"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do, I stare out the window and wait for spring." - Rogers Hornsby

al yellon rants about the Cubs, the universe, and everything
:: welcome to 'and another thing!' - voted by readers as Best Cubs Blog 2004

:: Cubs' final 2004 record: 89-73, 3rd NL Central, -16. Last game: 10-8 win over Braves
:: Al's final 2004 record: 51-41, .554 (44-37 home, 7-4 road)
:: Cubs' 2004 record in all other games: 38-32, .543 (1-0 home, 37-32 road)
:: Next spring training game: Thursday, March 3, 2005, vs. A's at Phoenix, 2:05 pm CT
:: Next game: Monday, April 4, 2005, vs. Diamondbacks at Phoenix, 4:40 pm CT
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:: Saturday, March 08, 2003 ::

OK, Apparently Watching on TV Works...

Today's 3-2 Cub win over the White Sox was the first televised game of the spring.

A few random observations:

* It sure is good to hear Steve Stone's voice again. Yes, he actually does make Chip more palatable. They ran a piece of video from 20 years ago, Stone's first year with the Cubs, featuring Harry Caray introducing him to the Chicago audience. Great piece of TV history.

* I hate the new scorebox. The word "WGN" is as big as the rest of the box; the lettering is too narrow, and the color scheme is atrocious. The WGN people also misspelled Jackson Melian's name on a graphic.

* Corey Patterson looked in midseason form. This isn't necessarily a good thing.

* The pitching was outstanding -- just two mistakes (solo HR) by Carlos Zambrano. Both Angel Guzman and Rod Beck looked terrific.

* Mark Bellhorn hit and fielded well; Hee Seop Choi has nice range and soft hands at 1B, and that's already a distinct improvement over last year.

* (note added Sunday: Spent one of the inning breaks shoveling the snow that had fallen over the first hour or so of the game)

All in all, this was a satisfying game; the overall play looked solid, the things you want to work on in spring (getting the pitchers appropriate work, seeing some of the backups play, etc.) were accomplished, and Dusty Baker spent an inning on the microphone with the WGN people. He probably spoke more in that one inning than Don Baylor did in 2 1/2 years.

I'll be down there to report in person beginning with Friday's game.

:: posted by Al at 4:38 PM [+] ::
Tax Cuts - Yeah, That's The Ticket

We knew that the irresponsible Bush tax cut proposal would throw us into Reagan-era deficits again. But until yesterday's Congressional Budget Office report, we didn't know just how bad it would be.

The tune is $1.82 trillion in deficits over the next decade.

Look, I'd love to pay lower taxes. So would you. So would just about everyone. But we live in a society where there is an implied social contract. We complain about high taxes, then we complain when the government can't fight this or that. And why not? Because they don't have enough money. There really is no such thing as a free lunch. And this isn't even taking into account Bush's little war, and what it'll cost.

I also particularly liked the photo of Bush on the ABC News page where the above article resided, so I reproduce it here, without comment:

:: posted by Al at 9:40 AM [+] ::
:: Friday, March 07, 2003 ::
A Small Blow for Freedom of Speech

The controversial 1998 Child Online Protection Act was ruled unconstitutional today by a federal appeals court in Pennsylvania.

The Ashcroft-ruled Justice Department is expected to appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court, which will probably apply its peculiar standards of "freedom" to rule on this issue.

There is no doubt that children need to be protected from some of the "wild west" mentality that is out there on the Internet. Every day, there are more stories about predators abducting children they somehow met online.

It's up to parents to supervise. It's not up to Big Brother Government to tell us what to do.

Let's hope the Supreme Court can see past their conservative blinders on this issue.

:: posted by Al at 3:36 PM [+] ::
Cubs Win Again Without Me Listening

With no radio available for yesterday's game, the Cubs beat the Giants 5-2. Highlights included Matt Clement throwing three innings of one-hit ball, and Troy O'Leary solidifying his claim on being a good fourth outfielder by having two hits.

Maybe I'll try an experiment today and not listen to the radio broadcast, and see if that helps them win. I think this "being sick" thing wouldn't work over the course of a long season; I'd hate to have to be sick on 95 or more days all summer.

:: posted by Al at 10:42 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, March 06, 2003 ::
Bill, You Ignorant Slut

The venerable CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes" announced yesterday that it has hired former President Clinton, and his 1996 opponent, former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, to host at least 10 segments that would be similar to the Point/Counterpoint segments the show did back in the 1970's.

Odd thing is, the first mention I saw online about this wasn't at CBS News, but at the Fox News website.

Well, it could be interesting. Clinton's very glib, and Dole's not, although he was pretty funny after he left office in his Viagra and Pepsi commercials.

Say, if Dole invited Britney Spears along to one of the tapings, things could get very interesting....

[only kidding... I think...]

:: posted by Al at 2:19 PM [+] ::
This Sickness Thing...

OK, I was sick Tuesday and didn't hear the Cubs game, which they won. Then yesterday, the game wasn't on radio, but I followed the score on the web until they finished up their 8-4 loss to the Rangers.

Lowlights included a pretty poor performance by Kerry Wood in his first spring start.

Look, if it takes feeling sick all summer for the Cubs to win, I'm happy to take one for the team.

There's no web radio coverage of the Cubs today either, as they take on the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium, which is probably my favorite of all the Arizona parks. Friday the Cubs host the D'backs at Mesa, and that game will be on MLB radio at 2 pm CT.

:: posted by Al at 9:29 AM [+] ::
One of my favorite books...

"Notes from a Small Island" by Bill Bryson, was recently voted "the book that best sums up England's identity and the state of the nation in the 21st century."

I heartily recommend all of Bryson's books; he's written many other travelogues, including books about traveling in the USA ("A Walk in the Woods"), Australia ("In a Sunburned Country"), and a recently-released book about his travels to Kenya last summer ("Bill Bryson's African Diary").

:: posted by Al at 9:10 AM [+] ::
Diann Burns, Shut UP!

[a rant]

As you know if you follow Chicago TV news, longtime channel 7 anchor Diann Burns was recently taken off the air by management after she wouldn't sign a contract extension that called for, reportedly, a 50% pay increase (from $2 million to approximately $3 million a year, which would have made her the highest-paid anchor in Chicago TV history).

This would be normal TV biz gamesmanship, except for one thing. Burns and her agent/husband Marc Watts (who is also a former TV reporter, last seen on CNN) decided to play the race card.

According to Rob Feder's column in today's Sun-Times, Burns and Watts have been all over the city trying to paint this the same way that WBBM radio newsreader Felicia Middlebrooks tried to paint her contract dispute last year, as a racial issue. The Feder column quotes Mike James of the industry website NewsBlues as saying "Mr. Watts has clearly demonstrated that greed crosses all racial boundaries.", and Feder quotes Watts in response: "Your comments about greed and racial boundaries crossed the line." I respectfully disagree with Mr. Watts on this one. This is nothing but pure greed.

Yet another article on this topic in today's Sun-Times said that the City Council is getting involved in this, lamenting the lack of minorities at channel 7 and in TV news in general.

In regard to channel 7, this isn't only disingenuous, it's an outright lie.

Of channel 7's six daily shows, two are produced by African-Americans. Out of three full-time executive producers, one is African-American, one is Asian. A Latina woman was recently promoted to assignment manager. The general manager, news director and assistant news director are all women. Two prominent anchors, Cheryl Burton and Hosea Sanders, are African-American, along with reporters Charles Thomas and Leah Hope.

I worked side-by-side with Diann Burns nearly every night for over a decade and found her to be professional and pleasant to work with. But she tried to play contract hardball and, I suppose, was shocked when management played hardball back. This is much the same thing that a lot of professional athletes who overestimate their own worth have done in the last few years, with predictable results. (You listening, Frank Thomas?)

She's just making herself look bad, and she's got four months till she can even talk to another station in town.

Till then, she should just shut up.

:: posted by Al at 8:26 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, March 05, 2003 ::
I Should Get Sick More Often

Was just sitting casually at the computer yesterday when I suddenly felt completely chilled. This was about an hour before the Cubs game would have come on.

So I spent most of yesterday and part of this morning in bed with one of those proverbial 24-hour bugs. As such, I totally missed the Cubs' 5-4 win over the Angels.

Mark Prior looked sharp and David Kelton hit his first HR of the spring.

I'm not recommending this little illness, but if that's what it takes for the team to win -- why not?

:: posted by Al at 1:10 PM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, March 04, 2003 ::
Pete Rose Tries Again

Word today is that Pete Rose will meet with MLB officials to see if they can work out "terms" for him to be reinstated.

I'll bet he won't be able to keep to them.

Pete? Is that you on the phone?

:: posted by Al at 12:18 PM [+] ::
More on St. Baldrick's

Today's Eric Zorn column in the Chicago Tribune (free registration required) again mentioned the St. Baldrick's promotion coming up on March 14, where many people nationwide will have their heads shaved to raise money for the National Childhood Cancer Foundation, and mentions the celebrity who his readers voted as the one they'd most like to see bald. I won't ruin the surprise; read the column!

I'll be out of town on the 14th, but in solidarity with this cause I will have my head shaved that day, and I'll also make a donation to the NCCF. I hope you will too, to this good cause.

:: posted by Al at 9:33 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, March 03, 2003 ::
On This Date in Baseball History...

Among other events... On March 3, 1932, tragedy strikes when Boston Red Sox pitcher Ed Morris dies from a series of knife wounds. Morris had been injured in a fight at a party that was given in his honor -- (quoted from baseballprimer.com).

I mention this because today , March 3, 2003, the Cubs totally sucked. They lost 7-3 to a ragtag collection of Brewers that included only one regular, Richie Sexson. Someone named Jason Hardy hit a three-run homer. Carlos Zambrano, Rod Beck and Dave Veres all got cuffed around pretty good.

And Sammy Sosa didn't play for the third day in a row -- he's got a minor quad thing, which they are correctly resting, so it doesn't become a major injury. Only one regular -- Moises Alou -- even started.

:: posted by Al at 7:35 PM [+] ::
Iraq 'n' Roll

The arrest over the weekend of al Qaeda master planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is a significant development in the possible war against Iraq, because he was supposedly in the planning stages of more attacks on Americans.

It has been said in many quarters that a war on Iraq right now would probably unleash terrorist attacks that would dwarf the 9/11 attacks, no matter how hard that might be to believe, or to take if it actually happened. The thoughtful columnist William Raspberry says just about as much in his column in yesterday's Washington Post. Quoting in the column, Washington lobbyist Nick Ashmore:

"It seems to me that somebody should be pointing out that we have Iraq pretty much right where we want them -- under constant observation. Under those circumstances, Saddam won't move against us or move to aid Osama bin Laden or anything else that constitutes a clear and present danger to us. And if he does, not even the French could argue against massive retaliation."

I'm right there with this thought. It sounds a lot like containment, and in a way, it is. Maybe we can wait him out. Maybe we can make him disarm without war. But it seems to me, that unleashing a war right now would unleash on us, consequences that we cannot begin to comprehend.

This view is confirmed in this article in yesterday's Los Angeles Times (free registration required), in which an Algerian journalist, Mohamed Sifaoui, is quoted as saying:

"The Americans are about to do the stupidest thing imaginable. An attack on Iraq will nourish terrorism."

He's right.

Saddam Hussein is a loose cannon. His regime is one of the worst in history. He must go.

But waging war alone isn't the way to go.

Grow up, Mr. Shrub. Before it's too late.

:: posted by Al at 12:50 PM [+] ::

The World Health Organization has spent a considerable amount of time, and presumably, money, to tell us that fast food is making us fat.

Well, geez, I could have told them that, and pocketed the money.

The article goes on to say that "in a typical day people should consume no more than five grams of salt, eat at least 400 grams of fruit and vegetables, do one hour or more of moderate exercise and generally cut fat intake."

Yet another no-brainer. Incidentally, an update on the low-carb diet I've now been following for three months, since Thanksgiving: I've now dropped 40 pounds, and hope for 5-10 more. It feels great, I have much more energy, don't feel as exhausted as usual despite my 3:30 am wakeup time. Only problem is, eventually I'm going to have to replace just about all my clothes because they're all too big!

The biggest secret, incidentally, to winning on the low-carb diet is eliminating almost all the refined sugar in your diet. Trust me on this one.

:: posted by Al at 7:52 AM [+] ::
:: Sunday, March 02, 2003 ::
Can't SOMEONE Shut Him Up?

Ronnie "Woo Woo" Wickers, the annoying human air raid siren, was audible clearly throughout the last couple innings of the Cubs' 9-2 loss to the Royals today on WGN radio.

Seriously -- why does anyone think this guy is cute, or funny, or something pleasurable? It's like sitting next to a fire alarm if he happens to be near you in the bleachers, which he unfortunately has, too many times. Even Wrigley Field security has become afraid of asking him to go elsewhere, even when someone other than me asks for him to shut up.

Fortunately, they're not this way in Arizona. Last year, the Mesa police told him to keep quiet and he did. I won't hesitate to ask them, or any other local officer in a spring training park, to turn the sound off. Enough is enough.

Today's game was hardly worth writing about, which is why I'm not saying much. Many of the regulars, including Sosa, Choi, Hill and Gonzalez, didn't start -- it was almost like a "B" game. Good news included two scoreless innings from Shawn Estes.

:: posted by Al at 7:06 PM [+] ::
Chicago 'Clout' At Its Worst - A Rant

According to Michael Sneed's column in today's Sun-Times, city Streets & San Commissioner Al Sanchez and someone driving him were stopped for speeding on the Skyway a few days ago, upon which Sanchez threatened the cop, said he was on "official business" (at 12:45 am?), and then played the race card, saying he was being harassed because he's Mexican.

[begin rant]

I am so sick and tired of this. Haven't we had enough of 50 years of the Daleys and their minions running the city like this? Haven't we had enough of small-time people who think they're so important that they can't obey the laws of the city? This ought to be especially true of Al Sanchez, who is supposedly in charge of the city streets. And to play the race card as well? The Sneed article doesn't indicate the ethnicity of the police officer, but I think we can be assured by Sanchez' attitude that it was probably a white male.

You know what, this isn't the most important thing that's ever happened in this city. But to me, it's indicative of an attitude that this town would be better off without. Just pay the speeding ticket and be done with it; instead, Sanchez gets embarrassed in print, and gets at least one citizen in this town to lose all respect for him.

[end rant]

:: posted by Al at 11:48 AM [+] ::

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