"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, May 17, 2003 ::

Game Of The Week

The Fox TV people scheduled the Cub/Cardinal game as one of the primary games of the week and put its #1 announcing team, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, on the telecast. Buck showed how professional he is, as he went out of his way not to root for his hometown Cardinals. I know lots of people don't like Tim McCarver; he does tend to prattle sometimes too much, but I like his analysis, which is pretty much spot-on.

The two teams didn't disappoint in their play either as they both played well; in the end the Cubs came out on top 2-1 on a pinch-homer by Mark Bellhorn in the top of the 9th.

When I see lineups like this I cringe -- Lenny Harris starting at 3B for no particular reason, Eric Karros starting against another righthander (and not a great one either -- Brett Tomko), but somehow Dusty Baker pushed the right buttons again, saving Bellhorn for a key pinch-hitting situation in the 9th. Bellhorn had a terrific at-bat, taking close pitches with his good hitting eye, and fouling off a couple he didn't like before lining a HR into the second deck in left.

Corey Patterson made a terrific catch in CF in the 8th; Mark Prior threw seven plus good and efficient (107 pitches) innings and also had three hits -- I'd like to see Dusty use him as an extra righthanded bat off the bench when he's not starting -- and the Cubs evened the series at a game each.

I spent a lot of the between-innings time, and after the game, cleaning up my house, which has needed it. Spring cleaning is supposed to be earlier in the year, but so many things got in the way. There's still a lot of junk that needs to be gone through, but at least I got started. It feels a lot better to do that after a Cub win, too.

:: posted by Al at 5:26 PM [+] ::
Movie Review: "A Mighty Wind"

This mock documentary, directed by Christopher Guest (who also stars in it), is supposedly about a tribute that '50s and '60s folk bands are putting together for their longtime promoter, who has just died.

Of course, the bands are all fake, though we see lots of images of real folkies in Guest's creation of "The Folksmen", "The (New) Main Street Singers", and "Mitch and Mickey".

This film has been compared by some people I know to Guest's recent films "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best in Show", neither of which I've seen. I'd make a more apt comparison to the seminal mockumentary "This Is Spinal Tap", a similar concept about a 70's heavy-metal band falling on hard times. Unlike "Spinal Tap", the musicians in "Mighty Wind" don't have any problems with their shows, with the exception of Eugene Levy as "Mitch Cohen", a folkie who had a nervous breakdown when "Mickey" (Catherine O'Hara) left him, and left the music.

The music's actually pretty good and faithful to the 50's and 60's folk scene, although if you listen closely to the lyrics they're alternately silly, stupid or poking fun at the genre; you have to see this film just to see Jane Lynch, as the lead female in "The New Main Street Singers", describing with a straight face her, uh, debut in the motion picture industry, or Ed Begley Jr., who was supposed to have been born in Sweden, go through a Yiddish-laced monologue on his entry into the business.

Eugene Levy is terrific as Mitch Cohen, a Bob Dylan-like folkie whose relationship with Mickey Crabbe (O'Hara) is much like the real-life on-off romance between Dylan and Joan Baez. After years with SCTV and its successors, Levy has become a great comic actor, as shown in his recent work in "Bringing Down The House".

And Harry Shearer provides many comic moments as the bass singer in "The Folksmen", including an hilarious twist in the "epilogue", where we see how the reunion show has provided work for these long-retired folkies. I won't ruin it by telling you what it is, except that the band has wound up playing at a native-American-run casino in upstate New York.

Lots of laffs, perfect for a Friday night out. Go see this film!

AYRating: ***

:: posted by Al at 12:05 PM [+] ::
Oh, Well.

You always want to see a boost to a team, especially on the road, after a big emotional win like the 17-inning win at Milwaukee on Thursday. When a team goes on a streak right afterwards, it's always a good sign.

Guess the Cubs were still pretty tired after Thursday's game, because they looked pretty listless in their dispiriting 7-4 loss to the Cardinals last night in St. Louis. We watched with our friends Carole & Ernie. Carole made a nice low-carb dinner for all of us, good thing, especially because who would have wanted to fill up while watching that kind of game? Plus, after the game I helped them hook up their new DVD player to their new surround-sound system. Pretty cool sound!

One thing the pitching staff has to to is stop hitting people. Matt Clement didn't throw that bad a game -- and because the bullpen had been used up on Thursday he had to throw 116 pitches -- but he hit three batters and two of them scored, and you can't win games that way.

I was amused at J.D. Drew's 514-foot HR, because it appeared to hit his own picture on the video board in RF, right in the nose. Serves him right, plus the photo, at least on TV, appeared yellow. Very odd looking visage.

Even worse was Dusty Baker's quote in the paper today, praising his bench (a good thing, but read on) -- specifically naming Lenny Harris, Troy O'Leary and Tom Goodwin.

OK, Harris and O'Leary have done a good job, and O'Leary in particular has stepped up since he was thrust into the starting lineup after the injury to Sammy.

But loyalty can go too far. Tom Goodwin wasn't a good bench player in his good years, even last year for Baker's Giants. And he is having a miserable year this year, hitting .161 with no walks, and had a terrible day as a leadoff man yesterday. When will Dusty admit defeat on this one and allow the Cubs to release him and put a right-handed hitting CF on the roster?

The good news is that Mark Prior is throwing today, and he's been a very good losing streak stopper so far this year. Today is also the first Fox-network broadcast of the season, and I presume that Fox will simply use Joe Buck, their lead announcer, on this game since he's already in St. Louis as the Cardinals' lead announcer. Will be interesting to see if Buck can tone down his Cardinal rooting for this regional telecast, which is going to most of the Central time zone.

:: posted by Al at 9:24 AM [+] ::
:: Friday, May 16, 2003 ::

Something always happens when I go to Milwaukee to see the Cubs.

First was September 23, 1998, a game I only decided to go see at the last minute; that, of course was the "Brant Brown Game". Then there was the game in May 1999, which was supposed to be the last Cubs/Brewers game at County Stadium (of course, after the tragic Miller Park construction accident later that year, it wasn't); that was the game Hideo Nomo, newly a Brewer, beat the Cubs 11-3. Nomo could have been a Cub, except stupid Ed Lynch wanted him to make one more start at Iowa.

Two years ago I drove up again in May; the Cubs won, but I ran into huge thunderstorms on the way back and the drive took over three hours.

And then there was yesterday.

So many things happened in the Cubs' amazing 17-inning, 4-2 win over the Brewers that it's hard to mention everything, but I'll start with this. There was a couple sitting in front of me with a 9-month-old baby (Cub fans, of course). They stayed for the entire game -- the baby was pretty good, actually -- and though the kid won't remember the game, his dad will.

The crowd was at least two-thirds Cub fans. When the Brewers and Cubs first started playing, this was more evenly split, but with the Brewers pretty much a horrible team, and their season ticket base dwindling, the 31,624 fans (largest of the series, due mainly to half-price tickets for kids and seniors -- the entire section next to me was a seniors outing) cheered much more loudly for the Cubs. It's even more impressive in person than on TV; it feels like a home crowd and I'm sure the players notice it and take energy from it. By the end of the game, there were maybe 10,000 people left and it was all Cub fans.

It was really two games -- first, the great pitching matchup between Ben Sheets (who the Cubs still have not defeated) and Kerry Wood, matched almost pitch for pitch; Wood was a little better, notching 13 strikeouts in 7 innings. People are writing that Wood is being overextended, throwing 141 pitches in his last start and 120 in this one, but he was not laboring at all. I think he can take this kind of workload. Incidentally, Cubs and Brewers pitchers combined for 479 pitches yesterday.

Although the Cub bullpen was great overall (totalling 24 strikeouts for the staff, setting a new NL record), it was bullpen failures that put the game toward twilight to begin with. Antonio Alfonseca allowed his first run of the year -- a HR to Scott Podsednik, who had been 2-for-22. And Joe Borowski allowed Brady Clark, 0-for-10 as a pinch hitter, to single in Eric Young in the 10th. Looked from my vantage point that Young was out, which would have ended the game.

The Brewers, meanwhile, were saving runs with great defense -- in the 14th, Royce Clayton leaped to catch a liner, which would have scored a run, and in the 15th, Geoff Jenkins stole what would have been Alex Gonzalez' fourth extra-inning HR of the season. Corey Patterson finally ended it with a no-doubt-about-it HR into the 2nd-level bleachers, and Todd Wellemeyer made a stunning ML debut by striking out the side for a save.

Again, these are the kinds of games that if you win them, it can go a long way toward propelling you forward, and going into a big four-game wraparound series (including Monday) in St. Louis, it was just great.

Seeing a day game indoors at Miller Park is odd. I've seen indoor games at Minnesota, Toronto and Arizona and this is different because Miller Park has a lot of windows, which lets lots of natural light in and the lights don't really have full effect. It's kind of like playing in twilight. And about 3:00 when the sun streamed in the RF-side windows, it cast some very odd shadows on the field. Still, I like Miller Park; the Brewers now are selling scorecards. So I bought one, plus a program just to keep. Well, the card has 10 innings, plus five for totals, so after the 15th I was out of room and trying to figure out what to do... when I remembered the program had a scoresheet in it, so I yanked that out and finished scoring the game there.

An amazing day -- and despite coming back in rush hour, I made it in just a little over two hours. It's the first time I can remember going to Milwaukee in years where there is no construction on the highway anywhere in between.

:: posted by Al at 9:50 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, May 15, 2003 ::

One of the hallmarks of a good team is the way reserve players step up when one of the regulars is out. And no time could be more important than now, when Sammy Sosa is on the shelf with toe problems (and those who laugh at toe injuries have never had one. I had a broken toe once and the pain is worse than almost anything else I ever had).

So it's gratifying to see Troy O'Leary step up just when the Cubs need him most. He hit a 3-run HR last night, and made a sparkling defensive play, and the Cubs again made quick work of the Brewers, winning 6-1 in a snappy two hour, seventeen minute game. I only hope today's game runs as quickly, but with Kerry Wood starting it probably won't. This is not to disparage Wood, only to comment that he winds up throwing a lot of pitches.

Carlos Zambrano pitched his best game of the season, allowing only three hits and one harmless run, and striking out seven in an efficient 109-pitch, 8-inning outing. That makes four wins in a row, all good performances from the starting rotation, and the club has not lost since Sammy went on the DL. I won't draw any conclusions from this other than to say that the new attitude that Dusty Baker has infused the club with, clearly shows here. This isn't a one-man team, and everybody on the ballclub knows that he can contribute, is expected to contribute, and thus, comes through.

My roadtrip report from Milwaukee will be posted either later this evening or tomorrow morning.

:: posted by Al at 8:38 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, May 14, 2003 ::
Now THIS Is Cool!

Just something fun worth clicking on!

:: posted by Al at 8:03 PM [+] ::
Winning Streak

It can't be coincidence, but the Cubs have not lost since they placed Sammy Sosa on the 15-day DL on Saturday. Another offensive burst, this time a 13-hit attack led by a monstrous CF home run by Hee Seop Choi, led the Cubs to an easy 7-2 win over the Brewers, their third win in a row. The Brewers sure look a lot more hapless at home, where they are 5-13, than they looked at Wrigley Field last week.

This bodes well for the rest of the series, as Shawn Estes, allegedly the Cubs' weakest starter, threw seven strong innings and chimed in with two hits of his own. Shawn's got a bit of a goatee going and with it, could almost be my twin (I won't say evil twin, because he just doesn't seem all that evil to me). I've tried to find a pic of him with the goatee, but can't locate one. Maybe I'll take one of him when I go to Milwaukee on Thursday.

Other good news from last night included the three hits from Mark Grudzielanek and two from Mark Bellhorn, who almost certainly was safe at the plate when he was called out in the sixth inning, which could have made the game a total blowout. If Bellhorn can keep hitting, this ought to quiet media critics like Mike Kiley of the Sun-Times who harps almost every day about how the Cubs need a third baseman. I say they already have one. Antonio Alfonseca threw yet another scoreless inning, thereby increasing his trade value. He sure looks like he put on some weight during the long layoff, though.

Last night's telecast also pointed out yet again how good Steve Stone is. At one point deep into the count on a Brewer hitter (I forget who), he said that Estes could get him out on a curveball. The very next pitch was a perfect curve, breaking right into the strike zone for a called third strike.

Attendance last night was again sparse, 18,454, more than half of whom were cheering for the Cubs. I still don't understand why Todd Wellemeyer hasn't had a chance to pitch yet -- both the first two games in Miller Park would have been a perfect opportunity to let him make a low-pressure ML debut. I wonder if they might wind up sending him back to Iowa in a few days to add a hitter to the team for the series coming up this weekend in St. Louis.

:: posted by Al at 9:33 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, May 13, 2003 ::
More People With Too Much Time On Their Hands

A British professor says she has the perfect formula for a box-office champion film.

Yeah, right. According to the article, the perfect film would be titled: "Shakespeare In Love With A Toy -- Part 2".

Get a life!

:: posted by Al at 5:07 PM [+] ::
Generation... what?

I am so tired of whining.

The girls at Glenbrook North did something stupid. Frankly, hazing has no place in civilized society. It's stupid. OK, you can understand kids doing pranks, or even having "initiations", though I also find those excluding and hurtful.

Seeing the video of the alleged "football game" (though no football was really played), all I saw was underage drinking, and actions that could only be construed as aggravated battery.

Now, it appears that consequences will be felt, up to and including possible expulsion from school and not getting into college for some of the girls involved.

I say, good. I'm going to sound like an old fart, but frankly, some modern kids grow up without learning consequences. I see it in the actions of some of my own kids' friends, who clearly have been raised by very lenient parents of my own generation. This is a big mistake, and these kids will pay for it later.

Finally, I'm totally disgusted with any of these kids -- and there are already some -- who are filing lawsuits attempting to stop the school from taking action against those who perpetrated this disgusting hazing. I hope the judges laugh them out of court.

Maybe then they'll learn what the real world is all about. And it's not a TV show.

:: posted by Al at 9:37 AM [+] ::
A Good Beginning

Since the Brewers began playing the Cubs, first in interleague play in 1997, then in the NL starting in 1998, the team from Milwaukee has been a thorn in the Cubs' side. No matter how good the Cubs were, or bad the Brewers were, they have been pests, with high-scoring games the norm, and in 2000 they even played the longest nine-inning game in NL history up to that time (4:22; since broken).

That's why it was a really good sign to see the Cubs come up with an early seven-run inning and cruise home to an easy 11-5 win last night at Miller Park.

Especially good were performances of Troy O'Leary, who homered -- he'll have to pick up some of the slack while Sammy Sosa is out -- Moises Alou, who also homered, continuing his hot hitting; and Mark Grudzielanek, who had four hits.

Unlike previous years when Cub/Brewer series routinely sold out in Milwaukee, even at old County Stadium, only 19,106, less than half Miller Park's capacity, showed up. This bodes well for me, since I've decided to drive on up for Thursday's game. I'd guess they'll get not too many more than that most of the series. Brewer sales are way down since the team has sucked the last two years, and this puts the lie to another of Bud's big lies -- that a new stadium is the solution to any team's problems.

:: posted by Al at 9:32 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, May 12, 2003 ::
Stupidity and Greed

It's amazing how much of that is in our society today.

First, stupidity cost a teenage girl her life Saturday at the Museum of Science & Industry, when, playing around, she fell off a bannister and eventually died of head injuries.

I fervently hope no lawsuits are filed here. The museum is clearly not at fault. It's just a terrible accident, but one that could be prevented just by people being taught not to be stupid. Yes, stupidity shouldn't cost you your life. But this is an example of how it easily could. I feel badly for Katie Brooks' family. I hope this will serve as a lesson to others.

Oh, yes, greed. Well, that was in evidence yesterday at Wrigley Field -- and I'm still livid that a game was even attempted to be played in conditions like yesterday's. I have never seen any baseball game played in weather like that -- 48 degree temperatures, 40 MPH winds and driving rain. The game played on the field might have been entertaining, but it sure wasn't baseball. The players were trying to be pretty diplomatic, but I can imagine behind closed doors they're just as angry, if not more, than I am, considering that it may have cost Eli Marrero his season (they said 'severe ankle sprain', but it sure looked a lot worse than that).

Again, this could all be solved if MLB would institute a rule change, allowing every game that starts to be suspended and finished. Sure, you couldn't throw one pitch and then suspend it, but maybe one inning would be a useful point for situations like this. Had that been in effect yesterday, the teams could have played one inning, had the statistics count, and then finish the next time the two teams play. That way, the Cubs keep their money (which is clearly all they are concerned about), and the statistical integrity of the game is intact.

I won't hold my breath.

:: posted by Al at 9:26 AM [+] ::
:: Sunday, May 11, 2003 ::
Game Called

The game was finally postponed at 4:15 pm, about 75 minutes after the delay started.

Serves 'em right.

It seems silly to even comment on the baseball played today, since a) it doesn't count anyway, and b) it was played in such horrendous conditions that none of it bears any relation to reality.

Sight seen: Jason Isringhausen, Cardinals closer, long-tossing in the OF during BP. Also, on Friday there was a guy with longish blond hair shagging flies during BP wearing #50, and left-handed. He resembled Cubs GM Jim Hendry -- thought it might be him.

Today another lefty was out there wearing #50; this time African-American. What's up with that?

:: posted by Al at 4:36 PM [+] ::

That's the only word I can use to describe the actions of the Cubs, MLB and today's umpiring crew, headed by the execrable Cub-hater Bruce Froemming, in starting and playing today's game in what I have to say were the most miserable conditions I have ever experienced at Wrigley Field.

And to what end? To save the Cubs' sellout crowd? Not so many years ago, a game scheduled to be played under these conditions would have been called off at 10 am; they wouldn't have even opened the gates.

But now, in the interests of probably $1 million in gross revenue to the Cubs, they open up, sell more beer and souvenirs, and attempted to play in horrid conditions, which resulted in poor pitching (seven home runs through four innings, a couple of hit batsmen), and what is perhaps a very serious injury to St. Louis RF Eli Marrero, who had to be carried off the field. It was reported as a "severely sprained ankle", but it looked to me like it could have been an Achilles tear, which could be career-threatening.

Is this worth playing through? I say no. Maybe today's game will finally be the impetus to a rule change which would allow umpires and clubs to suspend any game that has begun; that would have allowed them to play an inning or so, then call it off. No more rain checks; just finish what you've started. It would take all the pressure off the clubs to "get five innings in", which they did in last Sunday night's ESPN game, played under an even harder rain.

OK, you might say that I was nuts for staying out there, and I probably was. Usually I have my huge umbrella that keeps me reasonably dry, but this time it was too windy (40 MPH gusts), and the umbrella was useless. I probably ruined a pair of leather gloves, although the new backpack I just bought ("water-resistant", it said!) apparently was as advertised -- everything in it stayed dry.

I did stay through all the play, till it was held up in the top of the 5th. It'd serve them right if they didn't play and were, under current rules, forced to refund all the tickets. Oh, that includes two extras I had that I couldn't get rid of!

More on the game itself later, if they indeed finish (I'm dry and warm at home now) -- but based on current weather & radar reports, that doesn't seem likely.

:: posted by Al at 4:11 PM [+] ::

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