Cubs Now!
Sunday, August 29, 2004
  Shoulda Kept My Mouth Shut

So, so typical of the 2004 Cubs to get you back into them and then fall apart. Friday's game was awful. Walks, homeruns, and Kerry not able to continue the winning streak. Saturday, again with the wind blowing in, the Cubs lose due to walks, walks, costly errors, and a failure to get the big hit. Corey swang at 3 in the dirt in the midst of a rally. Sunday...walks, walks, hit batsmen and a 5 run 8th.

Pretty sad. We had a chance to get a nice lead and we didn't capitalize. Still, we're tied with the Giants and Padres. Now's the time. Let's do it. 
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
  Corey, Corey

Wow. What an incredible turnaround with Corey Patterson this year. Remember the boo-birds of May? The long, loopy swing striking out at high fastballs and sliders in the dirt? Pop up after pop up to third or short? He took his hits (well-deserved) for his stubborn refusal to lay a bunt down or slap a ball the other way. Look at his game log for the year. Corey bottomed out on June 8, hitting .246 and a .707 OPS. He has raised his batting average .046 points and his OPS .120 points since then.

By the way, hat tip to Steve Stone for his "one more slider and this game's over" call before a slider and Corey's walk off homerun. After the 3-6 run against the Giants, Padres, and Dodgers, I was low. The Cubs didn't look like they had it in them to make the run. They've shut me up. I'm still going along for the fun without believing 100% that we've got the playoffs. But what a nice run they're putting together right now. 
Monday, August 23, 2004

Radio silence has been golden for the Cubs. As I said, I've been with them, I've just resigned myself to them not making the playoffs. It was for my sanity. You can be too much of a fan. It can take up too much of your time and attention.


I have to say that I give the Cubs a better than 50% chance of making the playoffs, so I'm at a loss. How do you feel about this team? Let me know.

On another note... I went to the game tonight, and it proved something to me. Up until about two years ago, I was the traditional fan. I judged players solely by batting average, home runs, RBIs. I looked at pitchers W-L records as the foremost stat. I came around and appreciate the better statistics.

However, sabermetrics leaves a very dry taste in my mouth. Why? Because it looks at everything in the agregate. I hate the pythagorean standings. What a bunch of crap. Either you won or you didn't. Don't give me that the Cubs should have won five more games than they have. They didn't win them. It's meaningless.

More to the point, though, if you think baseball can be completely understood by statistics, you didn't watch tonight's game. Carlos Zambrano was outstanding. He took a no-hitter into the seventh. He got the first guy out and then gave up a horrific bloop double. It's an awful way to lose a no-no. And then he lost it. It didn't matter. The Cubs were up big (in part because of his stones...pitchers don't get hits on bunts, unless you're crazy Z). Statistics don't capture the magic of emotion. Baseball is more fun to watch if you aren't completely caught up in statistics. They're useful to understand the game, just don't let them take the fun out of it. 
Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I've been spending less and less time thinking about the Cubs lately. Maybe it's because I'm married; maybe because I've been working a lot. But really, it's because this team is too damn frustrating.

I was at the game on Sunday. When the Cubs went up 5-2 on Michael Barrett's homerun, I mentally put the game into the win column. The bullpen fell apart in the eighth. Really, it was like being at Game 6 all over again. I watched as batter after batter would get to 2 strikes, the crowd would try to get them over the edge, and hitter after hitter got on. It felt like the Cubs wouldn't get another out.

Eric Gagne was incredible. The view from my seats is really fun for watching pitches. You can see the changes of speed. Gagne was going from 73 to 96 on pitch after pitch. D. Lee looked absolutely foolish on a third strike swing (not to mention Jose Macias who was completely overmatched in a way I've never seen before). My wife asked on a fluttering changeup to Corey why he didn't kill the pitch. I explained that a 95 MPH fastball and his 73 MPH poofball look the same coming out of his hand. It's really incredible the talent it would take to hit a major league pitcher. But Gagne's incredible, so hats off to him.

But tonight, the Brewers threw up their rag arm Santos, and the Cubs did next to nothing with him. I thought they were going to blow it open when Sammy had the bases loaded and a three-two count. Sammy seemed to have made some adjustments tonight (he was noticeably closer to the plate and homered in the first). That's what was supposed to happen in my fantasy induced heart. It didn't happen and the Cubs limped to a 3-1 loss.

Yeah, Zambrano pitched well and yeah, the Cubs got screwed again by the umps on a play at first after Corey threw a strike on a line drive. But really, none of it mattered. The Cubs just haven't looked good for any extended stretch this season. Investing time, love, and nervous energy day after day has really exhausted me. I didn't want to believe that the Cubs wouldn't make the playoffs this season. But at this point, I'm resigned to that fact. I figure that this gives me a mental break in that if they do make it, it will be a bonus. But at this juncture, the Cubs haven't clicked this season, despite fielding the best team I remember. It's disappointing, but I'm tired of making mental excuses in my mind for this bunch of underachievers. I hope I'm proven wrong, but after spending the evening watching a pretty pathetic effort tonight, that's how I feel.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
  Two games, Two Stories

I went to the game last night. Carlos Zambrano pitched incredibly well. He only walked one and the only run was due to a wild pitch. But what I'll remember about this game is that I had a chance at a foul ball and blew it. Well, not blew it, but it hit me in the hands and I didn't catch it. Moises hit a rope in the sixth into deep left, well foul. It was incredible. I heard the crowd's noise getting louder and louder and the ball was coming right at me. I reached out my hand and Boom! right off my hand. I have a bruise, I didn't get the ball, but the Cubs won so I can't complain.

Today's game was a missed opportunity. I've noticed that the umpiring this year has been dreadful. It has benefitted the Cubs and cost the Cubs. Today, it cost the Cubs the game. Old, fat Bruce Froemming blew a call on a force play at second. It wasn't even close. Nomar was on the bag. Terrence Long was out. Irrespective of these facts, Long was called safe and Nomar threw the ball away. It ended up costing the Cubs two runs.

Nomar later homered to give the Cubs the lead, but the bullpen (Mercker, Farnsworth, and Dempster) gave up some big runs, costing the game.

Too bad. The Cubs deserved to win the game. Corey Patterson had a fantastic game. But the bullpen didn't stand up and do what was necessary to win a game that was ours for the taking. 
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
  Awful, Just Awful

The Cubs fought to come back tonight but could not overcome an otherworldly awful night by Mark Prior. Please don't complain about the ball/strike call tonight. The curve did not catch the plate, no matter what Stoney kept saying. It was inside. Anyway, Prior didn't do what was necessary to get out of it.

Just how bad was Prior? Insanely bad. 3 innings pitched, 8 hits, 5 walks and a hit batsmen. Now, when Dusty mercifully pulled the plug, Rusch could have minimized the damage. In fact, he pitched perfectly to do so. A ground ball to second and a 1-2-3 double play. Unfortunately, Rusch failed to cover first on the aforementioned groundball. After the double play (which would have ended the inning), Rusch gave up a three run dong.

Still, the Cubs battled. 5 solo homeruns and a clutch hit by Walker made it 8-6. Unfortunately, Aramis narrowly missed a game tying homerun in the 9th. And Ramon's line-out ended the game.

I really hated the lineup tonight. I understand that Aramis needed a day off. Okay. But if Jose Macias is going to fill in, bat him 8th not 2nd. With Corey leading off, you aren't going to have guys on base for the middle of the order to drive in. Hence, the solo shots. Hence, pinch-hitting Ramon Martinez with the tying run on base in the ninth. By the way, why was it Ramon rather than Grudz hitting in the ninth?

Second guessing the manager is a way of life for baseball fans. But, c'mon. Prior pitched poorly, and the lineup tonight didn't make any sense. 
  Greg Maddux, Strikeout Pitcher

Bored at work, I was visiting the comments at the Cub Reporter. Some feller named Chad stated that Greg Maddux had the fewest strikeouts of any 300 game winner. Good point, except that Maddux has more strikeouts than all but eight of the twenty-two. Then, he argued that he had fewer than all the modern day pitchers. Also, not true. Maddux has more K's than Spahn and has a better K/9IP than all but four of the twenty-two.

Chad's comments came from his desire to argue that Kerry Wood needs to learn from Maddux to rely on defense for success. But that's not how Maddux won his 300 games. He located his fastball, didn't walk many and struck out more hitters than all but twelve pitchers in the history of baseball. He's not the prototypical 95 MPH Texas strikeout ace. But, nonetheless, he has a very good chance of ending his career with more K's than Fergy and Bob Gibson.

The more you learn about Maddux's career, the sadder you have to feel about the years 1993-2003. He should have been ours during his prime. So congratulations on 300, Greg. Now, let's get the damn ring.  
Friday, August 06, 2004
  Breaking Radio Silence

I've been relatively silent and for those who read this, I appologize. But I have nothing to add right now. The Cubs are playing great. They're pitching well, playing good defense, and scoring runs. I could add my two cents to all the whining coming from Boston, but I'm just ignoring it. I agree with Joe over at The View. He's not as cute as Elizabeth, but he's right.

But I wanted to talk instead about subtle changes in cultural norms. I was thinking about this as I rode the el home from work. I remember, say, 6 or 7 years ago when people gave Cubs fans shit for talking on cell phones at games. Cell phones were considered a yuppy tool at the time. Now, they're ubiquitous. I hate them. I don't own one. I won't get one.

But I'm in the minority, and that's fine. But don't talk on the el when I'm riding home. Or make it 30 seconds or less. Don't spend 20 minutes talking loudly about nothing. It's way too irritating. But I think that more and more people feel there's nothing wrong with talking at any time, in any place.

Case in point, the pathetic woman on the brown line this evening. It was remarkable what this woman was saying. To set the scene, this woman was a rather plain looking woman in her late 20's/early 30's. She looked like the kind of girl other women would say was "sweet" and "so nice." But I learned that she was taking a break from her boyfriend. He told her he didn't love her. She cried that night and ate ice cream. She then said she noticed that the guy who lived in the apartment above her was cute, and though she didn't know his phone number, she knew where he worked. She left him a message, but he hasn't gotten back to her.

This woman has always felt that she was the kind of woman who guys would talk to at parties for a couple minutes but would never think about again. It's depressed her for a long time. She just wants to meet someone nice and settle down with him. She thought that this was the guy, but when he told her that he didn't love her, she knew she'd have to move on.

Now, there were about 20 people in the car as she spoke in a cloying voice, laughing at things we could only guess her friend was saying. It was about as annoying a 20 minutes as I've spent in a long time.

Well, as I said, this seems to becoming the norm. Silence, my friends, is golden. Let's remember that. 
Monday, August 02, 2004
  Late to the Party

Well, the Nomar story has come and gone without any comment from me. Everything that needs to be said has been said. It's a great trade. Don't cry about losing any of the prospects lost. When you have a chance to make the playoffs this year, you do it. Hendry made the trade the team needed, and he's proved again that he's the most effective Cubs GM in my life.

Now, on to a separate matter. I'm somewhat skeptical about some of sabermetrics measurements of team success. Take the Pythagorean standings. By this method, the Cubs are the second best team in baseball. But that ignores a team's inconsistency. The Cubs can win 10-1 one day and look absolutely listless the next day. I don't think the Cubs have been unlucky this year (which is the sabermetric explanation). Rather, for some reason that I don't understand, the entire Cubs lineup will go into a funk for a game. I think the Nomar trade should help eleviate this, but if you have any theories about why the Cubs have been so inconsistent this year, please let me know.  
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