Good Bye, 2009

I do not want to see the 2009 Cubs succeed.  To do so would be to go against every baseball sensibility I have.  It would be to go against any sense of justice and fairness in this world.  To see the 2009 Cubs succeed would be a slap in the face of the baseball gods (sorry, Dusty Baker).  To see the 2009 Cubs succeed would validate stupidity. When a G.M. takes a 97 win team and needlessly overhauls them in the offseason with head-scratching, nonsensical moves, it should not be able to win.  I want to see the Cubs win a World Series, but my God, not this team.  Cub fans deserve better than this ill-conceived team Jim Hendry has put together and Lou Piniella has watched over.  I’ve heard people say the Cubs will actually make the playoffs because they play most of their remaining games against sub .500 teams such as the San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals.  Sure.  I’m so glad that we have the MLB Extra Innings package on DirecTV so I can actually watch real baseball this September. 

Why is Milton Bradley still on this team?  I don’t care if the Cubs buy out his contract and cut him tomorrow, it is painfully obvious that he cannot remain on this team.  Hey, he even said he does not feel comfortable at Wrigley Field.  Who actually thought Milton Bradley would behave differently on the Cubs, a team that has no obvious leaders?  No, to root for the 2009 Cubs to succeed would mean Milton Bradley succeeding.  It may be juvenile, but I can’t do it.
Good luck to Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman after being claimed off waivers.  Hopefully for them, they will indeed end up someplace else so they don’t have to ride out this train wreck.
Now that the Cubs have new owners, the Ricketts family (Isn’t that the name of a disease?  Maybe it’s fitting for the Cubs), we should expect a lot of moves.  At least I hope so.  Do they really know what they’re getting into?  Will they completely sever all ties with the Tribune and start anew, or will it just be business as usual?  The new owners have a lot of work to do.  I wish them well and hope that they can deliver a Cubs World Series with a team that would live up to the image of a champion.

Take me to your leader

Today’s trade of Ivan Rodriguez to the Texas Rangers reminds me of a missed opportunity for the Cubs.  After Rodriguez’s Marlins stunned the Cubs in the 2003 NLCS and went on to win the World Series, he became a free agent.  At the time I thought it would be a good idea for the Cubs to bring in Rodriguez.  I felt the Cubs could use a strong, smart catcher like Rodriguez to work with the trio of young pitchers the Cubs had, Wood, Prior, and Zambrano.  Rodriguez is also a winner and would quickly become a team leader the Cubs also needed to put them over the top in 2004.  Well, it never happened.  The Cubs went cheap and signed Michael Barrett instead.  We all know how Michael Barrett worked out.  Let’s just say I think it was no coincidence that the Cubs took off in 2007 after Barrett was shipped out.  All this led me to think about the Cubs of the past three years.  Who is the team leader or leaders?  I don’t think the Cubs have any.  The Cubs have a good collection of talented players, but they don’t have any leaders.  You know, the kind of player that will push others, get in others’ faces when need be, driven with a passion to win.  The Yankees have Derek Jeter.  The Red Sox have Jason Varitek.  The Cardinals have Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina.  The Cubs don’t have any such players.  Derrek Lee is a great talent, but watch his body language after a strikeout or an 0-4 performance.  Head down, walking slowly back to the dugout, dejected.  Not inspiring.  Aramis Ramirez, the Cubs most important offensive weapon, seems shy and doesn’t say much.  Soriano and Bradley are all about themselves.  Zambrano is a headcase, who admits his recent injury problems are due to his being out of shape.  Great.  Soto’s a mess.  The Cubs should have signed Pudge this past offseason.  He could have mentored Soto.  Maybe then Soto wouldn’t have become the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.  Ivan Rodriguez to the Rangers leads me to believe we might in fact see the Rangers in the postseason.  Pudge now gets to work with the young pitchers over there as well as Mike Maddux, who is quickly becoming one of the elite pitching coaches if he isn’t already.  The Cubs seem to lack a team leader.  Maybe that’s one reason the Cubs have disappeared in the postseason and are quickly disappearing from this years pennant race.

Let’s face it, the Cubs season is on life support right now with a weekend four game series at Dodger Stadium while the Cardinals have a four game series against the Padres.  The Rockies keep winning, putting the Cubs further out of the Wild Card race.  Now the Cardinals seem to be ready to sign John Smoltz.  I’m sure LaRussa and Duncan will work their magic and get the most out of him whether it be as a starter or in the bullpen.  I believe Smoltz is a pretty good team guy as well.  Oh, and he knows how to help a team to the postseason and win once there.  Good luck, Cubbies.
On another note, I was happy to see that Shane Victorino filed a police report against that imbecile who threw the beer on him.

Mythbuster

It’s only August 11th, but the Cubs are well on their way to being C.U.B.S. (Completely Useless by September).  Sure, the guys that tow the corporate line on TV will say the Cubs are only three games behind St. Louis and they have the best NL record since the All-Star break (well they did before this weekend; they may not have that distinction anymore), but anyone watching the games can’t be fooled.  I feel a need to debunk five common myths about the Cubs right now.

1.  The Cubs are 15-9 since the All-Star Break.  They’re playing their best baseball of the year and are the hottest team in the NL since the All-Star game.

If you watched the Cubs on TV this weekend you would have heard something like the above statement.  Really?  Out of their 15 wins, 9 of them are against the Nationals and the Reds.  The Nationals are an abomination and the Reds completely quit after the All-Star Game.  The Cubs have lost a series to the Phillies, the Marlins, and the Rockies and have looked horrible in each of these series.  The Cubs are better than the Nationals, Reds, and the Astros.  They are much worse than the Phillies, Marlins, Rockies, and Cardinals.  If the Cubs did make the playoffs, who would they be playing?  Not the Nationals or Reds.  The Cubs can not compete with the Phillies, Rockies, or Cardinals.  Can you actually see them winning a playoff series against the Phillies?  No.  I don’t event want to see them make the playoffs if that’s the case.  Another three and out like the last two seasons.  Why bother?  The White Sox are in the same position in their division that the Cubs are.  But at least if the White Sox make the playoffs, it is conceivable that they could reach the World Series.  They just beat up the Yankees and Angels.  For the Cubs, winning the Central would just be a booby prize.
2.  Milton Bradley is now red hot and has brought his average up to .266 and his on base percentage to .401.

It seems like we should be excited about Bradley.  I’m not.  He’s been a bust.  It seems like Milton goes 4-5 only in games that the Cubs are losing 11-1 or winning 11-1.  His hits are completely meaningless.  It’s kind of like when Juan Pierre led the league in hits in 2006.  You couldn’t find 200 more meaningless hits than that.  Yeah, Bradley has raised his average to .266.  Do people think he needs a medal?  If the Cubs lose 2-1. I’ll bet Milton was 0-5.
3.  The Cubs minor league system has saved their season with stand outs like Jake Fox and Sam Fuld.

These two guys are middle aged minor leaguers.  If the Cubs are depending on them this year, GOOD LUCK.  Aside from their ownership questions, the Cubs could not pull off a decent trade this year because they have nothing to move.  How many of the Cubs minor league prospects are coveted by another team?  Ryan Theriot is the best position player the Cubs have produced in I don’t know how long.  Teams like Boston and Philadelphia can orchestrate big trades because their farm systems are loaded.  The Cubs can’t.  The minor leaguers the Cubs have will produce for the short term, but over the long haul they won’t once teams get their scouting reports on them.
4.  The Cubs will win the division because the other teams are not good.
St. Louis has re-energized their team with the additions of DeRosa, Lugo, and Holliday.  Pujols will always be the man, but now he really doesn’t have to be the man night in and night out.  Someone tell me the Cubs now have a better lineup than St. Louis, with or without Aramis Ramirez.  I don’t see it.  The Cardinals pitchers have quietly put together a great season.  They’ve found a closer, something they haven’t has the last two years.  Dave Duncan is probably the best pitching coach in the business.  Tony LaRussa will out manage Lou Piniella any night of the week.  Right now, as much as it pains me, I’m seeing visions of 2006.  It would not surprise me if the Cardinals won the pennant.
5.  None of the Cub injuries right now (Zambrano, Ramirez) look that serious.

Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.
I couldn’t end this entry without a comment about Patrick Kane.  I don’t think too much of him right now.  20 cents?  Really?  No tip?  I do have one question for Mr. Kane, where was all that toughness in the playoffs against Detroit?

Random Thoughts on the Cubs’s Bullpen, Pete Rose, and Steroids

As bad as Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol have been, the Cubs should start praying for rain in the seventh inning if they’re winning. 

Tom Gorzelanny, the Cubs’s trade deadline acquisition, makes his first start tonight against the Reds.  Can he close?

I find it rather interesting that Bud Selig is once again reconsidering his decision whether or not to reinstate Pete Rose.  I, for one, have always felt that Rose should be in the Hall of Fame based on his play.  Baseball should not let him hold a job in the game anymore.  I think the reason that this is coming up again is that baseball needs to pave the way for the steroids guys to get in the Hall of Fame.  Many of the greatest players of this generation may not get voted in because of steroids.  Some people may say how can you let them in and not let in Pete Rose.  If Pete Rose is allowed to be voted into the Hall of Fame, then the steroid guys may not seem so bad either. 

Speaking of the steroid list, should all the names be listed at once?  I think that they are being leaked one at a time to soften people’s reaction.  There seems to be less furor each time a name comes out.  It’s almost like people are like, “another player on steroids…whatever.”  Leaking the names on at a time is numbing people’s reaction to the accusations.  It’s a P.R. move, I think.

Should we start to get excited?

Since the All-Star break, the Cubs are 9-2 and have moved into first place in the NL Central.  They swept the Washington Generals…er…Nationals.  A National disgrace, the Nationals have been.  They’re 37 games under .500.  The Cubs should have swept them.  They swept the Reds, who really have the look of a team that has thrown in the towel.  The Reds are falling faster than a skydiving elephant.  My point is I can’t judge how good this team is playing right now.  The Cubs lost two out of three from the Phillies.  This current stretch of games between the Astros, Marlins, Rockies, and Phillies will go a long way in telling me how excited I should be right now.

Reasons to be excited
Aramis Ramirez is back and has been swinging a hot bat.
Carlos Zambrano has been pitching like an ace.
Rich Harden pitched well at Wrigley.
Reasons to worry
Ted Lilly is on the DL with both shoulder soreness and a knee problem.
Are they rushing Ryan Dempster back too soon?
We need another starting pitcher.
The Astros have always been a second half team.
The Cardinals have greatly upgraded their offense.
The Phillies look like a team poised to repeat.
Yesterday’s 13 inning victory over the Astros was huge.  Despite the struggles of Alfonso Soriano, he does have a flair for the dramatic.
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Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune / July 27, 2009

Soriano’s grand slam is one heck of a way to start a four game series with surging Houston.  Let’s hope the Cubbies can beat Roy Oswalt tonight.

Photo Credit:

St. Louis

What a busy summer it’s been!  This past weekend was barbeque city with my extended family’s summer get together at my parents and my son’s second birthday party on Sunday. For the record, my son got lots of Cardinal stuff from his Opa.  

On the weekend of July 18th and 19th, my brother and I took my father to St. Louis as a retirement gift.  We got to see a game at the new Busch Stadium on Saturday the 18th.  I had a great time in St. Louis with my father and brother.  New Busch Stadium is a great stadium, but very expensive.  I thought I was in Chicago for most of my time there.  Nine dollars for a beer.  Really?  Eight dollars for four chicken strips?  It seemed like most people in the upper deck with us were eating at Hardees because the food prices were more manageable.  It was like a fast food place in the mall that charges a little more because of the rent.  O.K., a little more expensive than that.

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The iconic St. Louis Arch commands ones attention.  I had a sudden urge for a Big Mac.
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The ballpark is in sight.
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A shot of the park from our parking garage.
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Busch Stadium still had All-Star fever.
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My dad found the legend, Jack Buck.  Notice the “L” T-shirt.  Surprisingly, we did not see any anti-Cub T-shirts in or around the stadium.  We didn’t see anyone selling any vulgar T-shirts.  Maybe we really weren’t in Chicago.
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My brother next to Stan the Man.
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All-Star fever.
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I wore my Zambrano jersey and did not get heckled at all.  People were very polite in St. Louis.
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One of the many statues outside the stadium.
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The only blue in a sea of red.
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The best thing about new Busch Stadium is the skyline view of the Arch behind the outfield.  Very nice.
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I like how they cut the Arch onto the field.  I wonder how long that took?
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Big Mac land.  Pujold knocked out one of the letters this year.
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Here comes Fredbird.  I bought my son a Build a Bear Fredbird as a souvenir.  My father bought out the Cardinals clubhouse for my son Joshua.  I may be fighting a losing battle.
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As you may or may not know, the Bowling Hall of Fame is in St. Louis.  It used to be across the street from the old ballpark, but they moved it to make way for a Nike All-Star store.  I’m not sure where they moved it to.  I had to take this picture because ever since we saw Popeye throw out a first pitch at Wrigley Field, my father has said that stuff like that is only for idiot Cub fans.  Real fans, like in St. Louis, are at the games to follow baseball.  My father had nothing to say about this seen before the game.  I feel sorry for the bowling pin, however.  It’s not an easy act following up President Obama in throwing out a first pitch at Busch Stadium.
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Neil Rackers of the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals also threw out a first pitch.  It’s hard to believe it’s been over 20 years since the Cardinals called St. Louis home.
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It’s good to see Mark DeRosa get another chance with a contender.
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Even as a Cub fan, I have to admit that Albert Pujols’s swing is a thing of beauty.
After seeing a few of the newer parks in Major League Baseball this summer, I really have to admit that something has to be done with Wrigley Field.  It might be time for the wrecking ball, or at least leave the field and ivy and completely gut the interior.  The facilities at Wrigley really are antiquated.  I’m sure the players wouldn’t mind to have a real clubhouse and amenities.

Skyline Time

There is a big chili debate going on at our house.  It all started when we stopped in Cincinnati on the way home from our road trip.  My wife, Tina, knows some people who have been to Cincinnati and she was told that one of Cincinnati’s signature foods was Skyline Chili.  Usually this chili is eaten over spaghetti with mild cheddar cheese on top.  Apparently this is called a “three way”.  At the ballpark, they serve the chili over a miniature hot dog as a “cheese coney”.  We agreed when we got to Great American Ballpark we would sample this local fare.

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Our opinions of the Skyline Cheese Coneys could not have been more different!  I loved it, while my wife said it was absolutely “foul” and just plain “wrong”.  Our son Joshua just loved eating the cheese off of it.  I loved it so much that when Tina asked me if I wanted anything else, I asked for two more.  The chili has a very sweet taste.  I believe it’s spiced with cinnamon.  After we left Cincinnati, I was sad because I did not think we would find Skyline Chili in Illinois. 

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Last Monday I volunteered to do the grocery shopping at our local Meijer store.  I had been having Skyline cravings, but I was resigned to the fact that I would not find any around where we live.  I checked their website and I could order from them, but you have to order by the case and with the shipping, my cravings weren’t exactly worth my right arm.  I differ with grocery shopping from my wife.  Tina tends to have a list and goes in to get those specific items and them leaves.  I tend to linger around, looking at everything, even if we really don’t need anything in a given aisle.  So I’m walking down the chili aisle and what do I see?  That blue and yellow Skyline Chili can!  
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After a quick double take, I just about did the happy dance right there in the aisle.  I bought up a bunch of cans of the good stuff.  You can imagine what my wife thought when I came home.  “You can have that.  That’s all for you”, is what she said.  So I had it Wednesday night.  A Nathan’s hot dog with some mustard, Skyline Chili and Cheddar Cheese.  Mmm! Tina said that her co-worker who had been to Cincinnati also said that Skyline chili is “foul”.  I’m sorry.  They’re all wrong. Or am I just strange?  Does anyone else out there love Skyline Chili and can back me up?  Next to Saag Bratwurst at Dodger Stadium, I believe that Skyline Cheese Coneys are my favorite ballpark food.
I’d be interested in hearing about other people’s favorite ballpark food.  This weekend, my brother and I will be taking our dad down to St. Louis for a game as our retirement gift to him. It should be a fun time.  Any “must eat” food at Busch Stadium?  By the way, does anyone know what hot dogs they use for the Cheese Coneys at Great American Ballpark?  They were good, also.
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