It’s only the middle of August, but it may be time to count the Cubs out of the playoff race. Sure, the Northsiders are three games out of the NL Central lead, but it may as well be 30; as we noted yesterday, Chicago hasn’t taken a series against a winning team since April, and that streak is likely to continue after last night’s backbreaking 12-inning loss to the Phillies.
(Has had just about enough of your stupid questions, thank you.)
It’s to the point where manager Lou Piniella has gone from lovably gruff to just, um, gruff. To wit, an exchange with a reporter after the game that, while not inexcusably mean-spirited, was certainly an overreaction to a bland question.
Some people might think that Chicago Cubs fans feel deprived. Despite a robust payroll and high expectations, the team is wallowing in mediocrity, mired in second place behind the St. Louis Cardinals. Then, of course, there’s the whole 100-years-and-counting thing. Fans of another team might be morose or angry.
But why be so upset when mediocrity can be so damn entertaining? The Cubs have two of baseball’s most, um, colorful characters in Lou Piniella and Milton Bradley. The two loudmouths have taken turns running off their mouths all season, much to the delight of impartial observers. Now they’re taking their unintentional comedy act to the next level as Piniella has announced he’ll be serving as Bradley’s close personal life (and hitting…OK, maybe just hitting) coach.
Who says there’s no such thing as organizational personality. Following in the footsteps of Bobby Cox’s ML record 145 ejections, Braves minor league coaches seem to be upholding a tradition of epic manager meltdowns. Thursday, it was Class-A Rome (Ga.) Braves manager Randy Ingle showing you don’t need to be insane to argue a call, but it helps.
The scene - a tie ball game in the top of the 10th inning, when a Braves batter hits what appears to be a home run down the left field line. While the batter rounds the bases and the team celebrates, home plate umpire Erik Hill rules the ball foul. After the jump, we break down the video of Ingle’s tirade, and rate it on the usual scale of ten Piniellas. Read more…
Yesterday, Cubs catcher Geovany Sotorevealed that he had tested positive for marijuana while at this year’s World Baseball Classic. While it’s not expected to cause any problems for his major league career, he’s banned from international play for two years, or roughly 12 times the amount of time Manny Ramirez will have faced for his steroid use. For weed. Anyway.
(Okay, he’s no Jerry Garcia, but whatever.)
Cubs manager Lou Piniella defended Soto today, saying that if he had known earlier than this week about the drug test, he would have encouraged Soto to come clean with it much earlier, rather than having it weigh on his mind and affect his performance. Then Uncle Lou engaged in an unusually candid bit of solidarity, saying that he, too, had smoked the reefer back in the day.
Heaven knows it’s a battle to fill the gaping maw of a newspaper sports section (or, heck, an Internet site). It’s eternally ravenous, utterly unforgiving, and preternaturally cruel. Lots of writers have to resort to the occasional trick (like comedy bullet points) to keep the beast at bay for another day.
(ARIZONA REPUBLIC writer, considering his next opus)
However, it takes a special effort to knock out 1200 words bemoaning the loss of the baseball superstar. It takes interviews with other old men as they pass through town to hopefully buttress your case. It takes calling up your friends and/or other similarly-minded sports fans in town. It takes quoting Simon and Garfunkel. And, of course, it takes bullet points. (These are also funny, but it’s less intentional this time.)
When do you cross the line from fan to fanatic? The new trend is coffins and urns decked out with your favorite team’s logo. That’ll cause friends and family to say, “Oh, Jim always was crazy about baseball.” Well, now we’ve got our own Cubs mausoleum. Try that, and they’ll be saying, “Oh, Jim always was bats**t crazy.”
Modeled after Wrigley field, complete with red brick and ivy, comes Beyond the Vines. There is room for 288 “season ticket holders” to rest peacefully in “Eternal Skyboxes.” See, that’s funny, because I always thought the appropriate place for Cubs to be buried was in the NL Central cellar.
#3 Orlando Dwight Hasn’t Figured Out a Costume Change to Make Him a Point Guard, Toos vs. #6 Philadelphia So Glad We’re Paying Elton Brand $18 Million in 2012-2013s
#4 Atlanta Name Three Players vs. #5 Miami Name Twos
#1 Los Angeles Kobe Clubs Baby Seals with Portuguese Water Dogs Wrapped in Veals vs. #8 Utah Deron Williams Falls Asleep Every Night Clutching a Copy of His Tear-Stained Contract After Failing to Find an Out Clauses
#2 Denver You’ve Got to Be Kiddings vs. #7 New Orleans Seriously, Aren’t These in the Wrong Orders
#3 San Antonio Flashbacks vs. #6 Dallas Hey, At Least We Haven’t Traded for Shaq Yets (Note: the above series has been moved to CBS and the Hallmark Channel as per FCC regulations around programming for the elderly.)
As always, it’s the gift you didn’t even have to ask for. Or didn’t want to.
Major League Baseball tried yet again yesterday to provide another round of gifts to Jackie Robinson, who has been feted nearly as often as Frank Sinatra since his death. Yesterday, every player in baseball wore number 42 in his honor to avoid the embarrassment of 42 wearer infighting last year.
Ian Kinsler followed up on this attempt with his own success: 6-6 at the plate with a cycle attached. If the opposing team last night (the Orioles) happened to be your sleeper team this year, you may want to check just how deep that sleep is.
Speaking of deep sleep, former Illinois governor (and current Illinois chew toy) Rod Blagojevich apparently didn’t feel it necessary to stop at meddling with the affairs of Tribune Co. when he didn’t get his way. He also sent a note to Cubs manager Lou Piniella to recommend a lineup change in 2007.
S’funny; we don’t remember Blago being so receptive to a lineup change at the state level earlier this year. Perhaps he isn’t a big fan of having his moves micromanaged by impotent whiners who never held the position dictating his actions from afar when they’ve never been in the trenches, y’know?
Kobe Bryantand Elmo beatboxing. Look… to misquote David Mamet, that’s why they call it ‘video’:
Congratulations on playing all 82 games this season, Grant Hill. Also, congratulations on getting your wife, Tamia, a spot at All-Star Weekend and various local charity events in Arizona. Strong season all ’round.
Now that the WALL STREET JOURNAL has a sports section, expect to see sabermetric notions exposed to a larger audience. That might explain why the guy in the cubicle next to you suddenly wants to talk about batting the pitcher eighth.
BIG LEAGUE STEW serves up this pic Lou Piniella andOzzie Guillen at an exhibition game in Vegas:
As you probably know, Sin City’s fortunes are suffering because less companies are spending time & money in their gambling wonderland - such as Wells Fargo, which canceled their corporate casino junket amid criticism connected with receiving a $25 billion taxpayer-funded bailout. Read more…