Time to catch up.

Well, after two days of making up random facts and taking things out of context from shady websites in order to finish a proposal report for my business communication class, I am now ready to re-enter the world of sports blogging and discuss all the amazing happenings in the past few days.

First off, it really was too bad that Jonathan Horton and Sasha Artemev couldn’t have better showings in the men’s individual all-around.  After watching those two carry the U.S. to bronze the day before I was really hoping to see some lighting in a bottle, but alas, it really doesn’t happen twice.  Either way, hats off to Yang for getting the gold in solid fashion.
In other news, I’ve found my future wife, and her name is Alicia Sacramone.  I love you dearly, Alicia, and eagerly await the moment that our two like souls meet.

That was creepy.  ANYWAY.

So you know those road woes the Cubs have been victim to this season along with the rest of the league?  Gone, apparently.  The Cubs have now won nine straight away from the Friendly Confines, and are back to .500 on the season in this respect.  It’s looking more and more like Dan Uggla won’t have to join witness protection for giving away home field for the Cubs in the Classic.

More on the win tonight.  Darylecapt.a181bd349b22474381100d03a8012ee8.cubs_marlins_baseball_mds108.jpg Ward?  Do you remember me?  I’m sorry for using a mild synonym for poop to describe you a week or so ago.  I’m also sorry for the fun my dad and I had at your expense just before your GO-AHEAD 3-RUN HOMER earlier today.  You be outta the doghouse, my man.  You out.  Straight kicks.

Anybody see this story by Peter Gammons, championing Cubs rookie catcher Geovany Soto as the NL MVP?  I don’t see it happening in any way whatsoever, but it’s not a bad argument.  Catchers do so much in this game that goes under the radar and never shows up on stat sheets.  The MVP has become a glorified average-homers-RBIs race, and really, these things are simply the inevitable results of the things good players put on the table.  The numbers are indicators, and not the reasons themselves.  It seems like voters have regrettably lost sight of this fact.

Kerry Wood catches a lot of flak from Cubs fans.  While the factors are debatable (his performance history?  injury history?  the dead squirrel goatee?), the numbers say Woody has 57 K’s in 49 innings, a WHIP under 1.00, and is holding those unfortunate enough to face him to a .201 batting average.  Not Cy Young numbers, granted, but exceedingly solid.

Michael Phelps.  There are so many things to say about the guy, but it’s getting to the point where the guy’s name carries more weight than the millions of words and gushing epithets that are going to be flooding the internet for the next week or two.  I’m not even going to try to join in.  Just….Michael Phelps.  Yep.

Awesome win yesterday for the Cubs (the 11-7 one over the Braves).  Every Cubs starter (not counting Lilly) had a hit – six had two, including the maybe-not-slumping-so-much Kosuke, the hopefully-not-too-injured Ramirez, and future NL batting leader The Riot.  That’s the kind of all-around lineup production that wins championships.

Horton Hears A Bronze!

I have a cold.  That’s right, I’m leading off with personal illness.  My nose is runny.  I’m cranky.  I have to give a speech in business communication later today, and my stomach feels weird.  I thought I was hungry so I’m having a bagel and it’s not helping.  Luckily, baseball + Olympics = blogging material.

So, gymnastics yesterday?  Amazing!  Jonathan Horton was absolutely incredible to watch.  I know very little about gymnastics, so really all I can go by is if you stick a landing.  oly_a_horton_300.jpgHorton did that pretty much every time, and the sniveling whiny announcer even got caught up in the guy’s performance.  I’ve never been that caught up in gymnastics – I was at the point where I was nervous on the high bar, wondering, “Why am I so nervous?”  Good to see the patchwork group that “couldn’t” bring home the bronze.

How good is Chase Utley?  Watching his at-bat last night against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton was mesmerizing, to say the least.  He fought off some sliders I don’t think anyone else could reach.  He’s got such a quick swing – it would be interesting to compare it to Sheff’s swing in his prime and see how it stacks up.

Also in that game – I know Manny’s a goof, but seriously, being five minutes late for the start of an inning is ridiculous, especially when it seems like he was late because he wanted a new glove and shirt (I don’t buy the “I thought Torre took me out so I went to pee” excuse).  I can’t imagine what’s going to happen to the guy when he finally gets too old to hit like he does now, but still acts like the same oddball lunatic.

Quick notes: I enjoy watching water polo.  Beach volleyball is boring, but indoor isn’t bad.  Hearing the crowd slowly get more and more excited as Sasha Artemev absolutely nailed his pommel horse routine was awesome – almost as awesome as the routine itself.  Excited to watch Harden tonight – go Cubs!

I’m Loving August 2008.

how great is this?  Stretch run in baseball.  Football’s starting to
kick into gear.  NASCAR is getting close to the chase (yes, I watch it
– I can sense those quizzical looks and I don’t appreciate them).  And
this year, we’ve got the Olympics to kick everything up another notch. 
I spent all day flipping back and forth between like eight channels
because there’s so much on.

That is, I was doing that when I
wasn’t out seeing Pineapple Express.  I’m going to digress from the
sports world for a second – this movie was awesome.  It’s definitely
for a certain audience, as the movie is in every sense of the word a
stoner comedy, but I thought it was arguably the funniest movie I’ve
seen in several years, as I was cracking up with surprising regularity
throughout the runtime.  Plus, it was really neat to see James Franco
do something besides whine about Spiderman – he did a fantastic job;
probably a better one than the more traditonally comedic Seth Rogen. 
Worth the price of admission if it looks like your kind of thing.

How about those American swimmers?  If you missed out on seeing
the 4×100 free relay tonight, you missed out on seeing some of the most
exciting 4 minutes in Olympic history.  And given the drama between the
French and the U.S. leading into the race, the American comeback in the
last 50 meters thanks to Jason Lezak was incredible. 
I’ve never been that on the edge of my seat for a swim race, but I was
nervous and tense and amazingly excited to see the photo finish go to
the Americans.  I didn’t yell at the top of my lungs like Phelps and
Garrett Weber-Gale, but I was close.

Of course, you know I’m going to mention the Cubs (this is an MLB blog,
after all).  Seeing the Cubs bounce back after the rough loss yesterday
was great, especially that five-run sixth inning.  Definitely biting my
nails for a while given Carpenter was on the mound and pitching well
until he fell apart at the end of his outing.  Overall, just a great
win – I feel so reassured about the team on so many levels – stringing
together hits, Wood and Marmol pitching well among the biggest.  And
the defense – Edmonds and Fukudome both made some really nice catches
tonight to shut down threats and take away hits, and I’m loving it. 
Still waiting on Ramirez, Lee, Soto, and especially Kosuke to snap the
slight offensive funk, but it’s a really, really great sign that the
Cubs are winning even without everyone firing on all cylinders.  Time
to take this win to Atlanta and shut down those Braves!  

One Of Those Days

Man, it was rough to watch today’s game.  It’s always a struggle to watch your team get owned over nine innings, but when Cubs hitters are getting (relatively) mowed down by the likes of Todd Freaking Wellemeyer, it’s particularly difficult to swallow.  Couple that with the win by Milwaukee, and it’s clear this was hardly the best of days for the NL Central leaders.

It was, however, enjoyable to watch the Olympics again.  I’m constantly wowed by gymnasts, particularly on the high bar.  I’m not sure how some of that stuff is possible to learn.  Michael Phelps continues to impress and only get better.  08092008.jpgMy lone complaint is that the goatee/mustache he was sporting recently ever saw the light of day.  Shame on you, Mr. Phelps.

Has anyone noticed that Aramis Ramirez appears to have changed his batting stance?  I’ve tried to find pictures of him from last year versus now that illustrate this, and have failed, so this is more of an opinion slash open question.  It really looks like he’s opened up his front leg before he goes into the swing itself, but his torso stays fairly closed throughout.  The more I look at him, the more he just looks awkwardly contorted in the batter’s box.  This makes me wonder if the lackluster .275 batting average he’s sporting right now is more than just a case of him being mired in an extended slump, and perhaps more based on slight mechanical issues.  Either way, the Cubs need him to start hitting better if they want to really make sure they stay out front in the division.

This will never happen, but I’d really like to see Fukudome and Soto given about a week off to recharge.  They both look worn down out on the field.  Unfortunately, their bats are needed because of the aforementioned slim division lead, so it’s kind of a Catch-22 kind of thing, but if the Cubs can get up to maybe a seven or eight game lead, I don’t think that would be a bad idea.  Perhaps when the September call-ups come into play they can get a few more days of rest here and there.

My, how things change…

edmondscub460may15.jpgWhen I first heard the Cubs had signed Jim Edmonds, I was angry.  Like, furious.

You have to understand, I hate the Cardinals more than any other team in baseball.  Even the White Sox.  No matter how bad they are, they always play the Cubs tough – this isn’t based on anything more than perception, but I really think the Cubs struggle to beat the Cards more than any other team in baseball, except for maybe the Marlins.

So you can imagine how I felt when I first saw Edmonds in a Cubs uniform.  Here’s a guy that killed us for a decade, and now I’m supposed to cheer the guy?  I fully admit I actively rooted against him during every at-bat.  If he had a big hit to help the Cubs, I’d be happy, but also peeved that Soto or Kosuke or another middle-of-the-order bat hadn’t gotten the hit.

Now?  I love the guy.  It’s been a gradual change, to be sure.  I went from hating Eddy to being ambivalent towards the guy.  Then I kind of started to like him.  Today?  I can fully say I love Eddy.  Two homers against your former team to keep your current team in the game will do that for me.  Congratulations Jim Edmonds – you have yourself another fan.

I love Mark DeRosa!

You can say what you want about De-Ro, but the man’s a gamer.  He plays like eight positions and gives you quality at-bats day in and day out.  And every now and then, he does something special – the grand slam today was just the latest example.  I didn’t think that was going out at all when it came off the bat, but the ball kept carrying, and I’m so so happy it did and so ashamed that I doubted one of my favorite Cubbies for a second.

It’s also good to see that, while Marquis had his typically average-to-slightly-shaky outing, he held Berkman to 1-4, and the Cubs as a team held him to 1 for 9 this series.  It’s a good sign when team-wide pitching is holding your oppenents best hitter to numbers like that.  Granted, they didn’t do quite so well pitching against Carlos Lee, but the bottom line is they took 2 of 3 and kept the five-game division lead intact.

Soriano hit .300 today for the first time this season after having been oh-so-close a couple times in May.  Granted, he’s back down to .299, but the guy’s hitting .344 after the break, and it’s only a matter of time until we see him among the league leaders in average.  Good times!

Good to see Fukudome have a good day as well.  I’d really like to see him build some momentum and maybe make a run at .290 for the year.  .400 OBP would be pretty cool as well, though he’s 25 points off on that.  We’ll see.

Quick note – how does anyone hit Samardzija’s fastball?  That thing’s got like 4 inches of horizontal break on it.  Crazy.

Random Thoughts

Let me say that I like Dan Plesac.  I’m watching the White Sox because two of my roommates are big White fans, and D.J. just had leg surgery and isn’t announcing for them.  Dan’s stood in tonight, and he’s been nothing but insightful, informative, and personable.  He might start talking and then keep talking a bit too much because he clearly likes to listen to himself, but honestly, I don’t care that much.  D.J. spouts rhetoric all the time, and little else.  Hawk mostly knows what’s going on, but rarely manages to spit ideas out in a coherent matter, and has all those stupid sayings like “duck snort”.  Dan’s providing an element of steady rationality to the commentary for once, and I enjoy it.

I feel bad for Brandon Inge.  The guy goes on record saying he likes playing third, and actually kind of hates playing catcher.  Then the Tigers trade Pudge, and there Inge is, crouching behind the plate every night.  If I were him, and I were more of an *******, I’d be charged with passed balls at every non-critical opportunity until I got moved.  Poor guy.

(I wouldn’t really do that.  Only part of me meant it.)

I’d like to give a big pair of thumbs straight down to the storm that took out our cable until 5 today – a convenient hour after the Cubs game ended.  Wilson tango foxtrot, weather gods.  Wilson.  Tango.  Foxtrot.

I like Sam Adams Boston Lager.

Replay’s been such a huge discussion this year.  I feel like I should put my two cents in.  I mentioned this idea in a comment earlier today and thought I’d put it in here so as it would reach…well, probably less people, but whatever.  Here it is:

1.  Managers get one free challenge a game.  Doesn’t matter on what – you can save it until the last pitch of the game and challenge a called strike three if you want.
2.  If managers use their challenge, and then another call pops up that they don’t agree with, they have to petition the umpire crew to challenge the call.  3 of the 4 umpires must consent to the challenge in order to have the call reviewed.  In the event that a three man crew is on the field, two must agree.  I don’t think this will ever happen, but if there are only two umps out there, they both must consent.  Managers get two of these petitions a game.
3.  Umpires reserve the right to review questionable plays in which a run is scored.  This means if the home plate ump calls a runner safe at home and the third base ump disagrees to the point that he wants to look at the tape, he can.

My hopes would be that this would encourage managers to be more rational when they sprint out of the dugout looking to tear someone’s head off, since they really do need to convince umps of their view.  This would also help increase accountability among the umpire crew, since there’s a kind of running evaluation of each other happening on the field.

Talk About Frustrating…

Nights like this are the reason I’m probably going to have gray hair at around the same time my high school AP Euro History teacher did (hint: he wasn’t 30 yet).  Not just because of the weather, which was bad at best – apparently there was a tornado at some point in the West Suburbs of Chicago.  That will actually lead to a mildly positive point in a few moments.  No, it’s the Cubs (what else?)

First off – I’m fine with Darryl Ward spelling Lee every now and then.  I’d rather see DeRosa over at first, and then spell him at second with Fontenot or Cedeno, but oh well.  What’s NOT cool is having him hitting third.  I don’t care if he’s hitting over .500 against Moehler, he’s a 33-year-old **** hitting 30 points below the league average.  He should be hitting ninth, because at least Dempster had a hit (not to mention yet another excellent sac bunt).  By far my least favorite Cub this season, narrowly beating out the Eyre-Howry trainwreck.

By the way, anyone still doubting Dempster is an idiot.  The guy had pretty lackluster stuff tonight, and that’s being a bit kind, and still allowed only 2 runs on 5 hits through 5 – while striking out 7.  Pretty good for an off night.  He’d have been the ace this season on several teams, and all people point to is the just-under-5.00 ERAs the last two years.  Whatever.  He’s awesome.  Deal.

I’m also tired of Kosuke.  I love the guy to death – he’s been one of my favorite Cubs this season, from the very first game, but I’m tired of watching him stare at first-pitch fastballs down the middle of the plate, and then swing at stuff in the dirt three pitches later.  Look, I know you’re patient, Kosuke.  I love that.  But if pitchers are throwing beach balls to you on the first pitch all the time because they know you aren’t going to swing a lot, maybe you could….oh, I don’t know….swing?  All you do is put yourself in a hole.  And yeah, maybe you fly out more on the first pitch, have some quick at-bats, get some dirty looks from Lou.  But at least you’re not flailing like a deranged goose at sliders two feet outside after having fallen behind 1-2 again.

I really like Gaudin.  My earlier post today in which I discussed who the Cubs would put in the rotation should Harden get hurt can now be amended, because the guy’s legit.  I completely spaced him, and I feel ashamed for it.  Although the facial hair needs to go.  Same to you, Kerry Wood.  The goatee is fine, but not when it’s reaching ZZ Top length.  Both of you do yourselves a favor and buy a trimmer.  Like 15 bucks.  Seriously.

I’m probably not the only fan that hated the timing of the second rain delay.  I mean, seriously, Hawkins was in!  Latroy!  The guy who had a Facebook group dedicated to hating him, in which a giant joint was stuck in his mouth and flames put on top of his head was put in the game, and the Cubs didn’t get the chance to exact revenge on him for stinking up Wrigley for about 98 too many games.  And worse, he got the most bullsh*t save ever, striking out Soriano and then hightailing it after Berkman, who heard a loud clap of thunder and then ran of the field like a small rabbit, much to the amusement of D.Lee and myself.  Regardless, I really want Hawkins to show up again in the next couple days so he can get rocked properly.

Lastly, I will say that I really enjoyed what ESPN did during the rain delay.  They just kept going back and forth between all the games that were going on at the time, kind of like what CBS does in March Madness.  Inning over?  Let’s watch another game?  Big inning happening?  Let’s show it to you!  I really enjoyed it, and I want somebody to figure out how to make this happen on a more regular basis.  Seriously, people wouldn’t watch a channel that just flips from game to game if something exciting is happening?  If the Cubs, Lost, or The Office isn’t on at the same time, I’m watching that, hands down.

The Stretch

It’s my first blog post here.  I’ve never done a sports-related blog before, which is a shame because I’m probably a hell of a lot better writing about sports than I am about what I had for lunch or what I did last weekend.  As a warning, I’m going to ramble.  A lot.  Kind of like now.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to the next two months of baseball, though I’m kind of terrified by it as well.  The Cubs keep looking really great for a week or two, then going on one of those 3-10 stretches that reminds me of how they’re still the Cubs.  They play something like 230 games on the road in the next two months, roughly 100 against the Cards and Brewers, and while they’ve looked better away from Wrigley lately, they’re still not one of those select few teams (like five of them, I think?) with a winning road record.  I’m not too worried about them losing out on the playoffs entirely – I really don’t think the Cards are going to be players near the end of the season; at least, not with Izzy and his 5+ ERA “closing” out games for them.

I also had a terrible dream last night, and I woke up swearing it was real because it seems perfectly reasonable.  Harden going down three innings into a start with shoulder and/or elbow pain looms over his and every Cub fans head each time he walks up onto the mound.  Hell, I worry some day Harden’s going to wind up for a pitch, and when he’s done with the throw it turns out his right arm went farther than the ball.  I love the guy to death – enough so that I draft him every year for fantasy, despite numerous heart breaks and obscenities.  But if he doesn’t stay healthy, the Cubs have got trouble.  They have three good starters, which is nice, but Marquis scares me, and who’s the fifth?  Sean Marshall?  Oh dear.  Do they call up Rich Hill and pray he remembers what the strike zone looks like?  Yuck.

Regardless, I’m at least glad that the offense hasn’t looked lifeless the past week or so.  I’d love to see Lee and Ramirez get their averages up near .300 again, but as long as they stay hitting .290-ish and Soto and Fukudome don’t go into month-long slumps again, they should be ok.  And Soriano’s been rocking it pretty well.  I looked a few weeks ago and if he’d played as many games as the league leaders in home runs have, he’d have 31.  Second in the majors, if I remember right.  Maybe third or something.  Regardless, when he’s healthy, he’s a force, and having The Riot follow him up spraying line drives like he was born for it means not worrying about scoring 2 runs a game for weeks at a time, which is nice.

Finally, Houston comes in to town tonight.  Game plan’s probably going to be, like all year, shut down Berkman and don’t make stupid mistakes to the other guys (Tejada may not have HGH on his side anymore, but he still knows what he’s doing…sort of).  Looking forward to a sweep, or 2 out of 3 at the worst (it is Marquis finishing the series of).  Fingers crossed!

EDIT:  I just noticed that in my discussion of who would be the fifth Cubs starter, I egregiously forgot about Ted Lilly.  He’s the fourth.  Marquis is the fifth.  Gaudin’s the fill-in.  Not as bad as I thought.  Though I’m still not sold on Marquis.  I clapped with glee every time the Cubs got to hit against him, now I’m suppose to feel good about watching him up on the mound for the Cubs?  Not going to happen.