Ripping Off Easy as 1, 2, 3 (4)

Travis, “Side”
Plain White T’s, “1, 2, 3, 4”

The first time I heard the Plain White T’s uber-meh hit, “Hey There, Delilah,” I felt pretty certain they had perfected the formula for a one-hit wonder. I don’t listen to the radio enough to gauge the success of their second major release (or even to tell if another “hit” escaped me) but the moment I heard “1, 2, 3, 4,” I was absolutely certain I had heard something just like it before.

Obviously the title is unoriginal. Feist, The Jackson Five, and about a zillion Muppets have done alpha-numeric progression songs. But that wasn’t what caught my ear and dragged me for 3:30. It was the cadence and melody of the opening verse that sounded familiar. Only problem: I didn’t like the original song enough to ever make a mental note of the title or the artist. I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t . . . anything it.

After about a month of occasional mental digging and Internet sifting, I finally discovered (via hearing a song by Keane and searching for bands that sounded like them) that the rip-ee was Travis, and the ripped-off song was “Side,” as in “the circle only has one.” Overall, the songs sound dissimilar, so I’ll point you in the direction of the rippage.

Compare the chorus of “Side” (starting at 0:36) with the opening verse of “1, 2, 3, 4” (:20 in) and you’ll hear exactly what I mean. It’s not a perfect match, but there’s no question the latter wouldn’t exist without the former. That’s right. It’s a Plain White T’s ripoff, even though Matthew McConaughey was not involved.

What If?

Could we handle this in October? I’m not so sure.
Tribune photo by Phil Velasquez / June 20, 2008

Every year. Every single year at some point I imagine what it would be like for the Cubs to win it all. This year of all years it seems stupid, because I never had a legitimate right to imagine such a thing in 2009. Still, I’m doing it now. What would it be like to cheer with gusto in late October for the only team that could make me mean it?

One of the questions forced upon Cub fans this season, juxtaposed against consecutive division championships and the subsequent NLDS sweeps, was the hypothetical quandary of would you rather—advance to the postseason only to have your dreams summarily dashed by the NL West, or wallow through a puddle of disappointment and underperformance? Up until this moment, I’ve wavered back and forth between longing for the acute, piercing pain of playoff horror and acceptance of the dull, chronic ache of mediocrity. But today it hit me: I can deal with this.

Last year at this time (and in 2007, 2003, 1998, 1989, and 1984) I was in serious emotional anguish. You know, the Cubs part of me—let’s not confuse Cubbie woes with real problems. Anyway, as I get ready for the World Series to commence, I’m suddenly aware of how little I care and how perfectly comfortable that feels. I don’t care because the Cubs aren’t in it. I can think clearly (for me). My heart rate isn’t racing into the mid-to-upper 200s. I’m not swearing at my TV. My furniture isn’t in danger of being pummeled. I don’t have James Ingram on repeat. It’s . . . nice.

If the Cubs were in this, I would be excited. Happy even. But make no mistake, the next week would hold the potential to send me into a catatonic state. 2003 nearly ended me, and I’m not talking about Bartman. Game 1 of the NLCS made me so over-the-edge angry, I didn’t even cheer when Sosa’s homer sent the game to extras. I had nothing left in my emotional reserve by the time games 6 and 7 rolled around.

I try to fool myself into thinking a World Series would be different, that I’d be so happy to see the Cubs there I wouldn’t really care if they won or lost. But that’s a lie from hell. A World Series loss might very well kill me.

So as much as I’d love to see the Cubs in the Phillies’ place right now, it’s probably for the best that they’re not. When they finally do advance to the Series, I need to make sure my affairs are in order, just in case. Update the will. Write out an obit. Reevaluate our choice of godparents. Make amends with those I’ve hurt or who have hurt me. And I’d have to finish up all my jobs or at least arrange for a backup in the event of my demise. Then I’d be ready.

For now, bring on the Yawnees and the Pheelnothings. I couldn’t care less, and for that I’m thankful.

Will the Cubs Do a Complete 160?

There’s a fine post over at Cubscast in which Lou (the podcast host, not the manager) delves into the Cubs’ payroll numbers. It’s not real encouraging, especially if the Ricketts are at all financially strapped in 2010.

What remains unknown are all of the arbitration-eligible players including Carlos Marmol, Soto, Theriot, Fontenot, Jeff Baker, Gorzelanny, Angel Guzman, Heilman, Koyie Hill, and Sean Marshall. That’s 1/4 of our 40-man roster.

Add in those potential numbers to the running total and if I were Bradley or Zambrano, I’d start packing.

I’m sure they knew it, but the Ricketts family did not inherit a 134 million dollar team payroll. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s over $160 million next season, and of course this is without the addition of any outside players.

I’ve said before I think the Ricketts should be just fine since they bargained their way to a better purchase leveraged transfer price on the team. But still, they didn’t get rich by throwing money away. This offseason should be pretty interesting, though I don’t see Zambrano wearing anything but Cubbie blue in the years to come.

Milton, on the other hand, isn’t likely to stay. Most of the rumored trades would hurt the Cubs financially and on the field, although Ken Rosenthal believes many teams have interest and that the Ricketts won’t pay too large a portion of his contract. I just can’t see Hendry, Lou, or the Ricketts wanting to deal with the head-case headaches.

The winter meetings will tell us a lot. Or drive us all crazy, either way.

Say it With Me: Jaramillo

Will Rudy Jaramillo make a bit of difference for the Cubs? Dunno.

Can they really afford to pay him $800 grand a year? Maybe.

Will I keep my sanity if we can’t all agree on how to pronounce his name? No way.

I was worried about the prospect of Cub fans and broadcasters botching Chone Figgins’s name a la Kerry Woods, Ryan Sandberg, and Sha-Waaaaaahn Dunston. We cannot let this happen again. So here’s a tutorial, courtesy of inogolo:

hah-rah-MEE-yoThank you very much. Class dismissed.

The (Off) Season of Sharing

While things have been fairly slow on the Cubbie front, it’s been anything but in the offices of And Counting. Don’t let the recent post stoppage fool you. I’ve been working like a dog (mostly on things of no interest to you whatsoever). And I’ve also been lending my services to a couple of other blogs I think will be of interest to you.

First there’s the Cubs blog of epic renown, A League of Her Own (affectionately known as LOHO or Cubhalla). I’ll be posting there on my patented irregular basis, beginning with this weekend’s look into potential candidates to join Rudy Jaramillo on staff with the Cubs. There’s an inspiring cast of regular contributers and discussion generators over there, and I highly recommend making it a regular stop on your quest to flee productivity.

I’ve also begun contributing to a growing Chicago sports site, 312 Sports, where I just posted a somewhat statistical look at Rudy’s effect on Soriano while in Texas.

I’m thrilled, honored, and falsely humbled to be a part of both blogs and to expose even more people to my verbose rants and musings. I won’t stop posting unique content here, but in the spirit of sharing I thought I’d begin a new trend of highlighting great content from other Cubs sites. Here’s a link from a blog I thoroughly enjoy, waxpaperbeercup, who offers some encouraging news on Starlin Castro, a rising star in the Cub farm system (who also is one letter away from being named after two dictators).

Positive Postseason Awards

Is it really worth it to suggest any kind of positive postseason awards for this 2009 Cubs team?

I got nothing. Yes, they had a winning record. Yes, Derrek Lee looked great. Yay, I was pleasantly surprised by Randy Wells. But man, this season was annoying.

Right now I can only think to hand out the trailing ellipsis award to . . .


I have an intense fear of heights. For instance, when I look up at a water tower—from the ground, mind you—I panic a little bit just imagining myself standing up there. I’m not afraid of falling so much as I just feel like I don’t belong up there. Just writing that freaked me out.

I’m a man of irrational fears. Sometimes I’m afraid of writing. If you want to know why I haven’t posted here in so long, it’s because of that. It’s not precise enough to say I haven’t felt like it. I have felt like it. But when I have thought about it, I have frozen. I think about writing, about being up there on the internetial platform, and I just feel like I don’t belong here. I’m afraid of the permanence of words. Once anything I write is out there, I can’t really pull it back. I can never scale back down the mountain.

That hasn’t stopped me from writing altogether, but . . . it’s stopped me from writing a lot of things. Things I know I should be writing. I guess I’ve just been afraid to reach the things I really want, feeling like they belonged in my dreams, not in my grasp.

It’s so very silly.

Worst Move of the Season WINNER: Milton Bradley

In purely baseball terms, the Milton Bradley signing didn’t hurt the Cubs nearly as much as is being reported. And signing him wasn’t the worst move of the season. Not benching him earlier or more frequently was not the worst move. Neither was the refusal to put him on the DL. This award goes solely to Milton Bradley himself.

The reason all the other baseball moves pale in comparison to Milton’s actions and attitudes is the simple fact that all the other moves could have worked out. Aaron Miles’s stats have never been as bad as they were this year. Milton’s numbers should have been better. The Cubs overall should have scored more runs. Relief pitchers can be unpredictable fellows, and the bullpen was far from being the biggest problem on this team. The one personnel move that had no chance of helping the Cubs immediately was the Mark DeRosa trade, securing its position as runner up.

But Milton turned on the fans early and often and withdrew from his teammates maybe as far back as spring training. He conducted himself like an angry child, not just in the heat of the moment but also in the daily grind of the season. That never works.  Its effect on this Cubs team is often exaggerated, but the effect it had on Cubs fans is inarguable. He made this season suck more, and he alone is responsible for his actions. Awarding the WMotS to anyone else would fail to hold him accountable for his egregious conduct.

So, Milton, take this award and put it on your mantel*.

*and by on your mantel I mean up your self indulgent ass

Worst Move of the Season Nominee: Milton Bradley

I debated this last nomination. I have defended, advised, and mocked Milton Bradley ad infinitum. If all I knew about Bradley’s 2009 season came from box scores and stats, I’d say he had a down but not dreadful year. Obviously the 40 RBI total is way too low. But the stats themselves don’t scream “Train Wreck!”

Unfortunately for . . . humanity, the stats don’t tell the whole Milton Bradley story. A Lifetime movie of the week very well might. A lot of media members saw a Milton meltdown coming (and some did their best to fulfill their own prophecies). Cub fans in general were suspicious of the signing (a 3-year, $30 million deal, the math of which never seems to add up; he’s making $7 million in ’09). So you could blame Jim Hendry for signing Milton in the first place. But I don’t think that decision is in the running for worst move of the season.

You could easily put the blame on Lou, too. As I’ve noted, his lineup shuffles probably didn’t do a lot to help ease what has become a standard rough adjustment period for big-money free-agent Cub outfielders. I doubt sending him home and calling him a piece of tin worked motivational wonders, either. But in regard to Milton specifically, I seriously doubt Lou is to blame for Milton’s inability to handle life as a Cub.

I didn’t want to blame the fans or the media because, contrary to what either group might think, the Cubs don’t rise and fall according to the comments made about them. And just when I was about to give up on a Milton-related nomination, I suddenly realized who in this picture may have made the worst move of the season:

Milton Bradley. Duh.

The worst move of the season just may have been Milton’s decision to pour out the crusty contents of his heart to Bruce Miles (who, in one of the best pieces of sports journalism Chicago has seen in years, relayed the story in all its lamentable context to us); about how he doesn’t enjoy playing at Wrigley, how he understands why the Cubs are such losers, and how the management, the players, and the fans all breed on negativity. That move was stupid, ignorant, selfish, mean-spirited, pathetic, pitiful, and also not much good.

That interview was the culmination of a bad attitude that had been stewing within Milton from the day he first set foot in the left-handed batter’s box at Wrigley field as a Chicago Cub. He was ejected on a bad call, the first in a series of admittedly bad things to happen to him as a Cub, none of which outweighed the childish behavior exhibited by him all season long.

Plenty of Milton’s adversaries this year have been jerks worthy of criticism. But their collective wrongs do not make Milton right. And when Milton Bradley, in talking with Bruce Miles, turned once and for all on the fans, the city of Chicago, and the Cubs organization in general, he blamed me for this mess. He blamed you.

Bad move, Milton. Bad move. Was it the worst? I doubt Milton thinks so. What do you think?

Other Nominees:
Firing Gerald Perry
Trading Mark DeRosa
Incessant Lineup Changes
Bullpen Design & Management