Wednesday, December 29, 2004

posted by James - 8:11 PM

Tommy had some thoughts on the lastest Raw I found interesting.
As for the World Title situation? The whole Quickest Pin contest was a good way to fill a show with a common theme.

I got to thinking about it, and I don't have a clue who's coming out of the Elimination Chamber with the World Title, though I'm afraid it's going to be centered around the current and former members of Evolution, Triple H, Batista and Randy "I'm barely sentient" Orton.

I feel like the direction to go would be for those three to screw each other out of the title, and have them tussle with each other all the way to Wrestlemania. You could have them eliminating each other at the Royal Rumble, and have them trade wins all the way to Wrestlemania.

But not over the World Title.

Also, I'm thinking Edge is moving toward a Wrestlemania feud with Shawn Michaels. This is my gut saying this, more than my head. But I think you can go all the way back to Taboo Tuesday, where HBK took Edge's title shot, and HBK possibly screwing Edge again (either percieved or actual) in the Elimination Chamber.

To me, that leaves Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho without a real direction moving toward Wrestlemania XXI.

There have been rumors of a Benoit/Kurt Angle cross-promotional match at Wrestlemania. If I were Vince and the WWE, I'd do just that.

And, you give Jericho the belt out of the Elimination Chamber. He's a former World Champ who doesn't get the attention as a World Champ that others get. Give him another chance.

Also the Vince McMahon dream promo of Royal Rumble? With the Raw and Smackdown crew going to rumble Sharks v. Jets style? That was great...
And here's how I responded on his site. Yes, this is a copout as far as posts go, but it is what it is.
yes... the promo is easily the best they've ever had.

They are keeping their focus on the World Title, which isn't hard to do when six people will be fighting for the belt in two weeks.

hmmm... Jericho as champ? That would definitely be a twist. Unless they pull a major swerve, there's no way Michaels lets HHH, Edge or Orton leave with the title. Way too much history. Way too much animosity.

Benoit and Y2J have had their battles with HBK, but they're on much better terms.

Batista is the wild card. He doesn't have any history with Michaels other than his affiliation with Evolution. But I can't see them giving it to a first timer... unless it comes with a partnership with HBK... Diesel-style!

I can't say the last time I've had this much interest in a PPV that wasn't a Big Four event.
A Batista-HHH-Orton, pull-apart feud leading up to a match at WrestleMania 21 would leave the title scene thick as MO-lasses going into Backlash.

Not a bad thing from where I sit.

* hitting head repeatedly *

(Argh!!! Stop channeling J.R. It's not a good thing for a Chicago city boy to be talking like an Oklahoma Sooner, no matter how much you want his job.)

Taking those three guys out of the main event creates the question of what to do with the title belt at WM 21?

They could build to a Benoit match with Jericho to see if Benoit can do it two years in a row.

They could even throw Michaels into it, if they want to blow the roof off the Staples Center, but I'm kind of sick of Triple-Threat matches.

What to do with the SmackDown! main event at WM 21 is a-whole-nother bag of something. With the Raw main event pretty solidified, it's clear that a SmackDown! wrestler has to win the Royal Rumble, because they're going to need to have somebody new face Bradshaw. Booker T, Undertaker and Guerrero aren't going to cut it anymore.

My favorites are John Cena and the Big Show.

Yes, I'm going to be talking about wrestling and football for the near future. It's how I'm coping with the Cubs sitting on their hands right now, unless it concerns finding another way to make more money while calling themselves poor.

And if ya don't like it, I GOT TWO WORDS FOR YA...!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

posted by CHRIS - 3:10 AM

Before I get into the comments made by Mike Tice and how I like Raw…


If I was the coach of the Eagles, the one thing I would think I needed to do was to show my team we can win without T.O.

Now, I understand you want to rest your starters before the playoffs, especially when they have everything sewn up nice and neat, but I would like to think you would want them to be confident they can win without Terrell Owens.

You go out and throttle a crappy St. Louis team and rest your guys on the last week of the season. That way, not only do they get the rest from that week, but they also get the rest from skipping the first week of the playoffs. Instead, you let the Rams run all over you.

Now if I’m in Philly’s locker room, I still don’t know how the game plan is going to work with out T.O.

Reed you had better pray that you make it to the Super Bowl, or I hope you have something up your sleeve because that was a bad move. I have already seen one of your wide outs run away like a baby in the face of a collision, if he caught the pass that was thrown to him.

Your team needs a little confidence. Remember, you have lost the last three NFC Championship games. How many more until you are looking for a job? BE AFRAID, ANDY! BE VERY AFRAID!!!

Now on to Mike Tice…

Brother Mike, speak your mind... and be proud of what you say! Tice is doing exactly what he needs to do to fire his team up, and that is why I would run Mike Holmgren out of town in favor of Mike Tice.

I understand the Seahawks flaws aren’t all Holmgren’s fault, but come on Holmgren show some spirit. I have had enough of your ranting and raving on the sidelines, and then when you get in front of the media it’s “aw shucks. Darn, we just aren’t playing as well as we should.” FAWK THAT.

I want to see some fire from my coach. The one thing I will always remember about coaches aren’t their records or championship rings, but if they stood up and said get your heads out of your asses and win this game.

Utah Coach Jerry Sloan is great because he doesn’t pussy foot around it, and never has whether he’s dealing with rookies or future Hall of Famers.

Who could ever forget Lou Pinella throwing his hat and bases around the infield?

Mike Martz (wow. There are a lot of coaches with the first name Mike, aren’t there?) told his team to “Get on the train…” and they rode that train right over my Hawks.

I understand Tice’s team has played poorly as of late, but they have also been without there main wide receiver and offensive weapon for four of those games (see what happens when you lose your best weapon, Andy Reid. Get ready! It’s going to happen to you).

I applaud Mike Tice and, more than ever, respect him as a coach and a motivator. I wish Holmgren would do something like this to fire the Seahawks up, because it doesn’t look like we are going to get any help from the rest of the league. So, we’ll have to win the division ourselves.

The nice thing is the Falcons should be doing the same thing Philly did in the game last night and rest Michael Vick against the Seahawks this weekend.

Mike Tice knows his boys still feel the sting from the loss to the Seahawks a couple weeks ago and knows to get a chance to avenge that loss would mean a lot to his team.

Brother Mike, speak your mind, and I will see you in week one of the playoffs on the semi-chilled grounds of Seahawks Stadium. (I refuse to call it Qwest Field). I’ll be there front and center (ok, actually it will be 13th row in the south end zone, but you get the idea).

Speaking of home Seahawks games... last week, I missed the first game in three years of having season tickets. Much to my dismay, my boss said, due to the fact we should be so busy that day (the day after Christmas, and it was insane), I wasn’t allowed to take the day off and go to the game. Understandable, but it sucked. So, I did what any Seahawk-loving fan would do under those circumstances rigged the TV in my store (meant only for playing lame, DVD music videos) to receive the game on FOX. Thank god, it wasn’t on CBS. I tried my hardest and couldn’t get that station. (Ed. Note: Uhhh... Skippy, you didn’t have to worry about that since it was two NFC teams playing.)

But rest assured, I will be in my seat this week watching the Seahawks battle the Falcons for the NFC West division title. I will also be at any home playoff games. Hopefully, James and David can join me. ;)

Now on to RAW…

I was happy with the show, but have to say I was a little disappointed in the choice of Viscera as well. He was the one person I could say really wouldn’t have deserved a shot at the title in the Elimination Chamber Match at New Year’s Revolution.

But I am getting so tired of this retarded angle with Hassan (or what ever the hell his name is). This is a bad angle and I really don’t see a point with it. He is Arab-American, but all he does is complain. Hey buddy, there’s nothing keeping you here. If you don’t like it, LEAVE!

The hype for the Elimination Chamber match has been great, and I can’t wait to watch it with David and James. It was great to see Shawn Michaels introduced as the guest referee and that should make this match even more enjoyable.

New Year’s Revolution is shaping up to be a great PPV. Let’s hope WWE doesn’t blow it like normal by having some lame ending or just giving the belt to Triple H.

This could be the resurgence of a very-stagnant World Title belt. I would love to see the belt change hands to multiple superstars over the next few months leading up to WrestleMania 21.

Take care everyone and enjoy Week 17!!!

Monday, December 27, 2004

posted by James - 11:48 PM

Guys... I'm having a hard time saying that wasn't the best Raw I've ever seen. Very predictable, but in a "That's what I would have done too" way... except Viscera.

That was a good challenge for Chris Benoit, but it would have been better served going to an up-and-comer (maybe even Muhammad Hassan in his debut) who could have survived the Crossface just long enough to keep Benoit from beating Orton's time. Instant respect.

Maybe it doesn't beat Rock, This Is Your Life. But I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Anyone who didn't catch it, or didn't set their TiVo can go here for a good recap of the show.

posted by James - 11:34 PM

"We win a stinkin' game and we're in the playoffs. Fifth seed. Probably going to Seattle. That ain't a bad thing either. We owe them."

- Minnesota Head Coach Mike Tice

Yo Skippy. Isn't this the guy you said you wanted to dump Holmgren for a couple weeks ago? And now he's downplayin' your boys, when he ain't even got his team to the playoffs yet? He's lost six of his last nine games and he's setting his sights on a playoff team that beat him two weeks ago.

What do you gots to say about that?

posted by James - 10:31 AM

Yeah, the Seahawks take the cake when it comes to getting hosed by narcoleptic, dyslexic gerbils in striped shirts. The game against Dallas was very kin to what happened to my Bears this Sunday against the Lions... with an exception.

They got the call wrong on the field giving Keyshawn Johnson a touchdown when he was out of bounds and then didn’t review it. Which brings up a serious flaw in the system, where if the refs are going to take the control of reviewing away from coaches in the last two minutes of the game, don’t they have to be more diligent when it comes to outcome-impacting touchdowns? Shouldn’t they be reviewing any that are even the slightest-bit controversial?

Having said that, this is where Sunday’s Bears loss comes into trouble. The refs had the call right on the field, and then got it wrong on review. They didn’t just get it wrong. They couldn’t even explain why they were overturning the original decision. Remember, there’s supposed to be something called “indisputable evidence.”

I’m not bitter. I’m just a realist. I know the refs won’t be perfect, but why did they have to nullify the one good offensive play the Bears had in 12 quarters?
"After review, as the receiver was going to the ground on his own, the ball moved when he hit the ground," referee Terry McAulay said. "It is an incomplete pass as ruled on the field."
What the heck does that mean? Seriously, when do they start sending out a referee-to-english dictionary so we can all understand what reasoning they’re using for screwing my team out of a playoff spot.

Yes, the Lions would have still had the ball with plenty of time to kick a field goal, and the Bears still had possession of the ball with a chance to score...

What the heck am I saying? Overturning the 43-yard touchdown strike to Bernard Berrian eliminated half of the Bears offense for the game. I don’t even know how that happened.

Triumphing in the face of adversity is the hallmark of great teams.

But teetering on the edge where one play can and does make the difference between a win and loss is the hallmark of a just-good-enough team.

And at their best, that’s what the Bears are this year. Their margin of victory is that small.

But even though their “competition” for the final playoff spot continued to give Bears life, I was living for next year since their Thanksgiving Day loss to Dallas. At least we can enjoy our future as a top-ten draftee in 2005. Anybody want to give me a heads up on some receivers who might be available next year?

Congratulations to my boys’ Seahawks. Not only did they do the good work of keeping the god-awful Arizona Cardinals out of the playoffs, but they secured their own post-season ticket as well.

Now, if the Rams lose either of their last two games, then the Seahawks will get to host their first-round playoff game, which is especially important to me since I’ll be in Seattle for that game.

Anybody who can pass up tickets to a playoff game in a temperate climate (i.e. not freezing your nipples off) don’t have their priorities in order.

So for one night only, I’ll be an Eagles fan, which is certainly easier since Terrell Owens will only be a sideshow. Oh, I also have one more reason to be an Eagles fan...

R.I.P. Reggie White (1961-2004)

We’re losing way too many of your kind, way too early.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

posted by David - 10:55 PM

Sarcasm Mode/

Good thing the Seahawks never get screwed by the Zebra Corp. After all, the officials that preside over their games are always straight-laced and perfect.

/discontinue mode.

Nah. I feel ya man. There have been multiple occasions that the 'Hawks have been worked over by the fashionably-challenged out on the field. The loss to Dallas this year still gets my dander up a bit. I've seen some better calls by dyslexic gerbils on sleeping pills.

Point: The Refs aren't perfect. They're making calls based on what they see on the field. When it does come to reviews, they don't see the same angles the audience does all the time. Most of the time, the officiating corp does very well. However, you can find calls in almost *any* game that will be questionable.

Point the Second: "We were screwed by the officials," is the rally cry of the bitter. It normally accompanies a team that has performed in lackluster fashion. Most of the time, if a team deserves to win: They will win. A team that is turning in a quality performance won't be in a position that one bad call will utterly decimate them. Note: There are exceptions. This is a generality based on my experience with multitudes of sporting events.

Point the Third: Many a team will complain about "that holding call", or "That bad spot". When the shoe is on the other foot, the casual fan will just blow things off. Calls will go both ways: Good in hand with Bad. Some days the timing sucks, but it's all part of being a fan. Accept it with good graces. Remark upon the bad calls that are NOT in your favor. Be a good sport.

My empathy here has few limits. Between games at my old High School, my old College, and by local sports heroes; I can't help but feel frustrated when the whole world seems against my guys.

Remember: When your team triumphs in the face of such adversities, that is the hallmark of the great.

I'm David, and maybe this wasn't a total Waste of Space.

posted by James - 3:12 PM

The Bears just got screwed... Zebra-style!

If they wanted to say it wasn't a touchdown, I'm fine with that. I'm not so Bear-blinded that I think every call against my team is bull, but at least use an appropriate explanation.

I wasn't exactly holding much hope that the Bears were going to make the playoffs, but to lose out like this stinks.

A very interesting season for the Bears. They played horribly most of the season, and that's taking into account their low talent level. Even with injuries to their leaders on offense and defense and horrific losses to Dallas and Houston, I was amazed to wake up every Monday morning to find them still in the playoff hunt.

If the Bears can get some wide receivers next year, Rex Grossman returns to get them the ball and they evade the injury plague, they'll have a great shot at taking the NFC North next year.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

posted by James - 10:43 PM

I saw this today on a blog I frequent.
I told my mother this morning that I would give away all my Christmas presents for the next five years for one of them. I hope I am thinking a little different next year (meaning the Cubs have won and I want my presents).
Cubs Fans: Welching on Wishes since 1908.

I don't know the age of the above poster, but heck I'd give that just for Carlos Beltran on the roster... which would probably bring a shiny gold trophy or three along with.

Merry Christmas to all Cubs Bloggers, their family and assorted love ones from Just North of Wrigley Field.

It's been almost a year since I started this endeavor, and it's been full of great experiences and great people.

And the best part is sharing it with my great friends, Chris and David.

I miss you, brothers.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

posted by James - 9:12 AM

Yeah, Skippy... everyone except mine!

Do you think maybe we got a little jipped on that one? j/k David. We all know Uncle Greg sure didn't mind.

Maybe we should get together and head out to the casino again when I'm back there in January. I've heard they've done some interesting improvements out there.

Now on to the Cubbies...

The whole of the Cubs Blog Army is aflutter with the latest news that the Cubs missed out on Danny Kolb, with the Brewers sending him to the Braves for Jose Capellan, their best pitching prospect (a price I would not have wanted Master Hendry to pay).

Kolb had a pretty good last year, and I enjoyed having him on my fantasy teams, but as a closer he's overrated.

His strikeout rates are horrible. For one season, he proved he could get guys out, which is the most important thing. But it would be easier to project whether he was worth the risk, if he could do more than just get a lot of ground balls and not walk guys.

Now the Cubs have guys with great K-rates (Kyle Farnsworth anyone?) who haven't been as successful in a closer's role as Kolb, but it's not like he's had a great track record of success (just a year and a half since failing as a starter), and if Master Hendry was going to pay a premium price for a closer, it had better be a sure thing.

I thought the same thing when Armando Benitez, Troy Percival and Dustin Hermanson signed elsewhere as a free agent... too much money, not a sure thing.

Then came the ridiculous notion of putting Kerry Wood in the bullpen. This is such a stupid thing to even consider.

You don't have even the slightest need for a closer, if you can't get through the seventh or eighth inning. Now, I'll make a possibly-hypocritical argument about Ryan Dempster later, but relegating Kerry Wood to one or two innings, three times per week won't remove the problems he has as a starter (they in fact intensify them if his first-inning stats have any bearing).

While Kerry might not be Roger Clemens yet, I'm not about to trade seven innings of possible domination for six innings of possible insignificance.

Kerry Wood is what separates the Cubs from the rest of the potential National League contenders. Well, he and Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano. At the top of their game, any one of them would make any team a force in the playoffs... and the Cubs have three of them.

They're what allows the Cubs to kick Matt Clement to the curb and allocate his money to a push for Carlos Beltran, or another top offensive talent.

Now that's out of the way, let's look at the rest of the bullpen to date:
Leicester rhp
Wellemeyer rhp
Remlinger lhp
Farnsworth rhp
Dempster rhp
Hawkins rhp
Borowski rhp

Other candidates:
Wuertz rhp
Mitre rhp
Guzman rhp
Ohman lhp
Rohlicek lhp
It's possible Joe Borowski won't be a factor right away, Farnsworth will be in someone else's bullpen next season, and Master Hendry will keep Jon Leicester or Todd Wellemeyer on the big-league staff, but not both. I mention these possibilities, because the Cubs will be short one lefthander and the early returns on Will Ohman and Russ Rohlicek are encouraging, not to mention the one lefthander in the above scenario, Mike Remlinger, isn't the model of a left-handed neutralizer.

As much as I like both Leicester and Wellemeyer, it would be worth carrying a second lefthander, who can hold left-handed batters to a .200 batting average and keep them inside the park, to give Remlinger a chance to work more of a traditional set-up role in the sixth and seventh innings.

This would leave the seventh and eighth to Farnsworth and eighth and ninth to LaTroy Hawkins and Ryan Dempster.

I'm encouraged about the possibility of using Dempster in short, high-leverage innings (instead of as a long-relief pitcher, where the Cubs have plenty of candidates).

There will be absolutely no ambiguity this spring, Dempster is needed for no other role, so he can prepare as such.

And if Rothschild is any kind of pitching coach, he will get Dempster to work on that craft, such as honing the two, or three at most, pitches he'll use the most. I would hope these would be the pitches he has the highest "strikeout ability" with and also the most control. I assume he'd go with his fastball and slider, which, by all accounts, are his two above-average pitches.

If this bears results, then it's possible he could elevate to the closer's role, and allow Hawkins to concentrate on the eighth inning, where he has a track record of dominance.

On first thought, the issue of Dempster's ability to pitch three or four times per week scared me. But if Borowski and Farnsworth come back to this team with effectiveness, the Cubs would have up to four guys to utilize in the eighth or ninth innings, with Remlinger, Leicester, and Wellemeyer available in the middle.

You'd be hard pressed to find a better stocked bullpen, even if Master Hendry doesn't make any further additions.

And let's all rejoice, because at least our bullpen isn't so bad we had to go out and sign Esteban Yan to a two-year contract.

Although I wish he would have made an acquisition last year after Borowski couldn't maintain his 2003 performance, Master Hendry has allocated his bullpen resources wisely so far, and I'll assume he'll continue to do so.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

posted by CHRIS - 2:37 PM

Ok It’s my turn to make my return to Just North of Wrigley Field.

(Ed. note: Not that he’s ever been to Chicago to visit a certain Wrigleyville resident. Grrr.)

It’s been a bad year in Skippy’s sports world...

Where to start! Well, first and foremost, thanks to James for pointing out how crappy my Hawks are playing right now, as if it wasn’t already painfully obvious.

But hey, I’ll take what I can get in the fact that even with a 7-6 record, they’re leading the division and, barring a complete meltdown, should stay that way.

The Hawks’ toughest game left this season is this week against the NY Jets, while St. Louis plays in Arizona with back-up QB Chris Chandler, who should still be a little shaken up from last week’s loss to surging Carolina.

After throwing six (yes SIX) interceptions, Chandler ended his hopeless effort against the Panthers with a passer ratting of ZERO!!!

From there, the Rams move on to play perennial NFC Championship game loser Philadelphia. In what will be a first for me, I will be rooting for the Eagles just for St. Louis to lose. (Kind of like I am rooting for the Seattle Sonics tonight because I LOVE watching the Lakers lose).

So realistically, the Hawks could lose two of the last three games and win the division (not that I expect them to, but they could). But with a win this week and a St. Louis loss, it will all but wrap up the division for the Hawks.

On to my favorite sport: BASKETBALL!!!

Another team not living up to expectations is my Utah Jazz (by the way, if anyone is struggling with what to get me for Christmas, a Jazz jersey always works. I have AK’s, but would love a Boozer or Arroyo).

They are a sad 9-12 after losing the second game of a home and home with Portland. But they just snapped a six-game losing streak that sent them spiraling to the bottom of the Northwest division.

Without the services of forward Andrei Kirilenko until mid-January, the Jazz are going to have a tough run against the teams in their division, which realistically could have four of five teams qualify for the playoffs.

The additions of Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur help with losing Kirilenko, but the play of rookies Kris Humphries and Kirk Snyder have helped the most. These two have produced off the bench for Coach Sloan and have played a good portion of minutes with injuries to Jarron Collins and Curtis Borchardt.

The one great plus about this season is that we have our stars locked up for at least the next three years. What a great job GM Kevin O’Conner did just to pry open Larry Miller’s wallet to get the guys we needed to replace the holes left when Stockton and Malone left... and keep them.

Prepare for a Utah championship in the next three years (yes, I think we can be that good). And, Utah’s challenge isn’t over this year.

Hopefully, the Sonics will look in the mirror and realize they aren’t the Lakers of the last five years or the Bulls of the 90s, but, indeed, they are the Seattle Superchokers!!!

Minnesota will continue to play solid ball as they have in recent years, but distractions from Latrell Sprewell could be costly as shown in a loss the other night to the lowly Chicago Bulls.

Well sports fans, this has been another Skippy comeback article. Look forward to a lot more from me in the near future.

I have a ton going on, with the planning of a wedding (we are registered at Target and the Seattle IKEA) and Christmas in the mall (it’s finally starting to pick up). But I will try and write more as things unfold in the world Just West of Seahawk Stadium (Qwest Field just doesn’t sound right to me).

Take care and GO HAWKS!!! GO JAZZ!!!

P.S. James made a great comment to me... Has anyone else noticed that it seems every bachelor party that involves David involves the police??? Just one of those things that makes you go hmm...

Monday, December 13, 2004

posted by David - 1:19 AM

Gah, things have been entirely too topical around here. I guess I'll have to bring about another Waste of Space.

Recently, I was down in Corpus Christi. I was visiting a friend of mine who happened to be getting shackled for life... er... married.

I was in my rental car at one point, and I was following some directions to find the place my buddy was staying. I was cruising down the street, pacing the car in front of me, while trying to read the signs to find my next cross street.

All the sudden, a police officer ran out into the street from cover, flagging me off the road with a stop sign. I swore to myself softly, and cruised off to a little turn-around. The person I was pacing did the same.

Well, the nice lady I was following, in her white pickup, with her local plates, was immediately waved away. As she was taking off, the officer that stopped me came walking up to my car.

He was a little over six foot and looked to be a thousand years old. He had a cracked face worn by the desert winds and a pair of mirrored shades. He had a toothpick in his mouth and his notebook in his hand. All I could think to myself was... OH S&^*.

Don't worry ladies and gentleman, it gets worse.

He sauntered up and asked for my license and registration. I handed over my paperwork, but lo-and-behold, I left my driver's license in my hotel room.

So, this guy had me for speeding, and he had me for driving without a license. I'm sat there trying to explain my situation. When he heared I was following the car he already let go, he was just... "Son, If that car drove off a bridge, would YOU?"

Luckily for me, I have my license number memorized, so he left to run my record. I was left sitting there in my white rental, thinking of what a Texas jail cell would be like.

Moments later, he came back and started bawling me out. He told me that I'd better be careful. The area I was going ~15 over in was a school zone (Not currently in effect however). He told me never to follow or mimic a Texas driver again as they're "a bunch of idiots speeding everywhere." And that if I did continue to follow them it would be "entirely likely that I would end up sailing off a bridge."

At this point, he detached my ticket and prepared to hand it over to me. The whole time I was very polite, and I just had a hung-dog look. Just before I grabbed the ticket though, he pulled it back and said, "tell you what I'm gonna do."

He scribbled VOID WARNING across the ticket, and then gave me my copy. He then informed me that if I ever so much as thought about speeding around Corpus again that he would "haul my kiester into the slammer and let me sit there until after the weddin'."

So, somehow I managed to talk my way out of a ticket, in Texas, as a tourist. That, my friends, was an interesting experience to be sure.

Next up, I'll probably tell tales about my fun night at the sobriety checkpoint the night of the bachelor party. Until then, this has been a...

Waste of Space.

Friday, December 10, 2004

posted by James - 12:45 AM

Update: Apparently, the Tribune was reading my mind or something.

Also, I'll be attending my first Bulls game in, well, maybe forever. It will at the very least be my first game at the United Center.

My wonderful Aunt Lolly got me awesome seats, section 108, row 18. Thank you so very much! MUAH!

The only times I've been this close to a basketball game I was wearing headsets and a microphone, but that's another story.

The Bulls will be facing Allen Iverson and the Philadelphis 76ers tonight (I picked this game specifically because I knew there would be at least one player on the court worth watching). I'm actually more excited about seeing the United Center than the game.

Does anybody have any advice like how early we should get there? What we should or shouldn't bring (such as cameras, food)?

Are there any etiquettes I should be aware of that might be different from other venues (because at some venues I've found it's considered rude to stand and cheer for your team. grumble)?

Anything unique around or inside the building I should go out of my way to see, or get a picture of me in front of (I'm trying to put the Jordan statue on the top of my list)?

Any particular food experiences I should thrust my belly toward, either before, during or after the game?

Send me an e-mail and let me know.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

posted by James - 11:45 PM

With teams throwin’ around ridiculous, multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts to middle-of-the-road, or at the very least aging (read: declining) free agents, should Master Hendry continue the trend he started earlier this week?

Call the 2005 Cubs the One-Year Wonders.

To use a poker analogy (this is right up your alley Scott and Skippy), there are way too many GMs pushing it “all in” before the flop. Which scares me and should scare you too, when it comes to thinking about whether your team can (or should) really get involved in bidding for the big free agents out there: Beltran (Hell yeah at any cost), Beltre, Drew, Pedro, Pavano, Renteria, Cabrera, Delgado, Sexson, Nomar (oh, seelee me. Master Hendry says: Bid you cannot on something that cannot be had by you)...

I used the word ridiculous before, but these contracts are more mind boggling (in the rare case when it might be justified) or downright stupefying.

I give you Exhibits A through whatever:

Omar Vizquel, Giants

Cristian Guzman, Nationals

Vinny Castilla, Nationals

Damian Miller, Brewers

Kris Benson, Mets

Paul Wilson, Reds

Jaret Wright, Yankees

Tony Womack, Yankees

(OK, the above two are just, plain guilty pleasures since it’s Yankees-brand ridiculousness, that any moron can see will backfire on them.)

Armando Benitez, Giants

Rheal Cormier, Phillies

Troy Percival, Tigers

And in the last couple days:

Dustin Hermanson, White Sox (oh will those Pale Hose ever learn)

Jeff Kent, Dodgers (more on him later)

Jermaine Dye, White Sox (see Hermanson)

Troy Glaus, Diamondbacks ($45 million? 4 years? He’s a big-time home run hitter, but he’s only played in 120 games in the last two years. Either the D-backs are serious about contending or serious about not knowing what they’re doing, especially after the Wally Backman fiasco, or it could be both.)

Steve Finley, Angels

These teams are throwing around money like green was last season’s color, and they have to unload it (I didn’t even mention the Marlins handing over $8 million for one season of Al Leiter, when guys like Woody Williams can’t even get $4 million).

Two of the most recent deals could have direct relation to the Cubs’ efforts to sign Carlos Beltran.

Finley joins an already-crowded outfield in Anaheim. They’ve got at least six outfielders, with only five positions available (and that’s including Darin Erstad playing first and one of them DH-ing). Nobody is going to take contracts such as Garrett Anderson, Tim Salmon and Erstad off their hands.

End result: Scratch one bidder off the list for Beltran.

The Dodgers shoring up their infield with Kent (at either first, second or third) could accomplish the same goal, especially if they can’t unload Shawn Green, but it might add intensity to another Beltran Bidder.

Houston could be the wounded animal of this bunch. Not only did they lose Kent, but they also don’t have a firm commitment from Roger Clemens for next year.

With aging franchise cornerstones Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell still on the books, not losing Beltran could end up the Astros number one priority at the Winter Meetings this weekend.

I’m saying I expect the Astros to act desperate and pay like they’re desperate, something like a whole lotta years and over $17 million per season (think AROD, circa 2000).

I don’t think the Astros are going to leave this weekend without showing Beltran an offer like this, and I wouldn’t blame Beltran for accepting on the spot.

I know I’ve gone all over the place with this post, but here’s the part you’ve all been waiting for: What then for our Cubbies?

Here comes another poker analogy for you: Everybody’s got all these middling hands (they have to be, cause they can’t all be good), and they’re putting in a whole bunch of chips.

Now, your chances of catching a hand ain’t that great either, so you could call and hope a miracle flop comes up, and you make a hand and no one else does... whereas it’s just as likely the opposite happens, and you just wasted your chips.

The price of poker at that point would be pretty high to make the call at that point.

So what should you do? Commit a whole bunch of your stack, or stay out of it and let them fight it out?

This is what I want the Cubs to do. Under this scenario, Beltran is gone and Drew’s already over-inflated market value just went higher than I want to my team to pay.

So instead of casting their lot (and part of subsequent year’s lot too) on a low-reward player such as Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Jordan or Juan Gonzalez, who are all going to be looking for a multi-year deal after what they saw Dye sign for, they look to the route they took with Nomar and sign a guy with something to prove and willing to sign for just one year.

If the Cubs can’t reel in Beltran, Magglio Ordonez is the only free-agent outfielder available I want wearing Cubs pinstripes (I SAID CUBS PINSTRIPES) next year.

He’s only two years older than Drew. Yes, he’s right handed, but he hits right-handed pitchers (.924 OPS over the last three years) almost as well as he does left-handed pitchers (.969 vs LHP).

Watching the Mariners all those years, he sticks out in my mind as one of those guys who I absolutely hated to see come to the plate with anything cooking on the basepaths.

And he could duke it out with Sammy Sosa over who had to shift over to left field, and if the new guy wins, so be it.

I’d love it if the Cubs could work out an option for 2006 included in the deal, just in case his knee isn’t 100% sound the whole season, but a base salary + incentives contract similar to Nomar’s would be very reasonable for a four-time all star, who has cracked the 30 HR-110 RBI plateau four times.

And from everything I’ve heard, there are a lot of worse people to build the core of your team around than Magglio Ordonez and Nomar Garciaparra.

...a couple of one-year wonders.

posted by James - 1:13 AM

Ol' Master Hendry tried to slip one through on everybody last night. As if locking up this year’s middle infield wasn't enough, he didn't stop there.

He made one of those moves where, down the road, a rival GM will think, "Hendry made a lot of good moves, but I've put together a solid team, filling all of my offseason objectives."

"Even if I didn't add All-Stars, MVPs and Cy Youngs to my team, at least I didn't leave a gaping hole at backup..."

"WHA??? When did he sign Blanco? NOOOOOOOOO!!!"

Yup, Master Hendry eradicated the production sink calling himself Paul Bako last night when he signed former Twins, Brewers, and, most importantly, Braves catcher Henry Blanco to a two-year, $2.75 million deal.

This means no more pretending our backup catcher/Maddux caddy is making an honest contribution to the team because he's lefthanded or has blood running through is veins (Bako had one or the other. I'm thoroughly convinced he didn't have both).

The Mikes over at Old Style Cubs are having fun with this.

Mike Ein:
"The fact that he is making $1.35 million this year to basically be a giant glove upsets me a bit.

Are you telling me there isn't a better backup catcher option on the market?"
Mike Zwei:
"Zero reasonable options for a backup catcher besides Bako and Blanco. Since Blanco is clearly better defensively and about equal with Bako offensively, its a pretty clear choice.

$1.35 mil isn't an outrageous amount for a guy that is excellent defensively and can keep Maddux a little happier.

I like it, and you should like it too."
I do like it, heap much.

Not only is Blanco the better defensive catcher (it's not even close with Bako dipping below a .990 fielding percentage the last two years), especially when it comes to throwing out runners where Blanco bested Bako by 20% last year, but Blanco at least contributes something offensively.

It's a given that Blanco will improve the team's defense at catcher, even if it's only in 25% (as I worship the gods in control of keeping all Cubs healthy in 2005) of the innings at catcher. And he brings some pop with the bat... 10 HRs in 2004, which I think any team would welcome from a 300-AB backstop.

Bako has just one over the last two years! I'm surprised to see Bako's career HR total has bested Blanco's 2004 season... by a whole four!

Just in case you think he found other ways to contribute, because even I know the almighty dinger ain't the only way to slay a dragon. Uh-uh! After watching him in person on several occasions last year, I'm shocked to find he managed as many RBIs as Blanco had homers!

Blanco's the best catcher Master Hendry's going to get for that price. Heck, the Mariners are shelling out more than this for Dan Wilson to be their backup, and he brings nothing positive 'cept a guest appearance to bump the annual Mariners Wives Bake Sale.

Maybe I can come up with a gripe about guaranteeing the second year, but I'm sure it's no small coincidence the length of the contract is exactly the length of time Maddux is scheduled to be here. And whatever makes Maddux happy, makes me happy.

I like it. Mikey likes it. Maddux likes it. And Master Hendry likes it.

As President Bartlet is keen to say: “What’s Next?”

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

posted by James - 1:20 AM

...and a hearty NOMAR to all you out in Cubbie Land and around the baseball globe.

I couldn’t be happier Cubs GM Jim Hendry followed through on making Nomar Garciaparra more than just a trade-deadline, shortstop upgrade. It felt too good to only last four months.


I don’t want to fleece some of the credit away from Hendry, but I took the above picture at the conclusion of Nomar’s successful debut in Cubbie Blue, which also coincided with my Grandma’s 70th birthday and Greg Maddux’s first attempt at 300 wins... and if the out-of-this-world lovefest which ensued in any way influenced Nomar’s decision, I’m just happy to have chipped in.

That was four months ago. However, I may deserve some kudos for what I did last night.

In a response to a post on the U.S.S. Mariner, I wrote this before I went to bed last night:
I’m hoping the rumblings are Nomar and Todd Walker resigning with the Cubs.
By all accounts, we’ll be seeing a 100% healthy Nomar at short from the start of the 2005 season.

Even though the contract isn’t chump change by any means ($8 million), it won’t be prohibitive to other measurable improvements, even if its hefty incentive clauses kick in (up to $3 million).

(Think about it: Cub Fan 1 walks into a bar and Cub Fan 2 greets him.

Cub Fan 2: Nomar!

Cub Fan 1: Carlos!

Bartender: Beer?

Cub Fan 2: uhhh... Sosa.

Cub Fan 1: oooh.... you had the chili last night too, huh?)

I would have liked Master Hendry (which is how I will refer to him until further notice) to work on an option year included in this deal, but the timing couldn’t have been better.

Yes, there is a chance the price might have come down as suitors for Edgar Renteria and Orlando Cabrera sorted, priced and stupefied themselves out, but that’s a chance I’m glad Master Hendry didn’t take.

And even if Nomar only gets in 140 games due to injury and smart field management (I’ll believe it when I see it), how is he not worth triple what Omar Vizquel and Cristian Guzman got as the first free agent shortstops to sign deals this offseason.

And for the second season in a row, Master Hendry has forced the hand of the Cubs’ competitors in the division and throughout the National League by making the first big move.

He did it last year by getting Derrek Lee and LaTroy Hawkins before the Winter Meetings even started, apparently learning from his previous year’s failure to acquire 3B Joe Randa from the Kansas City Royals and leaving the Winter Meetings with nothing but a lot of work left to do (of course, I’m fine with this now because then we might not have Aramis Ramirez, my lovely wife’s favorite Cub, manning the hot corner).

Even if the move isn’t a shock, it’s still a brilliant opening gambit and hopefully a good omen for next season, which can’t get it’s ass here soon enough for me.

These kind of proactive moves make other team’s dumbass moves, such as the Yankees signing Tony Womack to a two-year, $4 million contract, and subsequent improvements, like Maddux last year, into nothing but a second helping of gravy on an already sufficiently-slathered biscuit (that one’s for you, Tommy).

Think Carlos Beltran... now, that’s some good gravy.

Yeah, I’ve been gone for more than a month. I will give no excuses, but I do have an admission to make... I no longer live Just North of Wrigley Field.

I now live Slightly Southeast of Wrigley Field. I hope no one expects me to change the name of this blog, because Slightly... just doesn’t have the poetry. And I figure, at the very least, it can remain an homage to an area that will always remain special to me.

Is it just me, or have some of the biggest stories in recent sports history happened in the last month. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen sports grab front-page headlines this often, and it’s not at all good things.

Of course, my lack of updating here hasn’t kept me from compiling these subjects, or at least trying to make something meaningful out of them.

Maybe I’ll be able to do that here, although, if you remember this blog’s humble beginnings, I can’t promise I’ve gone the route of a pixel conservationist, and I tend not to get into something unless it’s done right.

I feel a lot like President Jed Bartlet these days, or at least I think a lot about what he’d think about certain situations, or how’d he’s handled certain situations in the past (which happens if you watch as much of the West Wing as I have, as often as I do).

Hard to imagine, but he got to a point where he had so much going on, between running for re-election, battling Senate hearings, policing the world, etc., even the First Lady noticed his difficulties... I mean... challenges. (Right, Sam.)

“You’ve gone from having so much to say, to having so much to say, but not having the time to talk about it, to having so much to say that you can’t talk about it...”

A very loose quote, but that last part sums it up pretty well, but that’s why business is good these days, especially if you’re not a pixel conservationist.

However, it will have to wait. Stay tuned.