Friday, July 29, 2005

The Score

You know, I just can't get enough of bashing the Score. You see, Chicago's onetime favorite sports talk radio station got trounced in the ratings this past quarter. The usual excuses were bandied about, from Rick Telander's insanity, to Mike North just needing to find his footing in the mornings. Anyway, one of my favorites was that a big part of the reason that WSCR was lost the ratings battle for the 2nd quarter was that ESPN 1000 is the current home of the first place White Sox, broadcasting all of their games. It's an excuse that I expected, for the simple reason that WSCR has signed a contract to begin broadcasting the Sox games next year, thus they were basically building up the product that they'll soon have. Well, in today's Tribune, Teddy Greenstein pointed out that Mike Murphy's evening show on the Score had pretty good ratings against the first hour of ESPN 1000's powerhouse afternoon drive show, Mac, Jurko and Harry, and decent ratings overall. That's nice for WSCR now, but evidently nobody's pointed out that during the 2nd quarter, Murphy's show is usually going up not against Mac, Jurko and Harry, but the White Sox broadcasts. And if the White Sox games can't outdraw a hack like Murph in the ratings, the Score may have just made a very dubious investment.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Every day I ride the Metra train into downtown Chicago to work, and after several years of doing this I have begun to notice some strange behavior from some of my fellow commuters. I have decided to point out their evil ways to them, so that they might repent and be saved.

The Fearful Escalator Rider
By now, I had thought that most people in this country were aware of escalators, and knew how to ride them, but apparently that's not the case. Everyday as I file towards the moving stairs, it seems I get stuck directly behind someone to whom the prospect of stepping onto an escalator is only slightly less intimidating than leaping onto a moving freight train. I'm not exactly sure what they're doing, but they stand at the top as though looking for right moment to board. Perhaps they simply fear machines, or maybe they're waiting for their favorite stair to come back around, but it's very annoying. I have two suggestions for these people; either come back late at night and practice, or take the stairs.

The Person who is Intimidated by the Swinging Door
Yet another timid person who commutes in Chicago. First of all, I'm not sure how you can spend any time in the city and not understand the proper use of the swinging door. There are more of these doors at use in Chicago than any other place on earth. These devices were constructed to make using the doors easier, as they allow people to move in and out of a building through the same doorway at the exact same time. However, there's always one person in the group who has decided this is too hard. They stand at the swinging door and wait for it to be totally free of all people (and in some cases to stop moving completely) before they can proceed. This is actually okay at 2 in the afternoon, but during morning rush hour, the door is simply NEVER empty. My suggestion to these people is that they either find a job that let's you arrive at work at 2pm, or try using one of the regular doors that appear on the side of the building.

The Line Jumper
The line jumper is the most diabolical of all commuting dopes, because their act is somewhat malicious. You see, when a person exits the train at Northwest Station, they must then walk down the platform and through the swinging doors to get into the building proper. Since there are a lot of commuters, there are five swinging doors to use, behind which five distinct lines of people usually form, patiently waiting their turn to proceed inside. Unfortunately, there are those that feel that their time is too important to wait with the rest of the great unwashed, so they proceed to walk up the aisle between two of the lines, and then attempt to jump into the door, cutting off the person who is at the front of the line. Other than a good face punching, I really couldn't think of a way to stop such behaviour, but I may have inadvertently stumbled onto the answer. You see, I'm not the always the most aware person in the morning, and the other day, a woman attempted this maneuver when I was at the front of the line and not paying close attention. So when she jumped in front of me, I didn't stop, and we ended up going through the door in the same chamber, and she obviously thought I was some type of psychopath by the look she gave me, and hopefully won't do that again. So if that person is reading this, I'm sorry I scared you, and I'm sorry you're such a rude jackass that you can't wait in line like everyone else.

Friday, May 06, 2005


Some people toil in obscurity for years before they reach the big time. Well, in their faces, I only toiled for 3 months. Joe Aiello has invited me to join the staff over at View From the Bleachers, so I'm taking my baseball ramblings over there. I will still be posting on this page occassionally, and am hoping to get my brother to take it over full time. Anyway, thanks to the few of you who read my stuff over here, and if you liked it, check me out at the new place.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Comcast Sucks

Last night, the Bulls, Sox and Cubs all played. Since channel 9 has turned their weeknight programming over to the WB(a decision that ranks up there right now as one of the dumbest of all time), I wasn't sure where the Cubs game would be on. According to the paper, the Bulls were on CSN, the Sox on CSN+(which is CLTV) and the Cubs were on CSN+2. Unfortunately, at this time, CSN+2 does not exist. So, thanks to Comcast's foresight, I didn't see any of the game until CSN picked up the feed following the Bulls postgame show (which came in right after Barrett had tied the game). Now, I'm still not exactly clear why the Cubs weren't put on WCIU (unless that network didn't think that pre-empting "Cheaters" was worth it), but one thing is clear so far, Comcast Sports Net is thus far, a joke. This conflict is just another in a long line of glitches for CSN. The productions themselves are often marred by technical glitches (the most unforgivable being the loss of sound and picture several times during the Bulls 1st playoff game) and their post game coverage is nothing special. I guess this shouldn't come as a surprise to me, since the network is owned by all 5 major Chicago sports teams (yes, I realize I'm being generous by referring to the Blackhawks as "major"). I mean, who knows more about turning in a half-assed effort than these franchises?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Cubs Nation

Today's 4-1 loss to the Brewers reminded me so much of last year that I don't even want to talk about it. So, since I'm already thinking about the 2004 Cubs, I'm going to present you with a review of the recently released book Cubs Nation, by Gene Wojciechowski.

I'll start off by saying that I've been anticipating this book since I heard that Wojciechowski was working on it, in November of last year. I'm an avid reader, and I particularly like sports books (especially those about my favorite teams) but it was more than that. You see, while victory and triumph look good on TV, nothing serves the written word better than failure. Take a look in any bookstore, and you'll find a lot more books on Enron than about successful companies. That's because with failure usually comes conflict. And the 2004 Cubs were heavy on both. When ESPN the Magazine carried a small article by Wojciechowski in March which detailed Sammy Sosa's early exit from game 162, and the subsequent boom box smashing by an unnamed Cub, well, that just wet my appetite even more.

So I'm sorry to say that I was disappointed by Cubs Nation. You see, the full title is "Cubs Nation, 162 Games, 162 Stories, 1 Addiction". And the book delivers on that. Wojciechowski gives a short capsule review of each game, followed by a report on some aspect of being a Cub fan, or an interview with someone who's either a Cub fan, employee, or involved some occupation which the Cubs affect. The stories and interviews are very good. Wojciechowski has an easy writing style and his book seems to very much capture the essence of the groups of people that make up Cubs Nation, from the umpire room attendant, to the ball hawks on Waveland to the organist to the bookies in Vegas who Cub fans are constantly enriching, Wojciechowski covers them all. Unfortunately, this book could have been written about any Cubs season. The majority of the on field focus is on the Cubs NLCS collapse in 2003 (note, if you cannot think about games 6 and 7 without weeping, do NOT read this book) and while there are extensive player interviews, most of these sit downs involve questions about what it's like to be a Cub in general, never really giving us any insight into what it's like being a 2004 Cub.

It's my feeling that while Wojciechowski has written a nice book, he missed out on a golden opportunity. To put it simply, we all know that this team spent all season fighting itself and media, instead of its opponents, yet Gene never really dishes the dirt. We get nothing substantial on Sosa's deteriorating relationship with Baker, his teammates and management, Wojciechowski just sort of tells us that well, Sammy's numbers are going down, and hey, he left early that one time. Likewise, what we get on subjects like the Merker/Stone feud, the Zambrano/Edmonds incident and Kyle Farnsworth's descent into madness is pretty much what we read from the beat reporters at the time. There's an early chapter dealing with new trainer Dave Groeschner and the injuries to Prior and Wood, but he disappears from the book after that, with his firing noted in a throw away line in the epilogue (no mention is every made of the constantly changing timetable on Todd Hollandsworth's injury).

So my beef with Cubs Nation is this: the 2004 Chicago Cubs were laden with talent and expectations. They fought with umpires, opponents, fans, the press and each other. They collapsed horrificly in the final week of the season, while seemingly more preoccupied with their own broadcasters than the games they needed to win. I could write a 350 page book on this team, just stringing together the rumors and psychological problems that floated around that team. Yet Wojciechowski drops the ball. He had virtually a free run of the clubhouse, and since he wasn't a beat reporter (or even a reporter for a local publication) there really wasn't much that the players could do to him in terms of retribution. I wanted the dirty secrets of this band of nitwits laid bare for everyone to see. This book should have been the Bronx Zoo all over again. Instead, it's simply a nice summary of the ups and downs of being a Cub fan. Maybe someday, when my memory of the 2004 team is a little rosier, I'll appreciate Cubs Nation more. But for now, under the weight of my own expectations, it's a disappointment.

Yeah, I know, I shouldn't rag on a book for what it's not, but it's my blog, I'll do what I want. In conclusion, if you want to read a good book about every aspect of being a Cub fan, then I recommend this book to you. If you want to read an expose of the 2004 season, then I don't.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Things I learned while watching the Cubs this weekend...

The Cubs lost 2 of 3 to the Astros this weekend, giving them a record of 12-12 on the season. Here's what I learned from the 3 games:

Greg Maddux still has it. He out dueled Roger Clemens on Friday to get the Cubs only win.

Kerry Wood needs to go on the DL. The Cubs bullpen isn't good, but it doesn't help when starters can't give you 4 innings, let alone 6 or 7. The Cubs can't afford to start Wood again, only to have him bow out in the middle of the game with bursitis.

Mark Prior is human. Prior came back to earth with a thud on Sunday, giving up a grand slam to Mike Lamb. Prior then fell apart, walking two and giving up a 3 run homer to Adam Everett(!?!).

Derrek Lee is not. Lee is leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBI.

Aramis Ramirez needs to start hitting. Lee's not going to be as effective if teams don't have to pitch to him. Right now they don't, and they've started pitching around him. If Aramis can get back to last year's form, this year's offense could out perform last year.

Neifi Perez still hasn't turned back into a pumpkin. I don't even know what to say about this guy. It's gotten so nuts, that I actually picked him up in my fantasy league (ironically enough, as a replacement for Nomar).

Dusty Baker feels sorry for the rest of the NL's pitchers. That's the only explanation I can think of for Jason DuBois to ride the pine while Todd Hollandsworth continues to start in left field. DuBois got 2 AB's this weekend. The result? A double and a homer.

Willy Tavarez is going to torture us for years to come. It seems like this guy was everywhere in the Houston series, getting on base, stealing and then scoring. To top it off, he threw out 3 runners at the plate. Corey Patterson is quickly becoming the 4th best centerfielder in his own division.

Chris Spier evidentially watched a lot of tape of Wendell Kim this offseason, and decided that Kim was far too conservative.

Jose Macias still stinks.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The 25th Man

There's been a debate raging over at the Desipio message board over the uselessness of Jose Macias. Some feel Jose should be given a one way ticket back to Montreal (which conveniently lacks a baseball team, thus sparing fans everywhere), while others feel that such treatment is too harsh, and that Jose is actually a fairly competent utility man. I can't really agree with either of those assessments. Jose is a bad player, yes, but he's not the worst player in the majors (I reserve the right to retract this statement). He made this team essentially as the 25th man on the roster (and might not have if he didn't have a guaranteed contract) but the problem is, Dusty Baker doesn't use him like the 25th man.

Let me elaborate on how I think the 25th man should be used. He is always the worst player on the team, and it's very likely that he's not as good as the top 3 or 4 players at AAA. You don't want a top prospect as your 25th man, because he's going to rot on the bench. You see, the 25th man's playing time should be as limited as possible. Ideally, you want this player to be somewhat like Macias, in that he's versatile (Macias switch hits, and can play any position defensively-although neither his hitting or fielding are very good), but you have no interest in his development as a player, so it doesn't matter if he gets rusty. You see, it's my feeling that this player isn't so much a weapon, as a last line of defense. He should only play under drastic circumstances: an injury, an ejection or an extra inning game. He can start every 10 days or so, but shouldn't get more time than that. He's the 2nd to the last pinch hitter you use (in front of the backup catcher) and he's probably not good enough to be used as a defensive replacement. The 25th man has no real chance for advancement. Any minor league callups should be placed in front of him on the depth chart. Which is where I take issue with Macias, and by extension Dusty Baker. You see, Dusty is loyal to his guys, and Macias is now one of them. As a result, when Nomar was injured, Neifi became the shortstop, and Jose became the utility man. That's okay for two games, or so, but once Cedeno came up from the minors, HE should have taken Neifi's old spot in the pecking order, with Macias going back to being the 25th man. And Macias should NEVER be used to pinch hit instead of Jason DuBois or Cedeno.

So I guess my conclusion is that I wouldn't mind having Jose on the team, if I knew he was going to be used in the manner I described above. However, knowing Dusty's penchant for trying to get all of his players into games every week, and his seemingly bizarre attachment to useless veteran players, Jim Hendry should have known better than to bring Jose back this year. It almost seems to me that the best thing to do with a manager like Baker is to purge the bench players every year. That way Dusty has no attachment to them, and they'll be forced to win jobs on merit.