Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Mike Fontenot

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/managed/grota/drupal/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

Game Recap - Cubs 7, Astros 1 - Sweeeeet.

Cubs win!
(with additional contributions by Kurt)
Good teams beat up on bad ones, and that's precisely what happened in Tuesday night's game.

Brian Moehler sucks. Before tonight's game, he'd allowed 10 earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched against the Cubs this season. He was no better tonight, giving up another five runs in just three innings.

His replacements fared no better, as the Cubs feasted on Astro pitching. Five Cubs ended the night with multiple hits, and a couple of young-and-struggling types in particular boosted their numbers with great hitting.

Mike Fontenot went 4-for-5 on the night, including a double and his sixth home run. And right on cue, Geovany "I love you, Rob!" Soto went 3-for-5. Unfortunately for Soto, however, while a three-hit night is great for the OBP, he'll need more than singles to return to his '08 form.

On the other side of the ball, Ted Lilly pitched a great game, and was an out away from a sub-3.00 ERA on the season. Furthermore, after being given a big lead, Aaron Heilman and Sean Marshall both threw strikes, giving up a combined zero walks.

There was really only one negative aspect to tonight's game.

That was having to watch Milton Bradley try to remember how to hit major league pitching throughout the game. Bradley ended up leaving ten men on base, going 0-for-6 with three strikeouts and at least one weakly hit pop-fly in foul territory that I remember.

Am I worried? No, not really. In fact, I'm HAPPY! The Cubs looked great tonight, and I hope it's a sign of better things to come.


From Kurt
Minute Maid Park has to be the weirdest in baseball.  How many ground rule doubles do they have a year?  Even Ted Lilly hit a triple!  Ted Lilly!  A triple!  Afrghth!1!  And yet, on a night when the Cubs offense was cracking, the Astros nearly got no-hit by Lilly... again. 

Ryan Theriot and Milton Bradley -- who is returning from another near-miss with the DL -- were the only two Cub regulars to miss out on the party. 

Anyway, it takes more than one big game to turn a team's offensive woes around but two or three more would be nice.  Nicer still would be an adjustment to the lineup, dropping the Fonz to cleanup or 5th, but I digress...

Guess who's back..back again

NO, NO, NO, no, no!!  You're all doing it all wrong!!!

So, how are you all enjoying your Memorial Day weekend so far?  (For Canucks such as Kurt, the fourth weekend in May here in America is set aside for...)  Ok, Kurt is actually here somewhere in the lower 48, and of course he grew up in New York, and that's probably the last attempt at humor from me for the rest of this post, because this shit just ain't working.  I came out here after the first 20 games, I think we were 11-9, and I pointed out that Geo Soto was fat and sassy, that Milton Bradley completely had his head stuck up his ass, and that Derrek Lee's best days are absolutely behind him, and you all flamed me up one side and down the other, leaving me with a nice charred crust with very little pink in the middle, because by gawd, it's only TWENTY games, give guys a chance, for cripes sake!!

Now, it's forty games in, we're 21-19, which means we've played .500 ball since that last post.  I did what you said, I gave them a chance to work things out, and what's happened since? 

  • Geo Soto still ain't hit dick
  • Milton Bradley is still pressing
  • Derrek Lee is not only still struggling, but he's now doing it in the cleanup spot
  • and, now, we've exposed Mike Fontenot for what HE is, useful as a backup, but not capable of hitting on an everyday basis
  • and, as an added bonus, Ryan Theriot has gotten away from what HE does best (go to right field) and he's swinging for the fences, with the predictable result of a plummeting batting average, on-base percentage, and overall usefulness
  • and, of course, Aramis Ramirez' shoulder is still fusing itself back into one piece
  • and, we now have not one, but two useless utility men burning at-bats and butchering plays in the field.  Sometimes, the Orioles aren't stupid, and I know pretty much the Cardinals aren't.

    But what worries me the most is looking at Lou Piniella night after night.  There is a noticeable cognitive difference in him from 2007 to today.  His job is stressful - particularly when he has come so close twice, and have it all slip away so suddenly and completely.  This job turns people.  When Dusty Baker hit town, he was all California Cool.  By his last year, he spoke and acted like someone was spiking him in the groin.  When Don Baylor hit town, he was all New Age Enthusiasm.  By his last year, he spoke and acted like someone was spiking him in the groin.  When Jim Riggleman hit town, he acted like the slimy horndog he was.  By his last year, he spoke and acted like someone was spiking him in the groin, which was probably somewhat based in reality, considering his typical nighttime activities.  (When he and Mark Grace left town, it left a lot of dental hygenists and flight attendants in their mid-30s unfulfilled)

    Now, Lou don't talk like he's in pain, but I have talked to people trained in diagnosing dementia, and they notice how he can't seem to put a coherent sentence together when he is asked a question.  He is probably the most confused man in Chicago presently, and not only does that explain why Neal Cotts still has a job, it doesn't bode well for the immediate future of the Cubs.  I have backed this man since day one, but I can no longer. 

    Hendry ain't gonna fire him, no way.  But I don't believe Lou has an answer for 2009, and in the meantime, we are wasting some decent-to-good starting pitching.   Man, I still think getting Jake Peavy would send a message, but Adrian Gonzalez would look a HELL of a lot better in pinstripes.  Too bad he ain't available...

Game Recap: Cubs 0, Cardinals 3 -- Fuggetaboudit!

Well that was fun, huh?

Ted Lilly put up a pretty decent line last night. Usually, 3 runs in 7 innings will do it. But the offense had trouble scoring one run, let alone 3 or 4, against the Dominating Force of Joel Piniero!!!

Piniero had 14 strikeouts in his last 45.1 innings pitched this season, but somehow managed to get five Ks last night. I guess he was just on or something. Maybe on something?

Despite the loss, there were a couple of notable performances from a pair of Cubs that had been in a bit of a rut lately.

Kevin Gregg handled the top of the Cardinals order with relative ease in the top of the eighth, allowing just one hit (a double to Pujols). 12 of his 17 pitches were strikes.

Also, Mike Fontenot's hitless streak is over. He had a two-out double in the top of the fifth inning.

Unfortunately, it was one of only three Cub hits. That's alright, they were just savin' 'em up for tonight's game against Carp. Let's even this one up, huh?

Go Cubs!

Your 2009 Cubs nicknames

Note from Kurt: I'm strapping on my red scarf and hijacking this post.  Hope Rob doesn't mind.  I'm a huge nickname enthusiest and will be adding my own spin to Rob's post ... but I want to make clear in advance that I know my nicknames suck

Nicknames have always been kind of a "thing" with me.  For those of you who have seen "I Love You Man", you were able to see firsthand the squirminess and discomfort that ensues when good, proper nicknames are not established and then used.  (For reference, Paul Rudd keeps saying squirmy, uncomfortable things to Jason Siegel, like when he leaves, instead of saying "Peace, Homey", he says things like "slashyalates, Jer-blum"). 

Nicknames are never self-imposed, unless of course yer like 7 foot 2, weigh 500 pounds, can rip down a skyscraper with a dunk and have the IQ of raisin toast.  Some nicknames are truly inspired, catch fire quickly, and are immediately accessible to all, like, say, The Riot.  Other men cannot be pinned down by simply one name, like Kosuke Fukudome.  Good lord, nearly ANYTHING can be used and be found acceptable.  Although his teammates prefer Fukie, as most roving bands of professional athletes might - shorten the last name and add the "-ie" suffix.  There is no need to achieve convergence when it comes to the Fooker.

Some of the other ones, like for instance Alfonso Soriano and Mike Fontenot (see the ShoutBox) need to be standardized on this site, and like all good standards should follow industry guidelines.  I think we can consider Baseball Reference as the receptacle for Baseball's Best Practices when it comes to nicknames, and if they use one, it should be considered gospel. 

A brief consultation with BR uncovers the following:

Geovany Soto - OPEN
Kurt sez: Geo works fine.  Sometimes simple is just the best.

Derrek Lee - D-Lee (I prefer DP-Lee, but rules are rules)

Ryan Theriot - OPEN, but The Riot is absolutely sancrosant. 
Kurt sez: I always called him the Quiet Theriot, but that requires you to intentionally mispronounce his last name 

Aramis Ramirez - OPEN
Kurt sez: A-Ram?  The Musketeer?  The Sluggin' Cock Fighter? 

Alfonso Soriano - OPEN
Kurt sez: Sori, The Fonz.  Hey, having "Milton Bradley in RF," maybe it makes sense to have "Sorri" in left...

...well, on second thought, maybe BR sucks, after all.  It's easier for me just to list the Cubs who DO have nicknames listed:

Carlos Zambrano - "Big Z" or "El Toro".  El Toro??? 
Kurt sez: I am and always have been a fan of "The Big Moose."  I realize that after four years, I'm still the only one who calls him that but it'll catch on someday, dammit!

Lou Piniella - "Sweet Lou"

Milton Bradley - "Trouble"

April Fools on the MB one.  Anyway, since BR is of little help to us, I guess we are all going to have to work together to establish a glossary of standard Cubs nicknames.

So please take a minute to add your $0.02 in the comments to this post.  Give us your view of a standard-used nickname (ie. "Demps" for Dempster) or your best suggestion (ie. "VagFace" for Reed).  Then I'll compile them, ask us to vote on any particular conflicts, and publish the results here in an easily accessible reference link.

If you can point us to a link where a teammate refers to another one by their nickname (for example, Reed Johnson's blog or The Riot's turn with Ask Paul) that would be really constructive, and will probably take precedence to whatever clever witticism we come up with here.  BTW: I think the above two links pretty much clinch the fact that Mike Fontenot is simply "Font".

UPDATE: How could I forget??  Reed Johnson is "White Slice"!  And Baseball Almanac lists Aramis Ramirez's nickname as "Rami".  Damn, that's weak.

Quick factoids for 3/16/2009

Major league leader in Spring Training total bases: Mike Fontenot: 32

Major league leader in Spring Training RBI (tie): Micah Hoffpauir: 13

Cubs leaders in batting average (tie): Carlos Zambrano&Ryan Dempster: 1.000

In regards to Kyle's review of Alf Soriano - c'mon, kids.  We can all agree that Hoppy is being PAID to be a 40/40 guy, and we can all HOPE he will be a 40/40 guy, and we can see that he APPEARS to be in decent shape, perhaps the best he has been as a Cub.  But that doesn't mean he WILL be a 40/40 guy.  I mean, I can squint my eyes reeeeeal tightly closed and cross my fingers and hope and pray and chant incantations, and I can pray not only that Soriano will go 40/40 but also for Lee to regain his 2005 form, and for Fukudome to be the guy we paid for coming out of Japan, and for Zambrano to win 20 with 2 no-hitters.

Don't mean it's gonna happen, and in fact, you could go to Vegas and get pretty long odds on ALL of those.

The continuing debate on Mike Fontenot

Poor Mike Fontenot.  All the little guy ever did was hit the ball - well, except for a couple of months in 2007.  But even as Mark DeRosa has been dealt, second base has remained the prime position that fans would like to see upgraded, even over the lesser-than-adequate offensive stylings of Fontenot's Cajun partner in crime Ryan Theriot.

Anyway, at this point I really think that Fontenot should get a chance to fail, and I've got a whole bunch of reasons.  In no particular order ...

  • In 479 career at bats, Fontenot is a .290 hitter with an OBP of .369 and an OPS of .826.  He's hit 34 doubles, 5 triples, 12 homers, and driven in 69 RBI in that time span.  For whatever reason, some people will argue that it doesn't mean much because Fontenot has had his success as a backup - ie he hasn't seen regular play.  This really flies in the face of what we've seen from baseball.  It's actually a lot harder to consistently hit the ball while not starting regularly. 

    Put it to you this way ... Fontenot had 243 at bats last year.  Of all the major leaguers to have between 200 and 300 at bats, do you know how many had a better OPS than the Font?  One. Mike Napoli.

  • Projections are not the end-all be-all, but if they weren't usually accurate then they'd stop making them.  I've always argued that the problem with projections is that they can't take into account the career year or the bust year.  (How many statisticians thought Andruw Jones would evaporate like he did?)  But for whatever it's worth, Fontenot is projected by 4 different experts to have an OPS of .768 or better, with 2 of the 4 projecting that his OPS will be better than .810. 

    They also anticipate that he'll match or surpass his career average for homeruns (between 12-15) and he should have an OBP anywhere between .342 and .363.  In other words, everybody seems to think he'll be successful, or at the very least slightly above average for a second baseman.

  • Age.  Fontenot is playing in what is typically perceived to be the prime of his career.  Who knows, he might be out of baseball in 5 years, but right now if he's going to have an outstanding season he's in the right time frame for it to happen.
  • Need.  The Cubs have one of the most complete lineups of our lifetimes.  Top to bottom they have good hitters and threaten the opposition with hitters 1-8 (or 9 on days Carlos pitches).  The team does not need to try to upgrade at second base, be it Orlando Hudson or Brian Roberts.  They have the ability to sit back, play, and determine that way their exact needs as the 2009 season progresses.  Maybe they'll discover in June that Theriot's numbers were a fluke last year.  Maybe they'll realize that they need another starter, or a few more middle relievers.  Maybe they'll have momentum from Game 1 to game 162. 

    The point is, they are in a position of strength and that allows them to allow a few questions the time to answer themselves, rather than to ppreemptively answer them in order to avoid a potential catastrophe.  Maybe Fontenot won't be able to put up good numbers as a starter, but even if he doesn't the Cubs will still have one of the best offenses in the NL in 2009.  They will also have the ability to swing a trade for a different second baseman in July - maybe even for Orlando Hudson, wherever he winds up.

Anyway, I have rarely felt so happy with a Cubs team as I do with the '09 model.  Really the one player I think might be the "weak link" is Theriot, but even he should be capable of doing his job effectively in '09.

Regardless, the Cubs look to be moving for more relief help if anything, and the rumors about acquiring Orlando Hudson have been discounted, at least for now.  Fontenot has earned his chance.  I for one can't wait to see what he'll be able to accomplish.

A long article on why Fontenot over DeRosa was the right way to go

It's been an interesting day in the Shout Box.  We've got a running debate on whether or not Cub fans should feel "safe" with Mike Fontenot replacing Mark DeRosa - assuming that Aaron Miles isn't the defacto starter.

The argument against Fontenot can be summarized as this:

1. He's only ever been a pinch hitter/occasional starter, and his good numbers come from one good streak
2. If he was actually any good, he would have been a highly-toted prospect and he would have started last year
3. He's neither going to be as good offensively or defensively as DeRosa

I'm going to systematically address all of these points now.

1. He's only ever been a pinch hitter/occasional starter, and his good numbers come from one good streak. You know who else that used to be true of?  Mark DeRosa.  DeRo was 31 years old before he played a season in which he saw more than 309 at bats.  In 1,123 at bats as a pinch hitter/occasional starter, DeRosa had a lifetime batting average of .262, and he'd hit 25 homeruns.

Do you know why he's done so much better as a starter since then?  It's partly because it's really hard to have good hitting numbers while playing as a pinch hitter/occasional starter. This argument is bunk for that reason alone.  If Fontenot has managed to put up not just acceptable but flat-out good numbers, it's a testament to his ability.

As for this "one good streak" line of logic ... Fontenot was solid in all of 2008.  He had an OPS higher than .786 in every month but April.  He had a Pre All Star batting average of only .266, but his OPS in that time was still .864 - better than DeRosa's over the span of the season - and he just got better after the break.

2. If he was actually any good, he would have been a highly-toted prospect and he would have started last year. Actually, Fontenot was a first round draft pick - they don't get much higher-toted than that - who was traded to the Cubs as a 24-year-old.  He actually made his debut in 2005, where noted prospect-lover Dusty Baker only gave him 2 at bats before he was banished back to the minors until Lou Piniella came along.

Before he earned his way onto the 2007 team, the Cubs signed Mark DeRosa to a 3-year deal to mostly play the position that Fontenot calls his own.  In other words, he wouldn't have started because before he had the chance to prove himself, the Cubs had already filled his position with a very able veteran player.

However I need to point out that this argument comes from somebody who also wrote, "I don't follow hype, only performance."  This is ironic in two ways.  First, he'd already argued that the evidence against Fontenot as a starter ignores his performance as a major leaguer and stems from how Fontenot wasn't "hyped" - he was apparently not a hightly-toted prospect.  Second, the same reader feels that Felix Pie - a well-hyped former top center field prospect - should get to replace the outstanding production of Jim Edmonds/Reed Johnson despite the fact that Pie is a career .223 hitter in 260 major league at bats.  But apparently it should be easier to put up better production when you've only had 200 or 300 career at bats, since you're "only" playing as a pinch hitter/occasional starter.  I'm just pointing out the flaws in logic.

3. He's neither going to be as good offensively or defensively as DeRosa

In his career, Fontenot has seen 479 at bats - the equivilent of just under a full season.  He's a .290 hitter, with an OBP of .369 and an OPS of .826.  He's hit 34 doubles, 5 triples, 12 homeruns, and he's stolen 7 bases.

Let's ignore DeRosa's career offensive numbers and give him the benefit of the doubt.  Let's say that DeRo puts up the average of his past 3 years, despite the fact that he'll be 34 years old and may be at the beginning of a decline.  This is what he'd look like:

566 plate appearances - 509 AB, .291 AVG, 33 2B, 3 3B, 15 HR, 57 BB, 4 SB, .368 OBP, .821 OPS.

In 566 plate appearances, Fontenot projects to the following based on his career numbers:

505 AB, .290 AVG, 36 2B, 5 3B, 13 HR, 61 BB, 7 SB, .369 OBP, .826 OPS.

In other words, they would be very similar offensively, except Fontenot is 6 years younger and bats left handed.  But what about defensively?  To best determine this figure, let's consult Fangraphs and the UZR150.  UZR150 refers to the "ultimate zone rating" and it calculates the number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs and error runs combined per 150 defensive games.

According to Fangraphs, DeRosa's UZR150 at second base last year was -3.2.  Fontenot's was 12.4 - a difference of 15.6.  It's conceivable that Fontenot won't have an UZR150 that high as a full-time starter, but Fangraphics writer David Golebiewski paints Fontenot "pessimistically" at half that total.

Therefore, it's pretty easy to conclude that while Fontenot may not match DeRosa's numbers offensively next year, it would hardly be a stretch of the imagination to think he's capable.  What's more, Fontenot is defensively superior.

Considering that Fontenot is much younger, far less expensive, bats left handed, and has shown the capacity to produce at the major league level, then dealing DeRosa and letting Fontenot start is a no-brainer even if money wasn't the impetus of the trade. The Cubs are now more likely to upgrade in RF - and Bradley would be a great upgrade - and be a damaging team offensively next season. It's pretty hard to question this line of logic, at least on my end.  Let's see how far the logic gets stretched, though, should this debate continue.

2008 Season Recap: Mike Fontenot

Mike Fontenot

During the surprising 2007 season, the Cubs had a hobbit-like middle infielder who was known to most as Lil' Mike Fontenot.  Lil' Mike was an early-season surprise that year, and along with his Cajun Comrade Ryan Theriot, he made some game-changing plays that reminded this blogger of the '89 duo of Dwight Smith and Jerome Walton.

Then, perhaps predictably, Lil' Mike fell off the face of the earth and into the Pit of Dude, You're Like 5'6", Stop Playing Like You Have Natural Athleticism, Already.  (It's a very unpopular place to be, if only because the name is so long.)  A man who batted .356 before the All Star Break turned into a kid who batted .215 after, and the end result was a guy with a .278 average who lost favor with his skipper.

Then, 2008 rolled around.  Since this is supposed to be the 2008 recap, I should probably focus on that.

In 2008, he went from being known as Lil' Mike Fontenot to his new alias, Little Baby Ruth.  It was almost an inverse of what had happened in '07 - from the All Star Break in July through September, Fontenot batted .360, but even before the break he'd hit 7 homeruns in 143 at bats and he became one of the most valuable players on the Cubs.

All told, the little guy hit 9 homeruns in 243 at bats, and he now has career numbers that read the following: 479 AB, 34 2B, 5 3B, 12 HR, 69 RBI, a .290 AVG, a .369 OBP, and 7 SB to 4 CS.

In other words, maybe - just maybe - Fontenot has earned an opportunity to play full time in 2009.  While he might be most suited to play the role of roleplayer*, Little Baby Ruth is a lefty bat who has demonstrated that he can flat out hit.

(*"play the role of roleplayer"?  I'm a freakin' wordsmith!)

In other posts on GROTA, the success of Fontenot has persuaded more than one Goat Reader that DeRosa will be the odd man out next season, as Fontenot doesn't really have the arm for anywhere but second base.  I think that if the Cubs would consider a Fonty-Thery platoon at second (especially since Theriot hits lefties better than righties, and vice versa for Fontenot), while concentrating on upgrading at short, then the Cubs might be a stronger team.  Regardless, one thing is for certain - he really may never have the stuff to be an every day player, but Fontenot has earned the opportunity to play, at least a little more than he already does.

While the Rumor Mill seems to be on Holiday Hiatus, a few grains yet emerge

This post was actually eaten by my computer yesterday.  I'm giving it One More Chance, then after that, I will take it as a sign from God that nobody gives a rat's ass what I think about the Cubs.

For them that only get the bleatings of the Chicago media sheep, the national press seems to think that we have offered Perpetual Trade Bait Sean Marshall and GROTA Love Child Mike Fontenot to the Royals for the Discouraged Mark Teahen.

So, without the snarkcasm, Marshall and Fontenot for Teahen.  I think this bears discussion.

Now, I went out here the other day and stated my case for Marshall plying his wares elsewhere - that the current Cubs rotation is too stacked to allow Sean to meet his ultimate destiny as a #4 starter.  We like him, but few of us will truly rue the day he shuffled on to other pastures.  On the other hand, several of you have settled upon wee Font as the Answer to Our Offensive Problems, based on his surprising power trip last year.  You have extrapolated his productivity to net "20 to 30" homers over a full season, which would be wonderful and magnificent and candy and nuts out of a second baseman.  And sure, it wouldn't cost us a thing, which would then install DeRo as our Rightfield Solution and, if I am guessing at your true agenda, free up the money to sign Mr. Furcal, noted Lee Injurer.

Then what are you going to do with The Riot, our other cute little Cajun?

Anyway, I maintain that Font's trade value will never be higher.  Yes, you can plausibly extrapolate his 2008 performance to something that many teams could use in a starting 2B role for next year.  I personally don't see it happening.  Like many Fan Faves in the past that have, either by necessity or by choice, been thrust into starting roles with diminishing results, I think Fontenot's historical performance against lefties, along with his lack of range and athletic abilities afield mark him as a great bench presence who would absolutely KILL us if given 600 ABs.

Of course, many of you thought the same thing about his cute li'l buddy, and although defensively The Riot didn't win us any games last year, his hitting and OBP were more than adequate.  That having been said, I like Font a lot, and I do not wish to just give him away.

The return on the deal, of course, is a young man who has been involved with one of the most dysfunctional franchises in recent sports history.  You wonder what percent of the blame that he himself should bear in the failure of the Royals.  You see his performance decline over the first few years of his career, to the point that if he puts up the same numbers for us next year, he too will be killing us if given 600 ABs.  An OPS in the low .700s is not going to cut it in RF. 

I personally think he would improve his numbers, substantially.  I myself would be willing to take the deal, provide the Royals throw us a pitching prospect we could turn around and offer for Jake Peavy (See what I Did There?).  What basis do I have to make this lofty pronouncement?  What trends/comps do I have that show that Teahen is on the way up, on an incline that neither Marshall nor Fontenot boast?

If your guessed "nothing", kudos to you.  I am merely a relatively old guy, who has been watching guys since the days of Mike Vail and Larry Biittner, Todd Hollandsworth and Glenallen Hill, Henry Cotto and Tuffy Rhodes.  All these guys were Wrigley Faves off the bench, and all came around to simply Murder us when asked to play every day, because of a combination of fielding woes, athletic challenges, and holes in their swings big enough to back Kim Kardashian's ass in.

Teahen was a highly touted prospect who was burdened with the "savior" role upon making the majors, and if he were simply asked to play right field and bat seventh, I feel he would respond well.  Hell, he'd be so gatdam happy to get out of KC that every day would feel like his birthday.  At least until he dropped his first fly ball that lost us a game in Pittsburgh.  Right, Al?

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.

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award