Saturday, February 26, 2005

A Real Wideout?

Well, I wasn't expecting to write about the Bears when I woke up this morning, but word out of Halas Hall is that Mushin Muhammed has signed a six year deal with the J. P. Morgan Chase and Co. Bank One presents Chicago Bears. I guess Jerry Angelo finally came to the conclusion that the forward pass isn't just a fad after all. Muhammed represents a huge upgrade for the Bears, here's his 2004 stats compared to those of the entire Chicago wide receiving corps:

Catches Yards Touchdowns
Muhammed: 93 1,405 16
Bears WRs 111 1,561 3

I can't decide which is more stunning, how good Muhammed was last year, or how terrible the Bears wideouts were. This definitely makes me a little more optimistic about 2005. Everybody was counting on the Bears taking a wideout at 4 in the draft, but now they've given themselves a lot more flexibility in what they can do with that pick. It also means that Angelo will likely bring in a competent veteran QB, in case Rex Grossman isn't fully recovered. I actually prefer Brad Johnson to Kurt Warner, but either one would be an upgrade over last year's situation. The Muhammed signing represents a good start for the Bears this offseason, but it needs to be a start and not just a one shot signing to placate the critics of the offense. All the Pro Bowl receivers in the world won't do this team a bit of good unless they get some offensive linemen who are capable of actual pass blocking.

Friday, February 25, 2005


Suprisingly enough, this is my first post about the Illini basketball team this year. I'll start by saying I'm an Illinois grad, and while I know we Illini fans can get a little annoying bragging about our basketball team, just remember, we've sat through 3 seasons of the suckiest football known to man, so some of us feel we deserve this. I've watched just about every game this year, and one thing that really stands out to me is the way this team is unafraid of the shot clock. Most college teams try to come down, set up their offense and get up a shot in 25 seconds. If the shot clock runs down to around 10 seconds, however, it's a total panic. Normally at that point, whoever has the ball is going to either attempt to drive the lane and draw a foul, or just jack up a bad shot. As a result, most teams relax their off the ball defense reflexively, as they don't want to give up a bail out foul, and they know it's likely that the man who has the ball will be the shooter, so they try to get into rebounding position. Illinois is able to take advantage of that habit, as they are willing to make 4 passes in 10 seconds to get a wide open shot. They also play great defense from start to finish in every possession. That's what makes this team so special. You can't relax for a second against them, or the next thing you know, they're standing on your neck.

Now, I know this team has flaws (particularly inside) but I think they can more than handle any team they come up against in the tournament. And I feel pretty confident that if they lose a game, it won't be due to a lack of effort. That's why I don't see North Carolina beating them. UNC's probably a more talented team, but they're lazy, and selfish. I see a team like Duke being a bigger threat, because while they're not as talented as Carolina, they know it. The Blue Devils understand that to win, they have to play all out the entire game.


Kerry Wood announced today that he would no longer answer any questions having to do with Sammy Sosa. It's about time somebody did this, and here's hoping the rest of the team follows Woody's lead.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

More Sammy

Sammy Sosa held his big annual spring training press conference yesterday, which was as uninteligible as usual. The gist of it is that Sammy's glad to be on his shiny new team, which is much better than his stupid, old team, which never protected him(who was supposed to protect him, and from what, was never said-maybe Sammy is afraid of the bogey man) and he doesn't miss his old teammates, who are absolutely insane to think that they can win without him. I didn't think it was possible, but Sammy's act is even more annoying to me now that he's gone. Part of the reason Sosa is so annoying is the Chicago's treatment of abscence. I mean, spring training has begun, and I want to hear stories about the current Cubs team. For a team that's being picked by most to compete for a playoff spot, the Cubs have a surprising number of pivotal roles that are going to be sorted out in spring training. I'd like to know if Joe Borowski's hitting 93 on the radar gun, does this team really think that Jerry Hairston can be an everyday player, is Sergio Mitre really going to get a shot at the 5th starter's job and does Jason DuBois have a chance in hell at winning the left field job. Instead, I get articles on whether or not guys think the locker room atmosphere is better without Sammy Sosa's boombox there. That's right, a full article was written on an inanimate object that belongs to a guy who's not on the team anymore. Does anyone care(by the way, I hate to break this to you, but if you do care, you're an idiot)? Another thing we don't need to hear about right now is team chemistry. Team chemistry is somewhat overrated, and even if you think it's the most important thing, you can't judge something like that during the first two weeks of spring training. Besides, remember those happy-go-lucky Astros and their best ever August and September that got them the Wild Card? Well, do you remember that in late July, after the Cubs series at Minute Maid that Jeff Bagwell and Roy Oswalt nearly came to blows over Oswalt's penchant for hitting opposing players, getting ejected, and leaving his teammates to take the payback?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What I learned from Barry Bonds...

Barry Bonds gave his State of Barry Bonds speech yesterday, and I'm happy to report that Barry is still an asshole. It's good to have one constant in the world. Anyway, Bonds declared the steroid controversy to be history, which I guess it is, in the sense that the war in Iraq is history. Bonds went on to make several bizarre statements, basically saying that the press was persecuting him because he was black and Babe Ruth was white (no mention of Giambi), that Canseco is a liar, that the press lies all the times and thus should have astericks by their names (kind of a weird statement that was sort of an admission that he lied about his own steroid use) and that it's not so much his fault for taking steroids as it is the media's fault for telling everyone that he did it. Seems odd for a guy who hates the press so much to hold a press conference, but I think Barry considers this more like his yearly penance than anything else. He stood up in front of the media, and now he doesn't need to do it for the rest of year. I guess Barry's point was that everyone is a liar so that makes it okay for him to be one too. Jayson Stark noted today on ESPN radio that whenever a reporter asked a tough question, Barry just went on the offensive and ripped the person instead of answering it. It will be interesting to see how Barry's demeanor changes if he has to testify in open court in the BALCO case.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

On This Date in History...

25 years ago, the US Olympic hockey team defeated Russia 4-3 at Lake Placid, NY. I'd like to say I remember the game and how it made me feel, but I was 4 years old at the time, and I'm not even sure I watched it. But I did watch ESPN's rebroadcast of it on Sunday, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who's a sports fan.

More Spring Training...

Meanwhile, back in Mesa, position players have reported. There was a lot of talk of leadership yesterday, mostly from Nomar (who every reporter wanted to talk to) and Todd Walker (who wanted to talk to every reporter). Walker went on about how there were 25 captains on the team now, while Nomar insisted he's not taking over the Sammy Sosa role on the team, and that he'll lead by example. So who exactly is going to provide the leadership on this team? It's really up to them, who they're going to look to, and as we saw last year, when the players that set the tone were Sammy Sosa (as captain) and Moises Alou(as the unofficial captain) that can be a crucial point. Would the Cubs have won the Wild Card if they hadn't spent the entire year arguing with reporters, umpires, opponents and each other? Nobody knows, but it might have helped. So with great purge of Hendry complete, who will the team look to? Well, I'd like for Dusty Baker to actually, you know, take control of his clubhouse, but I'm not holding my breath for that to happen. So here's hoping that the man who sets the tone for the Cubs in 2005 is Derrek Lee. Why? Well, he's one of the only guys I don't remember bitching all year. He never blamed the umpires, never attacked the press, and played in 161 games. He's a good offensive player and outstanding defensivly. So, maybe instead of a year of hysterics and tantrums, our boys can take a page from Lee and stay on even keel. Let the chemistry experiment begin.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


Just when you thought the steroid talk was settling down, now there's a new movement afoot. There are many people who think that steroid use, or suspicion of steroid use is enough to revoke league MVP awards and void single season records. Specifically the awards that belong to McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Canseco, and Giambi. That's a great idea, in fact, let's throw open all awards to retroactive voting. Especially the Rookie of the Year award, I mean, Bob Hamelin? Should these awards be revoked because of possible cheating? Well, I'm not sure about that, since even if all these guys did use steroids, it's not cheating because they broke no MLB rules at that time. Of course, the main argument to that point is that despite not breaking MLB's rules, these guys may have broken the law. Well, that area's grayer than we think. First of all, it's not illegal to take steroids, only to obtain them through a fraudulent prescription, or to possess them with intent to distribute. Second, some of these guys could very easily have used them legally, most likely Sosa, who spends his offseason in the Dominican Republic, which lacks the strigent prescription drug laws we have in the US.

If any of these guys are caught using steroids this year, go ahead and throw the book at them. They deserve whatever punishment MLB hands out. But you can't go back and rewrite the record books. Because would you stop just with steroids? Do you take away the Cy Young Awards of Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford, two guys who admitted to doctoring baseballs after their careers ended(but denied it right up to the end)? Granted there's no US laws that deal with scuffed baseball's, but what about Babe Ruth's records then? Should we void Ruth's home run records, and take away his 1923 MVP? After all, there's pretty strong evidence that Ruth used a substance that it was illegal to possess in the United States from 1920-1933: alcohol.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Leading off...

The Cubs have two major questions that they are expecting to answer in spring training this year. The first is who will close, and the second is what exactly will the starting outfield look like? Right now, we know Patterson and Burnitz have center and right locked up, but the left field issue is murky. Dusty Baker seems to favor a platoon of Todd Hollandsworth and Jason DuBois, with Hollandsworth carrying most of the load. Jim Hendry seems to be hinting in the press that he'd like to see DuBois get a lot of playing time, because he thinks he can make up some of the power lost with Sosa and Alou departing. DuBois will likely get a lot of play in spring training, but he'll have to be outstanding to unseat Hollandsworth. I'm hoping that's the case, as Todd is far more valuable as pinch hitter and substitute than as an everyday guy.

Then there's Jerry Hairston Jr., who further clouds the issue, due to the theory that he could be the Cubs best option in the leadoff position this year. Most point to Hairston's rising OBP from the last two years, topping out at .378 last year. However, most people who tout Hairston's ability to get on base seem to overlook that he did not play in even 90 games in either of the last two years. So Hairston's essentially as unknown as DuBois, which means that his chances of playing are tied tightly to Corey Patterson's success in lead off role. Patterson has already been in camp, practicing bunting and plate patience, and has stated that he wants to be the lead off hitter, and excel at the job. Corey's definitely got the raw tools, but whether he can put it all together this season is another question. I've always thought that Patterson was his own worst enemy. He's been streaky, and one thing I've noticed is that during his hot streaks, as soon as he hits a few homeruns, he nosedives, in part because he becomes overconfident and thinks he can hit any pitch. If he reigns in this tendency, he'll be good enough as a leadoff hitter to keep Hairston on the bench.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Labor Pains

The NHL officially cancelled their season yesterday. As someone who used to be huge hockey fan, I can't say I'm surprised by the whole thing. The NHL has done this dance before. It's hard to believe that not so long ago, hockey's popularity was actually trending upward. Following the extremely exciting 1994 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which saw the New York Rangers win their first Cup in 44 years, there was reason for optimism. I even remember the Sports Illustrated which came out following the conclusion of the NHL and NBA playoffs, declaring that basketball(which had just begun it's first post-Jordan era) was "out" and hockey was "in". So, the owners decided the best course of action was to take this momentum and flush it down the toilet. The players were locked out of training camp and half the season and the All-Star game were lost before the two sides came to an agreement in which the owners gained nothing (I'd say the highlight of the entire labor dispute was the TV interview in which Chris Chelios speculated that fans could shorten the lockout by killing Commissioner Gary Betteman). The NHL played it's half season, and the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup by playing the most ponderously boring style of hockey they could. That season was the dagger for the NHL. The league has never again approached the popularity it enjoyed in 1994. Many fans were alienated by the work stoppage and the owners turned to expansion to raise revenue. The influx of new teams along with many coaches copying of the Devils defensive style led to a decline in the quality of play. With more teams in the League to bid on the highly skilled players who were now at a premium, salaries began to escalate. And the owners sat and bided their time, swearing that they wouldn't be so easily beaten the next time. 10 years later, the owners seem to have succeeded, with the Union fractured, the season cancelled and a salary cap imminent. The owners will finally have their hockey utopia. It seems very likely that they'll have no one to share it with but themselves.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

That's strange...

Here's an article on a big stadium brouhah between Kansas City and the Royals.

This one's a little different than most. It seems the City wants to build the Royals a new stadium in downtown Kansas City, but the Royals ownership says that Kaufmann Stadium, the Royals current home, is just fine.

I'm trying to confirm the latest rumor that I heard, that officials from Kansas City have met with the mayor of Las Vegas about the possibility of moving their city there.

Pitchers and Catchers Report

Ah spring, when our minds turn to...screw it. It's not spring here, and real baseball is still 6 weeks away. Today isn't much more than a milestone we pass each year that reassures us that yes, this seemingly interminable winter will eventually end. This year's spring training will be a lot like every other of the last 10 years in 2 respects:

1. Sammy Sosa will not report at the opening of camp.
2. The media will spend a lot of time reporting on Sammy's absence.

Unfortunately, the Cubs just won't let the Sammy issue die. Michael Barrett supposedly gave an interview where he revealed that not only did Sosa leave game 162 early, but he didn't show up until he was summoned to the ballpark by, well somebody. Sammy said he was sick, showed up at the insistence of management (looking healthy by all accounts) then packed up his stuff and left. And while this merely confirms what we thought about Sosa (that he's a jackass), there's just no point to it. Sosa's gone. The quicker everybody accepts this and gets on the with the season the better.

I must also say that I hope the NHL lockout settles today. If only because we'll be treated to 200 stories on the local news about how funny it is that baseball and hockey are holding their training camps at the same time.

The Cubs will come alive in two-oh-five.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Genius

Tony LaRussa has weighed in to defend Mark McGwire's honor against that evil Jose Canseco. LaRussa says he knows that McGwire was not on steroids, but I've got a problem with his claim. I mean, if Canseco was taking steroids, LaRussa presumably didn't know about it, in which case, why would we believe that he knew what McGwire was doing? On the flip side, if LaRussa did know what Canseco was doing, he sure didn't do anything to stop him.

My other problem with LaRussa is that he says he believes that McGwire got big through hard work, that Mark loved to work out in the weight room. Apparently, Tony LaRussa (and a lot of other people) are under the impression that steroids somehow provide a shortcut to muscles, that you can just inject yourself, go to sleep and wake up with 40 extra pounds of muscle. Of course, that's not the case at all. The reason athletes take steroids is that it helps their muscles recover faster after working out, so that they can work out again sooner, and thus build strength in their muscles faster. So maybe it's possible that a "workout fiend" like McGwire would want to use something that allowed him to work out more often?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Sweet Release...

A quick break from baseball, to address some breaking football news. It seems that today the Cleveland Browns released Jeff Garcia, 1 year after signing him to a 4 year deal. I can read your thoughts, Jerry Angelo...don't do it. Just close the paper, turn off the TV, log off the internet and pretend that you never, ever heard that Jeff Garcia was available. Don't call his agent, and for godssake don't do any damn interviews where you try and convince all us Bears fans that answer to our great quarterback drought it Jeff Garcia. Because he's not.

Roid Rage?

A clearly agitated Peter Gammons appeared on the Mike and Mike show on ESPN Radio this morning to talk about steroids and baseball. During the course of discussing Jose Canseco's book, Gammons may have inadvertently implicated Mark McGwire in the steroid scandal. Gammons said that he doubted that Canseco played a role in getting Giambi to use steroids, because Canseco and McGwire were not close at all during Jose's 2nd stint with the team, and Giambi followed McGwire around like a puppy when they played together. Now, knowing for a fact that Giambi used steroids and HGH, what would you infer from that comments?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

House of Cards?

With spring training almost upon us, it seems like a good time to take a look at the Cubs various Central Division rivals, and what their outlooks are for the season. Seems like the best place to start is the top. The St. Louis Cardinals posted the best record in the league, and held off the Astros for the NL Pennant in '04. The question is, can they repeat? The Cards had a terrific offense last year, and at first glance, they don't appear to have lost too much in that department. The major losses there were Tony Womack (who had a career year) and Edgar Renteria, who will be replaced by David Eckstein and the great Mark G.. Both are fairly steady players, who should do well in St. Louis, as they'll slide into a powerful lineup where they won't be expected to do too much other than get on base. The other major change for the position players is Yad Molina taking over for Mike Matheny behind the plate. Some would say this is a major question mark and talk about Matheny's steadying influence behind the plate. As someone who thinks that Matheny is an overrated hack, I'll call it a push, at worst. To me the Cards biggest problem in the field will be avoiding injuries. While this is an aspect of the game that can't be predicted, here's what we know about the Cardinals: Reggie Sanders has never played more than 140 games in a year; Larry Walker's played an average of 124 games a year throughout his career; Albert Pujols played last year with a bad foot, decided not to have surgery on it, and is already complaining that it hurts (not a good sign in February); despite sitting out several meaningless games at the end of the year, Scott Rolen was still so banged up he was ineffective in the playoffs; and both Eckstien and Grud have missed significant time with injuries the last two years. While the Cards can afford to lose one or two guys from their lineup, their limited finances will prevent them from plugging any further holes that could develop in their lineup.

St. Louis strengthened their pitching staff by aquiring Mark Mulder this offseason (he'll step in for Woody Williams, who's deal with the devil expired during the playoffs), but in doing so, they also may have turned one of their major strengths into a weakness. While the Cardinal's starters were effective in 2004, a good part of their sucess was due to their bullpen. It's a lot easier on a starting pitcher when he knows he only has to get through the 6th inning, and with Tony LaRussa able to employ Steve Kline, Ray King, Kiko Calero, Danny Haren and Jason Isringhausen in the late innings, a huge load was taken off the starting staff. With Haren and Calero traded to Oakland, and Steve Kline sharing a locker room with new buddy Sammy Sosa, the Cardinals' starters are not going to have it as easy this year. I see this weakening of the bullpen as the best thing that could have happened to the Cubs, as in most their games against St. Louis last year, the Cub bullpen faltered down the stretch while the Cardinal bullpen was able to halt Cub rallies and hold them down after the starters had been knocked out.

Final assessment: While the Cardinals still have the major peices intact from their division winning team, they are not as strong as last year. If they can avoid the injury bug again St. Louis should still win the Central, but they won't be sneaking up on anybody this year, like they did in 2004.

Friday, February 11, 2005

More Giambi

Sorry, this will be the last Giambi post for a while, I promise. But I ran across something in the New York Times today that's I had put up here. Remember when the Giambi testimony leaked, and the Yankees were all serious about voiding his contract? Well, this is from Murray Chass' column today:

"A person with knowledge of the contract said that before they signed off on Giambi's seven-year, $120 million deal, the Yankees acquiesced to his request and removed all references to steroids from the guarantee language routinely included in contracts."

Yet the Yankees had no idea Giambi was using steroids, and they feel totally betrayed by his behavior.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Giambi Speaks...

I'm not exactly sure why, but this is being covered like it's a big deal, so I figured I would mention it. Jason Giambi held a press conference where he apologized to the Yankees and the fans and to his teammates (who are also the Yankees). He also commented on the allegations in Jose Canseco's book, calling them "delusional". Of course while he was trying to lable Canseco as a liar, Giambi never mentioned the fact that he lied about his steroid use up until his grand jury testimony was leaked to the public.

Rumor has it that Jim Hendry is about to follow up the Kyle Farnsworth trade with a deal with another team for a closer. The consensus is that Octavio Dotel is on Hendry's short list. Dotel converted 80%(36/45) of his saves last year, which makes him better than LaTroy Hawkins and his 73% (25/34), so yes, I'd rather have him as our closer than choosing from our current crop of guys.

Just wondering, does anybody know where the hell Joe Borowski is? Is he coming to spring training? Is he going back on the DL? Am I going to find him flipping fish sandwiches at the local McD's tomorrow?


Well, Jim Hendry has continued his purge of the Cubs clubhouse, yesterday sending Kyle Farnsworth to the Tigers for prospects. Farnsworth was a classic example of a player with a million dollar arm and a ten cent head. The highlight of his Cubs career was undoubtedly the fist beating he gave to Paul Wilson in 2003. It appears to me that Hendry has responded to the fans, last year, all we heard were cries of "this team is too unlikable" and that it was full of clubhouse cancers. Well, with the club divesting itself of Farnsworth, Mercker, Sosa and Alou, we'll find out in 2005 if addition by subtraction actually works. The Farnsworth move also makes the closer situation slightly clearer, in that we know one thing: Kyle Farnsworth will not be the Cubs closer this year.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Jose Can You See...

When I heard that Jose Canseco was going to be releasing a book, I immediatly began sharpening my crayons in anticipation. So I was more than a little surprised to learn that this book would actually contain, you know, words. More specificly, Canseco details his steroid abuse and claims to have used 'roids with or introduced them to several prominent players, among them: Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Pudge Rodriguez, Rafael Palmiero and Juan Gonzalez. While in every case but Giambi's, there's no real proof other than Canseco's word, steroid use would explain a few things, for example, McGwire's massive weight loss since retirement, Gonzalez's constant muscle injuries, Palmiero's inability to sustain an erection without the aid of perscription drugs and Rodriguez's sudden, hormone fueled desire to kiss Ugy Urbina on the lips.

Both players and owners are already going into full spin doctoring mode, calling Canseco any number of names and trying to discredit him, which is odd in itself, since Jose really doesn't have any credibility, and the protests are only helping him, as people are see that Jose has struck a nerve in the baseball establishment. The owners and players really have no one to blame but themselves anyway. Had one side or the other taken a stand against steroids back in the mid-80's and gotten a testing program instituted, it's likely that biggest revelation in Canseco's book would be that he and his twin brother Ozzie are actually the same person.

There's also some discussion over whether McGwire should sue Canseco for libel. I don't see that happening, but what if it did? Remember the Michael Jackson trial (I don't remember which one it was) where the kid was going to testify as to what Jackson's privates looked like? Wouldn't you love to hear Canseco describe in vivid detail the giant boil he noticed on McGwire's ass before he stuck the needle in him? Me neither.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Soldier Field

Well, it's Super Bowl Sunday, so I thought I'd post something football related. The game is being played in Jacksonville, which just blows my mind every time I think about it. How could the NFL award it's biggest game to a city with 15,000 hotel rooms and almost no taxi cabs or public transportation? Well, that's an easy question to answer, you see Jacksonville built a new stadium, and Paul Tagliabue has stated on several occasions that if you build a stadium, the Super Bowl will come. Which brings me to my major beef with Soldier Field. The Bears and the City of Chicago spent hundreds of millions of dollars tearing it down and rebuilding a new facility on the same spot. Unfortunately, due to two major oversites, it can never host a Super Bowl.

The first is capacity. The NFL requires the Super Bowl stadium to hold 70,000 people. New Soldier Field currently has a seating capacity of 66,000. To me, this is totally idiotic. It means that even if the polar ice caps melt, wiping out the East, West and Southern coasts of the United States and making Chicago a tropical paradise, the NFL would still be playing the Super Bowl in Detroit, or even Green Bay.

The second problem is, the stadium wasn't built with a retractable roof. Now if you read this last sentence, and then threw down your Italian beef sandwich and shouted "BLASPHEMY! The Bears play outside in Bear weather!", please e-mail me, and I will gladly forward you a video tape of the Bears/Texans game from December of this year. However, I will admit, I also like the idea of football outside, but that doesn't mean the roof would be a waste. Soldier Field is usually rated as one of the worst natural surfaces in the NFL by the players. This is because Chicago's fall weather usually turns it into a cow pasture by November. It also results in the field having to be re-sodded at least once or twice during the season. But, if the stadium had a roof, you could just close it 6 days a week and open it on Sunday. And you could host a Super Bowl.

And why am I so hung up on the Super Bowl? After all, if the city actually hosted one, it'd be a real pain in the ass for all the natives. Well, part of it is civic pride. I've lived in and around Chicago for 27 of my 29 years, and there's just no way cities like Jacksonville and Detroit should be hosting and not us. Chicago's got the facilities (media day at McCormick Place, giant parties at Navy Pier), excellent restaurants, and a great bar scene. The public transportation system is very good(and they could probably get the NFL to meet the shortfall in their budget) and there are more than enough cabs. And then there's the fact that when the Soldier Field project was rammed through the state legislature, the money to pay for it was to come from "tourism taxes". This meant extra taxes on hotels, cabs and the like. So why wouldn't you design the stadium so that you could host a Super Bowl, and thus guarantee that the stadium would be able to help pay for itself?

It boggles the mind.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Miscellaneous Signings

Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano have both agreed to one year contracts with the Cubs, thus avoiding arbitration. Ramirez is reportedly getting around $9MM, with no number being released on Zambrano yet. That's too bad, I was kind of looking forward to the Cubs having to arbitrate with Big Z. I've got the image of a sweatervested McPhail reading a list of Zambrano's shortcomings, while Z just gets madder and madder, until finally, he grabs Andy by the neck and flings him out of a window. Well, maybe next year.

Oh yeah, Dave Hansen signed a minor league deal with the Cubs. Everybody who knew Dave was still alive, raise your hands...I thought so.

A Burnitz Story...

With the Hot Stove seeming to have cooled off for now, I've been wracking my brain trying to think of something Cubs related to write about. I guess I'll relate a quick story about the play of our new right fielder. Last year, I was at the May 7th Cubs/Rockies game, which included several notable events, including Shawn Estes triumphant return to Wrigley and Carlos Zambrano throwing a two hit, complete game shut out(his stuff was filthy that day, and both hits were cheapies) out en route to an 11-0 Cubs victory. But in the bottom of the 2nd inning, with two on and two out, Corey Patterson strode to the plate and crushed a ball that was ticketed for the left centerfield gap. Burnitz took off, and running faster than I thought possible (for him) and made what would have been a terrific catch, except that as the ball entered his glove, he smashed face first into the equipment door that's embedded in the wall and dropped the ball, giving Patterson a two run double (he loafed around first as he thought Jeromy made the catch). Burnitz was down, but he ended up staying in the game (he was removed after it got out of hand). So what does this teach us? Burnitz gave it all on that play, and just as he was about to succeed, failure intervened in the most painful way possible. Yet, he got up, and came back for more.

I guess what I'm saying is maybe Jeromy and Cubs fans have something in common besides male pattern baldness.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Great Communicator

I have to admit, I've quite known what to make of Dusty Baker. I admired the way he turned around the losing culture of the Cubs in 2003, and I like that he doesn't hide his obvious distaste for Tony LaRussa. But everyone warned us that Dusty wasn't a great in game manager, but that was the price for having a guy who players loved to play for, because he basically let them be "men" and he always talked to them about any change in their role, rather than letting them find out in the press. Of course, in 2004 that meant that the players basically did whatever the hell they wanted, antagonizing opponents, umpires, fans and broadcasters, while a team that was picked to win the NL pennant slumped to a third place finish. Some of the luster came off Dusty after last season, and today's story in the Tribune doesn't help.

In it, Baker says he's eager to clear the air with Sammy Sosa(huh?). And there's this quote: "I'm going to move on, but I'd like to find out what's repairable first," Baker said. "You have to know what's wrong first". It's a little odd that a guy who's supposed to have his finger on the pulse of the modern athlete, had no idea that there was a problem with his highest paid, most visible player. Dusty, do yourself a favor, don't bring up Sosa's name for the rest of the year. He was traded out of town, in part to try and wash the bad taste of 2004 out of our mouths. It's time to let Sammy and the 2004 season rest in peace.

And I wanted to say thanks to Chuck over at Ivy Chat for plugging my site. If you're reading this, it's likely that you came over from there anyway, but if you didn't, I'd recommend that you give it a look.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Meanwhile in Baltimore...

Heard some of Sosa's press conference introducing him in Baltimore. Sammy was already in "I'm the man" mode. He did manage to catch himself and say "we" a few times when referring to the team. Overall, it sounded like the classic Sammy press conference: dodge all tough questions, suck up to the guys who ask softball questions (he told somebody "that's a very smart question") and tell us how he's going to win over his people, the fans. And I'm sure he'll win the fans over, unless of course, he feels like taking off early one day.

In the meantime, I keep hearing about some football game that's going to be played in some city in south Georgia. I'm not too interested, because I don't really like either team, but I keep hearing the how this is going to be a good game. Nope. Sorry. Don't believe it. The Eagles can't hang with the Patriots. They'll go down in flames:

New England - 42
Philedelphia - 15

*Bruce Levine of ESPN 1000 has reported that the Cubs will still be looking for a closer on the trade market*

So it begins...

So Jeromy Burnitz is now officially a Cub (and Sammy an Oriole). This gives the Cubs a projected lineup looking something like this:

1. Patterson-CF
2. Walker-2B
3. Nomar-SS
4. Ramirez-3B
5. Burnitz-RF
6. Lee-1B
7. Hollandsworth-LF
8. Barrett-C

Obviously, there's the chance that Hairston will be so good in spring training that he'll win the LF job and bat leadoff, moving Patterson down to 7th. Right now though, I see Hairston either playing the supersub role (and if that means less PT for Macias, good) or possibly being moved with DuBois in a trade for a more established left fielder. Either way, I don't think the offense will be a major problem.

The question is, can one of the 15,000 relief pitchers that we are bringing to camp close games?

First Post

Well, I finally got off my ass and started a blog, so that I don't have to spray my thoughts all over the net in other people's comments sections. This blog is going to deal mostly with the Cubs, but I'll get into other Chicago sports, and probably some (gasp!) politics.

And so on to the Cubs. It's only a coincidence that this first post goes up the day that the Sammy Sosa trade will be finalized (supposedly around 2pm). Of course, shortly after that announcement, we are expecting the Jeromy Burnitz era to begin. I'm a little torn on the Burnitz signing...on one hand, I don't think Burnitz is all that bad. If he goes for 30 HRs and 90 RBIs, and plays fundamentally sound baseball, he'll be an upgrade over Sammy's last few years. However, I just don't see him being that much better than what we already have, and I don't understand why the Cubs would pay him $5MM. Pittsburgh was rumored to have offered $4MM, and Burnitz made it obvious he preferred Chicago, so why in the hell would they pay MORE than the Pirates offered? Well, I guess Hendry has earned the benefit of the doubt on this one, considering that most of his aquisitions have panned out to date.