Friday, April 30, 2004

posted by CHRIS - 5:38 PM

“Where has James gone?” cry the fans of this site.

Well fear not faithful followers, James is alive and well. He is just on a little hiatus, for he has ventured into the bar industry. Yes sports fans, our leader has taken a job at a bar. He is the big man at the door that tells us we aren’t on “THE LIST”. But that being said, I’m sure he will grace us with a post soon. If not, I will have to fly my happy ass to the “Windy City” and beat him over the head with a bottle of the cheapest tequila that he would never drink.

Now, on to sports...

The NBA playoffs are starting off with much less drama than expected. Most of the series seem to be well in hand for the top seeds, if they haven’t won already.

I was greatly disappointed in the Houston Rockets. They looked as if they didn’t want to win the series, let alone compete with the Los Angeles Lakers (losing the series 4-1). Now, my only hope is that the Spurs can beat Los Angeles.

The one series that has lead up to its hype is the Miami Heat vs. the New Orleans Hornets; with the home team winning all of the games thus far (series is tied 2-2). These two teams have exemplified playoff basketball. They are playing each game as if it was their last.

Speaking of playoffs, has anyone else noticed that the NHL playoffs are even on? They are even in the second round.

The only reason I noticed was due to the coverage on Sportscenter (which, by the way, my cell phone ringer is the Sportscenter theme song). The word must be out, because the NHL playoffs are getting some greatly improved ratings over the last few years.

Well sports fans... that’s going to have to be all for now, I’m at work and I should probably sell some shoes...

Monday, April 26, 2004

posted by CHRIS - 8:39 PM


Yes, my computer is back to running the way it should be.

So, let's see... what have I missed since I have been out of commission?

OK. We’ll start with the obvious. Yes, my Jazz lost their shot at their 21st-consecutive playoff appearance. But with that said, they did post their 21st-straight winning season, when most predicted them to fall well short of that goal without Malone and Stockton.

Just goes to show how badly the NBA needed to shake things up. It’s to the point where the 10th place team in the West (Portland, 41-41) would have placed as high as fifth in the East depending on tie breakers.

Hell, even in the Western conference they needed to shuffle the deck. The Pacific Division has only two teams in the playoffs, while the (Mighty) Midwest has six out of seven.

Thank God the NBA decided to realign their conferences for the 2004-2005 season. They are adding a third division in each conference and dividing the teams according to geographical location (although I’m not sure how Utah is in the Northwest Division).

Here’s how the new divisions will break down:

Western Conference:

Pacific Division:
Los Angeles Lakers
Sacramento Kings
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Clippers
Phoenix Suns

Southwest Division:
San Antonio Spurs
Dallas Mavericks
Houston Rockets
Memphis Grizzlies
New Orleans Hornets

Northwest Division:
Utah Jazz
Seattle Supersonics
Minnesota Timberwolves
Portland Trailblazers
Denver Nuggets

Eastern Conference:

Southeast Division:
Charlotte Bobcats (expansion team)
Atlanta Hawks
Miami Heat
Orlando Magic
Washington Wizards

Central Division:
Chicago Bulls
Cleveland Cavaliers
Detroit Pistons
Indiana Pacers
Milwaukee Bucks

Atlantic Division:
Boston Celtics
New Jersey Nets
New York Knicks
Philadelphia 76ers
Toronto Raptors

Should make for an interesting twist in a season where I believe we will see a lot of all-star players in new uniforms.

Next item on the docket:

The Champ Car World Series held their first race in 2004 last weekend. This season started just the way the last one finished, with Paul Tracy in the lead.

With a handful of new teams and new drivers, Champ Car wants to capture the crowds and the attention it received in the days before the creation of IRL (Indy Racing League) in the mid 90s.

With new ownership vowing to make the series more driver and fan friendly, they have told drivers and teams they will have a say in any and all rule changes.

Although they lost the “Players” sponsor, Team Forsythe still looks like the front-runner. They still have Paul Tracy, who, much to my dad’s disapproval, I have to say is by far the best driver in the series. And they also have in their stable Patrick Carpentier, who’s unbeatable when he’s on.

Fans should look forward to a great season with a few new races, a lot of new faces, and some old fan favorites. But remember fans, we are the reason that the races happen.

Champ Car announced it will only run races it thinks will be profitable. So if you enjoy it, you have to, now more than ever, make your voices heard. Show up and support the races.

I will be doing my share by doubling the amount of races I’m going to this year from last. I will be traveling up and down the I-5 corridor to the race in Portland (June 18-20) and, for the first time, going to the race in Vancouver, BC (July 23-25).

Remember, we get to watch the fastest racers in the world, and they aren’t afraid to turn right. Anyone can drive in circles for hours, but it takes a truly talented driver to handle a road course at 200 MPH!

Well, what started out to be a short post has quickly turned into a novel. I’ll write more soon, but it’s about time for wrestling and James will kill me if I miss it.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

posted by James - 12:45 AM

Well... they didn't have to wait until the final two pitches for that comeback I called for, but I ain't complaining or nothing.

Most record-breaking homeruns and homeruns hit during a record-breaking career are meaningless. They happen in blow outs, meaningless games against even more meaningless pitchers (Steve Trachsel, anybody?). Sammy Sosa defied that trend with a game-tying homerun, which also tied him for the all-time lead for homeruns as a Chicago Cub with "Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks.

I'm still in nostalgic awe over Junior's moon shot, but he who homers last, often laughs his way to the front of the post-game buffet line... or something like that.

And somebody please shut Chip Caray up... the ridiculously touted Reds bullpen has lost Scott Williamson, Scott Sullivan, Chris Reitsma, and Gabe White since the start of last season. They're depending on a converted-back closer (and he hasn't been an elite closer since his first full season as a closer in 2000 when he won 10 and saved 30... it's also the last time he's held hitters to under a .250 batting average. He gave up 30 home runs last year in only 169 innings!), a 2003 first-round draft pick and a Tampa Bay Devil Rays reject.

This is not a great Reds bullpen and doesn't deserve comparison to the pens they've had the last few years. It doesn't diminish the Cubs accomplishment in scoring 7 runs in four innings, but it doesn't deserve the hype treatment common from Caray commentary.

This guy is just as bad as I remember him from his days in Seattle. He's an embarrassment to his grandfather. Heck, he's an embarrassment to his dad.

And C.B. Bucknor... why does he continue to haunt me? I long for the days when A.L. and N.L. umps were separate, so I could move on from one set of smug, incompetent arbiters to another (Sorry, Guy. You know where I stand on this).

Anybody who wants to see my previous objection to Bucknor can check out Seattle P-I columnist Art Thiel's book, "Out of Left Field", pg. 255.

"In mid-September 2002 his discontent boiled over in an outburst at Safeco that went to the top of Piniella's legacy of managerial eruptions, not to mention the top of the nation's TV sportscasts that night. On the play that provoked him, replays showed that Ben Davis beat out a hit at first base, but umpire C.B. Bucknor had no technological assistance, calling the Mariners hitter out and sending the game against Texas into extra innings tied at 2. Piniella burst from the dugout to confront Bucknor, who ejected him within seconds, then made the mistake of smirking. Piniella was in the umpire's face deep as nostril hair.

Fuming, Piniella slammed his cap to the dirt, then stomped and kicked it. When first-base coach Johnny Moses tried to pull him away, he ordered Moses, "Get my fuckin' hat!" Moses obliged, and Piniella pitched it to the dirt and kicked it again. From twelve years earlier in Cincinnati, he reached back for an epic gesture: He unhitched first base from its moorings, chucking the bag into right field. He followed it out, then threw the bag again, adding to his major league record of bases thrown, career."
That's how it's done Dusty. Maybe he went back to his office and uprooted something. Every manager should keep this (and now Friday's) story in mind when Bucknor is on the field. He needs to be treated like a little baby, cause that's what he is when it comes to being an umpire.

Friday, April 16, 2004

posted by James - 4:18 PM

Ok, I admit Michael Wuertz had me fooled enough to even learn how to spell and pronounce his name right. Now, I'm hoping I don't have to do either with any frequency, after his dismal performance in today's game against the Reds, including a 2-run, opposite field home run by Ken Griffey, Jr. ... on to Waveland Ave.


How does one do that? That ball landed closer to my apartment than the right-field bleachers.

I'm flat out amazed. He is on this year.

In the WGN TV Production Crew Should Get A Clue Section... Caray and Stone are taking a much needed break during the just concluded five-run sixth inning for an all-important minor-league update, and they're extoling the virtues of Seattle-native RIGHT-HANDER Glendon Rusch and his performance for the AAA-Iowa Cubs.

As we all know very well, he's left-handed. He's always been left-handed. He's spent time in both leagues over his seven-year career, and he's thrown every one of his 1033 and two-thirds innings with his left hand.

ok... I'm going to stop there before it gets too petty, because you get the point.

Enjoy the Cubs' comeback!

posted by CHRIS - 3:30 PM

I see how it is...

My modem fries and all of the sudden it's open season on Skippy bashing.

Yes, my team sucked it up over the last two games and took themselves out of the playoffs.

Yes, the Mariners are about as pathetic as the Sonics.

I want football season to start soon; at least I have some hope for my Seahawks.

...but fear not my faithful readers. Unless Dell screws me, I will be back on-line soon. So here's a toast to a summer of futile baseball. Hey! At least i'll have my own beer vendor, so I won't have to feel the pain of all the Mariner losses this season... as much.


(Editor's note: to assist all you Mariners fans in quenching the feelings of discontent inside you, I provide you with this link to U.S.S. Mariner swabby Derek Zumsteg's Guide to Drinking Around SafeCo... aptly sub-titled "Get Lit for Little". And if nothing else, it's good for a laugh (I mean really good, even if you're like me and not a drinker.) when you need one as your team is on the road and the lowly, AROD-less Rangers are thumping them. As always, use this information wisely, responsibly, and often as long as the Mariners keep playing Willie Bloomquist and Kevn Jarvis.)

Thursday, April 15, 2004

posted by James - 3:21 PM

RE: I love living in Wrigleyville

I just got back to my apartment. I love my apartment. I'm watching the game with the sound off because the sounds outside my window are much better than listening to Chip Caray and Steve Stone.

As the cool breeze whips through my apartment, it carries with it the sweet music of 35,000+ fans cheering every Todd Walker line drive, every Michael Barrett home run, every close play at first, every 3-2 pitch turned into an inning-ending out...

It's great. It's amazing. I think I'm going to start recording it and putting it on e-bay.

posted by James - 1:00 PM

Yeah, it's gotten this bad here. All of our teams, not exactly performing how we'd hoped.

The Cubs' under-.500 record against two teams I thought would be terrible (sandwiched around an encouraging series against the Braves) forced me to a Britney Spears concert (don't worry, I won't go into that any further).

The Utah Jazz failed to make Skippy's Playoff Prediction come to fruition, so his modem fried to save us all the vitriol of a jilted fan. It wasn't really the Jazz' fault; the Nuggets just won a couple games they shouldn't have, but that's not much consolation to a fan of a .500+ team that misses the playoff.

And you know it's bad when David is so bumfuzzled by the Mariners' pathetic start that he starts talking in program language.

I was hoping the Jazz would make a better showing in their last two games instead of tanking it against the Suns (HA HA Skippy. I get to talk all the smack I want about your lottery-bound team, and the Modem Gremlins have rendered you powerless to stop me), then I could talk about the ridiculousness of the NBA Playoffs.

If the Jazz had won their last game against Phoenix, they would have finished with a season record identical to Denver, who won the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference.

In baseball, they have a one-game playoff to determine the last entrant.

In football, there are so many teams fighting for so few places, so the last three weeks of the season are filled with discussions of if x team beats y team than z team gets in, but if a team beats b team by c points than d team gets in. It's dizzying, but it's great.

Maybe the NBA has a one-game playoff somewhere down the line, but (if the Jazz had won their last game) we'd be talking about tiebreakers determining the 16th (!) playoff team. I'd rather be talking about the intrigue of Denver and Utah facing off, especially after Utah beat Denver leading into the last three weeks of the season in the "Arroyo game."

But maybe it's for the best for the Jazz, who like Portland hadn't missed the playoffs in 20 years. Now, they'll look forward to their highest draft pick since... well, I can't even find when they've had a draft pick this high, so it was a long damn time ago.

Just another reason basketball, and similarly hockey, is so far down on my sports radar. Maybe I'll start paying attention when they're down to four teams.

Enough of this, I'm going to go walk around Wrigley for a little while before the game starts. There are already people making their pilgrimage outside my window to the Mecca down the street.

I love living in Wrigleyville.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

posted by James - 11:48 PM

I was at a nationally broadcast, mens basketball high-school all-star game over the weekend at DePaul’s Ray Meyer Center. It was New York area players vs. Chicago area players.

New York won on a three-pointer with five seconds left by Keith Benjamin, who impressed the heck out of me.

Also impressive was 6-9 center Shaun Pruitt from West Aurora (already committed to the University of Illinois), 6-0 guard Stefhon Hannah from Hyde Park and 6-8 center Ollie Bailey from Farragut (committed to Rutgers).

Bailey and Pruitt dominated inside against the New York youngsters, and Pruitt played well above his competition. He played sparingly, because playing more would have been unfair in an exhibition game. He was that good. I’m going to enjoy watching him play for the Illini.

After the game, Bailey couldn’t find a trainer to remove the tape from his ankles, so I had to step in with my trusty Gerber multi-tool. (Thanks to my Dad, for pretty much the best birthday present ever.)

This is the kind of event you wouldn’t find in Seattle, and made me appreciate the upgrade in sports town I moved into.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

posted by David - 11:42 PM

WOS time.

Sarcasm Mode/

Well, it's good to see the Seattle Mariners haven't sold out. For years now, the Mariners have had a "Refuse to Lose" attitude. But that was part of the old plan.

Our new plan is to change the motto to... "Refuse to Win." With our new plan, the Mariners will embark upon a road of desolation and loss that will put them on par with the pre-95 fan base. Soon, only REAL fans of the team will be going to games. It will be wonderful. Once again, the average fan can sit in a large open space in the outfield with no worries of running across a 'fair weather fan'. Heck, each fan will have their own personal hot-dog vendor.

I love the direction the management has taken the team, and the developments that have occurred with the roster.

/End Sarcasm

Sorry, just feeling a tad bitter folks.

This has been a Waste of Space.

Friday, April 09, 2004

posted by James - 11:13 PM

Whoo hooo!!! Cubs win!!! Cubs win!!! Cubs win!!!

Everybody do a happy extra-innings dance!!!

posted by James - 10:27 PM

My Kingdom (however small it might be) for a 1-0 count. It's like the Cubs hitters break out in hives at the thought of seeing a second pitch.

In tonight's on-going game, they couldn't even get Antonio Alfonseca to show them a strike before they were already down two outs... and that was against Corey Patterson and Sammy Sosa. Don't they remember him from last year? How bad he was and still might be? As the official wife Just North of Wrigley Field said while he was warming up, "Wow. There sure is a lot of that guy."

Great pitching effort by the Cubs so far tonight, especially from "Michael Wurtz", if you're watching on WGN tonight. The wife told me, they might know how to spell it if they had more free time like you did. Well, that may be true, except they're supposed to be spending their not-as-free time knowing how to spell his name. (I'll glady trade places, if that's too hard for them.)

The Cubs better come up with a win tonight. I'm already having a bummer of a night after the Full Shilling decided that three baskets of fish amounted to all-I-can-eat. I don't know when they changed that (it's been a while since my last visit there), but I've finished off five baskets there before. I would have rescinded my official endorsement, but they brought me another basket which, luckily for them, filled me up.

And all was happy Just North of Wrigley Field, or at least it will be with a Cubs run or five.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

posted by CHRIS - 4:48 PM

All I have heard all week is how the Utah Jazz have had a great season even if they aren’t going to make the playoffs. Well here’s the deal... THEY ARE GOING TO MAKE THE PLAYOFF’S YOU IDIOTS. I’ll break it down nice and easy for you over the next few paragraphs so all you “experts” can understand it.

We’ll start with Denver...

With five games left in their season, Denver not only has to play Portland (one of the three teams fighting for the eighth seed), but also Sacramento (currently leading the Pacific Division) and San Antonio.

However, Denver does have a chance to capture the last playoff spot. Houston has played horribly lately, winning only three of the last ten games, including the last four. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Houston beat out of the playoffs by the Jazz and Denver.

Here are my predictions for the rest of Denver’s schedule:

Wed 7th @ Phoenix WIN
Fri 9th @ Houston WIN
Sat 10th Portland WIN
Mon 12th Sacramento LOSS
Wed 14th San Antonio LOSS

Denver’s final record: 43-39

Houston’s next...

We will know by the end of this week whether Houston will make the playoffs, with back-to-back games against Denver and Utah. The Rockets have two games against teams at the bottom of the Western Conference before those games. Houston has four games in the next five days starting tonight against Golden State, which will test how they’ll deal with trying to snap a losing streak, as well as the pressure of teams threatening their playoff hopes.

Here’s how I think Houston’s remaining schedule will go:

Tues 6th @ Golden State LOSS
Wed 7th @ LA Clippers WIN
Fri 9th Denver LOSS
Sat 10th @Utah LOSS
Mon 12th @ Seattle LOSS
Wed 14th Dallas LOSS

Houston’s final record: 43-39

Next we move down I-5 to Portland...

With six games left in the season, they have the hardest schedule of all the teams fighting for the final spots in the West. Two games against both San Antonio and the resurgent L.A. Lakers will all but bury the struggling Blazers. This is the perfect example and reasoning for why the NBA is restructuring the league next season. The Blazers are in third place in the Pacific Division and aren’t going to make the playoffs, but six of the seven Midwest Conference teams are going to the playoffs.

Here are my predictions for the rest of Portland’s schedule:

Tues 6th @ L.A. Lakers LOSS
Wed 7th Golden State WIN
Fri 9th @San Antonio LOSS
Sat 10th @ Denver LOSS
Mon 12th San Antonio LOSS
Wed 14th L.A. Lakers LOSS

Portland’s final record: 40-42

Yes I saved the best for last...

The Jazz play only four more games before the season is over with the two hardest teams (Dallas and Minnesota) away from home. They also have the edge of being in the lead. Not only that, but this team has picked up their play after a couple lackluster weeks. They played both LA and San Antonio very tightly and had fourth-quarter leads in both games.

Here are my predictions for the rest of Utah’s schedule:

Thurs 8th @ Dallas WIN
Sat 10th Houston WIN
Mon 12th @ Minnesota LOSS
Wed 14th Phoenix WIN

Utah’s final record: 44-38

This is how I predict the West will seed:

1. Sacramento Kings
2. Minnesota Timberwolves
3. LA Lakers
4. San Antonio Spurs
5. Dallas Mavericks
6. Memphis Grizzlies (wow, that is weird to say)
7. Utah Jazz
8. Denver Nuggets (via tie-breaker)

P.S. Mikki Moore got a double-double in the win on Monday over Memphis with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Someone find me a Mikki Moore Jersey!!!

Thursday, April 01, 2004

posted by James - 1:09 PM

I don't do April Fools... I mean I don't pull April Fool pranks, but I love when they're done with some intelligence and coolness (and no intentional malice). Fellow Cubs blogger Cub Fan Nation has done just that, as he did the unthinkable to his blog for the day, and everyone should check it out. Go ahead and click on the link above. I'll wait while you look at the coolest thing on the web right now (I guess it's more impressive if you visit its original incarnation as often as I do, so check back there for the original as well).

Ok, now that you're back... I guess April Fools Day fell out of favor with me when I had tickets to a Counting Crows concert on April 1, 1997 at the Paramount in Seattle, Wa. A local radio station decided to announce that Pearl Jam would give an acoustic performance in a parking lot in Seattle that night. If my parents didn't also have tickets, I might have went to that parking lot.

I spent the whole night wondering if I made the right choice because I was less than enthused with the performance (it was more the venue really). I did get their bass player to sign my ticket stub after the concert, but I had doubts about missing something that might have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Of course after announcing the joke the next morning, the radio station had to eat crow all day long. I'll never forgive them for I'll never be able to look at a calendar the same way again. * sob ** sob * Whatever...

As for April Fools Day sports news... If OF Milton Bradley walking out of Cleveland's Spring Training camp isn't an AFD joke, the Mariners and Cubs should both be all over this guy. He comes with some personality issues, but he's got value as a switch-hitting centerfielder, who had a 921 OPS and almost a one-to-one, K/BB ratio, and comes cheap.

Because I've never liked Alex Gonzalez at short (or anywhere) and this is OF Moises Alou's last year under contract, I'm on the record as saying the Cubs should trade both to the Indians for Bradley and SS Omar Vizquel.

Vizquel would give the Cubs the No. 2 slot hitter they lack right now (assuming 2B Mark Grudzielanek would remain the leadoff hitter), moving Patterson and Bradley lower in the lineup to mix up the currently right-handed dominated lineup.

There are money issues to be worked out... the amount of money the Indians would get to cover the difference in salaries would influence the prospects they would get from the Cubs. That's how today's trade market works.

I'm uneasy with giving up Alou's leadership, but this has the potential to improve the Cubs in two spots on the field and provide a residual improvement throughout the lineup.

The Mariners need thump throughout their lineup from both sides of the plate and his .421 OBP would do much better in front of DH Edgar Martinez, 2B Bret Boone and OF Raul 'ugh' Ibanez than 3B Scott Spiezio, OF Randy Winn or SS Rich Aurilia.

There's an updated playoff scenario below with nothing much having changed last night since both Utah and Portland beat Eastern Conference Playoff contenders impressively last night.

And our Beloved Chicago Bears are fooling no one with their intentions to improve their running game.

They've brought in RB Thomas Jones to combine with RB Anthony Thomas in the backfield, re-signed Stanley Pritchett and traded for Bryan Johnson to lead the way at fullback, and today they've announced their second big signing for the offensive line with Pro Bowl OG Reuben Brown coming over from Buffalo to join the right side with OT John Tait, signed from Kansas City.

The Bears got some serious work done this offseason on offense, which isn't to say they've done enough on the defensive side to make them any kind of favorites for next year.

And lastly, and most recently, the Cubs aren't fooling around with replenishing their depth in left-handed pitching with Mike Remlinger and Kent Mercker recovering slowly from injuries and in backup infielders after losing Jose Macias. They signed LHP Glendon Rusch, who would be better than LHP Jimmy Anderson - though the Texas Rangers didn't think so, and INF Damian Jackson after his release from the Colorado Rockies.

Both players will initially report to Iowa, but I fully endorse Jackson leap-frogging Macias as an option for the bench, even after Macias comes back from injury, because he's got more speed than Macias and played seven positions with the Red Sox last year, including nine postseason games.

As C.J. Cregg would say, that's a full lid for this afternoon.