"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, August 16, 2003 ::

Oh, Well.

In 1998, for the last 45 days of the season, there was no more than one game separating the first- and second- place teams in the wild card race, which the Cubs wound up winning.

This may turn out to be the same thing. At least in today's sweaty 3 hour sixteen minute marathon, there was some action, unlike Thursday's Cubs-Astros snorefest. Unfortunately, after the third inning it was all Dodgers, in a 10-5 blowout of the Cubs that put them back in second place by 1/2 game after Houston's 5-2 win over the Reds this afternoon.

Listening to Dusty Baker's postgame news conference on the radio driving home, he mentioned that Kerry Wood was suffering some kind of lower back problems that were screwing around with his control. That was painfully obvious as he walked the first batter in each of the first three innings, and threw 72 pitches in his shortest outing since September 26, 2000. Let us hope that this is only a temporary physical problem and won't affect him in his next start, which will be next Thursday at Houston.

Even with the bad outing by Kerry, the Cubs had gotten back into the game thanks to Aramis Ramirez, who hit a pair of two-run homers. The bullpen failed today -- or, I should say, Mike Remlinger failed. After finishing off the third inning with a harmless ground out, he gave up four consecutive hits to open the fourth. Adrian Beltre attempted to ground into a double play after two runs had already scored, but Ramon Martinez inexplicably failed to tag Shawn Green, who was right in front of him. As it turned out, the run would have scored anyway, but it was still an odd play. It seems silly to think that Augie Ojeda is responsible for the winning streak just ended, but the Cubs are 5-1 with Augie in the starting lineup, and he did make a gem of a defensive play yesterday that saved two runs.

Antonio Alfonseca actually threw three creditable innings, keeping the Cubs somewhat in the game, though the offense shut down with only four harmless singles after the third. Embarrassingly, that is only the second time all year the Dodgers have scored ten or more runs, the other being, oddly enough, a 16-4 bombing of the Giants on April 20.

I also cannot figure out why Dusty started Doug Glanville today. He simply cannot hit. Yes, he had a single (going 1-for-5, and now hitting .158 as a Cub), but it's not like Kenny Lofton is a raw rookie who needs to be platooned and not play against lefties. Unless there was some physical reason that Lofton couldn't play today, he should have been in the lineup.

In the 8th inning Jeromy Burnitz homered into the juniper bushes. Some idiot decided to climb over the fence and get the ball and throw it on the field. Security immediately brought him downstairs, but then let him back in , which instantly made him a hero.

Is it any wonder people act like idiots? They have learned that even if they do something like this -- which is clearly not allowed -- they'll get a little "talking-to" and then get let back in, to the cheers of the people sitting around them. In Yankee Stadium, where they do not even serve beer in the bleachers, if people do stuff like this they are asked to leave -- no questions, no pleading, no nothing.

I suppose the combination of the hot day, the one-sided game, and too much beer led to this, but really. I also saw one other guy led off in handcuffs by one of the plainclothes cops who are often called on when things get more serious. I didn't see what that guy did, but it must have been an arrestable offense, otherwise the cuffs wouldn't have been brought out.

The loudest cheers of the day were for the Thunderbirds, who apparently postponed their part of the airshow so they could entertain the Wrigley Field crowd around 3:30. Too bad about 2/3 of the announced 40,032 were gone by then, chased away by either the heat or the bad baseball or both.

Dave was there nodding off again by the seventh inning, and I can't say I blame him. But he's still encouraged by the way the club has played the last week. It's not possible to win every game, and if Carlos Zambrano (who's the hottest pitcher on the staff right now, 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA his last three starts) can outduel Hideo Nomo tomorrow, the Cubs will have won yet another series and be well-positioned for the tough road trip coming up afterwards.

And you know what Jeff said to me today before the game? "Let this be our year." Hey, my friend, you don't know how much. Amen.

:: posted by Al at 4:22 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, August 15, 2003 ::
OK, You Can Officially Get Sucked In Now

The Phillies scored five runs in the first and held on to beat the Cardinals 7-4.

The Reds blew a 7-3 eighth inning lead, but Adam Dunn homered in the tenth and they beat the Astros 9-7. Best news here is that Billy Wagner threw two innings and so probably will be unavailable tomorrow.

So with forty-one games to go, the Cubs are alone in first place at this moment, half a game ahead of both St. Louis and Houston.

There is a long way to go, of course, and the Cubs were even in first place on this date two years ago, on the way down -- they fell out of first on August 18 and finished third, five games out.

But here's an instructive story. Brian called me tonight looking for a ticket for Kristy, his fiancee, for tomorrow. I don't have any right now, but told him I'd look. He said Dave -- his dad -- told him that he was actually excited about the prospects of the Cubs going deep into the postseason.

Now you have to understand that Dave has played and coached semipro ball for many years, and he is now a team owner. I've never seen him this enthusiastic about the Cubs; many times he turns into a devil's advocate type critic even when the team is going well.

If Dave thinks things are looking good for the ballclub, I think you can figure that they really do look good. I have said, as you know, for a while, that if the pitching is consistent, the team could run up six or eight wins in a row. Right now would be an excellent time to do just that.

In the meantime, let's enjoy first place, for as long as it lasts.

:: posted by Al at 9:41 PM [+] ::
Prior! Part Deux

Today was Carole's last ballgame as a single woman.

That's not really important, but it was something we all took note of; she and Ernie are getting married next Friday (yes, it was specifically planned to be when the Cubs are on the road), and she won't be at the ballpark this weekend.

So she had one picture left in her camera and took a pic with Howard, me, Dave and Jeff, just one last memory before married life begins.

Oh, by the way, Mark Prior was dominant for the second straight start against the Dodgers, and the Cubs scored just enough for an exciting 2-1 win, moving into a first-place tie with the Astros and Cardinals, pending the results of their games tonight against the Reds and Phillies, respectively.

Prior didn't have his best stuff -- he didn't walk anyone, but in the middle innings he threw a lot of pitches and went to full counts before getting people to pop up. This to me, shows what a horse Prior is, that he's able to win without his best stuff. And with Joe Borowski having thrown 21 pitches yesterday -- wasted, in my opinion, in a 7-1 win -- he wasn't available on what was probably the most humid day of the summer (82 degrees at game time, but very sticky, and it felt hotter than July 4, which was the only day this summer that it's actually been over 90 degrees at game time). Dave Veres and Mike Remlinger were warming up in the top of the 8th when Prior got in trouble and the only Dodger run scored on a hit batter and a couple of dink singles (there was an error on Moises Alou when he overran Paul LoDuca's hit, but the error only allowed Dave Roberts to take third, the run would have scored anyway). But the relievers sat down as the Cubs batted in the bottom of the 8th, and once again, I know many people are going to be upset that Prior threw 118 pitches, but he has shown he can handle this kind of workload.

And just when you think Sammy Sosa's been so quiet since he hasn't homered since last Sunday, he had three hits today and drove in both Cub runs.

Jessica brought her nephew today -- he's been to the park before -- and one of the Cubs threw him a batting practice ball, which pretty much made his entire day. She was just happy she wasn't home in New York yesterday, with the chaos from the blackout. According to the ESPN scoreboard the games in New York and Cleveland are still on today.

Dave said that driving in, he listened to the pregame show and they said that MLB has timed all starting pitchers and right near the top of the list of slowest pitchers is Matt Clement. After yesterday I believe that because today's game ended at the same clock time (about 4:55 pm) as yesterday's, despite starting an hour later. Tomorrow, incidentally, despite what your schedule may say, the game is at 12:15 CT, on Fox-TV, instead of the 3:05 that some schedules say.

In other news today, the Cubs sent Bobby Hill to the Pirates as the PTBNL in the Lofton/Ramirez deal. I am of two minds here: Hill has obvious talent, but he has not shown it consistently at the major league level. He will be 26 next April, older than Ramirez. I'd say it's a 50-50 chance that he'll be an All-Star -- or a mediocre utility player. If Aramis Ramirez turns out to be the real deal, it's still a good trade, and if the Cubs make the playoffs as a result of having him and Kenny Lofton, it's worth it in any case.

The Cubs also called up David Kelton to replace Juan Cruz on the roster. This move is probably just for the weekend, as it appears that Tom Goodwin will be ready once the road trip begins in Houston on Tuesday.

:: posted by Al at 5:56 PM [+] ::
:: Thursday, August 14, 2003 ::
Yawn, Part Deux

At least this time this somnolent game, unlike the last one when we were all so bored (Dave fell asleep for a time), the Cubs beat the Astros into submission 7-1 today.

Matt Clement's pitching line looks pretty good -- 5.2 IP, 3 hits, one run (unearned), 8 strikeouts. But he was in trouble in almost every inning, throwing 97 pitches and boring us to tears most of the time. Luckily, Jared Fernandez was just about as bad for the Astros (I almost typed "Reds", the team he was with until about a month ago), and some timely hitting by Hee Seop Choi and Alex Gonzalez, two players in deep slumps, staked the Cubs to a 5-1 lead by the time Clement had to be pulled.

Clement did get his 10th win, which gives the Cubs four starters with ten or more wins, and all of them have a shot at 15 wins, which would be a very impressive feat.

Dave, during the time he wasn't sleeping, said he heard Dusty Baker on the pregame show on the radio saying that he was starting Choi because he had been swinging late, and someone swinging late might have a good chance to hit the knuckleballing Fernandez, and he turned out to be right on. See, this is why Baker is such a good manager -- he has good reasons for what he does, even if they sometimes seem bizarre to the rest of us. There is a reason he was successful for ten years in San Francisco, even in years where he didn't have the best talent.

The nine pitchers used by both teams combined to issue thirteen walks and Houston pitchers hit three batters, including two by the just-acquired Rick White (how could any scout who saw him throw for the White Sox this year ever think that he could help a major league team?) -- contributing mightily to the boredom that we were all feeling, something that was finally broken in the seventh inning when some clouds that were building finally lifted, allowing the Air Force Thunderbirds to wake everyone up with their rehearsal for this weekend's Chicago Air & Water Show. It's always fun to watch the air show from the ballpark, especially on Thursday & Friday, their "rehearsal" days, when there aren't many people on the lakefront, but the pilots know there are 40,000 people watching at Wrigley Field, so they give us a pretty good show. They flew probably only 500 feet off the ground in formation, and were unbelievably loud today.

Speaking of large crowds, the Cubs set a new attendance record for a 4-game series, drawing 159,040 to the four games against Houston; this is even more impressive considering none of the games was on a weekend.

The ballyhooed rematchup of Mark Prior & Kevin Brown will not occur, as the Dodgers changed their rotation (as I have now learned, due to a minor injury to Andy Ashby, who will now face Prior tomorrow) and Brown threw today in Miami, and defeated the Marlins 6-4, which helps the Cubs pull within 2 1/2 games of the wild-card lead, as well as now being only 1/2 game out of the first-place tie forced today when the Cardinals beat the Pirates 4-3, but not before Jason Isringhausen gave up two runs in the ninth inning.

Dusty is supposedly also thinking about skipping Shawn Estes' turn in the rotation due to the off-day Monday, and throwing Clement, Prior and Wood against the Astros in Houston, and I think that would be a very good idea; further, in at least the first game of the series, he could act as another situational lefty in the bullpen.

Sight seen: four women wearing shirts that said "Bachelorette Babes", one of whom had a pink hat which read "Party Princess". They weren't doing anything odd, just standing around talking.

Sign seen: Yesterday a kid maybe 10 years old had a sign that said "My 1st Cub Game". Today the same kid was back with the same sign, changed to read "My 2nd Cub Game". We also sat near some people from Iowa, at their first game (we could tell because one of them had a RED Cub jersey (at first I thought it was a Cardinal shirt); he said it was an Iowa Cubs batting practice jersey, and his girlfriend had a Harry Caray's restaurant shirt -- just screaming out "TOURIST!!" Otherwise it was a lovely peaceful afternoon, no brawls or even ejections.

I know that many of you may not see this till tomorrow or later due to the massive power outage in the Northeast US and parts of Canada. I fervently hope that this is not terrorist-related; at this writing it appears not to be, and I hope all of you find yourself safe, wherever you are.

:: posted by Al at 5:37 PM [+] ::
Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen

And all I could think of was, this'll be the last sellout crowd at this place this year...

This was the first concert I had ever attended at a large outdoor stadium, and this part of Bruce's tour is all giant stadiums. In fact, most of the tour appears to be Giants Stadium in New Jersey, where he has scheduled ten different shows. Much of the rest of the tour is in baseball parks, including Pac Bell in San Francisco and Miller Park in Milwaukee, and the first-ever rock concert at Fenway Park in Boston. I had heard that when Bruce wanted to play Chicago, he inquired about Wrigley Field, but of course that would have been impossible, due to the restrictions on night events there, not to mention the sound level!

So he settled for the Cell. It's very weird to walk into a place like that and realize that your seat is right where the left fielder would stand in an ordinary baseball game. We had really good sightlines, maybe 50 rows from the stage, where you could actually see facial expressions without looking at the large screen. The stage was larger than creation -- OK, maybe not that large, but it was nearly as tall as the CF scoreboard, perhaps as tall as an 8-story building. Other than that, no big bells & whistles on the stage, just a fairly ordinary setup of lights (which failed for a few minutes about an hour into the show, ironically during a rendition of "Sunny Day", forcing them to turn the stadium lights on for about five minutes), and of course the two video screens, one on each side of the stage.

The top corners of the upper deck, the outfield seats behind the stage, and inexplicably, a couple of sections immediately behind home plate, were the only seats not sold, but those were replaced by several thousand field seats, so I'd estimate the crowd at what a White Sox sellout would be -- about 46,000. And our friends who met us there said there were up to 45 minute waits to get in; at the official showtime (7:30) the place was only 1/3 full.

So, the show didn't start till 8:25, but once Bruce came out on stage, he played with high energy for nearly half an hour before he stopped and acknowledged the crowd. He came out with his kids in front of him, on the screens showing backstage, to Sinatra's "My Kind of Town" -- a nice touch.

He did make a couple of political statements -- I guess this is pretty much de rigeur among performers these days -- but I didn't mind, considering one was for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, a very worthy cause, and the other was in support of our troops overseas, yet with almost a plaintive call for accountability from our leaders, a veiled slap at some of the untruths that are now coming out about the administration's reasons for going to war in Iraq in the first place. Both of these got loud cheers from nearly everyone.

Most of the show was newer material, which is fine with me (including a haunting plaintive version of "Into the Fire", the song about the WTC tragedy) -- I just love watching him race across the stage, twirl the guitar over his head, and throw an old song or two in the middle of a set ("Out in the Street" really got everyone going), and no less than three encores, during the second of which the stadium people must have thought he was really finished, since they turned the stadium lights on again , but he wasn't, ending with "Rosalita" and "Dancing in the Dark".

Which is the song that was going through my head nearly 19 years ago, on the day I was flying back from Pittsburgh after the Cubs clinched the NL East title.

Omen? We can only hope.

There have been some criticisms of the setlist on Bruce's discussion boards but as a number of posters said, with the band having as much obvious fun as they were, you can't criticize the setlist.

Bruce Springsteen has more energy than ten people half his age, and he still puts on a great show, 28 years after the first time I saw him, in 1975, just after he really hit it big with "Born to Run" -- before that he was really only known in New Jersey, which of course is where many of the people at Colgate University, where I saw that show, are from, and of course, they knew who he was, but until that breakout album, which put him on the cover of Time and Newsweek the same week, he wasn't much more than a bar-band guy in NJ.

And of course, Clarence Clemons is the best sax player on planet Earth.

AYRating: ****

:: posted by Al at 9:38 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, August 13, 2003 ::
Congratulations, You Are A Winner!

Once again, not for the Cubs, though they did have a stirring 6-4 comeback victory over the Astros this afternoon.

No, this one's for me, as for the second time this year, I drew a winning card in the random-draw-for-a-genuine-autographed-ball giveaway the Cubs have been doing on occasion this summer. Today's prize was a Kerry Wood autographed ball, and now the Cubs are 2-0 in games in which I have won a ball (the other, July 7, when I got a Dusty Baker ball, was a very similar 6-3 win over the Marlins). It was also the very first card off the stack that they were handing out when we came in.

So, you can root for me to get a winning card on the two such occasions that are left -- Sept. 13 vs. the Reds, when they are giving away 200 genuine Wrigley Field seats, and Sept. 14, when the prize is a Fergie Jenkins autograph. I'd especially like to have one of the seats, though I do already have an original seat, one of the folding chairs that were used prior to the permanent seats being installed after 1945. These were stored below the stands for years and then in the early 80's, after the Tribune Co. bought the team, they were put out on the street and sold for $1 each.

Today was "hooky day" for quite a few in our group, as they do on an annual basis, and Sue brought several family members as well, so our group swelled to 15, about as large as we've had all year. We were rewarded with Moises Alou's timely three-run homer, a bomb off Jeriome (and how do you get the pronunciation "Jeremy" out of that?) Robertson, who didn't make it out of the fifth inning, quite a difference from June 1 at Wrigley Field, when he beat the Cubs easily 9-3.

Shawn Estes was just as shaky for the Cubs, and he had to be yanked in the fifth as well, throwing 93 rather ineffective pitches, and thanks to a very stupid error by Alex Gonzalez (throwing the ball away when trying to get a force at third, when the best play was really at second), only allowed two earned runs.

Luckily, after Alou's home run, the bullpen shut things down, allowing only three harmless singles over the last 4.2 innings, and once again, the staff totalled 10 strikeouts for the day. Joe Borowski made it interesting, giving up two hits after two out, then getting Jeff Kent to pop up to short right to end it.

The Cubs are now 7-5 against the Astros for the season, and I have great optimism about tomorrow's game, which would put the club 1/2 game out with a win -- and then there will be three more in Houston next week, where the Cubs are already 4-2 this year, and where Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou hit like crazy. Furthermore, a win tomorrow will get the Cubs even with Houston in the loss column.

Stupid sign seen: OK, I have to describe this one. We puzzled over it for six innings. It said, in black letters:


Then right next to it in red letters:


Finally Krista went over and asked. I get it now, it's supposed to say: "KENNY, LOFT ONE HERE". But with the different colored letters, it just looked stupid. And, though he did have another single, going 1-for-3, he didn't come close to a home run.

We also played HR derby, and I had last pick, by the time it got to me the only decent player left was Richard Hidalgo. OK, I took him, I'm not proud, and I did collect the $. Well, geez, it was either him or Augie! (Who has gone 0-for-14 since his recall from Iowa) Then I paid out gladly when Moises hit his own HR.

Note from last night: the club handed out "transportation surveys" asking detailed questions on how we got to the ballpark. I decided to answer truthfully since they are entering these in a drawing for autographed balls.

Carole is babysitting tonight while we head out to the Bruce Springsteen concert at the Cell. See ya!

:: posted by Al at 5:08 PM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 ::

Carlos Zambrano came of age in the major leagues tonight.

In a remarkably poised performance, better than anything I've seen Kerry Wood OR Mark Prior throw this year, Zambrano gained his first major league complete game and shutout in a masterful 3-0 shutout of the Astros tonight.

Once again, a swiftly played game is always better and the 2:24 game time allowed me to get home this early (it's now just after 10 pm CT) and post this report tonight, rather than wait till morning.

There will be some who would complain that Zambrano was allowed to throw 121 pitches, but honestly, I don't think that's too many. He didn't labor at all, and his stuff and command seemed on in every single inning, save the third when he allowed a just-inside-the-line double to Adam Everett, and then walked Craig Biggio with two out. That was the only time he was even remotely in trouble; he was helped out by two very nice double plays, including a slick Alex Gonzalez play to end the game.

Gonzalez also picked today to come out of his 2-for-46 slump in a big way, with an opposite-field 2-run HR in the first inning, all the scoring the Cubs needed tonight. It was also nice to see Kenny Lofton wasn't bothered too much by the jammed wrist, as he came back with three hits off Tim Redding, who had been pretty hot his last few starts.

This is what's so maddening about this team -- they can look so bad one night, and so dominant the next. What they need to do, as Troy O'Leary told my friend Ernie last night (Ernie works for Troy's uncle) is to reel off six or eight wins in a row, and then they'll really begin to believe they can dominate the division. It's been so close that any of the three teams who can do this, will probably win, and with the Cubs still having five more games with Houston (including three in Houston where they have already won four of six), and eight with the Cardinals (who had to go through FOUR relievers in the ninth inning tonight to finally put away the Pirates), I still have tremendous optimism.

We were all absolutely astounded when Augie Ojeda was walked intentionally to load the bases for Zambrano -- who's probably a better hitter than Augie is. It worked, since Zambrano struck out, and then Kenny Lofton hit into a controversial force play to end the inning. But I still wouldn't do it if I were the opposing manager.

Tomorrow's matchup -- Shawn Estes vs. Jeriome Robertson -- is a mismatch, with Estes likely to get pummeled by the Houston lineup, and Robertson already having dominated the Cubs last time the Astros were here; but sometimes these mismatches work out in odd ways.

As far as the rest of us in our little right field perch -- it was a pretty ordinary night... I had to sit there myself for a while, saving twelve seats, but eventually, Jeff showed up to help out. We finally got Brian hooked up with Colleen from RCF, who had bought his ticket for the Mother's Day rainout, so he owed her the $24 from the ticket -- not refunded by the Cubs, who have simply sent out another ticket for the day/night DH on September 2. That only took three months to get them both there on the same day!

There was a huge fight behind us in the eighth inning -- at first we didn't even realize what was going on, and then suddenly five or six really large drunk people were on top of each other. One of them wound up with blood streaming out of his nose. What is wrong with people, anyway? Bring back 70's night!

:: posted by Al at 10:17 PM [+] ::
Two Notes From Last Night

1) Carole returned from a trip to the ladies' room to announce that the radio broadcast was now being piped in there. The men's room does not have such luxury. I think we should protest! This is clearly discrimination!

(I'm KIDDING, in case you couldn't tell)

2) A few amiable drunks sat down in front of us and by the late innings were haranguing Jeff about how acquiring Rafael Palmeiro would have solved all the club's problems.

Even drunk, you should be able to figure out how wrong this is. Here's the bottom line on Palmeiro:

He's an idiot. He wants a 3-year extension from the Rangers for $9 million a year, something NO team will give to a 39-year-old DH.

If he had accepted the trade, the Rangers could have negotiated with him all winter as a free agent.

Since he did NOT accept it, as a free agent of the Rangers, in order to keep him, they have to offer him arbitration, which they won't.

So it's likely his career might be over after this season.

Gee, Raffy, hope those Rangers get back to .500 with you. Oh, and that, believe it or not, was his second stupid comment. The first one was that he didn't like the prospects that the Rangers were supposedly getting in the deal. That's wrong from two standpoints: first, no prospects had been agreed upon, and second, who made him the Rangers' GM?

I'm thrilled the Cubs didn't trade for this moron.

:: posted by Al at 9:50 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, August 11, 2003 ::
The Bat Is There For Your Use

Today, boys and girls, we shall re-learn the lesson we all learned when we were first learning to play baseball.

That is, if you don't hit the bat with the ball when the pitch is right there in the strike zone, you're not going to have many good things happen.

I cannot understand why anyone, as a major league baseball player, would stand at the plate representing the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, and look at strike three, especially when the pitcher is known for his fastball.

But that's what both Troy O'Leary and Alex Gonzalez did tonight and the ugly 3-1 loss to the Astros was made even worse by blunders not only like this one, but OK, here, let me list them:

1) Why did Augie Ojeda, with two runners on and a 3-1 count in the sixth, down only one run with one in already, decide he had to swing? OK, I know, I just got finished telling people to swing. But not in that situation. A walk would have loaded the bases, and either Kerry Wood would have hit, and he's a good hitter, or Hee Seop Choi would have pinch-hit -- something he did with the bases empty in the next inning.

2) Why did Aramis Ramirez think he could get two bases on a short popup to right field that Richard Hidalgo dropped for an error? It wasn't nearly far enough to go for two, and Ramirez was easily thrown out by Hidalgo, who has one of the better outfield arms in the league.

3) Why wasn't Doug Glanville playing deeper on Jeff Kent's double that wound up driving in the runs that made the difference in the game? Glanville doesn't have the speed he once did, and playing deeper, he might have caught Kent's fly, which he waved at as it flew over his head. Doug was only playing tonight because Kenny Lofton has a sore wrist; you can clearly see the value of having a Lofton in the lineup, both offensively and defensively.

It was maddening... to see this lack of fundamental play, on a night when Kerry Wood once again threw well, and did reach the milestone of 1000 strikeouts, faster than any pitcher in ML history. Kerry also reached 200 strikeouts in a season for the fourth time in his career. Giving up three runs at home is fine. But this club simply has to find a way to score more than that, and there are ways to do that even when the wind is howling in from the north at 17 MPH (that was the speed announced, but it had to be more than that on a night that felt more like late September than mid-August).

The deficit is now 3 1/2 games, and with six left with Houston there's still time to make it up. But they had better start tomorrow.

It was 70's night at the park and there were some awfully weird costumes, including one miniskirted person with an Afro wig that I had to look at a couple of times to determine ... uh, the true gender. It was a woman. Mike & I were pretty much dressed the way we were in the '70s -- jeans, me in a t-shirt, Mike in a long-sleeve shirt, though I also put on the pullover Cub golf shirt I had with me -- it was cold!

There was also a, uh, human wearing a leisure suit and about a 4-foot-tall yellow Afro who we had to warn not to stand at the back fence near the smoking section, lest he catch on fire.

Among the 70's prizes they gave away (naturally, none in the bleachers) were LavaLamps, which are manufactured right here on the north side of Chicago.

Sign seen: "Ron for Governor of California". It didn't specify which Ron.

:: posted by Al at 10:32 PM [+] ::
It Happens Every Year

Every year when the winner of the Ford Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting or journalism is announced, the popular press says that man (and I say man, since no woman has yet won this award) is "being inducted into the broadcasters' wing" of the Hall of Fame.

Yes, I know there's no broadcaster's wing. But the reason I'm writing this is -- why *shouldn't* there be one? Many of the men who have received the Frick Award have contributed as much, if not more, to the game than many of the players, managers, umpires and executives who have plaques on the wall.

I've told some of my friends at the Society for American Baseball Research that they ought to take up this baton and run with it.

Hey, you could too. Contact the Hall of Fame. Tell them they should expand the Frick Award to include a plaque, just like the player/manager/umpire/executive plaques, and an honored place on the wall of the Hall.

99% of the general public already believes that there's a "Broadcaster's Wing". Why not make it true?

:: posted by Al at 11:21 AM [+] ::
:: Sunday, August 10, 2003 ::

I could have written that Sammy Sosa was the story of this game, what with him hitting two very meaningful home runs that accounted for all the Cub runs in their tightly-played 3-1 win over the Dodgers today.

But that would be discounting the incredible effort of Mark Prior, who allowed five hits and one run, striking out nine, and threw a complete game in a swift two hours and fourteen minutes.

I can't say enough about how smart Mark Prior is. And look! I'm going to give credit to Ron Santo. I happened to be listening to the first inning on the radio, and after Prior walked Dave Roberts leading off the game on four pitches, both Santo and Pat Hughes noted how uncharacteristic that was for Prior. And Santo actually contributed some baseball analysis, saying that maybe Prior didn't like the way the mound was, and perhaps he had been stepping into the footprints that Kevin Brown had left earlier in the inning.

Whatever happened, Prior figured it out and settled down and even after Roberts stole second, he got Shawn Green on a fly ball and then struck out Jeromy Burnitz, and it wasn't even close afterwards, since Sosa hit his 27th and 28th homers of the year (now only seven off the league lead), for his 61st career multi-homer game.

THAT is important too, as so many times we have all remarked about how Sosa is a streaky hitter, and often at this time of year he can go on a run where he hits ten homers in a week. This would be a very opportune time for such a streak, with the upcoming seven games at home against the Astros (four) and a rematch with the Dodgers (three). The Cubs are under .500 at home, and as we've said all year, this is now the time where a team that has playoff designs, must establish themselves as a team playing well at home.

Big kudos to Augie Ojeda too... look, I know the guy can't hit. But he made a stellar defensive play, saving a hit in the 9th inning, and probably keeping Prior in the game.

Pitching matchups for the Houston series:

Monday: Wood vs. Miller
Tuesday: Zambrano vs. Redding
Wednesday: Estes vs. Robertson
Thursday: Clement vs. J. Fernandez

And, I look forward to the rematch of Prior vs. Kevin Brown on Friday.

Interestingly, with the Marlins' loss at Milwaukee today, and with the Phillies losing at San Francisco, the Cubs are only 3 1/2 games off the wild card lead, as well as 2 1/2 games behind the Astros, possibly in second place depending on the result of tonight's game between the Braves and Cardinals.

Keep hope alive.

:: posted by Al at 5:47 PM [+] ::

OK, now that's about the Cubs' loss last night.

You know how ballgames can sometimes turn on one play? That was the case last night. For some reason, Doug Glanville decided that he had to have too long of a lead against Wilson Alvarez, and after a couple of throws, he got picked off. Then Ramon Martinez singled.

Had Glanville stayed put, the Cubs would have had runners on first and third with nobody out and the heart of the batting order up, and it's possible they would have had the inning the Dodgers had in the bottom of the first, and Alvarez would have been out of there.

Then there was the misplay by Moises Alou in that bottom of the first that allowed Dave Roberts to have the generously-hometown-scored inside-the-park HR (it really should have been a single and a three-base error). That opened the gates, and when Robin Ventura smacked his own two-run homer, that was the ballgame, a one-sided 6-1 loss to the Dodgers. How boring was it after the first inning? Tired old me fell asleep in the sixth, woke up briefly to see the score, and figured that was it. I was right.

Jeff & Krista were at the last two games, so I guess I can blame them!

Now, the Cubs will have to rely on the strong right arm of Mark Prior to salvage one game against L.A. True, the Dodgers are hot right now -- having won six in a row -- but the Cubs were on a bit of a streak of their own before they hit Dodger Stadium.

Still, I have hope. Consider that two regulars -- Damian Miller and Alex Gonzalez -- are both hitting more than 20 points under their lifetime averages -- and the club is still 9-5 since they began this little run starting with the Houston series the last weekend of July. A win today and a Houston loss puts the Cubs in good position with the Astros coming to town tomorrow. Ex-Cub Scott Downs, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2000, will pitch for the Expos today.

Also of note, our favorite lazy ex-Cub, Fred McGriff, will be activated from the DL in time for the Dodgers' series at Wrigley Field next weekend, after he has a three-game vacation, er, rehab assignment, in Vero Beach, near his family's home in Tampa.

:: posted by Al at 10:33 AM [+] ::

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