Cubs Online Starter Kit

I got nothing much to say today except that I’m ready for a new series uninterrupted by scheduled days off, but there are plenty of people with lots of worthwhile things to read, so I thought at the outset of the season I’d point you to some of my favorite places to go online for Cubs-related material.

A League of Her Own (LOHO) Julie and the Gang make this a great place to go for laughs, biting commentary (and I mean there’s both scathing criticism and insight into the biting community), and intriguing/intelligent/slightly insane discussion, especially during live game threads. It’s a lot of fun.

Another Cubs Blog (ACB) This place is intellectual, but definitely not high brow. Their current slogan, “A thoughtless and vile corner of Cubdom,” is only half true. The discussion isn’t for everybody, but the content is actually more profound than profane. The series previews and game recaps are must reads, and this post from today’s lineup is evidence of the wealth of insight into the Cub farm system you’ll find over there. If you’re open to actually learning about your team instead of just airing ill-informed opinions, ACB is a welcome place.

Cubscast I’ve made it no secret that this is my favorite Cubs podcast. Lou and Sheps have a handle on the right mix of information, humor, even-keel perspective, and emotional attachment. They take the team seriously, but not too much so. It’s also an extremely well produced program, definitely worth a listen if you haven’t yet. Nice posts on their blog, too, and great discussion in the message boards.

Tales from Aisle 424 Tim McGinnis is hilarious. He has an excellent mix of good Cubs information, merciless rebukes of imbecilic beat-reporter pseudojournalism, and everyman rants (if every man were, in fact, really, really funny). Seriously, it’s very entertaining. Well, I’m being serious, the blog isn’t always. But sometimes. That’s not really the point. I digress . . .

There are many more good Cubs blogs around this guy’s Intertestines. If you want to know, I mean really know, what a pitcher in or around the Cubs’ system can do, Harry Pavlidis will fill you in on Cubs f/x. Matt Hardee has started up a pretty cool blog with his view from the Wrigley Rooftops. And all the blogs I link to in the sidebar are fine, upstanding citizens of blogsville. I need to update the list with more, I think, but this is the best way I know how to tell you where to start.

Oh, and go Cubs.

Cubs WOO Cast WOO

This week I had the distinct pleasure of joining Lou and Sheps for an episode of Cubscast. For them it was the 599th installment of the podcast, but for me it was my first podcast appearance. I’ve been listening to Cubscast for years, so I was thrilled when they asked me to come on the show.

I had a great time despite some technical issues on my end (and despite the fact that said Esmailin Caridad was all but guaranteed the right-handed closer job . . . I meant setup man) and I hope I can do it again some time in the future. The guys are great, the show is a lot of fun, and I promise I’ll do better next time.

You can download the episode here or on iTunes.

Wherefore art thou, Geo?

Big, gigantic, tremendous thanks to Tim Sheridan over at Boys of Spring for posting pictures from the Cubs’ preliminary workouts in Mesa on Wednesday. (You may have heard Tim’s work as the Cubs’ spring training PA announcer or when he’s been interviewed on Cubscast.) Again, huge thanks for the great photos, including this one.

But what in the name of Keira Knightley happened to Geo?

I’m glad he lost some weight, but did an alien jump out of his abdomen? Were his munchies really that bad? He looks bulimic. He looks like he’s doing a killer Tyler Colvin impression. He looks like Chandler in season 3.

I guess this is good news. Unless Geo decides to hit his weight again this season.

h/t to ACB

AL vs. NL Smackdown

I posted today at LOHO about the supposed AL supremacy over the NL. After looking at the numbers, it seems the supremacy has been very real the past several years. I hate to say it, but I don’t see it changing any time soon, either.

Also, be sure to check out the campaign launched by Cubscast to voice support for Andre Dawson’s election into the Hall of Fame. And there has never been a better time to visitHawk4theHall. There’s a lot of cool information on that site about Dawson that makes a strong case for Hawk.

Personally, I just really want the guy to get in. One of my favorite Cub memories was going to a game in ’87 when Dawson came to the plate in the bottom of the 9th with two men out, two on, and the Cubs down three. Even from some pretty mediocre seats I had a great look at Dawson icing the pitcher with his trademark badass stare. And then he crushed one to send Wrigley into hysterics and the game into extras.

After that it got pretty boring. Seeing Harry sing a second 7th inning stretch was fun, and then Thad Bosley drove in the winning run . . . or something like that. I was 10, that’s pretty much all I remember.

Anyway, just thought I should post something finally. Didn’t want to keep you both waiting.

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.

Twitter Is Cubs Therapy


Does Kevin Gregg [bottom right] owe Shane Victorino an apology?
A funny thing happens when a guy fails colossally for the Chicago Cubs: he starts to get blamed for more than his fair share of guilt. If it goes on long enough, the poor sap can achieve legendary status of abysm (yes, it’s a word; no, it doesn’t mean what I’m implying it means . . . yet; it will catch on as the act or state of being abysmal).

It’s called . . . the reverse Chuck Norris effect.
The positive side of the routine has gained popularity on a commercial level with the Dos Equis beer ad campaign about the Most Interesting Man in the World, but we all know it originated with Chuck Norris. You can read them on into infinity (which Chuck Norris has counted to . . . twice) at www.chucknorrisfacts.com. It has some real gems like these:
When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.
AND
Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.
You can find a great alternative on Twitter that sings the praises of 24‘s Jack Bauer. Just follow JackFacts24 (or merely follow the link; you need not tweet to read tweets) to read more tremendous founts of hyperbolic grandeur like this one:
Jack Bauer’s killed so many bad guys that #5 on the World Most Wanted list is a Malaysian kid that downloaded the movie Dodgeball.
See. It’s funny. It even reaches peak hilarity in the baseball world over at The Ted Lilly Fan Club. But when it happens in the opposite direction, sadness creeps in. Don’t get me wrong, it’s enormously funny, especially when it happens live on Twitter, as it did last night. The downside is that sad events (like anything involving Aaron Miles or Kevin Gregg) precipitate the folly.
The joking began directed at the indescribably bad Aaron Miles. I suggested he was the reason Tony LaRussa started batting his pitchers 8th, and things snowballed from there. People started adding the hashtag #reversechucknorris to their insults to make it easier to track (you can read the conveniently organized hatin’ right here).

But by the time Kevin Gregg gave up his third game-losing home run of the year, any ire directed at Miles shifted dramatically and overwhelmingly at Kevin Gregg, and not even those goggles could have shielded him from the hatred radiating off our collective screens. The rage was too acute, too intense to channel into meticulous hashtaggery. No one thought to accuse Kevin Gregg of being the real beer tosser (until now) as tweets gave way to torches, and the fun of it vanished.
Had it not been for the outlet of ridicule that Twitter provides, though, I’m afraid the rage of that moment would have been much worse. It’s at times like these that Twitter comes in real handy. It gives any fan a chance to vent without destroying things. It makes the bad a little less painful. And it makes the good (like when I had the good fortune of predicting Kosuke’s 3-run homer against the Pirates) even more fun than usual.
Again, even if you’re not a tweeter or twitterer or tweetist, you can follow the commentary stream in any number of platforms. Cubscast has its convenient and friendly 140 Characters from Home Plate page. You can search for #cubs on Twitter. Or if you join Twitter, you can comment from within the MLB Gameday applet (for free . . . for now). It won’t fix the closer situation, but it will help us deal with the brokenness. If you’re already tweeting, be sure to follow me, @Adambuckled . . . or not. I tweet too much.

You Won’t Like Me When I’m Angry

Image courtesy of Marvel.com
You know I try to be positive, right? If you’ve read my Cubs profile, you know I do my best to think from the perspective of the players, the manager, and the general manager and to try to understand why they do what they do. I give them the benefit of the doubt.

As this Twitter discussion with Lou, co-host of Cubscast, shows, Monday’s game inspired a flash of violence that made an impression on my coffee table. But the anger faded. For the most part, I try to stay positive and hope for the best. Heck, my last post was a Romper Room clip. But yesterday’s game had me furious—and I’m still fuming. There might be serious furniture casualties if this keeps up.
In some ways, yesterday’s loss to the Phillies was the easiest to stomach of all the games in the sweep. The Phillies who are supposed to hit well did. The reigning AL Cy Young showed the award was no fluke. Ryan Dempster pitched okay except for a few costly mistakes. The bullpen didn’t implode. The offense was stymied by a pitcher who does that to teams on a regular basis.
But here’s what really browned my ivy:
  • Milton Bradley was moved from the #2 spot, where he’s excelled, to the #3 spot, where he has no business hitting.
  • Kosuke hit 2nd, instead of leading off where he has excelled. (For a detailed and extremely clever explanation of why both these moves were idiotic, read on.)
  • Ryan Theriot hit leadoff, where he has done well, but not as well as when he hits 7th or 8th.
  • Aaron Miles is still on this team, and he played yet again.
So I’m angry at Lou for screwing up the lineup, especially for messing with Milton Bradley’s hot streak. I mean, COME ON! Bradley clearly thrived in the lower pressure of the #2 slot. He’s hitting almost 200 points better as the #2 hitter than in the 3-slot. When he tries to get on base and hit good pitches hard, he’s brilliant. When he tries to hit for power like a #3 hitter, he is not good. Lou: put Milton back in the #2 slot and do it NOW.
And I’m mad at Jim Hendry. I won’t criticize his off-season moves, because very few of them have turned out to reflect statistical projections. I won’t blame him for that. But I WILL blame him (in all-capped italics if I must) for the move he’s not making now. Aaron Miles needs to go, and it should have happened a long time ago.

The Cubs have Aaron Miles because the Cardinals decided he wasn’t good enough to play for them any more. It’s not like releasing him would bring shame to anyone but Aaron Miles. I don’t hate Aaron Miles. He seems nice. But he has not played at a major-league level all year long. Maybe his injuries excuse that. Maybe the frustration is eating him up. Whatever the cause of his meltdown, I feel bad for him. But I don’t want him around anymore an any role more demanding than assuming Yosh Kawano’s clubhouse duties.
You can read Aaron Miles’s full stats at baseball-reference.com, but I’ll highlight these for you:
I’m not mad at Aaron Miles. I’m sure he’s doing everything he can. But it’s time for Jim Hendry to give him a wonderful assortment of parting gifts including the home game version of The Mendoza Line Challenge. Miles is taking up a roster spot, and the list of players more deserving of being on the roster than Aaron Miles is long and includes my brother’s roommate’s cat.
I’m fed up with inexcusable bad decisions. Yesterday’s game was the prime example of stupid, indefensible management. Jim, Lou, I have been your advocate and defender, but you are testing my freaking limits.
[Yosh Kawano image courtesy of Baseball Hall of Fame]

What does it mean to be a Cubs fan?

On yesterday’s episode, Lou and Sheps over at Cubscast had an interesting discussion about one listener’s criticism of a disgusted, tirade-filled cast that spilled out into the podcast world earlier in the week.

The fan’s criticism in a nutshell was this: I’m tired of listening to you guys whine and rant about the Cubs. That’s behavior befitting of Yankee and Red Sox fans. Not Cub fans; we love our team no matter what.

Sheps’ response, in essence, was as follows: It’s stupid to love a team no matter what. If the Cubs stink, it’s your duty to complain, not lead cheers while the players and front office stink up the place.

If you’ve ever peeked at my Cubs bio, you probably know how I feel about this one. I believe love for the Cubs or any team should be pretty much unconditional. If you stop being a fan when your team stinks, you’re a fair-weather fan. I’ve heard countless people argue against that statement, but they all amount to the same steaming pile of Cardinal. Liking a team only when they’re good is the very definition of fair-weather fan.

Plain and simple, I have no respect for fair-weather fans.
That being said, there’s a difference between staying true to (or loving, if you want to call it that, Cub lovers) a team and not criticizing a team. There’s a middle ground between unconditional fandom and happy-go-lucky idiocy.
When the Cub defense and bullpen conspired to blow Randy Wells’ stellar performance and potential 1st career win yet again, I was real angry. We’re talking cartoon fumes pouring out the sides of my bright-red face. 
But I’m still loyal, even when I’m not happy with the Cubs. I try to keep a short leash on my complaints about the Cubs because I have nothing else to cheer for. I have no control over who plays, who they trade, how they play, or anything. When the team functions well, I’m happy. When they don’t, I’m out of luck. 
Call me an idiot for my blind allegiance, but complaining and booing, for the most part, is the stuff of idiots.
The guy who complains at length usually believes his complaints will have some effect on the decisions Lou and Jim Hendry make. The booing fan seems to think she can alter the performance or somehow erase the existence of the player she’s deriding. The person who jumps ship to cheer for another team? Good riddance.
All these people are deluded. Maybe I am too, but at least I’m loyal.
So complain away, boo away, or just go away. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that anyone’s really listening. I know I’m not.