Saturday, July 31, 2004

posted by James - 11:14 PM

I wonder how soon I can pick up my Garciaparra jersey, which also begs the question: Which number will he be wearing, since it won't be 5 unless he can buy it off Barrett? 15? 20? Hopefully by tomorrow, so I can wear it while I'm at Wrigley Field watching Greg Maddux win his 300th game.

I also hope he'll have Nomar backing him up. I know he has up to three days to report, but with the Red Sox in Minnesota, there's no reason why he shouldn't be donning some pinstripes in time for tomorrows game. It's wonderful how these things work out.

I'll also be in the company of my Mom and Dad, who flew in from Seattle last night, my Uncle Greg, who I've attended a few games with this year with varying results, my uncle Terry and his daughter - my cousin - Kala, and, most importantly, my Grandfather and Grandmother, who will be celebrating her 70th birthday.

But she doesn't know about most of this, so you have to keep it secret. Shhh!!! I mean on the QT and very hush hush!

I'm right there with Scott, I'm going to go relieve the dizziness from the bouncing off the ceilings I've been doing on this truly momentous day in Cubs history, and maybe I'll be back later, or tomorrow, with more.


Oops, too late. For more, also check out... Cubs Pundit and Jeff Sullivan.

* gasp * * pant * * thud *

Monday, July 19, 2004

posted by James - 2:13 AM

Johnny 1991-2004

Johnny 1991-2004

I can't claim to have written this, but it's exactly how I feel. I'll never have another friend like this.

I miss my friend
The one my heart and soul confided in
The one I felt the safest with
The one who knew just what to say to make me laugh again
And let the light back in
I miss my friend

I miss the colors that you brought into my life
Your golden smile, those blue-green eyes
I miss your gentle voice in lonely times like now
Saying it’ll be alright

I miss my friend
The one my heart and soul confided in
The one I felt the safest with
The one who knew just what to say to make me laugh again
And let the light back in
I miss my friend

I miss those times
I miss those nights
I even miss our silly fights
The making up
The morning talks
And those late afternoon walks

I miss my friend
The one my heart and soul confided in
The one I felt the safest with
The one who knew just what to say to make me laugh again
And let the light back in
I miss my friend

--Darryl Worley, "I Miss My Friend"

Sunday, July 18, 2004

posted by James - 11:47 PM

To make a long story short... I'm reposting one of the first posts ever on this webpage, for no other reason than it means even more to me after recent events than it did then.

Sunday, January 04, 2004
posted by James - 1:40 AM

Beep, beep, beep Wrigleyville Weather Report... (it was making that beeping quite often during the aforementioned playoff game to flash weather alerts. Grrrr!)

Snow has started to fall in the Just North of Wrigley Field Area. I'm not sure how long this will last, because it looked a lot like this earlier (snow is such a tease that way), but I was a little shocked when I looked at the updated weather reports, which are calling for some frighteningly low temperatures.

I hope everyone stays safe over the next few days where we'll get a whole bunch of snow and then have to deal with it for the next week (ahhh... reminds me of Eastern Washington), but take a second to make sure your pets (you know, those furry creatures who entrust us with their safety because they're not smart enough to do it themselves) are warm, inside and well-fed while you're at it.

I won't get too Bob Barker-ish, but now is the perfect time of year to go down to your local animal shelter and make a new friend or two. The increasingly cold climates means it's even more important to find these animals homes. Adoption of animals means less euthanization, less animals spending lonely nights in a cold cell and less animals spending lonelier and deadlier nights on even colder streets.

These animals need a better life, your love and your laps too! Whether you make a new friend or just keep tabs on your best one, take a second to consider a loved one who might not give much back, but can and often do make all the difference.

I miss you Johnny.

Friday, July 16, 2004

posted by James - 11:54 PM

Here's my first foray into proliferating the rumor mongering surrounding the Cubs. This rumor and retort made possible by Derek at The Big Red C:
"While missing (Mark) Prior hurts a lot, Glendon Rusch has been a godsend all year, and the issues at shortstop and closer should still take priority. If getting the Unit precludes getting help in those areas, or strips the farm system of useful prospects, it's not worth the price.
Absolutely right, Derek. But here's another viewpoint.

The Unit he refers to is not just any unit. He's the biggest Unit available in this year's trade season. He's Randy Johnson, and he's currently wasting away for the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks.

Diamondbacks GM Joe Garagiola must be having a hard time finding sleep with his cell phone buzzing non-stop with contending teams trying to make Johnson a stretch-run acquisition for the second time in his career.

Houston tried it last time in 1998, but it didn't bring them a World Series appearance.

This doesn't mean the Cubs shouldn't join the ranks of teams serious about winning this year and make a serious bid for the five-time Cy Young winner.

The Yankees want Randy. The Red Sox want the tall left hander. The Angels want El Unit Grande.

They all need a starter, whether it's Monsignor Johnson or not.

If the Cubs get him, they'll hold all the cards AND elevate Matt Clement to the second or third best starter available.

Then the Cubs could almost name their price for him, or keep him and move him or Zambrano to the bullpen (as closer?).

This will either cause the CONTENDING teams, including the Cardinals, into making some desperation moves with other teams, or give up players actually capable of improving the Cubs (i.e not Orlando Cabrera) right now.

Right now the Cubs are a team struggling to keep their playoff hopes alive.

With the Big Unit, they're the front runner... he decreases our starter's ERA and our reliever's ERA (assuming Prior's health or Rusch maintaining a permanent spot in the rotation, which I advocate).

Combine that with the return of Alex Gonzalez (who, sadly, is an offensive improvement from either Ramon Martinez or Rey Ordonez), Aramis Ramirez, Todd Hollandsworth and the continued offensive improvements of Sammy Sosa and Corey Patterson, and the Cubs would need an offensive improvement much less than our current situation dictates.

Give Angel Guzman, Sergio Mitre and maybe even Brendan Harris to the Diamondbacks and worry about our offense after we've put the Fear of the North Side into everybody.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

posted by James - 12:27 PM

Uninteresting... very few words better describe last night's MLB All-Star game.

Not because I wasn't interested in the winner, because "this one counted", if you hadn't heard.

Not because Roger Clemens put the N.L. in the hole by giving up six runs in the first inning (that was actually kinda cool to see, even if it meant bad things for the Cubs down the road). With Pujols, Bonds, Rolen and Sosa coming up in the bottom half of the inning, who's worried about scoring runs? And I had no fear of the A.L. pitching staff sans Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez.

Not because it wasn't rife with Cubs success with both Alou and Sammy picking up base hits, while Zammer had a rough inning giving up a run on an A-Rod triple, though he did strikeout a batter.

The game just lost steam as it went on, with the only real excitement coming from Blalock vs. Gagne II and watching Chunk-a-Lunk David Ortiz run the bases.

And I think it had a lot to do with stopping the game for the ridiculous Roger Clemens ceremony. It was obvious to everybody he was coming out of the game after that inning. Did they postpone the "ceremony" because they didn't want to give him an award after giving up two home runs and costing his whole league home-field advantage.

I'm sure it had nothing to do with squeezing out another commercial break in the middle of such an anticipated and higly-rated event.

Either way, for me, it was just another great job of screwing up another All-Star game by Allen "Bud" Selig. Way to go!

Also, it's apparent that Jack McKeon, who coached this year's N.L squad and had a hand in selecting some of them, is as big a homer as our own Dusty Baker.

First off, he pinch hits Barry Larkin in the second inning while he only got Todd Helton one at-bat at the expense of a ninth-inning at-bat for Carlos Beltran.

His former shortstop from his short stint with the Cincinnati Reds had no business on the team much less getting an at-bat that early in the game.

Then he leaves Carl Pavano - a pitcher from McKeon's current team - in for two innings, you know one more than any other N.L. pitcher, while not getting Danny Graves, Armando Benitez, Livan Hernandez, or Jason Schmidt into the game (understandably so on Schmidt after he pitched and won his 11th game on Sunday).

Ortiz, who should have been MVP of the game with a hit, two walks, two runs scored and two batted in, predictably put the game out of the N.L.'s reach with a two-run homer off of Pavano, but what does McKeon care? Yes, this one counts, but McKeon's already got his, and he's old and misses his early-October fishing trips.

Maybe MLB should do it like the NFL Pro Bowl and make the loser of the championship game the manager for this game. Seems fair to me... the winner of a championship series gets to go to the World Series and the loser gets to coach their respective All-Star teams to improve their chance of winning it all later... if they're going to continue to ruin one of the greatest exhibition games with unnecessary stipulations that only Vince McMahon would love.

Elsewhere... thankfully, the NBA chose today to release the hounds and allow transactions to go through with Shaquille O'Neal and Carlos Boozer first on the interest heap.

Otherwise, the entire hemisphere would be enraptured with the fates of Nomar Garciaparra, Randy Johnson and the Cubs shortstop situation.

And, by golly, if all three might be entwined, if the latest rumors and ESPNews are believable.

Just to show I'm not above this kind of discussion, my next post will be in response to some sites doing some great work gearing up for the hysteria of the next two weeks.

Monday, July 12, 2004

posted by James - 10:24 PM

So Raw's over and it's now time to finish watching the Home Run Derby. When last I left, Barry was making the task of hitting home runs into the upper deck in right field look easy.

Ahhh... the wonders of TiVo.

AHHH... the stupidity of a user not scheduling enough time for a live event.

Ahhh... the wonders of having 18 ESPNs, and, yes, one of them is playing the Home Run Derby from the top. And one of them also has the SportsCentury episode on Sammy Sosa.

Ahhh... the wonders of TiVo.

posted by James - 6:59 PM

I'm ready for tonight's conundrum of all conundrums. On one channel is Just Another Monday Night, following a Eugene-laden PPV, no less. And on another channel will be the MLB Home Run Derby, probably my favorite sporting exhibitions. Thankfully, I have TiVo, so I don't really have to make much of a choice, but it will be hard to rip away from the Derby, especially if Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa is in the middle of a home-run tear.

"Who do I think will win the Derby tonight?" you ask. It's easy to just throw out a name, but I'll give you my top-four prospective winners... and, not so coincidentally, they're all from the same league (though David Ortiz is hot and Miguel Tejada could have an advantage being right-handed).

4. Lance Berkman: He's my "dark horse" candidate. Yes, he's the hometown guy, so he's got a lot of experience hitting at Minute Maid Park, but for me it depends a lot on his approach. After replacing Ken Griffey, Jr., he's the only switch-hitter in the field, but his splits say he's got a choice to make. His ratios of home runs to at bats are similar. If he chooses to bat right-handed and go after the very short left-field porch, he could win. Of course, he would know better than anyone which approach to take, but he's also the only one who could make such a major adjustment, if he happened to creep into the second round.

3. Jim Thome: Just watching the guys warm up, some of them are coming dangerously close to hitting the rafters down the first base line. From watching him while with Cleveland, I've always been amazed at his ability to hit laser-beam line drives over the wall that look like it would lodge into someone's chest before stopping and also hit the moonshots that never seem to come down.

2. Barry Bonds: The only reason I have to have him this "high" is the 70th home run he hit at Minute Maid Park. The U.S.S. Mariner has some great comments on Barry on their site right now. I can't say enough about what Barry means to future discussions on the history of baseball. But it's even harder to figure out what his present accomplishments mean. This year's numbers are making it hard to justify a game plan for pitching to him, or not pitching to him.

This year, pitchers have already walked Barry almost as much as they did last year in 53 less games. At this pace, he'll break his own record for walks by over 60. And all these walks have done nothing but make a Giants team full of mediocre offensive players into an offensive force. They are third in the N.L. in runs (you know, what wins you ball games), trailing only Colorado and St. Louis (by one!).

Yet when they pitch to him, he's brutalizing pitchers with a league-leading .365 BA and .794 SLG%. Thome's second place in the latter category, and he's only 140 POINTS BEHIND!!!

With the Giants only .5 games behind San Diego for first place in the N.L. West, MLB managers clearly need to go back to the drawing board when it comes to facing Barry Bonds. He's scoring 35.5 % of the time he gets on base - 71 R in 200 xOB (rudimentary, I know) - and he's on base over 3.1 times every five PAs. HE'S ON BASE MORE THAN HE'S NOT! That is flat-out amazing and not even steroids can account for this level of greatness (Oh, I had to go bring that up, didn't I?).

1. Sammy Sosa: Who the heck did you expect? I'll admit it. It's an entirely homeriffic ranking on my part. It has nothing to do with the fact he loves to abuse Minute Maid Park's spitting-distance left-field wall. He's hit 14 homers there in 126 ABs. The only parks he's hit more in are since-defunct Cinergy Field (16), Dodger Stadium (16), Busch Stadium (19), mercifully-defunct Qualcomm Stadium (20), Coors Field, and, of course, Wrigley (283), and all but Coors came in at least 74 more at-bats.

It also has nothing to do with him having something to prove since he "admitted" using a corked bat for his "pre-game exhibitions".

(Now starteth the un-intended rant...)

It has everything to do with the fact I'm everything Cubbies.

No matter what ball yard, suburb or street corner, I'm cheering (NEVER BOOING) for the Cubbies.

When the All-Star ballots get passed around, I'm punching out the Cubbies.

When I'm on my internet All-Star ballot, I'm clicking on the Cubbies... five or six e-mail addresses worth.

When the 32nd-Man ballot goes online, I'm voting for the Cub! And when they put out a press release the day the vote ends begging for people to put in their votes for a Cub who's in a dead-heat with a guy who's going to get on the team at the first sign of injury anyway, I'M CLICKING TILL MY FINGER GOES RAW!

I have no idea whether they counted, but I was here almost all day trying to get Cubs first-half MVP Aramis Ramirez on the All-Star team, where he belongs... erasing the abject favoritism (if not just outright stupidity) shown towards Barry Larkin by Florida Manager Jack McKeon.

This is not a comment on how undeserving Bobby Abreu is (like I said, he would have replaced Junior on the team instead of Carlos Beltran), and maybe it says something about the increasing intelligence of the fans (Abreu has racked up at least a .409 OBP in six of the last seven years, and at least a .497 SLG% over the same time period), but this is a guy who has never made an All-Star Game before and has toiled in relative obscurity, playing second-banana to Jim Thome and Scott Rolen, while putting up amazing numbers.

I've seen enough in my short time living here in Wrigleyville to be embarrassed to be a Cubs fan, with people throwing trash on Wrigley Field twice in a three-game series (Heck, I can't even spit in the Friendly Confines' general direction) and the petty booing of our own players, and this is just playing pile on at this point.

There is supposed to be more of us than this, and we're supposed to be better than this.

More than ever, our boys need the full support of a loyal, intelligent and plentiful fan base, and it's time we started proving we're all of those things.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

posted by James - 8:38 PM

As I'm watching the Cubs on the verge of being swept by the Milwaukee Brewers, I'm reading a couple minor-league notes from last week that the Cubs Blogosphere might find interesting.

* 1B Brandon Sing (Daytona-Class A Florida State League) hit his 25th homerun to break the club's single-season home run record. If he doesn't get the call to Double-A West Tennessee soon, he could break the league record of 33, which has stood for 44 years.

The Cubs drafted Sing (23 yo, 6'5", 215) in the 20th round in 1999 out of Joliet West High School. Not only does he have more than four times the home runs of any other player on the Cubs roster, he also leads the league with 74 RBIs, 63 runs, 44 extra-base hits, a .640 SLG % (by 76 points!) and his .429 OBP ranks second (63 walks).

Daytona also features two-time, Futures Game nominee Felix Pie, who currently sits in third in the league in batting average at .319.

Too bad neither of these two can play middle-infield.

* ...but Richard Lewis can and has brilliantly throughout the first-half for Double-A West Tennessee. Not only does he lead the team in batting average at .328 (third in the league) and trail only OF Micah Hoffpauir, currently out with a wrist injury, in RBIs with 42, but he has only TWO errors in 75 games.

I dare say he's ready for a promotion, unless the Cubs consider Damian Jackson, Ricky Gutierrez and Gookie Dawkins as blocking his path.

As much as the Cubs need to improve their bullpen and left-handed power situations, I don't advocate breaking up the impressive, future keystone combination of Lewis and Brendan Harris. They could start at those positions for the Cubs next year

* And finally... the Cubs were getting their organizational pitching depth back with the returns of Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Ryan Dempster, Angel Guzman and Mike Remlinger, but that came to a halt last week when Chadd Blasko went on the DL after leaving Sunday's game with shoulder tightness after four innings.

Blasko hasn't had the best season for the Diamond Jaxx (he has the third highest ERA on the team), but hopefully he only misses the one or two starts his diagnosis calls for.

Organizational Standings:
AAA-Iowa (49-35; +4.5)
AA-West Tennessee (7-6, second half; -2.0)
Advanced A-Daytona (9-4, second half; -1.0)
A-Lansing (6-7, second half; -2.5)