Jamie Moyer (9-8, 4.51) vs Ryan Dempster (7-7, 3.61)
Well, the most boring sports day of the year has passed (yesterday). Hope you enjoyed the ESPYs. At least we got this little gem out of it. That aside, it's nice to have baseball back on the air (making it one of the few sports on the air today at a reasonable hour... unless you wake up a 3AM CST for the British Open). We had our laughs and shouts of joy to the great play of Marlon Byrd during the All-Star Game, but now it's back to business. The Cubs are 10.5 games out of first place in the division and things look pretty bleak. However, don't tell that to the team, who was out in the field early today taking fielding practice. It looks like motivation isn't lacking at this point.
I honestly don't know what to expect out of this team in the second half. On the plus side, Aramis started to rediscover how to hit a baseball, Byrd has been a delight to watch, and there are some young kids (Castro, Cashner, sometimes Colvin) that have been fun to watch. On the other hand, we have some aging vets that are barely hitting their weight (Lee, Koyie) and a lack of that "x" factor that seems to pull teams together. In all honesty, I just want to see a better second half than the first.
To test out how this team's second half will start, the Cubs will face their kryptonite: and aging lefty junkerballer. The Phillies are struggling as well and are missing 1/2 of their opening day infield, while their star shortstop still isn't confident in running on his strained calf at 100%. This smells like an opportunity for the Cubs to get off on the right foot and win a 4 game series at the outset.
Call me an eternal optimist at times, but I have a feeling this can be a fun second half, and will at least produce some watchable baseball. What are your expectations/predictions for the second half?
Carlos Zambrano (1-4, 6.14 ERA) vs. Randy Wolf (4-5, 4.66 ERA)
Well, that sucked. Ted Lilly once again got screwed from a win, this time by someone other than himself. The Cubs look to even the series up tonight with Big Z, a man very familiar with the comforts of Miller Park. Including his no-hitter, which wasn't against the Brewers, Z is 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA in his last five starts at Miller Park. Z faced the Brewers at Wrigley on April 15 and gave up four runs in five innings. I expect a much more consistent (oxymoron?!) Z tonight than the one we saw in April, or even his last start, for that matter.
As I stated in my Series Preview, Wolf is one of those guys that seems to give us trouble. Luckily, he's had the affinity to help other teams "clog the bases" this season. If the Cubs can show a little patience, I think they can see their bats awaken for a few crooked numbers tonight.
Lou Piniella- This is more a hope than anything. I'd like to see him light a fire under someone. Anyone. I'm kind of tired of his lack of fire and inability to speak cohesively in a press conference.
The Cubs- Dropped 6 of the last 8. Hard to point at one particular person when they whole team is sort of letting you down.
Polish will win the sausage race. Also, the Cubs will win.
Cub Blogger Nation has evolved, or devolved over the years, depending on your point of view. It appears that some of our best and brightest, and I sincerely mean it when I say it, have done their best to close the gap between themselves and what we'd call the 'legitimate media', which means the Sun-Times, Tribune and Herald, WGN radio, and the collection of TV outlets. They've met, befriended and betrayed, variously, Len Kasper, David Kaplan, Paul Sullivan, Bruce Miles, and others.
I mean, I see it. I'm not going to name names today, but I have met, broke bread with, sat at games with, and have followed the exploits of nearly all of the principals in last week's Cub Blogger Catfight. They are closer to the media action than we are here. They are closer to Chicago in proximity, they know people who know people, and if I had the combination of a) proximity, b) time, c) connections, I would do exactly the same thing.
I was jealous when a few of them got to be on Kaplan's show last month, I won't kid you. In fact, once upon I time, I considered myself to be equal to those guys in terms of notoriety, but due to the reasons cited above, plus some notable and unfortunate lack of focus in my personal life, I have fallen off the grid a bit. Yes, when I started writing about the Cubs starting in 1998, it was initially a journaling exercise, but after a few initial successes, I saw perhaps a future in the media surrounding the Cubs for myself.
And it may still happen, to a certain extent, someday, but there have been some decisions I have made, which many of the principals know about, that have caused me to separate from the inner circle of Cub blogdom that seems to have some connection to the "legit media".
What that means, for me, is that I don't get to do fun stuff like go on "Sports Central". But what that means, for you, that we don't have any affiliations with anyone that may serve to color our viewpoint of what we REALLY feel is important; simply, the chances that this God-forsaken franchise will ever win a Pennant and/or World Championship in our lifetimes.
I come out here to express my views on how close, or far away, the Chicago Cubs are from winning it all in any given year. So does Kurt and AJ, and whomever else comes along in the future. Now, sometimes, we'll hear something said or written by another blogger, or a member of the media, that is so contrary to the real picture that we may comment on it. That concept seems to be the core concept that is driving many of the most well-known Cubs blogs.
They've gotten too close, in my humble opinion. We here are unbeholden, and our only bias is to the success of the Cubs baseball team. Whether the announcers say dumb stuff or the game recaps and trade rumors in the paper are dumb, really doesn't matter much to us. This is all about the Blue W on the White Flag, nothing more or less.
This is where you can always go to find out what a small group of rabidly observant Cub fans notice about the team. End of story. Go Cubs!!
I labelled this post under Gladitorial Combat, because that is what broke out after Kurt posted his uniform ideas yesterday. It appears, that like music, religion, and politics, the pyjamas that your team wears when it walks between the chalk means a lot to folks. Since Bill Simmons is deciding to take his ball and go home, Paul Lukas has the best column on ESPN.com's Page 2, "Uni Watch", in which he tracks all laundry-related trends in the major sports.
Beauty is in the mind of the beholder, and while Kurt is jonesin' on the 70's Braves vibe, you might like the current button-down polyester, and as a guy who lets his wife pick out all his clothes, I'm not here to tell you right from wrong. And, for the anal retentives out there, I also disclose that what I am about to say is not backed by any government-related statistical analysis. But some organizations tend to change designs often, either for purely monetary reasons, or perhaps they are dissatisfied with their current aesthetic. One team in particular (*cough* whitesox *cough*) flopped out some of the most heinous clothes in the history of clothes before settling with their current gangsta chic which, when compared to Bill Veeck's madrigal phase, is a good look for them.
But some clubs believe they have a classic look already, and have no plans or reason to ever change. I will attempt today to assign an 0-to-5 point value for each team in the NL on their probability of changing their look in the near future.
Arizona: an expansion franchise, who while proud possessors of a World's Championship, is till tinkering with their aesthetic image. They've gone from the stereotypical nineties purple-teal-and-black to a red design that isn't exactly flying off the shelves. I assign Arizona a 5 probability that they will change their look in the next five years.
Atlanta: after years of inflaming Kurt's heartstrings with bold geometric designs, the Braves went back to a retro-look design nearly 20 years ago, and have changed little beyond some sleeve patches. There seems to be traction there, so they score a 1.
Chicago: a 2. Although I like the away greys myself, I can see the need for a freshening, even if it is towards a further-retro direction. Even though I liked Kurt's vest-and-cream design for the homer, I believe the current solid-blue home cap, as well as the blue pinstripes, are considered by management to be as proprietary as the bricks-and-ivy.
Cincinnatti: a team with as much tradition as any, yet they are constantly fiddling with the pinstripes-vs-solid, as well as the sleeved-vs-vested look. This makes them succeptible to change as a 4.
Colorado: unlike Arizona, this expansion team has stuck with their nineties purple-and-black, and their huge change was putting the uniform number on the front of the jerseys several years ago. I give them a 3, not because their management seems particularly twitchy, but because their look is sta-a-a-ale.
Florida: basically a carbon copy of fellow 1993 expansion partner Colorado, except theirs of course is teal-and-black. Once again I award them a 3, not because management has shown a propensity to tinker, but because both teams need to get out of the nineties and maybe sell some jerseys.
Houston: the proud progenitor of some of the worst unis in human existence, the AssTrolls have been searching over 45 years for a image, and they're STILL looking. 4
Los Angeles: to them, a seismic shift (pun intended!) was when they put "Dodgers" on their away greys for a few years. They went back to "Los Angeles", which is how God intended. 0
Milwaukee: 5. Always count on them wacky cheeseheads to do something funky with their duds.
New York: 3. Owners of perhaps the stalest image in the league, someday ownership is going to have to get serious about taking market share away from the Evil Empire. Resistance MAY be futile - too much tradition to try to buck.
Philadelphia: 1. The Champs may have finally stumbled onto something good with their neo-retro look, and their alternate cream-colored is just A1 Steak Sauce.
Pittsburgh: 5. They may someday run them poor guys out topless to try to attract fans.
San Francisco: one would think that they might stick with their current look, but the originator of the Orange Day-Glo look can never be slept on. 3.
St. Louis: 0. Not a chance. It always pains me to give these dickholes credit, but whether they're pounding us or we're pounding them, they shore look good. The best dressed men in Missouri.
Washington: 6. This joke of a franchise, while they have nice unis, is bound to jack with them for no other reason than the fact that they are incapable of doing ANYTHING right.
I’ve had a hard time trying to describe what it’s like trying to watch the Cubs/White Sox series. The best way I can put it is that the games have been like watching gladiatorial combat.
Remember in the movie Gladiator how in that one scene when Russell Crowe is just mowing down dudes and hacking limbs all over the place? At first the crowd is going crazy for that stuff but then at the end – with blood and guts all over the place – they are just kind of sitting there in silence.
That’s how I feel the Cubs/Sox series has been…particularly this year. We root and chant and cheer while these teams kick the crap out of each other at their respect home parks, but it’s just kind of awkward when its all over.
As much as I loved to see the Cubs sweep the White Sox last week, I don’t like rubbing it the face of White Sox fans. On the other side, the people that I lightly associate myself with who consider themselves White Sox fans have been relatively quiet about their recent sweep of the Cubs. It’s tiring and nearly pointless to argue about who the better team (particularly this year) and the conversation ALWAYS inevitably comes to this…
Cubs Fan: You guys and your stupid ballpark suck.
White Sox Fan: Well at least we won a championship in the last 100 years.
Good lord it that repetitive.
So finally (FINALLY!) the Crosstown Series is over and we can continue on with the awkwardness that is trying to survive a 2008 season without killing ourselves or losing all our hair. Cubs fans can go back to discussing potential trades for starting pitchers and how best to use Fukudome in the lineup while Sox fans can go back o doing…whatever it is they do..
The Cubs are now heading to San Francisco to take on a surprisingly decent Giants team, but they do get a chance to tee-off on lefty Barry Zito tonight. That SHOULD do wonders for this team’s confidence…should.
I want to conclude this post by just saying that these next 7 days could be some of the most important this season. Right now, the Cubs are experiencing an emotional low of frustration (you could just see it on the field yesterday) and they need to get it together before the weekend series against the Cardinals.
I’m going to the Cubs/Cards game Sunday at Busch…so I’m hoping I’ll have a good reason to drive 5 hours with a broom in my car.
On Saturday, your humble, but hard working correspondent was pretending to attend the St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Chi-town. In reality, I was laying in wait for the Governor to come strolling down Columbus Drive, shaking hands of all the conveniently gathered voters.
As Governor G-Rod approached, flanked by half a dozen black-coated-sunglass-sporting Illinois State Policemen, I moved into position and took aim. The giant of a man reached out with his left hand and awkwardly shook my hand... the kind of hand shake that is really about letting the masses extract some sort of reflected glory... I 'shook' the Governor's hand today!
Anyhow, after securing my awkward hand shake, I said loudly enough to let my voice carry over the marching band and troupe of traditional Irish dancers, "Governor, Don't buy Wrigley Field!" Much to my amazement, G-Rod stopped his hand shaking and addressed me. Now, I'll take a moment away from my recounting to offer a few caveats. First, I don't think he's that great of a governor... so I should disclose that... but I've also seen him personally on a few other occasions and he always seems to be a decent guy.
Well, decent guy that he is, and with at least two dozen voters in attendance. G-Rod replied by telling me that I shouldn't worry about the state of Illinois buying Wrigley Field because it won't cost the taxpayers anything. Now, G-Rod probably hadn't counted on me being the most informed fan... and maybe he thought I was half-way in the bag like many of the other parade attendees... but I peruse Chuck's site often enough to understand the basics of the transaction, so I replied that I've read the papers and it would indeed cost the taxpayers money because the state plans to divert tax dollars that currently go to things like police and hospitals and into the financing of Wrigley Field.
G-Rod, now quaking in his boots because he'd made the mistake of engaging an informed, sober Chicagoan decided it would be a good time to attack both Chicago dailies. He alleged that the Sun-Times and the Tribune have a rivalry and that the Sun-Times would pretty much print anything to keep the Tribune from getting a win. He then declared that the press coverage has been wrong and that I needed to contact his office to get the details of why this would not actually cost us taxpayers anything.
Now, I'm sure G-Rod thought that might shut me up, but I'm persistent. So, I argued that even if it doesn't cost us taxpayers anything, it's still not right for the state to buy the stadium and the only reason they're planning to do this is to make Sam Zell more money. And G-Rod replies... and I'm quoting him here. "Well, there is that." Then, covering over his momentary lapse into transparency, G-Rod suggests that if the state doesn't buy Wrigley Field, the Cubs might move away... and we just can't have that.
I might have said something derogatory like, 'You're kidding me right? There's no way the Cubs are leaving Chicago or Wrigley. Any new owner would be a fool to move the team.' I think the Governor realized he'd really stepped in it there... because it's pretty much impossible to suggest that the Cubs would actually leave Chicago. Where are they going to move? Durham? Portland? Good grief, no one is that dumb, and no one believes they'd actually leave Wrigley... Plus, so what if they leave Wrigley. The state's stated purpose in that the point of purchasing Wrigley is to preserve the Ballpark. If the Cubs move, the state can preserve away at that point.
So, the governor replied again that it wouldn't cost the tax payers anything. I said something about the state enriching Sam Zell at taxpayer's expense, and then he moved on down the line to shake other people's hands.
The judges' decision: TKO to GROTA. (Thanks to my friend Jackie W for the photo of G-Rod, right before I bruised him with my prodigious debatin'.)