonOrval OverallPhil Cavaretta
Randy HundleyRandy MyersRick ReuschelRick Sutcliffe
Riggs StephensonRogers HornsbyRon SantoRyne Sandberg
Sammy SosaStan HackWoody English

And the Bubble Boys:

On The Bubble Top Players in Cub History
Augie GalanBill DahlenBill LangeBob Rush
Dave KingmanFrank "Wildfire" SchulteFred PfefferGeorge Altman
George GoreGuy BushHank WyseJimmy Ryan
Jimmy SheckardJody DavisKeith MorelandLarry French
Max FlackMichael BarrettMilt PappasMoises Alou
Pat MaloneRay GrimesRick MondayShawon Dunston
Tex Carleton

Some feedback please. Why should some of the top 63 be left off? Why should some of the Bubble Boys be promoted? Why should some of the Bubble Boys be eliminated? Anyone who has been forgotten?

And if you suggest Jerry Morales, you can go jump in Lake Michigan.

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