Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Radio Daze

Due to a fairly long train commute each day, I listen to a lot of sports radio. So, I was a little surprised to hear former CBS sports broadcaster Mike Adamle pop up on 670 the Score as a fill in for Rick Telander last week. Sure enough, both the Trib and Sun-Times confirmed that Adamle was hired to be utility guy for the Score, filling in as various hosts go on vacation. For those of you who didn't watch Adamle on CBS (and judging from the ratings, that's, well everybody) Mike is the answer to the trivia question: who was the only player besides Walter Payton to start at running back for the Bears between 1975-1987? Adamle started one game in 1975, the only one that Payton ever missed. In addition, Mike was one of the most brutal sportscaster's to ever grace a major market news cast. I never watched him, but every day at 6pm, Steve Dahl would play any lowlights from Adamle's sportscast the night before. Adamle was so bad, that this was basically a daily feature on Dahl's show. Mike basically got the job for two reasons; he was an ex-Chicago jock, and two, he looked the part. Which makes me wonder why the Score would hire him. Adamle's greatest(and I use the term loosely) asset was that he looked the part of the sportscaster. Having him on radio nullifies that. And while he played for the Bears, he didn't have a memorable career, and he's no more plugged in than anybody else on the Score staff. Finally, the guy would stumble over the words that he'd written (well, I assume he wrote them) for his sports cast. I shudder to think what he'll do when he's got to improvise. Now, this isn't really a major position he was hired for, and that's part of the problem. The Score could have hired somebody new, or given one of it's younger guys a chance as the fill in, but instead, they decided the safest thing to do was hire another Chicago retread. And that's why they're still in 2nd place.

Wood Pitches: Doesn't Hurt Self


Not exactly a great line, but one I was happy to see just the same, as Kerry Wood returned to the mound today, in an effort to get himself ready by the home opener. I'm not going to read anything into Wood's stats, as he's behind most pitchers and is just trying to get his arm strength up to pitch in the regular season. In other news, I'm utterly bored with spring training and ready for the season to start. Can't wait until Monday.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Well, I had written a brilliant post about the last two NCAA games, and large paragraph attacking Billy Packer, but blogger ate it, and I'm too lazy to type the whole thing. Anyway, since you all know what happened in Sunday's games, and I'll get a second chance at Packer this weekend, I'll skip it.

Back to baseball, and the Cubs specifically. Spring training if finally winding down, and we've yet to see Kerry Wood or Mark Prior pitch in live games. Wood's supposedly pitching tomorrow, but I'll believe it when I see it, and Prior wrapped up the simulated Cy Young Award today by winning his 25th simulated game. I can't say that I don't feel some doom and gloom about the upcoming season, with 3 of our 5 most important pitchers being injured, Todd Hollandsworth starting in left field over DuBois and Hairston, Corey Patterson failing to take even ONE walk this spring and Aramis Ramirez still not signed to an extension. Yeah, there's the optimism of spring training for you.

An interesting rumor was being bandied about on the radio today. According to some top-secret source (read: the little man in George Offman's head), the White Sox may already be so sick of AJ Pierzynski that they're trying to trade him. I can't see that happening, not after Kenny Williams has been trumpeting the swagger that AJ brings to the clubhouse. Besides, who would the Sox trade him for? Roberto Alomar is retired, and Carl Everett is already on the team.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes...

...I would not have believed it. When Illinois took a 2 point lead into half time, I actually thought they were in good shape. After all, I figured they'd tighten up the defense, and there's no way Arizona would keep shooting 62% from the field. But the Illini came out and played the worst half of basketball I've seen from them all season, and when James Augustine fouled out with 4 minutes left and the team down 15, I was looking for something heavy to put through the picture tube. Luckily I didn't though, as I would have missed one of the greatest comebacks ever. Dee Brown, Luther Head, and Deron Williams finally decided they were going to take over the game. They stormed back with a series of steals and three pointers that allowed them to tie the game near the end of regulation, and a Luther Head block of a Salim Stoudamire shot sent the game to overtime. The teams went back and forth in OT, but it ended when Hassan Adams wild three pointer missed the mark as time expired, and Illinois had won 90-89, to secure their first Final Four appearance since 1989.

I'd have to say I was right about a couple of things in this game. Illinois effectively shut down Salim Stoudamire, he scored 9 points on 2-13 shooting and hit only 1 three pointer. But Channing Frye decided to come to play today, pouring in 24, and Hassan Adams decided to be "the unheralded hack who torches Illinois", hitting for 21. I was a little puzzled by Lute Olson's play at the end of overtime. I don't care how hot Adams may be, and how cold Stoudamire may be, when you need a shot to win the game in overtime, you have to give the ball to your best player, and that's Stoudamire. Olson didn't, and it may have cost his team the victory.

The first game of the day was no slouch either. Louisville erased a 20 point first half deficit, and managed to pull out a victory against West Virginia, who had been absolutely fabulous from behind the arc in the first half. It's too bad for West Virginia, who was a great story, and as well as they played, I'd much rather have had Illinois face them in the semi-final than Louisville. Now two teams that have made terrific comebacks will be facing off next week in St. Louis.

Here's hoping that tomorrow's games are just as exciting.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Elite Eight

Preface: from March 1999 to May 2001, I lived in Charlotte. During that time, I was continually bombarded by the ACC propaganda machine and I grew to utterly despise the league. Some of my views and analysis may reflect this hatred.

Well, the buzzer just went off on the Carolina/Villanova game, so I'm going to do what I love best when it comes to college basketball: rag on the ACC.

All week NCAA analysts have been asking: "who can beat Carolina?". Turns out that the answer was nearly Villanova, who lost by 1 to the Tarheels, and badly out hustled them. I've said all year that UNC is a team content to coast on its reputation, and they showed it tonight. Also, I think that their season average of 89 ppg is more of a reflection on the defense that's played in the ACC than of their offensive prowress, as they were held to under 70 points by a Villanova team with a serious size disadvantage.

I seem to remember at the beginning of the season, that many in the press were asking if the ACC/Big 10 Challenge should be called off, since the ACC was so dominant. Well, in the postseason version of the challenge, Michigan State and Wisconsin have run the Big 10's record to 2-0, and Wisconsin has a chance to make that a perfect 3-0. Oh, and not to belabor my point about defense, but the Badgers were able to hold NC State's Julius Hodge to 25% shooting; while against MSU, Mr. Everything, JJ Redick, could only manage to score 13 points (compared with his season average of 22) on 4-14 shooting. But I'm sure you'll be able to read all about that in JJ's next book of poetry.

In the other games, Utah was beaten by Kentucky, and nobody was surprised, because Utah stinks. Also, just when Washington had everyone thinking they were a good team, they went out and got their asses kicked by Louisville. West Virginia beat Texas Tech for the right to lose to Louisville, and finally, Arizona beat Oklahoma State in a very good game, while Illinois beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee by 14.

So Illinois will face off with Arizona tomorrow, in a rematch of their Elite 8 game from 2001. Except this time, hopefully, Illinois will not foul out 6 of their front court players, and everyone with the last name Walton will be barred from the building. Illinois has tall order in guarding Salim Stoudamire, especially since Luther Head is hurting, but I think they can do it. Illinois has made a habit this season of shutting down a team's best offensive player. They've also made a habit of allowing some backup hack to have a career day against them. The game should be good, as it sounds like Arizona's strategy will be to try and win it in a shootout, but I think Illinois' defense will be up to the task. Let's hope they're cutting down the nets tomorrow in Chicago.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Thursday is finally here. I've been waiting all week for the NCAA to start up again, and today it will with a vengence. Illinois will play Wisconsin-Milwaukee, followed by Arizona/Oklahoma State which could be a classic. I'm hoping that the UWM game is not a classic, but a blowout. Not for any revenge purposes, but just for my own piece of mind. On paper this matchup looks good for Illinois. UWM presses a lot, which was a the perfect defense to use against the freshman point guard of Alabama, and the mediocre backcourt of Boston College. Illinois has 3 guys who can run the point, so they should have no problem breaking the press, and hopefully scoring at will. All year the Illini have said they've got the best backcourt in the country...time for them to prove it.


Cautiously Optimistic...

Sure, the injury to Joe Borowski was a bad blow to the Cubs, but there are some reasons to be optimistic about the team so far this spring. For one, Kerry Wood will make a Cactus League start today, hopefully without any complications from his shoulder. Also, Mark Prior is at least throwing the ball right now, which is better than this time last year when he was, well doing nothing. Nomar is tearing the cover off the ball, and so are Ramirez, Lee, DuBois and even Burnitz looks good this spring. Jerry Hairston looks like he may prove to be a useful player after all, and Carlos Zambrano is an absolute stud. So, there you have it, no smart ass comments, no doom and gloom, just a shiny, happy summation of the Cubs spring so far. And you can pretty much read between the lines to see where the problems lie.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Bruce & Jimmy

Well, the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament are over, and neither Mark Prior nor Kerry Wood are throwing to live batters yet, so, until Thursday, I'm bored. I guess I'll use today to quickly address the Bruce Pearl/Illinois situation. Frankly, I don't care much about beating Pearl, I just want the Illini to win the game. I would, however, like to take a look at the fallout of that incident, and the impact it had on the careers of two men who are linked by it.

One thing I've always wondered about Pearl is what he thinks of Tom Davis now. By all accounts, Davis was the one who encouraged Pearl to tape record the conversations, going so far as to buy him the equipment. Tom Davis was a veteran basketball coach, he wasn't naive to the atmosphere of the coaching clique. He had to have had some idea of what the consequences would be for Bruce Pearl when the whole story broke loose. And when Illinois was investigated by the NCAA, the papers and pundits said it was due to Bruce Pearl's diligence (or dirty tricks). Davis could have taken some credit, or something, but instead, he tossed Pearl under the bus, pretty much torpedoing his chances at a major college coaching program(I believe that Dick Vitale went on TV and stated that Pearl had committed "career suicide". True to form though, Vitale had no such scathing statements for the good Dr. Tom). And so Davis had dealt a major setback to a conference rival, and it only cost him Pearl's career and reputation, which has only now been repaired, thanks to the fact that Pearl is a damn good coach. But wonders where he'd be now, if maybe Davis had taken some of the heat off him.

The other man who's career took a major turn due to the scandal was Jimmy Collins. Collins has risen to be Lou Henson's no. 1 assistant coach by the late 80's, and it was Collins who was recruiting Deon Thomas when the Pearl incident triggered the NCAA investigation. Although the NCAA found no wrong doing that involved Collins, some minor violations were found at the AD level, and Illinois was found guilty of "lack of institutional control". Until this point, Collins was considered to be the heir apparent to Lou Henson at Illinois. But for an assistant coach with no wins to claim as his own, having his name associated with an NCAA investigation was career crippler for Collins. Eventually, Jimmy would receive a token interview for the head coaching job when Henson retired, but the job would be given to Lon Kruger.

Collins and Pearl would both eventually land Division I coaching jobs. Collins would take over the Illinois-Chicago program after his apprenticeship at Illinois, and Pearl would claw his way back from Division II exile to take over Wisconsin-Milwaukee, ironically in the same conference as UIC. So now Pearl and Collins meet every year in the Horizon League, when just a decade ago, it seemed that they might meet as the heads of Big 10 schools. I'd like to say there's a lesson here, some sort of moral to be learned. Did Pearl do the wrong thing for the right reasons? Did Collins violate recruiting rules, or was he made the scapegoat for the failures of the higher ups in the athletic department? Nobody can really say for sure. Sadly maybe the moral is just this: when the shit starts flying, duck.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Random NCAA Tournament Notes

Just a few notes from the first day of the second round:

The Vermont/Kansas upset seemed to light a spark under the underdog teams today, and there were several major upsets. The best had to be the West Virginia/Wake Forest double overtime thriller. No defense was played at all, but it was still the most exciting game so far. Every time West Virginia seemed to have the game iced, Wake would come down and make a 3. The West Virginia back door cut that resulted Wake blocking the winning layup at the end of the 1st OT was one of the best desperation sequences I've seen in a basketball game. Terrific execution by everyone. Glad to see the darlings of the media, Wake Forest, get beat by the hicks from WV. Take that, Billy Packer.

The Utah/Oklahoma game was one of the biggest turds I've ever seen. The average sequence went like this: Oklahoma comes down and puts up a brick. Utah rebounds, brings the ball up, then throws it into the 6th row of the stands. Meanwhile, the announcers calling the game are too busy talking about how Andrew Bogut has made 6 passes that should be assists, except that the other Utah players didn't make the shots. I was interested in seeing if Bogut would live up to his hype, and he didn't come close. It didn't help that his parents were calling the game for CBS, and seemed oblivious to what a horrible game he was playing. This guy is a lottery pick? Well, so was Luc Longley, I guess (and that comparison isn't a coincidence).

I didn't watch Kentucky/Cincinnati game, because, well I hate both teams. Nice to see Bob Huggins get sent home early again, hope you're next, Tubby.

Finally, Illinois beat Nevada rather easily, which should be a big surprise to the Chicago press. The papers were all over Illinois the last two days, saying they couldn't get past this tough Nevada team the way they were playing, since Nevada had a far superior front court. Some idiot on the radio this morning said that Nick Fazekus reminded him of Larry Bird. Well, James Augustine came out firing on all cylinders, scoring a career high 23 points, with Jack Ingram throwing in 12 (also a career high), while the two of them held Fazekus to 11 points, which is 10 off his season average. A nice piece of coaching in this game from Bruce Weber: as Augustine was showing signs of heating up, Nevada's coach drew a technical, and Weber had James shoot the free throws (he made both). It seemed to only boost Augustine's confidence higher, he was unstoppable after that point. Next up for Illinois, Bruce Pearl comes to town with his Wisconsin-Milwaukee team. I hope the Illini win by 40.

Still another day of second round action left. I for one am looking forward to the Louisville/Georgia Tech tilt. I'd love to see another ACC team get bounced.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Bucknell 64 Kansas 63

Look, I'm not usually one to gloat, aw hell, yes I am. But I'm usually a little bit gracious about it. You see I attended to University of Illinois towards the end of Lou Henson's tenure, and when Lon Kruger showed up and started rebuilding the program, I was happy. Kruger seemed to be doing a good job but Lon bailed for the NBA bucks, and ultimately, coaching obscurity. I couldn't begrudge him that, not every college coach get's a shot in the NBA.

When Kruger left, I was hoping U of I could find somebody who wouldn't treat Illinois as nothing but a transitional job. I thought Self was a good choice. He was a good recruiter, he'd led mid-major Tulsa into the sweet 16, and he pledged that he'd stick around awhile. When the Kansas job came open 2 years into his tenure, I sincerely thought he'd stay, maybe out of loyalty to the school that gave him his first shot in the bigs. I mean, the press said it was Self's dream job, but it didn't seem that much better. Kansas is a program with a lot of history, and Self would inherit some very good players, but Illinois had very good players, and more importantly, they were BILL'S players, recruited to the University by the coach himself. Kansas didn't seem like much more than a lateral move in my eyes, but I guess I let my own allegiance to Illinois blind me, because Self bolted for Kansas as soon as he was offered the job. Nobody at Illinois was thrilled with the Bruce Weber hiring, I mean, Illinois shouldn't be cherry picking their coach from SIU, right? A lot of people thought that there was a chance that Weber would take us right back into doldrums that plagued the end of the Lou Henson era, and ultimately drive the program into obscurity.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to obscurity. Bruce Weber took Bill Self's recruits and molded them into a team. And not just any team, the best team in the country this season. A team that thrashed opponents like Gonazaga, Michigan State, and Cincinnati. A team that took current media darlings Wake Forest to the woodshed. So, Bruce Weber proved most everyone (including his own fans) wrong.

Meanwhile Bill Self took Roy Williams recruits, and got off to a hot start this year. But then things went downhill. Kansas lost several games in a row down the stretch to blow what had been a sure no. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. And then last night, Bill Self got his ass beat by 14 seed Bucknell. Do I sound petty? Am I bitter? Should this be beneath me? Probably, so I'll take the high road on this one. I want to sincerely thank Bill Self for the 2 long years he coached at Illinois. I want to thank him for the great players that he brought to the school. And I hope he enjoys watching them on TV from his home in Kansas this weekend.

So Long Hub...

The Chicago Tribune is reporting today that Hub Arkush has been fired by the Chicago Bears from his job as the 3rd wheel in their radio broadcast booth. A lot of people are happy about this, but Hub's dismissal will leave a lot of holes in the broadcast. For example:

Who is going to read all those ads? I don't know if I can live without knowing that this extra point was brought to me by the guys who sell tube socks next to the Kennedy Expressway on ramp.

Who will shout "BALL!" whenever there is a fumble, and several times a game when there isn't a fumble?

Who is going to totally oversell me on the talent of whatever mediocre Michigan graduate the Bears draft next? Hub spent all season railing about the unfair treatment that Anthony Thomas received at the hands of the Bears this year, and he insisted that the Bears would regret letting him go. Well, Thomas is such a hot free agent commodity that I think he just signed a two year deal to work at a Citgo Station. Maybe they can write a book together.

And finally, who is going to usher Lovie Smith through the pointless softball questions that are allowed through on the coach's radio show? Lovie's going to be sorry.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Count Down to Madness

Just a few more hours until the best college basketball weekend of the year, and one of my favorite 4 days in all of sports. The NCAA tournament is always exciting, but there's something about the first two rounds, 48 games played in 4 days, that I really love. I guess it's the fact that with so many games crammed into such a short time period, you know you're going to see at least a couple of good ones. Also, the first two rounds are the time when the lower seeds get their chance to shine. While the 1's and 2's are playing in blow outs, the most compelling matchups are between the more evenly matched teams lower down. A five is almost always upset by a 12, either a 13 or 14 seed usually wins or at least gives one of the big guys a scare and the 6-11 seeds are usually so closely matched up that many of them are interchangeable. These are the rounds that transformed Gonzaga from an annual giant killer into a Goliath in it's own right, that made Bryce Drew a household name, that thrust Weber State into the center of the college basketball spotlight, if only for a week or so. By next two rounds, most of those teams will have been thinned out, the adrenaline from the opening round will have worn off, and the Duke's, UNC's and Illinois' will have finished their warmup games and thinned out the herd. Most of the teams seeded below 5th will have gone home to watch the Finals, much like the rest of us. But for 4 days in March, college basketball's stage belongs to the understudies.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Deja Vu

Well, this all seems familier. The Cubs announced yesterday that Mark Prior would be shut down indefinitely due to an ulnar nerve problem in his pitching arm. This means Prior will basically have to start spring training all over, and there's pretty much no way he'll be ready to pitch by the start of the season. To add to the worries, both Ryan Dempster and Glendon Rusch got rocked in a spring training game yesterday, giving up 6 home runs combined. This doesn't worry me that much though, as both guys are still trying to stretch out their arms, and Rusch had such a bad spring last year that the Rangers released him outright. My main concern is Prior. To be honest, with a guy like Kerry Wood, I expect injuries, because his mechanics are horrible and his arm was abused during his early years (I believe the story goes that the day after the Cubs drafted him, the brass went to see him play, and Wood's high school coach started him in both games of double header). But Prior was supposed to be different. He was in a bubble since he was a kid, his pitches and innings watched closely, his supposedly perfect motion constantly monitored by Tom House and his giant calfs providing the drive behind his pitches and taking the stress off his arm. And yet, he's had two arm injuries in two years. So why is it that this perfect pitcher can't stay healthy, while a guy like Zambrano (who has piled up the most pitcher abuse points-whatever those are-in the last two years) can seemingly throw as hard and as often as he wants with no ill effects? Could it be that we really don't know anymore about how pitching affects the human arm than we did back in the 1960's?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Out of Left Field

The focus on the Cubs this spring has been on two main stories so far, one, who will be the closer (which in itself includes the story of Joe Borowski's comeback) and now no. 2, does Kerry Wood have mild bursitis, a torn rotator cuff, rickets or inoperable shoulder cancer (caused no doubt, by his bad mechanics)? All this has overshadowed another potentially big story: Jason DuBois is hitting the hell out of the ball this spring. While Jim Hendry indicated that DuBois would get consideration as a starter, while Dusty Baker had him as the supporting player in a left field platoon starring Todd Hollandsworth, most of us felt that DuBois would have to have a huge spring to get consideration as anything more than a 4th outfielder. Well, DuBois is taking advantage of his opportunity by hitting .400 with 3 homers this spring. And while the SABR heads among us scream "SAMPLE SIZE!" and the old school Cub fans warn of a new Gary Scott, let's remember that this isn't a huge surprise from DuBois. He's hit at every level of the minors, and now he's hitting in spring training (under the pressure of playing for a roster spot), so there's a pretty good chance that Jason can make the leap to the major leagues. Nothing against Todd Hollandsworth, but the best thing for this team is to have DuBois be able to start in the outfield. It strengthens our bench, as Holly is an excellent pinch hitter a very good fill in player, who's never proved durable over a full season. And it also means that Jim Hendry won't have to go shopping in the trade market for another outfielder, who would undoubtably cost more than DuBois, thus leaving open some payroll room to trade for more bullpen help if necessary.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


That's the initial diagnosis that Cubs are giving to Kerry Wood's latest ouchy. Wood was flown back to Chicago today to see the Cubs team doctor, following an MRI. The Cubs say that he'll miss one spring training start, at most. I'm not sure why the Cubs bothered to say that, because after what happened with Prior last year, I doubt anyone believes them. Not to mention the fact that after Wood left the game on Wednesday, the team said he would NOT have an MRI. I don't know why the Cubs are always giving these rosey predictions with injuries. Maybe it's just to soothe their jittery fanbase, but I would much rather have them say "we don't know what the injury is, and we're not going to make any further announcement until we have more thoroughly evaluated the situation". So Wood will "officially" only be missing one start in spring training. I've got him penciled in to make his first start in May.

In other baseball news, the Cardinal pitching staff was dealt a blow when Rick Ankiel finally gave up on pitching and decided to become an outfielder. Ankiel is another in a long line of baseball players who just one day seemed to "lose it". Nobody's really sure what "it" is, because the problem Ankiel has is mostly mental. He can't throw strikes. I feel bad for Ankiel (who by all accounts is a good guy) but I'm not going to weep for him like Peter Gammons and so many others, either. The guy made some good money, got to play baseball a lot longer than most of ever will and now he's likely done. He'll be okay.

I'm not so sure about the Cardinals though. I said earlier that I thought the Cards biggest problem this year was the downgrade in their bullpen, and this just hurts it more. I know that The Genius is trying to spin it as though Ankiel would be the last pitcher on the squad, but that's not true. The Card's let two quality left handed pitchers go in the offseason in Steve Kline and Danny Haren, so it seems obvious to me that they were expecting Ankiel to share the load with Ray King. This will limit what Tony LaRussa can do with his bullpen, especially since he had a penchant for playing match ups by bringing in his righty-lefty relievers to pitch to just one batter each per inning. On the plus side for St. Louis fans, they won't have to sit through any more two hour 7th innings.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Whose Line is it anyway?

In other news, Jerry Angelo signed the Bears a shiny new right tackle this week. Fred Miller, a 9 year veteran of the Rams and Titans will be on the right side next year, with Jonathon Tait moving over to the left tackle spot. Let's hope that the injury that Tait had that limited him in no other way other than not allowing him to play left tackle has been fully healed. By a psychiatrist. Let's also hope that Miller will be better with the Bears this year, than he was against them last year, when the Tennessee offensive line actually made the Bears DE's look like they knew what they were doing, giving up several sacks in that game, including a game ending safety in overtime.

Next up for Halas Hall, Jay Fielder pays a visit. I'm sure he'd taken into account the Bears success in developing Jewish quarterbacks before he planned his visit.

I feel safer already...

Well, it looks like Congress is going to go through with it's plan to protect America's youth from millionares who stab each other in the ass with needles. Word out of Baltimore is that players are going to be subpeonaed before the House Committee on something or other, including: Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Frank Thomas and Curt Schilling. For some reason, Mr. Bonds is notably absent from the list. This is a real coup for Canseco, I mean how many people get to go on TV and promote their book in front of Congress?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Semi-Regular Joe

There's good news from the Cactus League today, as Joe Borowski saw his first action in some time and acquitted himself quite well against the Texas Rangers. Borowski, threw a 9 pitch inning, with one walk, one strikeout, a double play and no hits or runs allowed. The only down side was Borowski's velocity was 88 MPH, which is better than the 83 or so he topped out at last year, but still not up to the 93 MPH his fastball was popping at in 2003. I don't know much about arm injuries, so I'm not sure if Joe just needs to get his arm some work to get his velocity all the way back up, or if that 5 MPH is gone for good. Here's hoping it's the former and that Joe is 100% when the season starts. Borowski can solve a lot of problems if he can be an effective closer again, as our bullpen could actually look legitimate, especially if the younger guys like Leicester, Wellemeyer and Wuertz can pitch well. Borowski can also help the Cubs out in another less tangible way. The 2004 Cubs were widely considered "unlikeable" by their own fans and Regular Joe is one of the most likeable men in the major leagues.

Ya win some...

Well, it was a tough weekend for Illini fans. The boys in orange and blue had one game left in to achieve a perfect season, and they managed to lose to Ohio State despite holding a double digit lead at halftime. I will say, they deserved to lose. They played a terrible second half, and seemed to be trying to kill the clock during the last 5 minutes instead of taking it to the Buckeyes offensively. Ohio State also got a "once in a lifetime" type game from Sylvester. I'm not one of those people who's panicking in the streets over this one. Illinois assumed that Ohio State would recognize their superiority and surrender in the 2nd half. The Buckeyes didn't, and reminded the Illini that they better bring their game for the full 40 minutes, as they've done almost every time this year. Hopefully, the Illinois players are pissed off. This team has a lot of pride, and I'd hate to be the winner of the Michigan/Northwestern game on Thursday. That said, I also hope Ohio State makes it far enough for rematch in the Big 10 Tournament. I think we'll see different game.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Keeping us safe...

It's good to see that some people have perspective. At time when our country is at war, the economy is sluggish, and the insurance, accounting and energy industries are rife with corruption, Congress is considering taking a bold step. That is, they are considering calling various baseball players, including Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi and others before them to testify about steroids. This collasal waste of time would be funny, if the American taxpayers weren't footing the bill for it. What the hell is with these guys? They seem so normal when you elect them, then they spend a few years up on Capitol Hill and they lose all sense of reality. Must be something in the water in DC. I already called my congressman's office to let his staff know that if they really want to get the bottom of something, I'd rather they investigated no-bid contracts for Haliburton, or why gas prices have suddenly shot up another 40 cents a gallon (and may be going up another 25), rather than what some idiotic millionare is injecting into his ass.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Bad Days

It's been a bad couple of days for the Cub faithful. First Ron Santo comes up 8 votes short of being elected to the Hall of Fame. Cap that off with Nomar Garciaparra leaving today's spring training game after being hit in the wrist with a pitch and we're all just a little tired. My main worry is Nomar. The Cubs have taken somewhat of a gamble in that Nomar has a history of injuries, and right now he's the one player on this team that the Cubs cannot afford to lose for an extended period of time. While the starters are important, the team can get by with an injury to one of them (last year we almost made the playoffs with Prior and Wood missing major time), while the bullpen isn't deep, anybody brought in as a replacement wouldn't be a significant downgrade from what's out there already. The outfield is still a question mark, but face it, it's not that hard to trade for a productive outfielder (and I still think that a deal may be in the offing). But the Cubs will simply not be able to find another shortstop who can hit 3rd in the order (unless Tejeda comes back as a PTBNL in the Sosa deal). So, I'm lighting a candle for Nomar tonight.

As for Santo, I can't say that I didn't see this coming. He hadn't gotten into the HOF yet, so I saw no real reason to expect it, especially given the attitude of those on the Veteran's Committee. The interesting thing is that Santo picked up 7 votes from the last time out. How did this happen? Santo hasn't picked up a bat in that time, why did several Committee members suddenly change their minds about him? The whole thing is nuts. I guess there's still hope for Ron to get in, after all he'll have Sandberg's vote next time, and I'd bet that Wade Boggs, who knows how tough it is to play the hot corner, votes for him too. Then all we need are well timed "accidents" to happen to certain Committee members *coughSchmidtcough*. Ronnie's Italian, you'd think he could arrange this. Santo says next time he won't be home waiting by the phone for the Hall to call, that they'll have to find him on the golf course. I don't believe that for a second, but sometimes I wish he'd take Harry Caray's approach and tell those bastards "if you don't put me in while I'm alive, don't bother after I'm dead".

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Irregular Joe?

Well, the Cubs first spring training game is tomorrow and there's already controversy on whether or not Joe Borowski is healthy or not. ESPN 1000 reported on Tuesday that Borowski was throwing in the mid to low 80s. However, there was a report in the Sun-Times yesterday that said Joe's fastball was back up in the low 90s. Which is true? Well, nobody knows, because the Sun-Times article states at the end that no radar guns have been used in camp to this point, so basically all this speed judging is being by reporters standing on the sidelines and guessing, or asking hitters "what do you think Borowski's velocity was today?". I for one am hoping that Borowski is all the way back from his shoulder injury. Last spring his 2003 season was billed as a fluke, and fans couldn't wait to shoehorn shiny new relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins into the closer's role. We all know what happened then, Borowski lost velocity and tried to gut out his injury and was then shut down for the year. Hawkins became closer and saved a sub-par 72% of his chances, including the spectacular meltdown against the Mets in the final week. I'm one of those people that feels that mental makeup is important for a closer, that it takes more than just good stuff to do the job. Witness Borowski in 2004, pitching with a bad shoulder, was able to save 9 of 11 games on pure guts alone. If Joe's healthy this year, I think he should take back the closer role. That'd give Hawkins his setup gig back and give the Cubs more flexibility with Ryan Dempster. But that's getting a little bit ahead of everything. Tomorrow, they break out the radar guns.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

So long David...

As an addendum to the Mushin Muhammed signing, David Terrell was released by the Bears yesterday. Most people saw this coming, and most people shrugged when it happened. So I was a little surprised when I turned on WSCR last night and there were angry callers on the air yelling about how Terrell never got a chance and it was all the quarterbacks fault and the Bears were going to regret this move. Now, while I'd agree that it would be tough for any receiver to reach his potential playing in the Bears offense the past few years, Terrell was given chances, and he certainly didn't take advantage of them. For one thing, he was known for being lazy in practice, which you can get away with if you can bring it on Sunday, but Terrell did not. He felt he should be handed a starting job, as opposed to earning one, and when he finally did start, he didn't do much with the chance. How many key first down passes did Terrell drop? How many times did we see a wasted offensive play which showed that Terrell did not have the speed to separate from an above average DB, and didn't run his routes well enough to make up for that lack of speed? How on earth does a wide receiver lead the team in penalties, especially in an era in which the rules are so skewed towards offensive players that it's laughable? So if you're one of those people who will miss David Terrell, I'm sorry you feel that way. But I'm not sorry he's gone.