Friday, July 31, 2009

Keep (the rest of) the List Sealed

David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, and Sammy Sosa are on The List. We're still missing a lot of names. Should we just reveal the rest?

Imagine for a moment that your bank had its entire database of customer information raided: Social Security numbers, account numbers, passwords, past transactions. Good news: they only stole a limited segment of customers, only those with credit ratings below 600. Bad news: your credit has taken a pretty big hit in the last year, and you're pretty sure you're on the list.

Good news: the government managed to seize the list before the bad guys could do anything with the info. Bad news: the government turns out to be even worse than the bad guys, and they start leaking names from the illegally obtained confidential data. Worse news: your bank is big, and as it turns out, the list includes a couple of big name people with big-time credit problems.

Maybe the worst news of all: every financial pundit in America is blaming the people on this list for the bad economy, and they're demanding the entire list be revealed, just so they can clear the air and move on with their lives (as if that would be easier if they only knew the names of all the Citibank customers with bad credit).

I'm guessing if your name was on that list, you would want it kept a secret. And you'd have every right. We happen to live in a country that professes to value the rights of people. While "innocent until proven guilty" matters very little in the court of public opinion, it still is supposed to carry considerable weight when it comes to the law. If your financial records (or your drug-test records) are legally protected, they should stay legally protected. Prior illegal breeches by government officials, lawyers, and journalists shouldn't change that.

Alright, let's hear it. That's a totally different example because ______. Let me guess how one might fill in that blank.

People with bad credit didn't do anything wrong. The evil, cheating steroid users did.

Uh, technically, no. While illegal steroids are, well, illegal and were therefore banned under MLB's pre-2002 "memo from the commissioner" drug policy, not all performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) are illegal.

As heavyweight hitman, Bronson Arroyo makes somewhat clear, androstenedione (andro) wasn't banned in baseball until 2004 and was sometimes tainted with steroids. This January, two over-the-counter dietary supplements were found to be laced with steroids. Players on the list need not have broken any MLB rules or any laws. They could have landed on the list by taking legal, over-the-counter products.

And don't forget: you don't have to be taking steroids to register a positive test. Just ask the Vikings' Williamses about that one. They tested positive for a steroid-masking agent not listed on the label of the weight-loss supplement StarCaps. If the MLB test in 2003 didn't include masking agents, innocent guys like the Williamses wouldn't have tested positive. Of course, if the MLB didn't test for masking agents, mega-guilty steroid users could easily mask their steroid use, making the 2003 list far from comprehensive.

The limited reliability of the 2003 list (not to mention the anonymous sources behind the slow trickle of big names from it) assures me that it is not The List. It's a list. The biggest (and most widely accepted) lie in all of sports is that the 2003 list contains the names of every active player in 2003 who had ever used steroids. Barry Bonds was not on The List, but the government retested his sample and found steroids (paragraph 4 in link)—hey, what do you know!?! The list was proven inaccurate and incomplete before a single name was leaked!

To release this list in its entirety (and fallibility) would compound the injustice done against the privacy of those names already leaked. Say what you want about steroid users, but submitting to a drug test is a pretty significant concession of trust. They are being penalized more for their trust than for their violation of any rules. It is the scum who betrayed that trust—those who failed to destroy the samples and the records; those who embarrassed the legal profession by leaking private information; those who report that information but not the identity of their dirty, spineless informants—who are being rewarded. No one deserves to learn the rest of the names. A lot of people deserve to be punished for their actions surrounding those names.

But remember this: the list tells us nothing about the sport of baseball. Knowing the whole list would give the public a patently false sense of security about the steroid era. Because it's not the whole list. So many users profess to using for a brief window of time. There are probably hundreds of users for whom the 2003 test was outside their window of experimentation. There may have been dozens of regular users who stopped using during 2003 in the vain hopes that the number of positive tests would fall below the threshold necessary to implement a permanent drug-testing policy.

Mark McGwire was out of baseball at the time. Barry Bonds didn't even make the list. Jose Canseco would probably be a more reliable source about steroid use than this list or anyone who has seen it. I don't want to see this list any more than I want to talk to Jose Canseco. The list was supposed to be destroyed as soon as it was created—good luck doing that now, but whoever attempts to reveal any more of it should be ashamed.


There are a couple of interesting new posts over at Midwest Sports Fans. One is an open letter to the cheating liars who used steroids, in which Jerod suggests it would be beneficial for all past PED users to come clean. I'm not sure why any of them would. The only ones who seem to have anything to fear are the ones who tested positive in 2003. He also claims that a few guys have done the right thing and been honest about what they did. A) I doubt anyone has been completely honest about what they've taken, and, again, B) I don't know why they would. According to just about every steroid confession ever (save Jose Canseco) no one has ever used PEDs for more than a couple of days.

Yeah, the honesty flows like sweet wine.

The second post is a collection of speculations from other bloggers about which Hall of Famer may have used steroids or other PEDs. This one is more about the business of blogging, speculating, and reporting (and then chastising, condemning, and denying).

I think the whole thing has become a farce. So much talk about ethics, morality, and integrity, so little talk about baseball. Yet this has become the stuff that determines the Hall of Fame now and the subject of blogs and sports talk radio (including this site read by several).

Isn't it game time yet?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Over Bartman? Hardly.

For about two hours this morning, the big story among Cubs fans was the announcement that ESPN has commissioned a Steve Bartman documentary. The small matter of Ortiz and Ramirez getting leaked on, or something, took a lot of the focus off of things that happened in 2003. Giggle.

But within that brief window of mass interest/disgust regarding the Bartman story, I couldn't help but laugh when I read the scores of tweets and reader comments expressing how very little anyone cares about the Bartman story anymore. Phrases like "We're over it," "No one blames Bartman," and "Who cares?" popped up quite a lot.

The public sentiment was, Leave Bartman alone. The story is over, and we have moved on. How dare you, ESPN, exploit this poor man and torture the Cubbie faithful by bringing up something that happened 6 years ago?!? I understand the thinking, but it's a lie.

Cub fans (and those who pity them) are still bringing up the Goat from 1945. When we long for the good old days, our hearts have to stretch back to 1908. Six years is like a fortnight in Cubbie years. Some other things we can't let go of: Bruce Froemming robbing Milt Pappas; Leon Durham letting that ball go through him; the lights; the 7th inning stretch . . . the list goes on. Cub fans don't get over anything, least of all trauma.

If the volume and intensity of negative response is any indication, Steve Bartman will always be a strong ratings grab. But before you accuse ESPN of tormenting Bartman, consider this simple fact: he is a die-hard Cubs fan who is resigned to the fact he will never go to Wrigley again. Due to fear of the press? Fear of ESPN? No. Bartman knows better than to surround himself with Cub fans. Imagine that. Knowing you'll never go back to Wrigley because of who you are. For those of us not named Ozzie Guillen, that would suck.

So I'm curious to see the documentary. I don't want to know where Bartman is now. I don't want to relive the horror of the cursed foul ball. I just want someone to explore what it is about the culture of Cubs fans that causes such deep, spirited, emotional reactions to such minute details as a fan reaching out for a foul ball.

There is a mental block contaminating the minds of Cub fans and Cub players. It's a natural curse no one can deny. I don't think we should be afraid to prod it.

Broken Reed

UPDATE: The following is essentially a load of crap. Reed Johnson is tough, but he fouled the ball off his foot and broke it on his 2nd at bat of the day, not his first as is reported here and on the Cubs Web site. I knew it was too good to be true, but I should have double checked before posting. I will, however, preserve my posting full of wrongness for posterity's sake. Shame on me.

This is a picture of Reed Johnson in the act of breaking his foot. It happened in his very first at bat of the game; an at bat in which he singled; and after singling, he advanced to third on a double and hit the brakes hard after rounding the base; then he scored on a Derrek Lee sacrifice fly; he eventually made the last out in the 1st inning; and then he played center field in the second inning. Yeah, all of the stuff in that massive sentence happened after he broke his foot.

The title of this post* is an idiom indicating something or someone who fails to give needed support. Reed Johnson just might redefine the term broken reed to mean "tougher than Chuck Norris."

Yes, Reed Johnson will miss about a month with a broken foot. Yes, he has been struggling in the leadoff spot (.152 BA). But with a broken foot, Reed is hitting .500. I was at the game (which gives me supernatural insight into the situation), and I can attest that Reed Johnson is a stud. Here's to hoping Sam Fuld gets called up and gets another chance to shine (in a lefty-lefty platoon with Kosuke?) once again.

But let it be said here and now (and everywhere and forever): Reed Johnson is one tough ess oh bee. Get well soon, Reed.

*I suppose I could have instead used his last name in the title of the post, but this is a family blog.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

See You @ Wrigley

It's game day today. I'll admit, I don't make it to a lot of Cubs games. Ever since they became good ridiculously marketable, the price of tickets (and fees and taxes and fees on taxes and the overwhelming convenience of it all) has exceeded my desire to have beer spilled on me watch frat boys act like they're running the place enjoy the sound of 30,000 texts being tapped into cell phones while as many heads bow in ignorant worship of the wireless devices of their own destruction see the games live on a regular basis.

But this is it: my 3rd and probably final Cubs game of the year. My wife, my five-year-old son (who is right now anxiously awaiting the El ride to the station that shares his name and who will spend the majority of the game anxiously awaiting the El ride back), and I will all make our way to that holy hall, equal parts friendly and confining.

I hope the Cubs can reclaim first place. I hope the Cardinals' season gets cancelled. I hope my son can join the throng in jubilant Goodman chorus as we serenade the rising W flag.

If all else fails, we've always got next year, when the little brother should be old enough to join us.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The View From Below: How the Cubs Look to the Rest of the NL Central

Obviously, I'm excited about the Cubs being in 1st place. I am by no means content, as the Cubs will have to play a few teams superior to the Reds, and the Cardinals will have to play a few teams inferior to the Phillies as the season winds to a long, unforgiving close.

But I'll take it. Still, to add some perspective to where the Cubs stand right now, I thought I'd look at things from the point of view of the other NL Central teams and their fans. When they look up at the Cubs, what do they see (besides my shaking, taunting booty)?

1. The St. Louis Cardinals
I honestly and truly believe the St. Louis fanbase is not at all worried about the Cubs. They view Chicago's recent foray into first as a mosquito sneaking a bite—it hurts a little now, and it will continue to itch the rest of the season, but they think their newly remodeled Cardinals are poised to swat the Cubs into oblivion. I wish I could dismiss their beliefs with certainty, but they have made some good moves. Still, their pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired, and I don't see those desires being met in time to stop the Cubs from running away.

2. The Houston Astros
No matter how out of it the Houston Astros seem to look each and every year, no matter how late, they seem to find a way to become the hottest team in baseball at just the right moment. That moment came much earlier this season, and it's brought them right back into the thick of a very thick NL Central divisional race.

To them, the Cubs are just the hill standing between them and the boys and girls in the valley who can't wait for their toys and dolls and after-dinner treats. They aren't afraid of the Cubs, the Cards, or anybody else. This is a team that makes a living out of playing the Underdog, and they do a much better job than that joke of a live-action movie ever could. Carlos Lee: Cub killer. Jason Lee: cartoon killer. Hopefully, though, the little engine that could will run out of steam before completing too many homer-celebratory laps around the Juice Box outfield.

3. Milwaukee Brewers
Really, Milwaukee, I am your father. Search your feelings, you know it to be true. Bug your eyes out and yell, "Noooooo!" all you want, but the Cubs = your daddy.

Call it a psychological edge. Call it a big-brother complex. Call it Cecil to your Prince. Call your sons, call your daughters, call your neighbors. The Cubs kind of own the Milwaukee Brewers. There will be plenty of times that the Brewers get the best of the Cubs, but they will all take place too long before the end of the season for any of them to matter all that much. They can go ahead and acquire whatever big name pitcher they want, the superstars will leave at the end of the season, and they'll take the Brewers hopes of vanquishing their nemesis with them.

Luke never kills Darth Vader, fellas. He lives on as the single most marketable character in the history of licensing. Sound familiar, Bernie?

4. Cincinnati Reds
Reach in there and find my wallet. It's the one that says 'Bad Fukudome.'

Say 'what' again. I dare you. I Fukudome double-dog dare you. Say 'what' again.

Sewer rat might taste like pumpkin pie, but I'll never know, 'cuz I ain't gonna eat the filthy Fukudome.

Oh, you play for the Reds? Then I'm superfly TNT. I'm the guns of the Navarone. I'm a mushroom cloud layin' Fukudome, Fukudome.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates
Heaven help me, I just don't have it in me to make fun of these guys and their fans. The only view the Pirates have of the Cubs is the vain hope that the Cubs will acquire one of their favorite players and give them a sentimental rooting interest in the playoff hunt.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

1st Place

The Cubs are in 1st place in the worst division in baseball baseball black hole NL Central.

I'm just gonna savor it. With my friend, Nelly.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Is It Time for Curt?

Ted Lilly's hurt. Could be awhile before he's able to start again. And Curt Schilling's not doing anything.

It's been a long time since I said I wouldn't mind seeing the guy who redefined Red Sox try to break some curses on the North Side. And I'm thinking it might be time to revisit the idea.

Adding Curt Schilling would give the Cubs a lot of versatility as to how they use their starters, especially as Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly work their way back to their normally rugged and dependable selves. It would allow Sean Marshall to stick with his role as the stellar situational lefty. Curt could pitch those extra days here and there when Rich Harden tries to avoid the daylight. And financially, the move could make sense, too.

As Bob Brenly probably remembers all too well, Curt Schilling was willing to take a back-loaded contract with the Diamondbacks when they were hurting financially. Would he do the same with the Cubbies for a shot at winning the most elusive championship in American sports?

Oh yeah. Would it work? A boy can dream.

Ted Lilly is now on the DL with an inflamed shoulder and, in a case of surgical schizophrenia, is slated for arthroscopic knee surgery. He's likely to miss 4-5 starts (Cub-anese for three months). I hope Kevin Hart has a dynamite start today, but the Cubs need some help. Somebody get Schilling on the phone and get the turkey dinner ready. It's time to bloody up some socks, people.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stat of the Week: Mark Buehrle Works Fast. Real Fast.

Normally I don't like to focus my attention on guys who grow up Cardinal fans and become White Sox. But I have to make an exception just this once.

Obviously, Mark Buehrle faced the minimum today. That's why they call it a perfect game. It's common knowledge he's a guy who likes to work quickly (he only spent 31 minutes on the mound in this game; Steve Trachsel has gone that long in between pitches). His fastball might be slow, but his games go by like blinks. But never in history has there been a pitcher who has been able to work this quickly through so many games. Sure, it's Buehrle's 1st perfect game. It's his 2nd no hitter. But facing the minimum is old hat for the Missouri native.

This is the third time Mark Buehrle has thrown a complete-game shutout and faced the minimum 27 batters. Check it:

July 21, 2004. White Sox over the Indians 14-0. Buehrle 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 27 BF (Batters Faced)

April 18, 2007. White Sox beat the Rangers 6-0. Buehrle 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 SO, 27 BF

July 23, 2009. White Sox defeat the Rays 5-0. Buehrle 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 SO, 27 BF

And, although it must have seemed like a marathon outing, here's one more just to make us jealous Cub fans squirm:

August 3, 2001. White Sox best the Devil Rays 4-0. Buehrle 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 28 BF

I've been trying unsuccessfully to find a list of 9-inning games where the minimum 27 batters were faced by a pitcher or pitching staff. A comment on the latest baseball-reference blog claims that no other pitcher has duplicated Buehrle's feat, but I can't verify the fact.

Right now, I'm simply holding firm to the idea that it's a pretty safe bet. Buehrle is in a league all his own. Congrats.

Day-Off Reflections: Carefree Fans

A lot of people have given Milton Bradley and Lou Piniella much grief for (among other things) saying they weren't aware of how intense Cubs fans were until arriving here. The consensus criticism is that they should have known that in a top-3 media market and a national fan base, only a complete stranger to the baseball world would be caught unawares by the rabid Cubbie Faithful.

I hate to get all contrary on you (no, I don't) but I'm surprised by the intensity of Cub fans, and I've been one for three decades.

Cub fans weren't always like this. We didn't always demand good baseball. Don't get me wrong, there have always been drunken jerks at the games (just ask Lee Elia). But by my faltering recollection, the most vocal Cubs fans were usually confined to . . . well, inside the Friendly Confines.

Historically, the Chicago media has rarely held this team to any kind of high standard. Before the era of blogging and twittering and the rise of sports talk radio, Cub fans weren't all that vocal. Or demanding. Or entitled.

Granted, the above video might be the pinnacle of Cubbie achievement in the modern era, but did you look at the fans in those pictures? Guys wearing nothing but the shortest of shorts, standing on dugouts? It looks more like Woodstock than the Cubbie-blue saturated sea of solemn faces. Today, Cub fans look almost corporate.

Ever since the recent pre-playoff success, Cubs fans have expected far more than ever. They're more vocal, less joyful, and less fun than they've been in a long time. I don't blame anybody for being surprised. I just hope they can win enough to turn the tide.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The '09 Cub Fan Manifesto: I Want Ugly

I'm asking any Cub fan who will listen (and any Cardinal or White Sox fan who will mock) to join me in a sign of solidarity and pragmatic desperation. Just . . . repeat after me.

I want ugly.

I want the Chicago Cubs to go limping into the playoffs.

I want things to look bad.

I want the National League Central to be known as the worst division in baseball.

I want the Cubs to be forgotten.

I want baseball purists to question the validity of allowing any team from this division to play in the postseason.

I want as many Cubs as possible to perform below expectations.

I want the Cubs to ride the wave of midwest mediocrity straight into October.

I want the Cubs to stay out of first place until the very last day of the season.

I want ugly.

I don't want to feel good about the Cubs' chances in the playoffs.

I don't want to draw a favorable matchup.

I don't want the lefty-righty advantage.

I don't want to hear Joe Morgan, Joe Buck, or Joe Mama telling me the Cubs have what it takes to win.

I don't want the Cubs to play in a way that inspires us fans to cheer louder.

I don't want respect.

I don't want admiration.

I want ugly.

I want the 2009 Cubs to go down in history as the worst team ever to make the playoffs.

I want to hear boos cascading (and see booze cascading) down upon Cub outfielders.

I want to hear ESPN analysts dismiss the Cubs as the team everyone wants to play in the opening round.

I want the Cubs' division clinching win to air in the second half of Sports Center.

I want shame.

I want low expectations.

I want the world to know just how overpaid this Cubs team is.

I want Triumph, the insult comic dog, to poop on the Cubs.

I want ugly.

I don't want to be able to imagine the Cubs winning it all.

I don't want to hear anyone tell me, "This is the year."

I don't even want to hear the question, "Is this the year?"

I don't want Jayson Stark picking the Cubs as his dark horse.

I don't want the insults from Sox and Cardinal fans to stop.

I don't want walk-off homers.

I don't want come-from-behind wins.

I don't want any of the crap that made past Cubs seasons enjoyable.

I want ugly.

I want the Cubs to win it all, and I want to hate every step on the path that leads them there.

I want ugly.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hard(en) Day's Night OR Rich Harden: After Dark

As he did with Ronny Cedeno a year ago, Lou Piniella is going to try to schedule Rich Harden's appearances according to statistically advantageous scenarios. Rich is dynamite at night. At Wrigley day games, he's a dud.

This could suit more than just Harden's nocturnal tendencies. We could be seeing Harden pitch routinely on five or six days' rest. That's great for him and his oft-injured frame, but it seems like it could wreak havoc on the rest of the Cubs starters.

I guess I view this move the same way I received the idea of turning the Peach Pit into a night club: with hopeful skepticism.

Monday, July 20, 2009

This Series Tells Us Nothing. The Next Month Does.

Just a friendly reminder that the season doesn't hang on this series with the Phillies. We weren't saved by the sweep of the Nationals. The next three games won't be a reliable litmus test of whether or not the Cubs are back (it's been a long time since they were here, by the way, hence the 101 years and counting theme).

We tend to judge by microcosms, and it kills us. Look, the Cubs are still essentially a .500 team prone to streaks good and bad. Until the Cubs put together a month of good baseball or a month of terrible baseball, they're almost impossible to judge. The players have been playing below their career stats, so we'd be ill-informed to judge them on their lowest lows. But the season of mediocrity is now over half done, so we can't allow a few games (or even a few series) to overturn 3 1/2 months of evidence, either.

Be patient, Cub fans. Enjoy (or despise) each win and loss as it comes. Then pause to evaluate when you have a sample large enough to be reliable.

Or . . . just stick with the hopeful ignorance that is my life and assume this is the year. That's always fun, right up until the dreadful moment when reality and mathematics confirm you were wrong.

Go Cubs.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Arrrgh, Yer Offer Blows! How Long Till Freddy Sanchez Is a Cub?

Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson, who make up the middle-infield tandem with the most (and the most nifty) double plays in baseball, have both rejected contract extensions from the Pittsburgh Pirates with no intention to make a counter offer.

Before you go calling either of them greedy, consider this: both offers constitute major pay cuts.

Sanchez and Wilson are each set to collect $8.4 million next season; Sanchez if he compiles more than 600 at bats, and Wilson if the team simply opts to keep him another year. The Pirates offered Sanchez $10 million over the next two seasons, just $1.6 million more than he could have made in 2010. They offered his buddy at shortstop just $8 million over the next two seasons—that's $400,000 less than he would have made next season.

Translation: the Pirates will trade Sanchez and Wilson and fast.

Frankly, I don't see the Cubs acquiring Wilson, who has struggled too much offensively to add much value to this Cubs team. But Sanchez combines the defensive prowess of Andres Blanco with an offensive consistency of . . . well, none of the current Cub second basemen.

Considering the Pirates have been willing to deal top players for anything on the McDonald's dollar menu, I'd be shocked if the Cubs didn't at least explore a deal. My estimate: expect to see Freddy Sanchez in Cubbie Blue in the next seven days.

Chicago Cubs: Your Prescription Is Ready

Bob Brenly and my sister both randomly suggested that the Washington Nationals' W reminds them of Walgreens every time they see it. The Chicago Cubs would tend to agree.

A four-game series against a bad pitching staff with even worse pitching behind them is exactly what the doctor ordered. The Cubs' ailing offense seems to have been cured. Alfonso Soriano is over his swollen pinky, his curveballitis, and his severe allergy to hitting with runners on base. Mike Fontenot has rediscovered the bleachers. And as a team, the Cubs are on the verge of sweeping the four-game set.

The question still remains: will the Cubs resume their magnetic plunge to .500 when they face the Phillies, or will they finally break free from the gravitational pull of the break-even point?

The good news is that despite their overall record of 50-38 (pending today's outcome against the Marlins) the Phillies are actually a game under .500 at home. We could be looking at a very enjoyable homestand, and no matter what happens, the Cubs will finish the trip with a winning record.

Though the history of this season tells me otherwise, I'm thinking this jaunt into our nation's capital could prove to be more than just temporary relief for the Cubs' bats. Let's hope.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cubs' Injured as Numerous as All Stars in the Sky

With injuries sidelining Ted Lilly and Alfonso Soriano for at least a few days, the Cubs are close to fielding a team of All Stars who have missed time this year due to injury. Check out this list of Cubs All-Stars (mostly of past years, obviously) who have been bitten by the ravenous injury bug at some point this year:

Milton Bradley
Ryan Dempster
Derrek Lee
Ted Lilly
Carlos Marmol
Aramis Ramirez
Alfonso Soriano
Geovany Soto
Carlos Zambrano

Am I missing anyone? Again, this isn't the list of Cubs who have been injured. This is the list of Cubs All Stars who have been injured. Cub All Stars have been injured nine times. Nine times! Granted, when they've been healthy, they haven't played like All Stars this year, but the Cubs can ill-afford to lose anymore players of this calibre for any length of time.

Hopefully Ted Theodore Lilly (esquire) can plow through this injury like so many Molina brothers. But for now, the Cubs really should be thanking their unlucky All Stars they're still in this pennant race.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

B. J. Ryan Signs with Cubs: Should We Care?

B. J. Ryan is a Chicago Cub, or at least he's in the Cubs' minor-league system, according to ESPN Chicago. Last year with the Blue Jays, Ryan had 32 saves and a sub-3 ERA. But in 2007 and 2009, his effectiveness has been limited by arm trouble that has brought him more walks than strikeouts.

But the most important letter in the B. J. signing is L. Ryan is a lefty.

Could the Cubs have struck gold? Or is this just Neal Cotts part deux? Time, that verbose piece of garbage, will tell. But my guess is hopeful: I think the Cubs have landed a much-needed addition to their bullpen, which already looks like the most improved part of this team.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Confirmed: Cardinal Fans Are Full of Crap

It wasn't a surprise to hear card-carrying Cardinal Lovers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver lavishing praise on the St. Louis fans during the All Star festivities. But I had to giggle when they started discussing the respect the Cardinal faithful show to the opposition.

The hypocrisy was in full effect during the All-Star Game introductions, as evidenced with hilarity by this clip from a Chicago Sun-Times article on the All-Star proceedings:

Coming home
Among the American League All-Stars, White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle got the loudest ovation from the crowd at Busch Stadium during pregame introductions. Buehrle said he didn't know what to expect, but doubted he would get booed.
Buehrle -- a lifelong Cardinals fan -- knows St. Louis baseball fans consider him one of their own.
''I remember when I was a kid, you come here and the Cardinals could lose 1-0 and they give the other pitcher a standing ovation if he pitched a good game,'' said Buehrle, who grew up 25 minutes away in St. Charles, Mo. ''They enjoyed seeing good baseball. If someone hit three home runs or had a great game offensively, they were applauding the other team instead of booing them like most stadiums where they boo the opposing teams.''
Boos for Lilly
St. Louis fans have their limits and they showed that by booing Lilly -- the Cubs' lone representative. Lilly took it in stride, smiling as he tipped his cap.

I'm going to let you in on a secret: I agree that Cardinal fans are good fans. They follow their team, they wear the silly Cardinal gear, and they actually pay attention to the game. They do all the things fans are supposed to do . . . including booing the opposition. But I hate it when commentators like Buck and McCarver promote the ridiculous positive stereotype that all (or even most) Cardinal fans are prim, proper, dignified saints transported straight out of Victorian England. They can be just as rude, vulgar, vindictive, and disrespectful as the next fan.

And, like their White-Sox cheering counterparts, St. Louis fans are often consumed with anti-Cub obsession. Yes, despite the fact that both sets of fans have enjoyed multiple World Series championships since the Cubs last sniffed World Series glory, they are still preoccupied with hating on the Cubs. Why?

The answer is pretty simple. Cardinal fans are jealous. Jealous of the losing? No. Jealous of the drunken idiots populating Wrigley in ever-increasing numbers? Not so much. They're simply jealous of the national adoration poured on a team they find undeserving of praise. Cardinal (and White Sox) fans who spontaneously spew insults at the Cubs and their fans are like People magazine readers who don't understand why Julia Roberts keeps showing up in the "50 Most Beautiful People" issue. They just don't get the fascination, and they hate us for it.

Okay, maybe they hate the drunken idiots and the loudmouths and the hypnotized drones who fail to recognize the success of other teams, too. But most of all, I think Cards fans resent the Cubs for being the default fan favorite of people who don't really know or care about baseball.

If you're a fan of the Cardinals and/or the Sox, I understand the sentiment. I understand why you don't like the Cubs and their fans. But when you go out of your way to bash them, it just cheapens your image and your love of your teams. If it's any consolation, a lot of us hate you, too. But most of us have the self-respect to avoid talking about you unless it's absolutely necessary. This is one of those times.

Moving on . . .

Thursday, July 9, 2009

You asked for it. Now has Lou gone too far?

It seems like just a few weeks ago, the Cub community was practically begging Lou to let his inner rageaholic erupt all over the friendly confines. And in the last couple of weeks, we've seen the Old Lou rearing his steaming little puce head.

He got ejected arguing a blown call at 1st base that cost the Cubs a rare 2-out run. Everybody loved that one.

Lou was overheard calling Milton Bradley a piece of tin (Ferris Bueller dubbed-for-TV version). Milton was overheard responding with respect and *gasp* self-control. Even though 98% of the city of Chicago has been overheard calling Milton Bradley a piece of tin, I don't think anybody can genuinely call that appropriate employer-employee communication. What's worse, instead of declaring a genuine public apology, Lou told us that he and Milton talked and then issued a classic theya culpa in which he blamed the rats in U.S. Cellular for leaking the outburst.

And before the dreadful finale against the Braves, Lou pulled Soriano out of the lineup without letting him know his underperforming butt would be riding the bench. Soriano was none too happy to be led astray, although he had no intentions of discussing it with Lou. The conventional wisdom says that the chronically slumping prima donna has no business being upset, especially if he's not willing to confront Lou about it. This is one of those frequent instances in which I find the conventional wisdom to be full of crap.

A) Soriano gets paid too much to be benched willy nilly. One of the downsides of giving athletes mega-million-dollar contracts is that it forces you to have to deal with rich people who won't take your crap. B) The only way Soriano doesn't get upset about an unannounced benching is if he doesn't care. He definitely gets paid too much not to care, and most fans have been complaining he doesn't care enough. C) Whether they're stock clerks or left fielders, people expect consistent treatment from their managers. Unexpected frostiness always ticks off employees, especially really, really rich ones.

All that said, it isn't clear that Piniella being a jerk is the wrong move. Maybe he got through to Milton Bradley. Maybe he's lit a fire under Soriano. The trouble is, if Lou keeps going to the jerk well, eventually players' tolerance will dry up. I wonder if the pre-game drama may have affected the team during that last game against the Braves. Scoff if you will, but I don't doubt that Soriano getting jilted could have put the whole lineup on edge. His post-game tirade may have pushed some players over that edge.

The thing is, Lou gave a great answer, in essence, to the redundant questions about the lagging offense. Absent of emotion, Lou's answer to the press was just, "Hey, you keep asking me why guys aren't hitting, and you're asking the wrong guy. I don't hit, and I don't instruct guys how to hit. As journalists, you really ought to direct your questions to the appropriate parties." But that's not how the media, fans, and (perhaps) players may have interpreted it.

Most fans and media seem to think Lou was heaving blame on the players and hitting coach, Von Joshua. I don't think that's what Lou was doing, but if the players think he's ripping into them and a guy the younger players have liked and respected for a long time . . . they might shut down. But with this offense, could we even tell the difference.

Step Back, Folks, This Is Baseball

Okay, the Cubs lost. They looked bad. The offense. Soriano's mad. Lou's fed up. Dempster's toe. Geo may have proven Rod Beck wrong and actually pulled fat. And it's getting old saying, Hey, we're only 3 games out of first.

But enough with the angst, people. This is baseball. When it goes well, let's enjoy. When it doesn't, enjoy something else.

I realize I picked the wrong year to start blogging about the Cubs. And that's okay. Maybe it's just teaching me to accept the fact that this is just a game. An infuriating game, at times, yes. But getting angry or jaded or drunk or vindictive does not make me a better fan. Booing doesn't make you a better fan. Booing only draws attention to the fact that your hopes are pinned to someone who, while stinking up the place, is still infinitely better than you ever were or could ever hope to be at your dream. Don't bring yourself to that realization, people. Leave that pile of pathetic just a shade beyond your sphere of awareness.

Let the Cubs be your stuffed tiger. One day, that championship team we all envision in our heads will spring to life for real so everyone else can see it. But for now, just enjoy the delusion. Chill. Enjoy. Move on.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

TUTR Time: Halladay on His Way to Cubs?

Roy Halladay is a stud. The Cubs now need pitching help after Ryan Dempster broke his big toe celebrating a Cubs victory (yes, I am going to make a thrill of victory, agony of de-feet joke, albeit parenthetical). The Toronto Blue Jays are shopping Roy Halladay.

Naturally, this has sent the wheels into motion here in the home offices of TUTR (Totally Unrealistic Trade Rumors). Here's what my sources have uncovered:

Jim Hendry and J. P. Ricciardi are close to a deal that would bring Roy Halladay to the Friendly Confines. The deal wouldn't be without its cost to the Cubs.

People close to the negotiations say the Cubs may be willing to part with utility infielder Aaron Miles and cash considerations. Miles's inability to recover from a seemingly minor injury and proven lack of big-league power make him Major League Baseball's last rock-solid example of a player who is completely beyond the realm of reckless PED speculation. The Cubs, nay, the country, are afraid to lose their sole untainted insurance policy.

I say, let's take that chance.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Solution: Platoon the Whole Outfield

Sam Fuld hit neither of the 2 Cub homers in tonight's 4-1 win over the Pirates, but he just may have won the game for the Cubs. In place of Soriano in left and in the leadoff spot, Fuld was on base all night, he made a handful of spectacular plays in the field, and he threw out a potential game-tying run at the plate. With a right-handed pitcher on the mound, is there any reason the left-handed Fuld shouldn't be back in this same spot?

Kosuke Fukudome homered tonight, and I hope he's breaking out of his perpetual post-May slump. But when Reed Johnson returns from the DL, is there any reason Kosuke should start against lefties?

As a lefty, Milton Bradley looked pretty decent tonight. And if he resurrects his 2009 season, God bless him. But we've seen Hoffpauir hit against righties, and the results have certainly been better than the MB debacle. Even Jake Fox as a righty would look better against RHP's than what we've seen from Milton, and once Aramis Ramirez returns, it would be a shame to see Fox exit completely from the starting lineup. So . . . would a Milton/Fox/Hoff platoon really be such a bad idea?

Now, as Lou was getting ejected in tonight's game, I had a sneaking suspicion that what really set him off was the 1st base ump's intimation that Lou should have sat Soriano about a week ago. (Aside: Milton and Carlos take note, Lou always takes his hat off when launching into a tirade to avoid inadvertent bumps and the suspensions and fines that accompany them.) So it is with meager hesitation that I toss this suggestion in Lou's general direction. But why not consider it, Your Sweetness?

Platoon the whole outfield. Soriano, Johnson, and Bradley against the lefties; Fuld, Fukudome, and Fox/Hoff (the all f-bomb squad) against the righties. Could it really go any worse than what we've suffered through?

Is Losing the True Cubs Business Model?

Are the Chicago Cubs Friends or Moonlighting?

Ross and Rachel hooked up on the former, and the show enjoyed a ratings bonanza. But when David and Maddie finally succumbed to the tension, Moonlighting was destroyed forever.

And today I'm facing a question, the question, I've avoided for thirty years: Will they or won't they?

Because the offseason moves that just won't die have added a new wrinkle that I can't iron out. As a die-hard Cub fan, I'm predisposed to hold on to hope, justifying every move the team makes until it's absolutely, undeniably proven to have failed. So when the Cubs sent Mark DeRosa packing and went chasing after Milton Bradley like lost baggage that cost $30 million to reclaim, this romance with the Cubs really started to feel like work. I had to try to feel good about DeRosa leaving and perhaps landing Peavy. I had to try to be optimistic about Milton Bradley. I mean, come ON, did anyone hear the news of either move and say, "Awesome!" "Yes!" or "Oh goody!"??!!??

No one in Cubdom said anything like that without having to sham-wow the sarcasm off themselves. And as I see the Cubs' failures boil over into the realm of sub-.500 psychosis, I have to wonder: Did the Cubs do this on purpose?

Let's re-examine this, okay? When the Cubs got swept for the second consecutive opening playoff round, most people agreed that the Cubs suffered a mental breakdown against the Dodgers. That the prescribed antidote for a mental breakdown was gaining Milton Bradley and losing Mark DeRosa is, in my book, the classical definition of self-destructive behavior. And now, seeing how those 2 moves may very well be the undoing of this powerhouse, I have to assume the Cubs, intentionally or subconsciously, wanted this to happen.

The Cubs front office is running this team like the producers of The Office, The X-Files, Who's the Boss, and every other will-they-or-won't-they show that ever milked the anticipation of consummation for ratings glory. Was it an accident that Pam declined Jim's advances? Was it out of anyone's control to finally get Mulder and Scully together? Were Tony and Angela cursed? No, no, NO! The people behind all of those shows knew that a resolution to the sexual tension could put an end to the only thing compelling the frenzied masses to watch in the first place.

Look at what happened to David & Maddie. The answer finally came back (They will, and they did) and no one ever really watched Moonlighting again. Isn't it possible that the ownership and front office of the Chicago Cubs are afraid that a World Series title would end the romance? Are they worried that after the WS Trophy finally answers the Cubs' booty call, they'll wake up with nothing but shame, regret, and loneliness? And if so, what can we do to stop this?

Listen, Cubs, I'm in this thing for life. I don't know about the other fans, but if you bring that trophy to the Wrigley Field altar, I vow to take that trophy to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, from this day forward until death parts us. I'm yours, Cubs. Don't sabotage this or any season because you're afraid it won't work out in the end. It will it can. But you need to want to make it work.

Some will say that the Cubs need a second baseman. Others still pine for a consistent left-handed power hitter. A new closer? A new manager? No, my fellow Cub fans, what we need is a relationship counselor. Come on, Jim Hendry . . . let's do it for the children. Let's do it . . . for love.