Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Carlos Zambrano

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Talking Points

So, like Rob, I have been a little MIA lately. And now, while my recent pessimism is at its most recent low-point (for the time being), I'd like to share some random thoughts with y'all that I've had over the past few days...

-Let me start off by addressing Rob's most recent post. There are two types of baseball fans: Fans of the Game and Fans of a Team. Personally, I'm starting to consider myself more and more a Fan of the Game because I will stop and just watch baseball for the hell of it (something I never did in my younger years). BUT, I have the upmost respect for people who are die-hard Fans of a Team. It takes a certain type of person to be completely engulfed in a franchise that views us (fans) as walking cash cows, yet that person cheers for that team until the bitter end. This is especially true for Cubs fans. This team, for decades, has abused and teased the fans by dangling the prospects of winning a World Series in front of our faces. I'd like to think most other fans would have turned away from a franchise like this. But not guys like Rob. I tip my hat to you sir. You have some brass coconuts.

-Speaking, of man parts, did anyone else see Prince Fielder try to tap Aramis Ramirez in the nuts last night when A-Ram was round first and heading for second during the seventh inning? I watched this over and over again on my TiVo but the results are the same every time. Fielder reaches out and tries to get a piece of Ramirez's piece. Two words for you Prince: TESTICULAR TORSION. I know you're a vegetarian and everything, but I think these nuts technically qualify as meat.

-For most of the season, the Cubs looked like world-beaters. Thennnnnnnnnnnn, July came along and things kind of got all blah blah.  Some people liked to call it a slump while others just thought it was the June Swoon coming in a month late. With the recent success of the club in Beer County, however, its starting to look more like the Cubs are playing up and down to their competition. In the last month, the Cubs have lost series against the Giants, Astros (sans Oswalt) and D-Backs (sans Harden, Webb) along with a home split against the Marlins. On the flip side, the Cubs have taken two of three from the Cards in St. Louis and guaranteed themselves a split with the Brewers in Milwaukee. Perhaps the biggest problem for the Cubs down the stretch might be a motivation issue against lesser opponents?

-Does anyone have video of the Zambrano/Fontenot pregame routine where Big Z hammers Mikey into the ground like a rail spike? I'd love to get some video of that. Don't ask why. I just do. Leave me alone.

-Len Kasper, let me say that I think you're a solid broadcaster and play-by-play guy who is far exceeding the expectations I had for you, but you have got to stop declaring Cubs victories too early. You're killing me man and karma is a bitch. Any time the Cubs go up by 5+ runs, Lenny starts calling the game like it's already over and you can start flying the big blue and white "W" flag. I consider myself a superstitious guy when it comes to baseball and Kasper is seriously tempting the Baseball Gods. Len, if you pre-call a Cubs victory before the 27th out and the Cubs end up losing, I will rip your lips off. Seriously.

Stay Classy, White Sox

Memo to Sun-Times headline writers – when your headline is:

Hotter fans? The results are in!

You leave me, the reader, expecting… well, results, not to put too fine a point on it. So when you say:

The response to our Hottest Fans contest has been so overwhelming --nearly 7 million online page views and nearly 40,000 votes (Cubs fans leading with 61 percent) that we've decided to extend the voting through the end of the season.

Do you know what you’ve just done? That’s right, you’ve lied to me. Me and thousands of others like me. Also, by the way…

…this guy is not “hot.” This guy looks like he’s auditioning for the direct-to-video Sean Of The Dead sequel. And I really want to tell you, Goat Reader, that I had to go digging for this sort of entry. But unlike Sun-Times headline writers, I will not lie to you; that’s pretty representative of the quality of this whole enterprise.

Well, as you by now are aware, the White Sox are in town, if by town you mean Chicago. Which, I guess they’re in town as often as the Cubs are, but normally I’m not required to care. And, to be frank, I’m still not sure I care. Okay, sure, the White Sox are six games on the schedule that I’d rather win than lose, but that’s true of pretty much every game on the schedule. And even if they sometimes sound like they’re run by the winners of the Idiot Triathlon, they seem to have a competitive club on the field.

But not living in Chicago, I don’t feel about this series the way a lot of others do; I get a lot more excited about Cubs-Cards and Cubs-Brewers. So the hype far surpasses the reality for me.

But I just have to say, the crosstown series (Bruce Miles implores you not to refer to it as a “Classic") does provide one more reminder that the Sox may well be one of the least classy organizations in baseball. To wit:

''We'll all be bringing our nose plugs, try not to smell all the urine over there,'' [pitcher John] Danks said Thursday. ''Nah, we're looking to have fun over there, but that place is a [bleep] hole.''

And that’s just one example. I’ll concede that the facilities at Wrigley are antiquated and in need of repairs, but as a grown man, talking to the press about your job, do you really need to talk like that? I'm far from a Puritan when it comes to how I talk, but seriously, how can you figure that's the right way to represent yourself in a very public forum? (I guess it doesn't hurt to have Ozzie Guillen as your boss.)

Speaking of Guillen, Mariotti has this to say about Ozzie's in-game strategy:

Normally, it's his mouth that gets him into trouble, but on this day, it was his thought process. With the Cubs looking half-asleep after arriving in the wee hours from Tampa Bay, where they were swept by the emerging Rays, Guillen should have let Danks bat to lead off the seventh. Instead, he pinch-hit for the pitcher and got nothing out of the inning anyway.

...

Well, the Blizzard yanked Danks anyway and inserted the sporadically reliable Octavio Dotel. You could hear the licking of chops and high-fives from the third-base dugout. Before anyone could utter ``dumb move,'' Derrek Lee and Ramirez had crushed back-to-back homers off Dotel, tying the score and turning all heads toward Ozzie in this meticulously analyzed, scrutinized series. Why go to your bullpen so soon when Danks was performing so well? Why not let Danks find a smidgen of trouble before making a move? Hadn't he retired the Cubs in order in the third, fourth and fifth innings and on one single in the sixth?

...

This was a case of Guillen, the attention hog, imposing his strategic ego on a game when it wasn't necessary. It would cost him tremendously in the bottom of the ninth, when Scott Linebrink, in relief of Matt Thornton, allowed a game-winning blast by Ramirez that dropped into the thatch of ivy in front of the Batter's Eye Restaurant in center field.

Mariotti is as big a yapper (to use Tango's phrase for it) as you can find in the sporting press, and he seems to know surprisingly little about just about any topic he chooses to comment on. Pitchers get worse the more pitches they throw, to the point where Dotel could well be expected to be more effective than Danks going into the seventh. And Danks, like most other pitchers, especially AL pitchers, is a horrible hitter.

The funny thing about baseball is that it's a game of failures; even the best hitters make outs more often than not, and even the best pitchers give up runs. The only thing you can do as a manager is try to put the odds in your favor - and he did that, by giving his team the best chance he could on offense and defense. Sometimes things don't work out; you have to judge a move in isolation of the short-term results.

When Mariotti asks, "Why not let Danks find a smidgen of trouble before making a move?", what he's really asking is, "Why not wait until it's too late?" The hardest thing to do is to cash in while you're ahead, to sell high. And tell me - if Ozzie leaves Danks in and he ends up giving up those runs instead of Dotel, do you think that there's no chance that Mariotti writes this instead?

Isn't it refreshing to have a manager in this town that can do more than run his mouth? The Blizzard of Oz is obviously outmatched strategically by Sweet Lou.

In the seventh inning, with a chance to spark his team's aenemic offense and put the Cubs away for good, he let the pitcher, Danks, bat for himself. Maybe he forgot what league he was in. The Sox failed to score that inning, and the rest is history.

Mariotti is truly a man without allegiance to anything, up to and including the truth. I really fail to understand how he has his job.

Expect Zambrano to go on the DL soon, in exchange for "outfielder" Eric Patterson - surprisingly enough Edmonds and Johnson are both banged up, and the Cubs are running short on outfielders - they're so desperate that they're even letting Matt Murton play! The good news is that no serious damage was found in Zambrano's shoulder.

Good teams / Big Expectations

As we nervously ponder the fate of Zambrano, I just felt the need to make a few points:

  • I have to disagree with Rob. Today is not must-win, although it'll be huge if the Cubs do win. GOATDIRECTIVE #1 - DISAGREEING WITH ME IS FORBIDDEN! FAIL!!
    Rebuttal from Kurt:
    Up yours, old man!
  • The New York Yankees will be unable to use their Wang until September. This is unfortunate for them, as the uber-hot Shannon Elizabeth will be coming to visit them in August, and she apparently wants to get it on. Regardless, the Yankees are playing hot right now, and are 5.5 games out of first place.
  • Boston, who is in first place in the hard-fought AL East, has an All Star rotation on the DL. They are without their Colon, Schilling, and Dice-K. (So they've lost an important body part and their money, but they can't gamble anyway because they are without their dice. Fine, this one wasn't as funny as the Wang joke.)

There are probably other relevant examples, but the point is simple - good teams can win without their best pitcher, or pitchers in some cases. While I am somehow optimistic that Carlos will be back soon, should the worst happen I will still expect the Cubs to compete and win. But, especially, I will have to hope and demand for an upgrade in the rotation. It will be a necessity ... if it wasn't one already.

The quick DON'T PANIC YET pre-bedtime post

I'm sure that more than one Cub fan out there has his stomach in knots tonight as we wait to find out what's up with Carlos. Was it another neck/shoulder cramp? Is it something more serious?

Because I don't flinch in the face of bad news, one scary thing to consider: somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that there has yet to be a pitcher who's signed a contract as long and expensive as Carlos's without suffering a major arm or shoulder injury before the deal was complete.

Now for the good news: Carlos has had plenty of weird cramping/soreness injuries in the past, but he's never shown warning signs for arm or shoulder damage. Point of fact, he's worked a heavy load for his age, but he's beyond the age where he shouldn't be working a heavy load. Statistical guys make a big deal about PAP - pitcher abuse points - but my understanding is that they are supposed to serve as a gauge for young pitchers, and that it's a different case once a guy gets past a certain age (in fact, I may have learned that from Colin, who may have mentioned it on this very website in the recent past about this very same pitcher). My suspicion is that Carlos is more likely to eventually lose movement/velocity than he is likely to Tommy John or Mark Prior himself.

So, don't worry. Or worry, but don't panic. As a wise man recently told me, there's no need to panic for tomorrow, as today has enough worry of its own. That's two wise men I'm referring to, in case you misunderstood - the one who said it, and the one who repeated it to me.

Oh, and apparently, Jim Edmonds might also be hurt.

Cub injuries are like caffeine - they keep you up all night, and with too much over a short period of time you run the risk of ulcers, getting the jitters, and anxiety. That's a photoshop if I ever thought of one.

Update: ESPN is reporting that Carlos will have an MRI.   On a positive note, the Big Moose said after the game, "I'm feeling better already," and he came very close to convincing Piniella to let him stay in... which hopefully lends to the Just Being Cautious theory.

Damn you, Cubs!

Although I have yet to see nor hear anything official, it would appear as though my cunning ruse will soon fail.

We've been planning on attending the Cubs-Jays series from the get-go, while intentionally skipping the stinking pile of poo that is Jason Marquis.  However, part of my hopes were on Carlos starting Friday's game against the hated Blue Jays.  Unfortunately, because Lou Piniella appears intent on the Cubs laying the smack down on the Braves, it's possible-if-not-likely that the Big Moose will be starting tomorrow night in Chicago.

The coup de grâce in this entire deal comes from the Blue Jays website.  We finally bought our tickets tonight to Friday's game, and the official website of the perennial third place AL East team reports that A.J. Burnett will be kicking off the three-game set by squaring off  against Cub phenom Sean Gallagher.  

Don't get me wrong, I like Gallagher quite a bit.  I'll enjoy watching him pitch.  But he is no Big Moose, not by a long-shot, and I am angry, fiercely angry at the Cubs for apparently trying their hardest to get to the playoffs by possibly enabling Carlos an extra start over the span of the baseball season.

But, hey, it's just one report and while I have intentionally avoided reading the Chicago papers, I have yet to hear anything official from the Cubs front office about it.  Besides, don't the Cubs know that A.J. Burnett is a tough pitcher and Carlos has a better chance of beating him?  Bastards.

Pujols wiped out

Get it?  It's a poo pun.  I'm sure the Desipiots aren't in the least bit surprised.

Anyway, it turns out that they don't make a band-aid big enough to cover all of the wounds on Albert Pujols.  ESPN is reporting that the man who broke the Major League color barrier will be out for the next three weeks, which is an excellent chance for the Cubs to spring toward sweet, delicious dominance.  You see, while the Cubs have a rough schedule ahead of them - they play 16 of their next 24 games on the road, including 18 against teams with .500 records or better - the Cardinals are also facing a difficult schedule.  They play 11 of the next 24 games on the road, including 9 in a row, including 9 against teams with .500 records or better.

Okay, so the Cubs definitely have a rougher ride ahead of them, but, without their key offensive player, St. Louis will not have any easy wins for the next three weeks.  This could have been a chance for the Cardinals to really close the gap between them and the Cubs - who definitely have a make-or-break month ahead of them - but now they will struggle to simply keep up.

Tough pu...jols.  (Couldn't resist). 

Cubs Luxury Box doesn't make crappy game any better

I've been to a 'lot' of Cubs games in my life, and I've sat in most every section in the park at one point or another, but I've never had the chance to take in a game from a Wrigley Field Luxury box until today. (Update: I've done a full review of the Cubs Luxury Box amenities at The Cubdom.)

First, for those plebes out there who have never 'done Wrigley' in style, the luxury boxes are a fun experience. When we got there, there was a warmer full of Hot Dogs and popcorn chicken. There was a small fridge stocked with Beer (the usual park selections of Old Style/Light and Budweiser/Bud Light), several bowls of nuts, a vegetable platter, a poor selection of warm sodas (Pepsi & diet Pepsi), and two TVs. One TV was a big-screen flat panel plasma, and the other was probably 17 inches. Interestingly enough, the TV was carrying the WGN-TV signal, but the WGN-AM radio sound.

The luxury boxes apparently come in two sizes, singles and 'double plays'. We were in a single. The suite itself was maybe 12 foot deep by 10 feet wide. There was a bar with three stools inside, but no other seating. Outside, we had twelve padded chairs that were fairly comfortable.

Now for the good part. We were directly behind the catcher. We could see everything, the seats were awesome, and with a little practice I could actually begin to judge whether a flyball is going to be a homerun or not.

Today was also a perfect weather day for baseball. Unfortunately, our box wasn't about to get any sunshine being located directly below the upper deck. On the otherhand it was incredibly pleasant to just sit there and take in the game.

Like my other luxury box experience (White Sox), I found it very difficult to get 'into' the game. There are so many distractions in the luxury box that it is easy to miss half an inning without blinking.

For example, in the fourth inning, I missed a Bucs' home run because I was busy choosing between Snickers Pie, Carrot Cake, or an Ice Cream Sundae from the dessert cart. (I went with the ice cream Sundae because I wanted the plastic Cubs helmet in which it was served.)

Of course there are advantages to being in the luxury boxes too. For instance, our box was *right* next to Jim Hendry's box that he uses as an office. It's not everyday that you can give the Cubs' GM a death glare whenever one of his players makes a fundamental error (as they did on several occasions today.) Honestly, I'm not joking. I was sitting ten feet from Jim Hendry at todays game.

Anyhow, despite the nice perks of a luxury box, it still doesn't feel like you're really attending a baseball game. Of course, if I had the choice again, I'd sit in the luxury box in a snap... I'd just never pay for it.

On the field, well Carlos Zambrano didn't pitch well, and the Cubs decided not to actually show up today. There were several mental errors and a few physical errors. For example, and I don't want to pick on Ronny Cedeno, but these come to mind: In his first game at second, he couldn't turn a double play early in the game. He lost the ball in his glove. This failure to turn two cost the Cubs a run. Later, he didn't stay on the base, instead he went out to shallow center to cut off a weak throw from Juan Pierre. The runner who had singled, played heads up ball and took second.

Of course, there's no point in pointing fingers. As (I think) Kurt said earlier this week, if you're trying to win a game 0-0, you're not going to be successful very often. Indeed, the Cubs allowed the Pirates several runs, but any ONE of those would have been sufficient.

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