Siberian Baseball

Friday, May 30, 2008

Just wait for the crowd reaction

What's the worst part about this clip if you're the fan involved?

Waking up sore the next morning from this outstanding takedown by the Fenway Park security guard or waking up in jail?

I think it's a toss up.

See more funny videos at CollegeHumor


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nothing says "childrens' charity" like a liquor store

I was sitting at the kitchen table the other night when the back page of one of the weekly entertainment newspapers caught my eye.

A full page ad blared, "Meet White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen!" Where? At a liquor store.

I don't worry too much about Ozzie, but I can only imagine the circus that is bound to erupt when you combine Chicago fans (from either side of the river), booze and a first-place baseball team.

I've thought about this for a while now and can't decide if the bleacher creatures from Wrigley, jacked up on cheap cases of Old Style or the notoriously rowdy fans at The Cell pose a greater potential for chaos when they are invited to come support their team at a store that exists for the sole reason of selling booze. For kids, though! They're raising money for kids.

No word yet on whether or not Lou Piniella will be entering the world of liquor store promotion / fundraising for children.

Maybe he's waiting for free lighter day at the Shell station instead.

On the plus side, at least the White Sox are pretty consistent with doing things for children - who can forget last year's offer of having kids take the field behind Guillen? I just question how appropriate the location is, given the intended recipients.

(Image from:


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Yes, it must have been the bats

The Year of the Broken Bat is taking on a new wrinkle as Major League Baseball launches its second investigation into maple bats and why they break the way they do and why it happens so often.

Watching big league games this season has been like playing NHL on the Sega Genesis the year after they first introduced breaking glass when you hit it with a slapshot - it's something that used to be a strange occurrence that now seems to happen once a game.

The fact that there are more broken bats this year isn't all that remarkable, and anyone who has seen it happen has probably noticed that the bats are becoming more and more dangerous. Part of this is because maple bats seem to break off in such a manner that leaves a sharp point and part is coming from the frequency of the breaks.

The voice of reason in the story from the East Valley Tribune in Phoenix? Chicago's own Ozzie Guillen:

Stressing "something is wrong here (and) it's dangerous," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen already has talked to MLB officials.

"What are they going to do about it? Nothing," he said. "The only thing they can do is (autograph those that broke), put them on eBay and make money back and buy more bats."

Guillen recalls players from his era using "one dozen or two dozen" bats in a year.

"Now I go to the bat room and (Paul) Konerko has 40 dozen, all these guys have three-, four-, five-, six-dozen bats."

But the question remains, "Who is to blame for this plague on the league's first base coaches? Why Barry Bonds, of course.

Maple bats became popular in the late 1990s and then exploded into popularity after Barry Bonds blasted his record 73 home runs in 2001 with maple. On some teams as many as three-quarters of the hitters use maple.

Yes, it was the maple bats that turned Bonds from a slap-hitting singles and doubles guy to the master of the moonshot.

Now I see why this story appeared in print - no one on television would be able to deliver that theory with a straight face, regardless of how many takes you gave them.


ESPN debates who sucks worst/most took time out Tuesday to open the debate on which MLB team has been the biggest disappointment this year with two months in the books.

While perennial basement dwellers like Florida and Tampa have surged out of the gate and proven their worth, some big name clubs - most notably the Mets, Tigers and Indians - have not lived up to their preseason hype.

In all honesty, I think the Tigers still have time to turn things around but they might be lacking the know-how to do so. I see it as the Yankee syndrome, where the team is built of All-Stars who don't know how to play together until mid-June and then finds a way to turn the season around.

The hitch with that is the Tigers don't have the star power New York traditionally has and the two big imports in Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera are injured and struggling.

The Mets are a bigger surprise after bringing back the core of a powerful 2007 team and adding one of the best pitchers in the game. With fans calling for the manager's firing and the usual menu of New York based craziness in the media, this can get out of contrl quickly if the team doesn't start performing soon.

Yet, despite these two front-runners for "Bust of the Year," ESPN came to the conclusion that Seattle is the biggest letdown so far.


Citing the worst record in baseball (OK, that's valid) and the signings of Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva, the Mariners were awarded the dishonor of being the biggest letdown to date.

That just makes no sense, especially compared with the other teams in the mix. While signing Bedard was a coup in the offseason, Silva is hardly a difference maker, despite what some of his career numbers might suggest.

No one expected the Mariners to win their division, much less the pennant, while the same can't be said for Detroit or New York.

Of course, the whole point will be moot in another month or so when another frontrunner falls by the wayside and the baseball world throws up its collective hands and asks, "How could that happen?"

The same way it always does - a lack of timely hitting, pitchers that can't locate their pitches and stupid fielding mistakes. There, I've successfully predicted the future - someone hook me up with my own 900 number so I can compete with Miss Cleo.

(Image from:

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

What? Wednesday - BABIP

So, it's Thursday, but in a effort to be somewhat timely, I wanted to address one of the hot stats of the moment, Batting Average on Balls put Into Play (BABIP).

The reason I bring it up this week is because in addition to Sports Illustrated touching on the stat when briefly examining the seasons of Ryan Dempster and Gavin Floyd, it was a topic of local sports radio earlier in the week.

I could probably run the entire blog off the premise, "Stupid things I've heard on talk radio today" but that enters an entirely new stage of bitterness I'm holding onto until my mid- to late 50s.

Someone had e-mailed in when the question of sustaining the seasons that the White Sox and Cubs are having with the exact same stats that were published in the magazine. Whether they dropped any mention of SI, or the program did wasn't clear, but it was a little annoying to hear something that was cut and pasted into an e-mail appear on the radio.

It's not just a problem when blogs aren't credited with their work, it's a problem when anyone is passing off work they didn't actually do as their own. Considering it was the Baseball Prospectus box, the e-mailer could have looked cool enough citing Joe Sheehan, if they didn't want to appear too mainstream citing SI. Somehow, the earth kept spinning on its axis, despite all of this and I was relieved.

A typical BABIP is between .290 and .300, depending on who you ask and measures the opponent's batting average on balls put into play, minus home runs. The idea behind it is that once a pitcher releases the ball, there's nothing he can do about the result. This number quantifies the number of balls that are falling in for hits behind him - in short, it gives a value to luck, good or bad.

While it would make an awful stat for fantasy baseball, it's a nice measure of what's happening with pitchers who weren't very good in the past and might be having breakout years, or of established pitchers who are getting roughed up early in the season.

Unfortunately, this is not one of the stats that MLB is currently tracking via their web site, so finding it takes a little digging. Because the stat works both ways, you can also find information on batters and their BABIP, which seem to take precedence over the pitchers on fantasy baseball sites.

(Image from:

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Piazza retires after 16 seasons

Mike Piazza has announced that he's officially done playing baseball and is more than happy to retire with the record for most home runs by a catcher (427) in a runaway.

Prior to today's announcement, he was tenth amongst all active players - the next catcher on the list is Ivan Rodriguez with 289 homers - and retires with a .308 career average.

I was a big fan of Piazza's in his Dodger days, but really, what's not to like about a story that tells a teenager that people who are in control aren't always right and occasionally are very, very wrong, as evidenced by Piazza's career numbers.

When he first came up and started hitting for power, the question that was gently posed was whether he'd have a shot at being one of the great Dodger hitters, at least for a catcher. Following decades behind Roy Campanella, it was hoped PIazza could at least come close to his numbers.

Does it strike anyone else as strange that he goes out of his way to thank the Mets fans in his farewell? Sure, he made the postseason in New York, but still, if I'm a Dodger fan, I'm more than a little upset tonight.

But hey, that 39 years old piece really snuck up on everyone, didn't it?

I've already seen a few snarky comments regarding how much easier the decision is when he's been sitting unsigned this season, but it seems that he's realized that, too.

"I knew this day was coming and over the last two years. I started to make my peace with it. I gave it my all and left everything on the field."

(Image from:


Monday, May 19, 2008

Jon Lester pitches no-hitter

With Jon Lester's no-hitter tonight - but really, does it count if it's against the Royals? - the Red Sox now have matching no-no's for the cornerstones of next generation's rotation (Clay Buchholz had the last no-hitter last September before he was shut down for the season).

Two walks and a runner that reached on a fielder's choice meant that Lester's chance at a perfect game fell by the wayside in the top of the second with a walk to Billy Butler, which might not be the worst way to go about things.

If you're going to lose your bid for the perfect game, but keep the no-hitter intact, wouldn't you want to get that out of the way early, before the pressure really builds and dropping from the perfecto has a chance to rattle you late in the game?

Tuning in for the last few innings of the game tonight, I was mainly thinking about two things.

First, aside from the pressure of a perfect game, a no-hitter has to be more challenging for the pitcher, right? I can't imagine there's that much more to weigh down a pitcher's mind between the two, but adding the extra batters can't help much.

Let's assume that you are pitching in the usual no-hitter where one or two batters reach base, either by walk or error. Now, you're walking to the mound in the ninth inning, you're already way over your normal pitch count and you're faced with the other team's top two hitters.

The normal balance of power late in the game swings from a stronger reliever against a tiring hitter to a starter being held in against the other team's best hitters who have now seen you for three at-bats.

That's what I'll remember tomorrow morning, when I'm bombarded by the crush of stories about how special this must be for Lester, Boston's most famous cancer survivor.

Cancer or not, a no-hitter is a big deal, period. That's why this is only the 18th no-hitter in the long history of the Red Sox. Here is another site's break down of where this no-hitter fits in with all the rest, including Jason Varitek being the new leader in no-hitters caught, with four.

Thank God the young pitchers have figured out that it's best to listen to the Captain in these types of situations. We're looking at you, Curt Schilling. Wherever you are.

(Image from:

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cubs to Padres, " No refunds, only store credit"

In a sentence that Chicago fans will find familiar, Mark Prior will be out of the lineup longer than expected because of a new injury to his shoulder that has cropped up.

While the news might give fans a sense of deja vu, the absence of a slight sickness in the pits of their stomachs will be new. Buyer beware.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times:
Prior's agent, John Boggs, confirmed Friday that the pitcher has a tear in his right shoulder capsule. Prior, who had surgery on the shoulder last year, will be kept from throwing for at least two weeks and then be re-evaluated.

"We don't know exactly to what severity," Boggs said, "but obviously something is going on there."

And therein lies the ongoing frustration for Prior. Unlike a broken leg or other clear-cut injury, there have only been a series of odd injuries for the pitcher. While he's not the first pitcher to be plagued by a seemingly endless run of bad luck on the injury front, he's certainly one of the more talented ones in the past decade.

Can't we at least name a surgical procedure after the guy at this point?

(Image from:


Friday, May 16, 2008

Swing and a miss... not in a good way

Normally, the "This is Twins Territory" ad campaign is pretty good. Not so much in a, "Let me see that again and again and set it to play when I boot up my laptop" kind of way, but in a "Heh, that was funny" kind of way.

At the very least, I used to leave them on during commercial breaks instead of TiVoing right through them.

This is not one of those.

Expect this to appear and be summarily mocked on Deadspin 2.0 (with holographic replays!) in 10 years like the cheesy music videos of the Bills in the 80s. Hell, it's being mocked right now on With Leather.

(Not for nothing, but isn't this the worst possible music for a Joe Mauer tribute? It sounds like it came off of a 12-year-old girl's mixtape that she made for her friends to remember her over the summer.)


No one should be surprised

Some rogue t-shirt vendors are still selling the "Horry Kow" t-shirts outside of Wrigley Field? Even after they were asked politely to stop?


The fact that the Kosuke Fukudome hates the shirts doesn't seem to be doing much to deter sellers or buyers outside of the stadium. Wonderful.

According to the most recent story I found - Chicago is getting great publicity in Phoenix - the shirts are still widely available. Despite what the local papers have to say on the matter, the problem hasn't just magically disappeared.

Funny, I don't recall the White Sox having this problem with Tad Iguchi.

"My personal viewpoint is they're not blatantly racist," said John Weier, a vendor selling the Horry Kow T-shirts outside of the Cubby Bear Lounge at the corner of Addison and Clark Streets.

"It's a novelty T-shirt. We're not trying to hurt or offend anyone."

Weier knows Fukudome does not like the T-shirts, but said he has no qualms about selling them to fans, saying he was "trying to make a living."

Fukudome has called the T-shirts offensive and the Cubs were so concerned about them they forced many souvenir stands to remove the shirts last month. But Weier said the Cubs have no say over the street vendors, as long as they are not selling the T-shirts on club property.

(Image from:


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The answer to a question no one was asking

So wait, let me get this straight - the Cubs have once again stocked themselves so full of outfielders that they have been forced to carry three pitchers in order to meet the 25-man roster requirement.

The corner spots are being held by Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukdome, whose contracts all but guarantee they're not going anywhere in the near future. With those positions filled, that just leaves center field open for idiotic tinkering.

And really, if there's one thing the Cubs front office does well, it's idiotic tinkering. That, and antagonizing the fans with bizarre signings.

And really, what better way to antagonize the fans - both here and in St. Louis - than to sign former Cardinal and recent San Diego washout, Jim Edmonds?

Deadspin did a great job of rounding up the usual suspects from the land of Cubs blogs yesterday, but with the signing imminent, this just sounds like a dumber and dumber idea by the hour. Chicago's brass honestly thinks that Edmonds has a place on this team that was already having a tough time finding playing time for their outfielders?

You have rookie Felix Pie who has struggled to find his feet, but still needs time to develop and Reed Johnson - who was signed just before the season - who has already cornered the market on scrappy white center fielders at Wrigley.

From Bleed Cubbie Blue:

If the Cubs insist on signing a washed-up, injured, 38-year-old centerfielder who was released by a team in desperate need of hitting, at least send Jim Edmonds to Iowa for a week or two first, and let Pie play. The bottom line is: the Cubs are 23-15, winners of four in a row and five of six, and scoring metric buttloads of runs. Why mess with success? Please, Jim. Don't do it.

I agree. This is an aging Edmonds, not Ichiro - to stunt Pie's development in favor of a 15-year veteran who seems to have forgotten which end of the bat he's supposed to hold at the plate and hasn't shown any indication that he's up to the challenge of patrolling center field defensively is short-sighted and indicative of the kind of stupid decisions that have plagued the franchise.

The Cubs claim this is a zero-risk gamble - they gave up no players in claiming him off the waiver wires and don't need to play him every day - but to have him taking up a spot in the lineup for no reason other than, "he has hit well at Wrigley and was available on waivers!" just seems stupid. With Matt Murton already in AAA to make room in the outfield, I have to ask for the second season in a row - what the hell is it with the Cubs and these free agent outfielders?

This is frighteningly similar to the one guy in everyone's fantasy league who can't help himself from snatching up every player who is cut throughout the course of a season. That guy usually comes in fourth, too.

(Image from:


Monday, May 12, 2008

The long awaited closer post is on its way

A few weeks ago when Frank the Tank and I did our subway series, seeing the White Sox and Cubs in the same day, it brought to light many of the differences between the two ballclubs.

Aside from the overplayed and overhyped socio-economic differences, the teams themselves are built for different purposes. The Cubs are built for power and to score runs in quick flurries, while the White Sox are built for speed to play Ozzieball. Sure, the Cubs have speed and the White Sox see power from a few of their sluggers, but if you need a quick reference guide, that summary will do nicely.

What really struck me that day was what happened in the ninth inning. On the South Side, Bobby Jenks came storming in from the outfield as the crowd went nuts. With the Sox up 4-0, the team looked to its closer to come in with two on to put the A's rally down, which he did promptly on a sac fly and a game-ending double play.

A few hours later across town, Kerry Wood entered the game to the tinny strains of Guns n' Roses - while The Cell has a new, top of the line sound system for ramping up the crowd, Wrigley Field's speakers were wired by Civil War veterans as some sort of work program - and a slightly jumpy crowd.

While no one doubts Wood's talent, it's his arm that has the faithful worried. For better or worse, Cubs fans see Wood as he was a decade ago, mowing down 20 Astros en route to a banner memorializing the feat on the top of the grandstands.

While blind faith is a wonderful thing, most fans aren't that dumb, so they also worry as counts are stretched and a converted starter struggles to make the mental changes necessary to try and become an effective closer.

Wood entered after a homer and a walk and sat down the next three batters in order with a flyout, a strikeout and a groundout to end the game.

While the results were the same, Jenks threw two pitches for his three outs, while Wood threw 15 and I think that helps illustrate one difference between starters and closers. While starters can nibble around the strike zone, sometimes being criticized for being too fine, a closer is better served by going straight to the gas and trying to overpower the opposition.

Given the state of modern baseball, your best pitchers are now likely to be your ace and your closer, the way they go about their business couldn't be more different. This isn't a bad thing - while it's tough to get blown out, it's downright demoralizing to blow a game in the ninth when your closer melts down.

Recently, Frank and I started talking about the closer position and agreed to work up our magic lists where if we could design a closer from scratch, what would we be looking to add to the mix?

That post will be up shortly, but it's an interesting question to kick around - So, what are your five must have traits for a closer?

(Image from:

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

This seems... different

Before I get started here, I'll try and head off some outcry in the comments section right off the bat. Yes, I am aware that it's only mid-May and that the Cubs' June Swoon is named that because it occurs in June.

I am also (painfully) aware that the Cubs are a star-crossed franchise that is currently in its 100th year without a championship, despite Hall of Fame players and more than one opportunity to snap that drought.

I am also aware that the Cubs are still one game behind St. Louis as of this evening.

That said, something seems different this year.

Not enough to have me furiously squirreling away nickels and dimes to afford World Series tickets that would reach into the thousands of dollars, but enough to take notice on a day when I'd otherwise only remember a sign like, "I love your mom" in the stands.

After another come from behind victory today, the Cubs are winning the games they should, which hasn't always been the case. They are also scoring runs in bunches and seeing timely hitting from their bench. After a series of frustrating seasons - and nothing short of a total collapse last October - the Cubs are playing decent baseball into May, which is the first check box on any Chicago fan's list as they try and decide if this year might be the year.

Aside from the obvious boxes like, "Avoid serious injuries to major stars" and "Pitchers report without incident, injury or mental breakdowns in the offseason," the season is peppered with all sorts of little milestones that even casual fans have learned to recognize in order to take a team's temperature as the year progresses.

Early in the season the team won back-to-back extra innings games against the Pirates on April 7 and 9. While I was happy with the ultimate results, it was bothersome for two major reasons - first, it was the Pirates, a team that the Cubs lineup should be able to dispatch in nine innings, if not fewer and second, because racking up extra inning games that early in the season is never a good thing.

It's a long season and it worries me when a team isn't able to take care of business efficiently and is forced to play long games, taxing the bullpen and generally gumming up the works. While it can be a hallmark of a scrappy team, it seems that the teams that are headed to the postseason don't usually need such heroics.

That's where this team is looking different from the most recent vintages of Cubs baseball - I've now seen the team score runs in bunches twice in person and even when the team is trailing like today, the games aren't seeming so far out of reach in those situations.

Through today, the Cubs are 4-2 in extra innings games - the four wins have come against the Pirates, Rockies and Phillies, the two losses against the Brewers on Opening Day and against the Cardinals - and have managed to keep those games to a minimum.

More importantly, the Cubs have yet to lose more than two games in a row (which won't last forever, but is nice for a month and a half of work) and are 9-4 in games decided by five or more runs, including yesterday against Arizona.

While the team is 4-3 in one-run games, they are seeing run support in most games, only being shut out twice in 37 games.

That's a lot of numbers being thrown about for a second-place team, but most of it should be encouraging news for fans of a franchise that started the season 0-14 in 1997. In all honesty, no one wins the pennant in April and May, but you can certainly lose it during those two months.

Anyone in their right mind should be viewing the Cubs' early season success with cautious optimism, but at least there's reason for that optimism. The team is playing to its strengths as an offensive ballclub, staying out of trouble with the bottom of their rotation and making the most of their bullpen as Kerry Wood tries work through the growing pains of transitioning to a closer role.

For a team that is above average, but isn't stacked like Boston, that's a fine place to start. Whether it holds up through a long summer remains to be seen, but with a month and a half of baseball behind us, my checklist is still largely intact.

Primarily, I'm pleased that the first step has been accomplished without tripping.

Don't blow it early? Check.

(Image from WGN TV)


Saturday, May 10, 2008

What the hell is that on your hand, Ichiro?

I'm watching tonight's game between the White Sox and the Mariners and the Chicago announcers begin discussing the wonder that is Ichiro, as required by law as part of MLB's anti-trust agreement.

Ichiro is basically just standing around in the outfield waiting for the next pitch, when he starts fiddling with his glove. (Screen capture at right.)

Only, it looks weird - much like a combination bat wing and spider web. Apparently, it's a production item by Mizuno, but damn if it doesn't look strange out there on TV.

According to Mizuno's web site, Miguel Tejada, Scott Rolen and Chipper Jones also use Mizuno, though not the same model - the GCP51 - which has been around since 2006.

Still, I can't remember seeing this thing before tonight. I've got to start paying better attention during games, and by that, I mean I've got to stop taking hourlong naps at several intervals throughout the afternoon and evening when games are being played.

(Image from WGN TV)


Thursday, May 08, 2008

White Sox, pink beards

This season has already featured several White Sox players locked in what appears to be a contest to have the most bizarre facial hair (non-Backstreet division). It's been mocked on the blogs and imitated in the stands and now used to draw attention to breast cancer in time for Mothers' Day.

No longer will the day only be the time for pink bats as Nick Swisher, Toby Hall, Bobby Jenks and John Danks had their facial hair dyed pink Wednesday as they prepare for the weekend.

I guess this is what you resort to in the American League, where if you're a pitcher, or Toby Hall, you don't get to bat.

According to, Swisher said he'll keep it pink if the team gets hot, which signals to me that the team doesn't have high hopes of sweeping the Mariners over the weekend.

Take heart, dads, the players also have plans to go with the blue beards in time for Fathers' Day next month.

"Some people will wear wrist bands, but we'll wear this on our faces to show support," said Jenks, who confirmed he would paint his goatee blue for Father's Day.

I knew guys in high school who did the same thing, only they were looking to piss off their fathers at the time. I guess the rules of parenting change when you're cashing paychecks that big.

I just need to know if Joe Mauer is planning anything special with his sideburns. That sort of thing will get you tossed out of St. Paul on your ass in a hurry.

(Image from:


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Junior looking for a change of scenery

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Ken Griffey Junior wouldn't mind a new clubhouse to hang out in for the second half of the season, preferably one with a few championship trophies laying around.

Short of that, a team with a chance to play in October would be just fine, too.

According to the Enquirer:

Griffey, who enters tonight's game hitting .229 with four home runs and 15 RBI, says he expects the Reds to approach him before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline seeking his approval for a trade.

My situation is different only because I can tell them where I want to go. I want to be in position to win a championship. I'm not strong-arming anybody, but that's the way it is."

(Image from:


The day Kerry Wood was (nearly) unhittable

It must be a slow afternoon when most of the major baseball sites are all jumping on the same theme and making matters stranger, that it happened a decade ago.

Ten years ago, Kerry Wood made his biggest impact on the game, striking out 20 Houston Astros in the rain at Wrigley Field and giving a generation of Cubs fans false hope that their long journey towards a championship was nearly over.

I remember the minor controversy that kicked up immediately following the game because some fans felt that the rain made it more difficult for the Astros to see the ball and, even if they did, to make solid contact.

For a few years it was a record that Cubs fans felt a little uneasy boasting about, afraid of the inevitable, "Yeah... but..." that followed. Still, to strike out 20, regardless of the weather is a feat that has stood for a decade and is still talked about when discussing the Cubs and their recent history.

Moreover, it's stood to define Wood and his star-crossed career. The promise of total domination that slowly eroded over the course of two or three injury-riddled seasons seems to fit the pattern set by the franchise as each year's squad finds a way to fall short. Sometimes it's by a little and sometimes by a lot, but it's tough to deny the parallels between Wood and his team.

It's a little strange to look back at that day today and see just how babyfaced Wood was then, but still found a way to keep it all together as the game ground on. Of course, this only adds to the pressure he feels from fans today as he tries to cobble together this chapter of his career as a closer.

I know I still hold onto the memories of the 20K game when trying to rationalize why Wood should be the closer over Carlos Marmol or the other pitchers on the roster. It's hard to forget the power and utter mastery he had that day, although Wood has yet to achieve that level since.

Deep down, we know Wood can't pitch forever and that his usefulness is drawing to a close, even for the Cubs, but it's hard to let go of that one game 10 years ago.

Judging by the response of the Wrigley faithful so far this season when Wood enters in the ninth, I'm not the only one.

(Image from:

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Monday, May 05, 2008

You can have the big slice

I'm honestly trying to decide if this is more or less ridiculous than the actual interview.

See more funny videos at CollegeHumor


Take it easy, Champ. Why don't you sit this next one out...

Star of the Sports Illustrated baseball preview, Troy Tulowitzki is in a bit of a slump in Colorado, prompting the Rockies to sit him out tonight and possibly tomorrow.

In light of the SI piece, this is something worth keeping an eye on. Talent aside, baseball players are prone to odd slumps, especially when players start pressing. From the team's statements today, it seems like the Rockies are trying to head off a a prolonged slump from their young star.

With so much attention being paid to Tulowitzki for his ability to lead a team and motivate players who need an occasional fire lit under them, there's probably more pressure on him than on the other members of baseball's sophomore class.

Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd dismissed the "sophomore slump" as a factor in Tulowitzki's play. O'Dowd said the shortstop's struggles mirror last April's.

"He's trying too hard again," O'Dowd said. "He's a very good player who is going to have to battle through this. It's a painful part of his maturation."

(Image from:


Well, maybe the manager is an ass[bleep]

I think it's pretty difficult to get tired of Ozzie Guillen, assuming your not a fan of the White Sox. I'm pretty sure the rants and raves aren't as funny when you're invested in the team... well, at least when they're on a bit of a skid. Then again, at least it's always entertaining.

For those who missed it, his latest tantrum is here. My favorite excerpt is Ozzie's exposition on where he thinks the White Sox rank in the Chicago sports food chain.

''We won it a couple years ago, and we're horse[bleep],'' Guillen said. ''The Cubs haven't won in 120 years, and they're the [bleep]ing best. [Bleep] it, we're good. [Bleep] everybody. We're horse[bleep], and we're going to be horse[bleep] the rest of our lives, no matter how many World Series we win. We are the bitch of Chicago. We're the Chicago bitch. We have the worst owner -- the guy's got seven [bleep]ing rings, and he's the [bleep]ing horse[bleep] owner.''

It's even funnier to me, because I've had evenings where you're put in the unique position of having censor language, though never on this grand of a scale. Usually it was a word or two, nothing major.

Given the Sun-Times' use of webcams and online content, would it kill them to film the editorial meeting where they try to identify all of the curse words and then decide whether to bleep them or try to find a suitable replacement?

It would totally make the other papers look like horse[poop].

(Image from:


Friday, May 02, 2008

The more things change...

Among the handful of books on my shelf that I'm always trying to work through is a fairly steady stream of recommendations from my dad.

I held off a bit on Cait Murphy's Crazy '08 because - despite the urging of folksy wisdom and after school specials on racism - I judged the book by its cover. I figured a book on the 1908 season was more than likely a vanity piece done by a wistful Cubs fan who would list the president and what a gallon of milk cost acentury ago, only for 250 sluggish pages.

I couldn't have been more wrong. I'm going out of my way to take the El lately to have time to myself to read to keep plowing through the book. It's a phenomenal recap of the race to the pennant between the Cubs, Giants and Pirates and is just a wonderful read. If you're a fan of David Halberstam's work, you should groove nicely right into this read.

Just be ready for jarring passages of the Cubs as the dominant force in the league who talked trash and assumed it would win the pennant year in and year out. All references to Cub luck at the turn of the century are done without a hint of irony. What a strange, wonderful world.

I can't recommend it enough.

It's a fun mix of history and baseball wrapped up together, giving glimpses into the national landscape in 1908 and before, with commentary on the average fan and steps baseball took to make the game more palatable to families among other cool anecdotes.

What caught my eye today was a two paragraph breakdown that I've heard nearly word for word at least a half dozen times from White Sox fans in the past two years:

According to sportswriter William Phelon, half the fans at a typical Cubs's game enjoy themselves regardless of who wins. Another chunk might as well be nicknamed "Dummy" [SB note: as in deaf and dumb] for all the noise they make. Only a small fraction, Phelon reports, "actually go wild over Cub success." The Cubs attract healthier crowds - the attendance record the team sets in 1908 will last until 1923 - but "there is far less partisanship," says Phelon, "than prevails in many burgs." Instead, separated from the action by the vast foul territory and outfield, many see a game only of metaphorical giants.

The physical distance may lead to a kind of emotional distance. Unlike White Sox fans on the South Side, , whom Ty Cobb describes as "often rough and many times unruly."

When the Georgia Peach thinks you're a bunch of jackasses, there are issues that run deep. Still, it's comforting to know that despite a century of progress, the fan bases are pretty much the same.

The question remains - who'll be the loathed ballplayer who trash talks Sox fans? Before you answer, keep in mind that Cobb was regarded as one of the nastiest ballplayers in history and once allegedly beat the hell out of a crippled fan at the ballpark. That bar is set pretty high.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

RIP Buzzie Bavasi

Buzzie Bavasi, one of the key pieces in Branch Rickey's plan to integrate the major leagues is dead tonight at age 93.

For those who spend time reading up on baseball's history, the name is undoubtedly familiar - he plays a minor role in Michael Shapiro's Last Good Season - and his work with the Dodgers, Padres and Angels cemented his reputation as one of the best front office men in the history of the game.

From the release is this story, which seems to capture what I've read about the man pretty effectively:

He alienated much of Southern California in 1979, not so much for his inability to re-sign free agent Nolan Ryan to a new Angels contract but for his parting words about the icon, who that season had gone 16-14: "We'll just have to find a couple of 8-7 pitchers to replace him."

After the durable Ryan notched his sixth no-hitter 11 years later, Bavasi sent him a message: "Nolan, some time ago I made it public that I made a mistake. You don't have to rub it in."

So long to the man who helped bring one sublime world championship to Brooklyn before they lost their beloved Dodgers. Condolences to his family, including Mariners' GM, Bill.

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The big, fat oh-fer

While it was just mentioned in the last post, this clip officially deserves its own space for the bizarre combination of comedy, humiliation and cursing.

Joe Cowley has a series of Pros vs. Joes style competitions with the White Sox players and the first one, a contest against AJ Pierzynski's arm, does not go as well as Cowley had hoped.

The premise is simple - Pierzynski was only able to throw out a little over 16 percent of runners last season and Cowley figured if it was that simple, why not see how he'd fare. What he proved was that there are reasons players don't try to steal on 10 consecutive pitches and even if they did, they're professional athletes who have just a touch more speed than your average adult.

I think the funniest part of the clip is the obvious joy Pierzynski gets from thrashing his tormentor - just jawing at him once the tide turns and it becomes apparent that it isn't Cowley's day on the basepaths.

Then again, we all knew that AJ can chatter on with the best of them.

Hearing him run his mouth as he starts to stack up outs is almost enough to make me cheer for AJ by the end of the clip. Almost.

Also, players should be miked at all times when on the field of play. You could charge more than a couple of bucks for fans to watch the unedited feed and Id bet they'd pay gladly.

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Reporter hit with chair, Swisher laughs

For those not familiar with the Chicago print media, the Chicago Tribune is the gold standard, while it's younger cousin, the Sun-Times takes a bit of heat for its reporters and a perception that they're not as good as the Trib.

What the Sun-Times usually brings to the table is a looser style and what's seen as a more blue-collar approach. Seeing as the Trib owns the Cubs, it's only natural that the Sun-Times focus on the White Sox and that's where we get the general nonsense that is Jay Mariotti's career.

Still, it's nice when the underdogs find new ways to stay viable - especially in a dying industry - and this is a perfect example of that. Sox beat writer Joe Cowley agrees to be hit with a folding chair from Sox minor league conditioning coordinator, Dale Torborg. This is the same man who tried to steal bases off of AJ Pierzynski after the catcher's less than stellar results at keeping runners honest.

All of this plays out like a budget WWE interview with Nick Swisher doing a surprisingly good job as the interviewer.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Dale - Jeff Torborg's son - was also a professional wrestler and larger than your average refrigerator? Yeah, that, too.

More power to him - there's no way I would have ever agreed to this, no matter how long I'd been standing in the Arizona sun.

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