"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
If you had a Java-capable browser, you'd know how much time is left till the Cubs opener! If you had a Java-capable browser, you'd know how much time is left till the Cubs opener!

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:: Saturday, November 06, 2004 ::

Cubs Sign Neifi Perez

In the grand scheme of the making of the 2005 Cub roster, the signing of SS/2B Neifi Perez to a $1 million contract is a really small deal, even though there are also $1.5 million in incentives (which, as a backup, he'll never reach).

But the way many of my fellow Cub fans in the Cubs Usenet newsgroup, as well as some members of the Cubs Blog Army, particularly Alex at The Cub Reporter in this hilarious post, are reacting, you'd think the Cubs just inked Osama bin Laden to be on the bench.

Look, I know Perez isn't that good a player. But he's not that bad a player either, and the money, in today's environment, is minor, and we have just finished a season in which it became very clear that having bad people in the clubhouse can lead to disaster.

Perez, by all accounts, is a terrific teammate, a good team player, and not a Kent Mercker. That alone makes his signing worthwhile. Plus, he is responsible for the tiebreaker game in 1998, because it was his home run for Colorado that beat the Giants on the last day of the season to force the tie. There's a cosmic tie here that I think means something.

Finally, there are simply some things that have to do with winning baseball games that cannot be measured with statistics. I believe Neifi Perez has some of those things within him, and will be an asset to the Cubs.

Also today, there are rumors in California that the Cubs and Dodgers are discussing a Sammy Sosa for Shawn Green deal; the contracts are similar in size, though Green has only one year left on his as opposed to the two on Sammy's, though perhaps that could be reworked, and the rumor further has it that the Dodgers might ask the Cubs to take Darren Dreifort as part of this trade.

I'd do this. Green is a decent player and you wouldn't be stuck with him for more than one year, and perhaps this would clear enough to sign Carlos Beltran. Further, the presence of Dreifort might mean you could trade Kyle Farnsworth in another deal.

We await developments.

:: posted by Al at 3:02 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, November 05, 2004 ::
For Your Convenience

Click here for a (reasonably well) updated list of this offseason's free agents.

I've also added this to the sidebar, as well as two new(er) members of the Cubs Blog Army, 1060west, and A Cub Fan Rants.

:: posted by Al at 1:15 PM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, November 03, 2004 ::
The 2004 Presidential Election

This is the only time I'll weigh in on yesterday's quadrennial decision; after that, time to return to baseball and movie reviews and other more important matters.

Those of you who have read this blog for a long time know that I supported former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean for the Democratic nomination, and I wish they'd given it to him, because at least then we'd have had a man of passion and beliefs as the nominee. "The Scream" wasn't one of anger, it was one of revving up the troops, and it's rare these days that you see someone in politics who's that interested in the people who support him.

Instead, we got Sen. John Kerry, an honorable man who has served his country well both in times of war and peace.

But the problem with nominating a sitting Senator is that, particularly after twenty years in the Senate as Kerry has, that he'll have changed his mind about things.

Do YOU still hold the same opinions on everything you did twenty years ago? I bet you don't, and in addition, in the Senate you are often forced to vote for things you don't particularly want to support, in order to get things you do want, passed. This was, in part, responsible for the Bush campaign's claims of all the tax increases Kerry voted for.

And you know what? We needed them. We got out of the deficits of the Reagan era and had the greatest economic growth in decades under President Clinton, who presided over a huge tax increase. So when George W. Bush was elected four years ago, what did he do? Squandered it with politically popular, but inappropriate for the times, tax cuts, so much so that we now have to pay for his war with ever-increasing deficits.

"Tax and spend". This is how Republicans tar Democrats, and it's been very effective. But Republicans "borrow and spend". There's no smaller government here -- there's only putting the bills off for a couple of generations. My grandchildren will have to pay for it, and let me tell you, they're not going to be happy about it.

Which brings me to the war on terrorism, the one that Bush claims to be fighting so well. Does anyone really think there are fewer terrorists in the world than there were before 9/11/2001? Or that Iraq is a safer place to be?

Sure, Saddam Hussein was a terrible human being and the world is better off without him in power. But at what price? Iraq wasn't a haven for terrorists before the war, but it sure is now, and the taunting videotape that Osama bin Laden sent out last week says he wants to bankrupt us, yet another way to attack the USA.

The Bush administration's doing a pretty good job of that by itself, and that scares me.

It turned out not to be "the economy, stupid", that won this election. The Republicans effectively appealed to the religious conservatives; this is why 11 states passed anti-gay marriage laws or amendments yesterday, and these measures probably wouldn't have even been on the ballot if people in Sen. Kerry's own home state of Massachusetts hadn't decided that this was the right time to make this an issue.

I fail to see how allowing two gay or lesbian people in love to marry, sullies the institution of marriage in any way. Unfortunately, it is not quite time in our history for this to be mainstream thinking, and the Bush people took advantage and won.

At least this time, they won fair and square, and Bush today made hopeful noises about reaching out to the 55 million of us who didn't vote for him. I hope he follows through on that pledge, though the man who called himself a "uniter, not divider", four years ago, did exactly the reverse, creating an electorate that split right down the middle, pretty much the way it did in 2000.

Four years from now, I trust the Republic will still stand and that we free people will be able to go out and choose a new leader. This country has endured for nearly 230 years on this principle, and even if any of us vehemently disagrees with those in power, the Constitution of this great country allows us that right to dissent, and that is what makes this country the greatest on Earth. Let us not ever forget that.

And now, back to baseball. Oh, and to the excellent biography of Alexander Hamilton that I've been reading, about perhaps the greatest American never to become president.

There is a true patriot. Well worth reading (and I'm only about halfway through).

:: posted by Al at 8:02 PM [+] ::
:: Monday, November 01, 2004 ::
2005 Cubs Spring Training Schedule

It's 48 degrees and windy and pouring rain in Chicago today -- a perfect day to think high sky, sunshine and baseball in Arizona in March!

The Cubs released the 2005 spring training schedule today; a couple of notes: first, there will, for the first time in a couple of years, be no night games during the spring (at least in this draft, none were so indicated), and as predicted elsewhere, there will be two games in Las Vegas against the Mariners (who will serve as the home team there), on Friday, April 1, and Saturday, April 2, before the Cubs return to Phoenix to open the season against the Diamondbacks on Monday, April 4.

Complete schedule (all times 2:05 CT, except for the Las Vegas games, split squad indicated by "SS"):

Thursday, March 3: vs. Oakland Athletics, Phoenix
Friday, March 4: vs. San Francisco Giants, Mesa
Saturday, March 5: vs. San Francisco Giants, Mesa
Sunday, March 6: vs. San Francisco Giants, Scottsdale
Monday, March 7: vs. Texas Rangers, Surprise
Tuesday, March 8: vs. Oakland Athletics (SS), Mesa
- also - vs. Kansas City Royals (SS), Surprise
Wednesday, March 9: vs. Texas Rangers, Mesa
Thursday, March 10: vs. Seattle Mariners, Peoria
Friday, March 11: vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, Mesa
Saturday, March 12: vs. Anaheim Angels, Mesa
Sunday, March 13: vs. Anaheim Angels, Tempe
Monday, March 14: vs. Chicago White Sox, Mesa
Tuesday, March 15: vs. Kansas City Royals, Mesa
Wednesday, March 16: OFF
Thursday, March 17: vs. Oakland Athletics, Phoenix
Friday, March 18: vs. Chicago White Sox, Tucson
Saturday, March 19: vs. Milwaukee Brewers (SS), Mesa
- also - vs. Oakland Athletics (SS), Phoenix
Sunday, March 20: vs. San Diego Padres, Peoria
Monday, March 21: vs. Kansas City Royals, Surprise
Tuesday, March 22: vs. Milwaukee Brewers, Mesa
Wednesday, March 23: vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, Tucson
Thursday, March 24: vs. Oakland Athletics, Mesa
Friday, March 25: vs. Anaheim Angels, Mesa
Saturday, March 26: vs. Colorado Rockies, Tucson
Sunday, March 27: vs. San Diego Padres, Mesa
Monday, March 28: vs. Seattle Mariners, Mesa
Tuesday, March 29: vs. Milwaukee Brewers, Maryvale
Wednesday, March 30: vs. Colorado Rockies, Mesa
Thursday, March 31: vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, Mesa
Friday, April 1: vs. Seattle Mariners, Cashman Field, Las Vegas (TBD)
Saturday, April 2: vs. Seattle Mariners, Cashman Field, Las Vegas (TBD)

:: posted by Al at 5:15 PM [+] ::
Sammy Sosa Must Go

I read those words and I almost cannot believe I am writing them, but write them I must.

Those of you who haven't been Cub fans all that long, only remember Sammy from 1998 on, the Sosa who was Mr. Cuddly Bunny with Mark McGwire during the great Home Run Race, and who put up three sixty-homer seasons, and who put up perhaps the greatest single offensive season in Cub history in 2001 (64 HR, 146 runs, 160 RBI, a .328 average, .437 OBA and 1.174 OPS).

But before that, there was Selfish Sammy, with gold chains and Jheri curls and a walk/strikeout ratio of about one to five, and that was the Sosa we knew before 1998, and that, apparently, is the Sosa we know at the end of the 2004 season.

Even Raul Tavares, who is a blogger from the Dominican and a big Sosa fan, is fed up, titling his latest post "Oh Sammy! Shut Up Please" -- and you'll have to pardon Raul's not-so-perfect English, but his point is well taken. That's after Sammy bitched and complained to a Dominican Republic newspaper about his being dropped in the lineup, and other perceived "slights".

Yes, Sammy has had two serious injuries -- and as I wrote during the season, the one that most people have forgotten, a collision with Mark Bellhorn in August 2002, may have been the one that he still hasn't quite recovered from, perhaps contributing to the bursitis it was announced that he was suffering from late in 2004 -- but injury doesn't excuse whining about where you hit in the batting order, or leaving the team without an excuse on the last day of the season, for which he got Kerry Wood, now perhaps the acknowledged team leader, to smash his boom box that's been such a divisive thing in the clubhouse for years.

You know what, Sammy? You've hit 574 homers, and among active players only Barry Bonds has more. And Bonds keeps his spot in the batting order. Know why?

Because he keeps producing, and despite his not-so-sweet public image, he keeps his mouth shut and helps his team win.

There's a lesson to be learned here, and I don't think Sammy either has learned it or is capable of doing so.

Therefore, it's time for him to go.

This creates an obvious problem, because if everyone knows he has to go, that reduces his trade value, making it a seller's market. Sammy also has a clause in his contract that guarantees his 2006 salary of $18 million if he's traded, making him pretty unpalatable to another club.

But two years ago Mike Hampton, having spent two horrific years in Colorado and with more than $80 million left on his deal, was traded in a creative deal that ended up with the Florida Marlins, for whom Hampton never played a game, paying $30 million of that deal, and the Atlanta Braves reaping two pretty decent years out of Hampton. The Rockies were happy because they dumped him, the Marlins wound up with Juan Pierre, a key player for their 2003 World Champions, and the Braves got a pitcher who threw well once out of the thin air in Denver.

It's this sort of creative deal that Jim Hendry will have to come up with in order to deal Sammy, and we have already seen Hendry's creativity in the Nomar Garciaparra trade last July 31.

There are teams that still see Sammy Sosa as a drawing card, and probably figure that once out of Chicago, he won't have the baggage with him any more, and they may be right. It has been rumored that the Cubs might try to trade him to the Mets; there is a large Dominican community in New York, and Sammy's still popular there, and the Cubs would take Cliff Floyd's contract in return, and then flip Floyd to an AL team where he could serve as DH.

This could be workable; other teams interested could be the Orioles, where Sammy could split time between OF and DH; the Rockies, who could use a drawing card and where Sammy has always hit well; and maybe even the Expos franchise -- that team could also use someone to put people in the seats to give them a jump start for their first couple of years in Washington.

In my lifetime, only four players have played longer for the Cubs than Sammy Sosa (who has 13 seasons here) -- Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams (Mark Grace also had 13). All of those are among the most beloved in Cub history. Banks and Sandberg retired as Cubs, and we wish Santo and Williams had had the same chance -- and they continued to be beloved as Cubs, and still are, long after they retired.

I'd hoped that Sammy, who now holds the club home run record with 545 as a Cub, would also be able to do so and would go into the Hall of Fame wearing a Cubs cap (which he still might do, given that his greatest seasons were here).

But now, he's worn out his welcome, and the run he does out to RF every day, cocking his finger to his ear as if to say, "Let me hear the love", is tiresome.

Time to go, Sammy, so that the team can heal from the turmoil of late 2004, and so that the club can afford to sign Carlos Beltran, and win.

It's our turn.

:: posted by Al at 2:00 PM [+] ::

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