I Am Jim Hendry

Let’s say I’m the GM of the Cubs. Or you’re GM of the Cubs. The team’s stuck in the sappy crust of a 7-game losing streak, the offense isn’t scoring enough to win a soccer match, and every so-called slugger on the team is either on the DL or flirting with the Mendoza line. What do you do? As I see it, here are the main problem areas that need to be addressed and the 5 moves that could improve this club right now:

Add Relief via Trade, Free Agency, or Minor League Call-up
The Cub bullpen needs help, no question. Neal Cotts pitches on a regular basis . . . any questions? They have Gregg, a closer with no stuff, and Marmol, a guy with great stuff when he’s not closing. And then there’s Heilman, a guy who probably needs to be starting if he’s going to do well. But is this really the reason the Cubs are sitting at .500 and showing every intention of dropping even further? Not really. But here’s the move I would make to improve the bullpen if I were Jim Hendry: 
1. Acquire Pedro Martinez (free agent) and use him as a closer. He’s supposedly 37. He’s not playing anywhere. He’s probably too old to be a serviceable starter, but I can definitely see him excelling in a John Smoltz, Kerry Wood, Dennis Eckersley starter-to-closer metamorphosis.
2. Make Aaron Heilman the 5th starter and move Marshall to the bullpen. Heilman’s stuff is brilliant when he’s on and BP-awful when he’s not. Inconsistency is poison for relievers, but for starters, it’s almost expected. Most starters rarely have all three or four of their pitches working, but an entire game allows them to figure out what is working. Heilman has three killer pitches and no idea how to use them in a single inning of work. Marshall is brilliant wherever he goes.
Acquire a Utility Player/Backup 3B
I.e. Mark DeRosa. It’s been well rumored that Mark DeRosa is on the trading block since Cleveland looks to be out of it. It would be great to have De-Ro back, overrated, underrated, or unrated director’s cut. So, this one is kinda easy:
3. Get Mark DeRosa from the Indians for three minor leaguers.
Get Jake Peavy
Uh . . . yeah, this is obvious. Peavy’s agent made it crystal clear on ESPN Radio Chicago’s morning show: the longer the Padres wait to deal Peavy, the lower the benefit for the team who gets him and the more it hurts the Padres. The Cubs are the only team he wants to go to. If the Padres kept him for the next two years, he’d account for almost half the team’s salary. In the predicament the Padres find themselves, the Cubs shouldn’t have to give up a lot at this point. They won’t get him for free, but the team will have to be left intact for Peavy to OK the deal.

4. Trade the Daytona Cubs for Jake Peavy. 

Do Something Drastic
The Cubs are past the point of tinkering, and this is the time to do something that get the attention of the entire team. They could bench Milton Bradley. They could have Zambrano play third. They could wear red hats (I don’t care if Bud Selig held a gun to their heads, what the crap is that about?!?). But if Jim Hendry really wants to wake up the Cub bats and a whole lot more, this is what he’ll do:
5. Fire Lou. Hire Ryno. I’m not one to criticize every tactical move Lou makes, because the guy knows baseball (and knows his team) better than anybody. What I will criticize is the attitude of the team. Lou was supposed to bring (and has brought) a culture of winning and professionalism. Haven’t seen much of that this year. The Cubs play like crap and carry themselves like crap. The mystique of Lou is not in the X’s and O’s but in the scowls and bellows. None of that’s working, and it’s time to make a change. 
Why not Ryno? Why not now?

May 22, 2009 question – Shameless Plugs

Other Stuff
While we’re on the subject of unimportant things . . .
As part of my continual thirst for glory this laid-back Friday, I just wanted to take a brief moment to promote myself highlight some other content you might find of interest online (if you’ve visited these before, deal with it, post glowing comments under a pseudonym, consider yourself blessed, I apologize):

Musical Ripoffs: a look at songs that rip-off plagiarize steal seem inspired by other songs. The latest one kinda shocked me, even though the newer song is all but unknown.

v34: Why I hate LOL and you should, too. And there will be a Lost update soon, I promise.

AndCounting: It will be at least 101 #@&! years between #&*$@*^$#@ championships, and Tony LaRussa is the Devil. (Did I forget to strike that? Hmm. Whoops.)

Today’s Question
Food and Words (how awesome is that?)
From what does the thick soup chowder derive its name?
A) The name of the chef who, according to folklore, concocted the original New England clam version
B) The pot or kettle in which it is cooked
C) The traditional base of salt pork
D) The traditional inclusion of seafood

Yesterday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Billy Idol. A man who needs no introduction (by definition that’s something you should say after you say the person’s name) and the answer to yesterday’s question. If today’s question were, “Who knew?” the answer would be Kyle. The both of you rock.

Midnight Train to Elizabethtown

Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin’ “

Pinback, “Loro”
It’s hard to say I’m a fan of the show Glee, partly because there’s only one episode but mostly because, frankly, it’s just hard to say that publicly. But I watched the show, and put a big L on my forehead, because I loved it.
What I haven’t loved is the fact that their version of “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” is cycling endlessly through my head. It’s not that I hate the song or the version, it’s just that I don’t know the lyrics well at all, so the same parts keep repeating over and over. Apparently, that exact scenario occurred in the minds of the Pinback folks when they composed “Loro,” which is featured on the second volume of the Elizabethtown soundtrack. 
I’ve heard that song many times, but it wasn’t until it played over the constant mental loop of Glee that I recognized the similarity (maybe it was because that version shares the same lyrics: da, da, da-da-da, dum, dum, dum). It doesn’t sound as if they intentionally used Journey as their inspiration, but those two melodies have definitely met before in someone else’s mind, and I doubt the latter song would have existed without the former. Sometimes a song plants a seed in our heads that simply can’t be killed, and it’s bound to bear fruit in some other creation.
Even if it is just the same part of the song repeated for three or four minutes.

May 21, 2009 question – Large Print Edition

No.
No, no. No. No way. No, no, no.
It was bad enough bringing bikini girl back to the Idol Finale along with her two knew buoyant friends (although Idol did do a good job of inviting just about all the right people to put on a great show). And I’ll admit, the singing duel between judge Kara DioGuardi and the bikini-clad wanna-be (nee, Bikini Girl) was hilariously scripted and very naturally catty.
But when Kara quickly ripped open her little black dress to reveal an even littler black bikini (to win a bet, for a good cause . . . ?!?) I just couldn’t stop saying no. Apparently I still can’t. No. No, no.

Today’s Question
Music
What is the stage name of the musician born William Michael Albert Broad?

Yesterday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
First of all, I typed “advice” yesterday when I meant “device.” So for those of you who guessed Ann Landers yesterday, I apologize. It was actually Alexander Graham Bell (nee Abigail Van Buren) who attempted to save the prez by trying to detect the bullet lodged in his Garfieldian body. Only Karen H (the H stands for He Should Have Taken One Large Step To His Left, That Advice Could Have Saved Him, No?) knew. She feared she would guess wrong, so big congrats to her for dodging that bullet!

Worst. Rivalry. Ever.

UPDATE: Hooray!! Yes, the Cubs got swept, but that $#&#@! series is over, and we won’t see that blasted Arch until September.

I hate this rivalry. Cubs/Cardinals is my least favorite matchup in sports, it really is. To me, playing the Cardinals is like heading into a Haunted House—the only thing you can really hope for is to make it out alive.

It’s not that I fear the Cardinals. I hate the Cardinals. And while Yoda might say those two things are nearly synonymous, I don’t see it that way. The simple fact of the matter is, the Cardinals have won 10 World Series since the Cubs last called themselves champs. So no amount of regular-season winning can erase that edge. 
When the Cubs beat the Cardinals, it’s a relief. It’s escaping the bully. When the Cardinals win, it’s like getting a noogie, a swirlie, and a super-wedgie all at once in front of your junior-high-school crush. And when they win the World Series, it’s like watching them walk away with said crush while you hang suspended by your underpants with a sore forehead and a wet, twisted hairdo that reeks of stale number 1.
All that has made this series, in which the Cubs have scored one futile run, an embarrassing Freaks/Geeks flashback. Hopefully the Cubs can get one win and we can escape without any further ripping of whity-tighties.
And, oh, yeah, LaRussa is the Devil. 

May 20, 2009 question – Support Your Local President

Heads of State
Aw Hail No to the Chief
It was a tough weekend to be a U.S. President on a college campus. Barack Obama got heckled, picketed, and generally protested on the campus of Notre Dame (apparently they like their anti-Catholic entities on the football field but not at commencement). But Obama had it easy compared to President James Garfield, whose statue was beheaded just a week after being placed on the campus of Hiram College in Ohio. Police have had extreme difficulty apprehending the perpetrator(s) or locating Garfield’s dome due to the proliferation of detached, brainless heads swarming the campus on a regular basis.

Today’s Question
Presidential Trivia
Who attempted to save Garfield’s life (the real guy, not the statue) with an induction-balance electrical advice?

Yesterday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Arizona is the most identity theft . . . or at least the most people complaining about it. According to Discover’s Identy Theft Protection telemarketers, however, my state is the one with the highest rate of Identity Theft. Big fat liars. Indiana isn’t even in the top half. Nobody knew the answer, but I attribute that to Discover calling everyone and lying to them.

Idol Eyes: Finale Finally


This is weird. It’s an Idol show filled with a lot of good music . . . and two performances of the same bad, bad song. (As anyone who knows my family is well aware, this is hardly the first or fiercest Adam vs. Kris showdown in history.) Randy came straight from the set of Revenge of the Nerds VI: The Musical, Kara dressed up like a good songwriter, Paula found her true self as the queen of the plant fairies, and Simon wore a flippin’ jacket. Nice!

Adam Lambert
“Mad World” was Adam at his best, up to that point. He’s so much better, shockingly enough, when he’s subdued. And Adam subdued is still pretty whoa.  Good song, good performance, good start; and he’s the only guy who could have begun the AI finale with a slow non-love-ballad and not fallen flat. 
But the real stroke of genius was the producer choice of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” R&B has been calling out to Adam all season long. Here’s the thing: Adam is the kind of guy who needs to pour his heart out every time he sings. Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith aren’t good vehicles for that, and the end result is a frivolous cheesefest. I still prefer Sam’s version, but Adam reached his AI peak on that song. 
But when the last song, “No Boundaries,” hit the fan, his voice sounded strained, tired, and entirely uninspired by the slop he was singing. That’s okay. It was still a good night for Mr. Flamboyert. Sorry. My depleted bank of nicknames and I are glad this season is almost finished.
Kris Allen
I didn’t remember Kris’s version of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” being one of his better performances, but . . . crap, that was pretty dang good. I’ve pretty much let go of my Krisdain (I told you, the word play tank is on E, big time) to the point that I’ve almost got a man crush on the guy. Stop, season, stop! 
Next came a truly inspired rendition of another grade-A song choice, “What’s Goin’ On?” It was so Gaye. I mean, it was probably Kris’s best performance of the season, too. Randy and Simon both called it too light and casual for the big stage and the grandiose nature of the night, but they were dead wrong. What they failed to realize (and what Kris capitalized on) was the fact that these two guys aren’t competing on a big stage, they’re competing in people’s living rooms. 
That’s why the final song was such a huge goose egg for both guys. Kris’s version of “Happy, Happy Dream Song” was slightly less offensive than Adam’s, but the song that was too cheery for a guy in black mascara was too Diva for the crooner next door. That piece of crap song didn’t fit either of them, because neither of them are . . . pieces of crap. Okay, I’m done.

Sun, Meet Dog’s Tail End


As a Cubs fan who blinked twice, looked up, and realized the Cardinals had just blanked my favorite team in under 2.5 hours, it feels a bit odd to say this, but here goes: Games like this make me love baseball even more.

Yeah, getting blanked by a guy who has no business throwing a complete game shutout (a guy named Joel Pineiro) sucks, but he was on today. Baseball is a game where some days, a not-so-great pitcher can have a Cy Young day. I love that about baseball. When the sun shines on a dog’s can, it shines really, really bright. Smile, doggy butt, this is your day in the sun.
And it’s so easy to walk away from a game like this without feeling bad. Tomorrow could be Bobby Scales chance at 3 homers or Milton Bradley’s long-awaited 5-for-5 effort. Who knows? There are plenty of K-9 keisters just waiting to bask in the glow.

RIP, LOL

I’m a self-professed word addict, but I’m not a language snob. I don’t really like Grammar Nazis. I don’t bemoan the demise of the English language. I just want to make it clear from the outset that this rant is not, I repeat, not (at the risk of creating a double negative . . . I mean, the second not was for emphasis, not to negate the previous not . . . I didn’t say I wasn’t a nerd) grammatically or linguistically motivated. 

I do love language, I just don’t believe in lording it over people. I love it when people use words well to communicate ideas not just clearly but also beautifully. When people can’t communicate, that’s okay. There’s plenty of other cool stuff to do. So, once again, this isn’t a rant in defense of language.
This is a rant in defense of laughter. I haven’t decided yet, but I just may love laughter more than language. I love the sound of genuine, good-natured laughter. Haughty laughter (which should kind of rhyme, but doesn’t at all) is irritating. Derisive laughter, not so fun. And some people’s laughs are just plain wrong, though it’s no fault of their own. But when people laugh for all the right reasons, laughter is my favorite sound in the universe.
But in text speak, it’s just LOL. Or LMAO. Or ROFL. Or ROFLMAO. Normally, I love abbreviations. But LOL just doesn’t cut it. LOL isn’t funny. Laughter is supposed to be contagious, but LOL is a virtual laughter vaccine. What’s more, the paranoid side of me (all of me) has serious doubts about just how OL the L really is. It’s the texting equivalent of just telling someone, “That was funny.” Cue the video:

When I see LOL, no matter how much I trust the person who typed it, I usually suspect them of lying. I think, Oh . . . they didn’t really think that was funny. They just saw that I was trying to be funny and patronizingly LOL’d me to make me feel better. Well guess what . . . IT DIDN’T WORK! And that’s just not healthy.
The sad thing is, I don’t know a remedy. Typing in “Ha ha” doesn’t really work. “Hee hee” sounds . . . not manly. Expounding on how hard you’re laughing sometimes works. (My friend Heather usually informs me when an IM or email forces her to involuntarily spray her beverage on her computer screen . . . I really like that one, but it can be expensive.) And no acknowledgment of the humor is even worse. Total silence just lets the joke-teller’s mind wander to all kinds of bad places. Youcrossedthelineville. Youreanidiot City. Ihavenoideawhatyourtalkingaburg. I hate those places.
I guess we could all just YouTube videos of ourselves laughing at various degrees of hilarity. You could tape the, “I’ll humor you with a subdued chuckle” laugh. The “I don’t get it, but I’m laughing anyway” laugh. The “seriously, if I typed LOL, I wouldn’t be lying,” laugh. The delayed, “Okay, I’m laughing, but just kind of . . . still figuring it out . . . oh, NOW I get it, that’s hilarious and I can’t stop laughing,” laugh. And of course the “Someone call a doctor, I’m having an aneurysm and my abdomen’s imploding,” laugh. I’m sure there are others, but those would do okay.
Still, I guess there’s just no substitute for actually being with people and laughing in their company. Kind of the down side of freelance writing from home, eh? Of course, my favorite audience of laughers is almost always here, and they’re a very easy crowd to please. 🙂 (Oh, yeah, smiling via text is completely ok with me.)
If you have any better ideas for LOL alternatives, please let me know. I’m dying here.

March 19, 2009 question – Do Not Adjust Your Trivia

Please Stand By
We are experiencing trivial difficulties
Possible explanations for the horrendously long trivia drought:

10. So many people got the Indian Ocean question right, I drowned.
9. After my DVR went down, spent all my time trying to catch up with my stories online.
8. Swine flu
7. Man-crush on Al Gore led me to recycle myself.
6. I’m staging a poorly organized trivia strike to free Darfur
5. Originally planned to do this top 10 after missing last Thursday, and it’s just taken a lot longer than I thought.
4. I’m out of deodorant, and when I extend my arms far enough out to type, I pass out from the stench.
3. Too busy using up free Kentucky Grilled Chicken vouchers and the subsequent finger licking has occupied me ever since
2. I just ran out of questions. You guys know everything.
1. I don’t know. Isn’t this weird?

Today’s Question
Current Events
According to the FTC, what U.S. state had the highest rate of Identity Theft complaints per capita in 2008?

Last Wednesday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
The Indian Ocean surrounds Madagascar. Almost all of you knew. Consider your name bolded.