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.