Friday, August 22, 2008

Try Again

Major League Baseball seems ready to embrace 20th century technology and start using instant replay in games this year. The purpose of replay will be to fight injustice, right that which is wrong and serve all mankind! No longer will fans suffer because of blown calls like Don Denkinger at first base, and Jeffrey Maier's fan interference and Joe West calling a Norm Charlton pitch 6 inches off the plate a strike resulting in Andre Dawson launching bats out of the dugout.

What? You meant to say that not all of those calls would have been reversed? Why not? What the hell good is replay going to be if it doesn't reverse these injustices? Tim Kurkjian tells us how it's all going to work:

The only plays that will be reviewable will be home runs: Was it fair or foul? Did it clear the fence, or didn't it? The Steve Bartman play from the 2003 playoffs at Wrigley Field would not be reviewable, but the Jeffrey Maier play from the 1996 playoffs at Yankee Stadium would be reviewable. No other play is reviewable, and from all indications MLB is adamant that replay will not be expanded to cover anything beyond home run calls.

In all 30 ballparks, there will be a television monitor and a phone line installed in a secured area, usually in a tunnel that leads from the field to the clubhouse area. When a replay is called for, usually one umpire -- but never all four of them -- will leave the field to look at the play on the monitor, assuring that at least one umpire will be on the field at all times.

Television feeds from all ballparks will be monitored in a "war room" in Manhattan -- one source called it "our NASA" -- where a technician and an umpire supervisor will have access to all games at all times. Each game will include the TV feed from both teams, meaning the war room will get angles that won't be biased in any way for either team. The umpires at the game in question will be in control of review process. The crew chief will make the final call. The war room is designed to assure that the crew chief has everything he needs. And, once a pitch is thrown after a disputed call, it is not longer reviewable.

Now, this page is all in favor of getting plays right. But if the issue is making disputed home runs undisputed, there are far easier and quicker methods of doing just this.

First, have every stadium install a Wrigley Field-type basket along the outfield walls. This will prevent fans from reaching over and interfering, btu still allow the outfielders to make the home run robbing catches that ESPN needs for Baseball Tonight.

It's a home run or...  I dunno.Second, get rid of all those stupid yellow lines at ballparks. Take the left centerfield wall at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The space where the garage door meets the back wall already caused Geovany Soto to burn 100 extra calories because of the poor design. Just make these areas easy to see if it's a home run or not.

Third, if you want to know if a home run is inside or outside the foul pole, just attach lights to the fair side of the poles. If a ball passes close to the pole and is illuminated by the lights, it's fair. If it's not illuminated, it's foul. Simple and instantly viewable to the umprires, players, coaches and the fans in the park.

This replay system will not only seldom be used, but it's going to create massive delays. Just how long is it going to take Tim Tschida to leave the field and review video on a feed from New York? And will he stop for a snack before he returns?

Phineas J. Whoopee Selig, you're the greatest!If baseball wants to fix mistakes the umprires make, everyone should be all for it. The system proposed barely does that and does so in about as inefficient a way as possible.

Back to the drawing board, Mr. Selig.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Chat Fest

The ever increasing in popularity "The Other 15%" podcast is now available. Respect the podcasters at your own risk.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Exceeding expectations is a wonderful thing. A 3-3 roadtrip would have sufficed and a 4-2 road trip would have been a very nice accomplishment given this team's road success this season.

But 5-1? Godd work guys. Props to Reed Johnson for getting four hits, three of which were off right handed pitchers. He's going to need to have performances like this in October for the Cubs to have a long playoff run.

The Cubs have knocked off 9 digits from their divisional magic number in the last 7 days. With the next nine games against the Nationals, Pirates and Dunn-less/Dusty-fortified Reds, expectations should be to knock that number down into the Todd Bell territory by the first day of school for the Little Murtons.

Don't dog it, fellas.

Overflow Thread

Another Cujo'd Dog

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Last Time

Time for some good, Soriano hate. As long as I'm getting ripped for it, I might as well earn it.

Alfonso Soriano may have been hitting of late, but he's still an infuriating player to have to watch. Yesterday, Alfonso thought he hit another homer. As has been his style, he stood there to watch the ball and pose. A few days ago against the Brewers, he was nearly thrown out at second after jogging while watching a ball bounce off the wall.

Yesterday, this same idiocy led to him only getting a single on a similar play. Now, Soriano is embarrassed by this display. He tells us that he'll hustle from now on:

Alfonso Soriano said Wednesday was the last time you'll see him not hustle out of the batter's box. However, it may not be the last time he has a pitch thrown at him.

In the eighth inning of the first game of the Cubs' day-night doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves, Soriano led off with a single to left. He watched it, obviously thinking the ball was going over the wall. It didn't.

Soriano ended up with a long single. Cubs manager Lou Piniella was not pleased.

"I talked to Alfonso about it, and I told him that he's one of our leaders here and there's no need for that, and he agrees and says it won't happen again, it's over," Piniella said after the Cubs' 10-2 win over the Braves.

Soriano appeared embarrassed by the incident.

"I apologized to [Piniella], and I apologized to my teammates," Soriano said. "I said to him that's not going to happen again. I apologized to him."

Now, what the Braves did later was to try to plunk Soriano in the head for showing them up.

First, the Braves are stupid. If you want to hurt Soriano, don't aim for his head.

But, more importantly, just how perfect would it have been had Soriano actually gotten hit with a purpose pitch and been injured again? His showboating could have cost the team his valuable presence!

Soriano is actually kind of lucky that he's playing for Lou Piniella and not Bobby Cox. Cox would have removed Soriano from the Brewers game just like he did to Andruw Jones all those years ago. Lou let Soriano get away with it for a while.

Players who showboat are disgusting. True, they're aided and abetted by ESPN's fawning over athletes who draw attention to themselves. But their "me" attitude has the potential to hurt a team. And smart fans have only an interest in winning. I guess for every Walter Payton and Barry Sanders who acted with class in every aspect of their game, there are 10 Barry Bonds and Terrell Owens who gotta have the spotlight.

Alfonso Soriano is in that category.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Make Some Hay

The Cubs have only 44 games left in the regular season. Of those 44 games, only 19 are left at Wrigley Field and none of the final 7 games. Yes, the team has leads of 8, 9, and 12 games in the loss column over St. Louis, New York and Los Angeles, respectively, for the Wild Card slot. A playoff appearance certainly looks to be approaching lock status.

But there is some work to do and the next 15 games offer a good chance to get that work done. Of those 15 games, only three are against a team with a winning record (Florida). Nine of the games are on the road so there is an opportunity to improve the road record and the overall record in this stretch.

There is also the opportunity for underperforming hitters to get their swigns straightened out. Kosuke Fukudome has been a severe disappointment since May and Derrek Lee who had an April that looked like 2005 has regressed back to 2006 (his OPS by month this season was only above .781 in April and his season OPS of .831 is 35 points below his career average). The Cubs are going to need these guys to find their strokes, and do it soon or the post season will be very short.

The next fifteen games offer a good chance to set the course for a good October.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Getting Nostalgic

$5.00 each on Ticketmaster if you called from Iowa City.Last Monday, I went to Wrigley Field and got soaked in a rainstorm highlighted by tons of lightning.

Twenty years ago today, also on Monday, I did the same thing.

August 8, 1988 was the date of the first night game in the history of Wrigley Field. Back then, I was a junior at the University of Iowa when the tickets went on sale for the game. Because the game was on a Monday night and the series for the weekend was not sold out, the Cubs sold the majority of day-of-game tickets to people calling in from out of town. It seems the Cubs were hoping non-local people who got tickets for Monday would come into Chicago for the whole weekend and, while there, perhaps buy tickets for Saturday and Sunday's game.

After a grand total of 3 minutes of dialing from the Theta Xi house phone, I snagged four bleacher seats for the game. I invited three of my closest friends, Rick and Jill (who were dating) and Wendy.

We sat at the top of the lower center field bleachers. Rick and I were photographers. We took color pics until it got dark, then switched to high speed black and whites.

The lightning started to be visible over the third base grandstand around the third inning. In the fourth, I'd just gotten back to the seats with some hot dogs and beers when what appeared to be a ton of confetti starting falling in front of the third baseline lights. The rain came so hard, so fast, it was raining on the west side of the stadium but not the bleachers yet.

We scrambled to put our cameras away and wolf down our food before the rain turned it into oatmeal. The rain then dumped.

After that, we were surrounded by people screaming about how this game better not be rained out and how they'd paid $100 or more for a ticket. We didn't care. "God says NO LIGHTS!" people were yelling.

Rick and I continued to take pictures from underneath the scoreboard. People kept leaping out of the stands and running on the tarp. And getting arrested. One guy was cutoff by security from getting to the tarp. He kept leaping back and forth over the tarp roller to the "Ole!" like cheers from the crowd. Finally realizing he wasn't going to get on the tarp, he headed back for the first base stands and leaped into the stands.

And slipped.

He smashed head first into the wall. "Ole" morphed into an excited "OOOOO!"

As we got ready to leave, Rick said to me, "Where's your hat?" He was talking about the white "Opening Night" hats everyone got when we entered the game. Turns out when we were taking pictures under the scoreboard, I'd left it up there. I ran up and found it just lying there. Very, very lucky to find it. I still have it in my closet.

Being soaked and not interested in bar hopping in the rain (I was 8 days short of my 21st and Jill had a broken leg and was wearing an immobilizer), we ended up in Skokie at a Gino's pizza and then called it a night.

Rick, Stephanie, Chuck, Wendy and JillWhat follows are some of the pictures I took that night. What really gets me is the picture of the four of us (and full time Bleacher Bum Stephanie Leathers of I still see Rick and Jill from time to time. They are married with a bunch of kids.

Wendy stayed one of my closest friends. We drank a lot together and became each others sounding board for people we dated. In May of 1996, a group if us celebrated her 30th birthday at America's Bar. We partied hard, but there was a heaviness around all of us. The next day, she got the results of her biopsy back.

Not long after that, The Fiance and I asked Wendy to be one of our bridesmaids. She was ecstatic. "I'll be there and NO WIGS!" she screamed in the phone. "I'm gonna have MY OWN HAIR!" In March 1997, she walked down the aisle wearing her own hair.

Wendy Larks died on July 31, 2001. I think about her every so often, especially when I see the picture we have of her and my sisters and The Wife from our Wedding Day. Seeing the pictures below reminds me how much I miss her.

Baseball is a diversion. It's entertainment. What's important is what it reminds us of. Terence Mann was right. Baseball has marked the time. And time is populated with ghosts.

I can't believe 20 years have gone by. I can't believe 7 years have gone by.

Click on images for full size images.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Good Short Season

CLASS   PLAYER, POS       AB   R   H   BI   AVG     
AA Colvin, Tyler CF 5 2 2 1 .240 3B (8), BB
SS Flaherty, Ryan SS 5 2 2 1 .316 HR (4)
SS Keedy, Ryan 1B 4 1 2 1 .373 2B (13)
SS Vitters, Josh 3B 5 1 2 0 .335

Ryan Keedy? Nice numbers so far.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Plugging Away

Wanted to add a quick link to the site of a neighbor and Father of a Friend of the Middle Murton.

The shirts were first noticed standing in line for a hot dog. At Costco. As they were simple and obvious, they deserved a plug.
That's a hot, hot model.
Available at

I prefer the blue shirt.

High Water

Where did Maddux, Nipper and Lancaster go?With the Cubs at 22 games over .500 for the first time since the Boys of Zimmer years, we ventured to Wrigley Field to see if they could continue their assualt on the National League Central and become the first Cub team to play in back-to-back post seasons since 1908.

The experience ended quickly.

Catching up on some old items:

How much longer will Derrek Lee be allowed to bat third? Lou Piniella got Lee a night off last night. Good. Now, he better respond or Lou needs to move him lower in the order.

Nice work by a certain cell phone company that subsidizes a certain taxpayer funded stadium south of Madison in Chicago. Ever been to Wrigley's upped deck eating area that's above the marquee? It used to have tremendous views of the Chicago skyline.

Not so much anymore.
The most spectacular skyline... uh... billboard anywhere.

Just how great is Geovany Soto?
Carlos Zambrano made that revelation after Sunday's victory, saying Soto "says some crazy things to motivate you" and had gone to the mound in the second inning pretending he was talking to Zambrano. But he said nothing.

"I like to have fun," Soto said. "We've still got a job to do, we have to win games, but I just come in here and have fun. You can't be all pressured out out there. … You've got to keep 'em loose and do your job."

When did Michael Barrett start playing first for Milwaukee? And get so fat? And was there ever an athelete in a fight that was more passive than Manny Parra? Ned Yost really, really, really needs to keep his job until October.

The next five days could be huge. With Milwaukee potentially collapsing and the Cubs facing Houston and then the Cardinals, the Cubs lead in the division could grow rapidly. It would be a good idea if they did this now given that they close the season with 16 road games in their final 26 games.

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