Cubs “Inbox”: Does Zambrano Need a Psychiatrist; Ernie Banks, Not My Mr. Cub; Congrats on Sammy Sosa’s Post-Career Ascension to Single Season HR King Status

Posted in Baseball at 7:30 pm by

[“Buy me some peanuts and crack …“, can’t say Eddie Vedder doesn’t have his moments.]

Welcome  to the first Cubs Mailbag of 2010.  Fans may bitch about our No Big Moves Off-Season of 2009-2010, but how about renaming the legendary Cubs Mailbag?  Meet your new Cubs’ “Inbox!”  How Sam Zell missed selling naming rights to it I don’t know.  I for one am sorry not to see the “Captain Morgan Bag ‘o Mailbooty,” but even Zell’s eagle eye missed a nickel here and there.  Nor were fans consulted.  I like the Ricketts’ use of Executive Power here.  The Trib Cubs usually announced even the slightest of moves as a “planned change,” meaning months of No Lights! style fan protests demanding they keep using the old-timey mailbag Ron Santo used.  “Inbox …”, it sounds strangely contemporary for anything Cub “ especially for a ball club residing in a 1914 rusting hulk of a park that remains baseball™s equivalent to the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It™s like watching a History Channel show, say on Hitler™s shoe factories (Boots of Destruction:  How the Nazis Walked Across Europe, if you haven’t seen it) and someone said œDrive-thru window.  Well, first things first …

First, Congrats Sammy Sosa!:  I’m catching up here, so I have to mention Mark McGwire’s arrival at Spring Training after his emotional confession of drug use for the Cardinal payroll office on national TV.  What does that mean to the Cubs?  It means Sammy Sosa is the legit single season HR king, that’s what.  Bonds, McGwire, the Ultimate Warrior, and all other needle users aside, Sammy has admitted nothing.  While it will surprise no one with eyes if he does admit it, no one can get it out of him.  The New York Times last year claimed Sammy doped, but the Times was discredited when challenged by the player™s association and the paper had to admit (or as they put it, were “unclear“) that they did not have an accurate list of doped players.  I said last year that the NYTs Michael S. Schmidt was getting fed by the gov’t, and it looks more and more like it every day.  Since the gov™t returned œthe list, Schmidt, has been somewhat silent on the issue and has been reassigned as a burrough ambulance chaser writing up guys in the Bronx beating up their moms with frying pans.

Yes, I thought, if Sammy can just keep his mouth shut for four years, Cooperstown and a Bronze Ranger Cap await. You™d think Cub fans would appreciate Sammy™s unrivaled stature as baseball royalty.  Instead, none other than Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks, asked Sammy to œcome clean.  On the Cardinals, Tony La Russa brings McGwire back in the fold.  With the Cubs, Ernie Banks plays Judge Judy.  Let me offer six words never heard before in Wrigley :  œHey Ernie, Shut the Fuck Up.  Well, not heard since Leo Durocher managed him, anyway.  If Ernie wants questions answered, he should play with kids his own age.  How about Willie Mays’ incredibly contemporary sounding non-denial non-admission of using amphetamines, as reported in the new James Hirsch bio of Willie?   Me, I’d like to hear about how hard Ernie pushed for a decent team out of PK Wrigley.  I’d like some answers from Ernie about my sitting through so many lousy Cubs seasons rather than him becoming one more self-righteous voice on steroids.

The State of the Cubs: With Milton Bradley gone, the Cubs settled into a pretty quiet off-season regarding moves.  Well, they did give their usual vote of confidence to closer Carlos Marmol, who has suffered through Kerry Wood and Kevin Gregg, by offering him a wopping one-year contract.  The common wisdom, as CBS blogger Danny Knobler reports here, is to write off last season to injuries and point out that the squad itself is solid.  Solid, but older “  I have less faith in seeing a 2008 Dempster or Zambrano in 2010 than the official Cub line allows.  With Milton Bradley unavailable to wear a target on his back for all things failing, other questions will come up, like why Piniella and Hendry can’t get Zambrano to work.  Knobler does point out that the Cubs were tied with the Cardinals in first place through August 7, despite all distractions.  The brightest news for me out of Spring Training so far is perhaps Jim Hendry’s prediction of the team’s new owners, the Ricketts Family, as being something like the O’Malleys and the Dodgers.  Walter O’Malley … the guy who tore down Ebbetts Field?  Sounds good to me.  The idea of a forward thinking anything in the Cubs front office is welcome news.

So, Lou Piniella is returning in a much more optimistic mood.  The Cubs finished 2008 with 97 wins and then choked in the play-offs because of their 100-years-without-a-title œstress issues.  Piniella ordered some sports psychology books from Amazon to deal with such psych-outs, resulting in a 2009 83-78 finish, a Cardinal division title, and driving the volatile-but-successful Milton Bradley into an muted depression and failure.  I don™t know, maybe Piniella mistakenly ordered some books o Guanatamo Bay psy-ops books on breaking men down, cuz that was the result.

As to the inbox mailbag itself, the name changed but not the rules:  I answer the actual questions Carrie Muskat receives from Cub fans nationwide, or at least most of downstate, Internet-free Illinois.  I simply answer the questions the way I think Carrie would, if not for contractual obligations and the common courtesy her job requires.

I see that the Cubs signed Nady. I know when he was with the Pirates, he killed us, especially in Wrigley. What are his career numbers at Wrigley? I think the Cubs could definitely use him as a backup to Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano. — Mark A., Momence, Ill.

Hello, Mark.  The Inbox has many fond memories of flying over Momence …  God Bless.  The good news is that Nady has a career .304 average in 28 games at Wrigley Field with two homers, eight doubles, and 15 RBIs.  The bad news is that, as a Cub, he won™t be facing Cub pitching.

I’m pretty optimistic about Zambrano this year. He seems to have a better attitude and looks to be in better shape. Is there any way the Cubs could hire a shrink to work with him in the dugout between innings? Considering his $90 million contract, this could be good insurance. Are there any other options out there for keeping him sane? — James P., Naperville, Ill.

A shrink?   Please see my views on Lou and psychology above.  Mr.Zambrano is a near-sighted, potassium-challenged, banana-eating Gatorade-machine smashing super-talented slouch. He signed his $90 million deal and then, after his no-hitter, declared he was retiring once the contract was up because he™d missed too many Mothers Days.  Can shrinks fix that?  The old Lou Piniella used to do it by kicking Rob Dibble™s ass in the Reds clubhouse, and they won a World Series.  Wow, thinking of that moment makes me wish Kevin Gregg had stayed at least until Opening Day.

I heard the Cubs are staying in Arizona. If this is true, how come there are still talks about moving to Florida? Also, how long would the contract be for the Cubs if they did stay in Arizona? — Justin G., McHenry, Ill.

Hello, Justin.  Good ˜ol McHenry ¦ I miss seeing it™s name roll by on WGN™s Tornado Watch crawls.  As the Irish like to say, may your trailer be right side up an hour before the devil knows your dead.  It™s not true that the Cubs were ever moving to Florida.  As Sam Zell retired from baseball, he scouted locations for a senior home down there.  Within days of arriving at the Golden Age Estate, however, he began leverage-loaning residents™ cash against their walkers and scooters. He was asked to leave, but is currently too heavily anchored in resident pension funds, which he is using as collateral on the walker loans.  Hard to break old habits, I guess.  Updates on this situation will be provided during the season.

Any more news on whether the Cubs will retire Dawson’s number? I know they said they would retire it if he went into the Hall of Fame as a Cub, but I think they should retire No. 8 anyways. Greg Maddux most likely will go into the Hall as a Brave and the Cubs retired his number. Also, I think it’s garbage he’s going in as an Expo. If he wants to go in as a Cub, let him go in as a Cub. It was his career and he knows which organization he benefited with and associates himself with the most. Plus, the Expos have a total of about 17 fans while there are millions of Cubs fans who would appreciate it more. — Joshua S., Elmhurst, Ill.

The Inbox agrees with you Josuha, let the Expos retire his damn number.  Actually, with the Expos out of business, all their numbers were retired.  There™s also the fact that Dawson™s Expos cap was not his choice, but the Hall™s.  After 9 attempts to get into the Hall, he still bitched about it.  You™d think Dawson wouldn™t push the issue, you know?  Like, fine, put me in a Kansas City Pilots hat, just put me in the Hall already.  I guess they™re building up to the next big Cub indictee inductee Mr. Cub, Sammy Sosa.

When do individual game tickets go on sale? — Gary I., Decatur, Tenn.

œIndividual game tickets? Wow, still can™t find a date, Gary?


Italy’s F.A. To The Special One : It’s Hard To Wave In Handcuffs

Posted in Football at 8:35 pm by

Upon seeing his Inter side reduced to 9 men during a scoreless draw with Sampdoria over the weekend, manager José Mourinho made a crossed arm gesture to photographers and TV cameras (above), earning a 3-match suspension in the process.  While Mourinho’s boss has one explanation for The Special One’s actions, there’s a far more disturbing hypothesis being floated — that the former Chelsea gaffer is expressing a kinship for the likes of Sean Waltman.

Sandy Koufax’s Toughest Tutorial Assignment

Posted in Baseball at 6:50 pm by

(guy in the middle reacts to guy on the right explaining how much he was paid per win last season)

While some segment of the blogosphere is agog over photos of David Wright reporting to Spring Training in a tight shirt, Noah K. Murray of the Star Ledger came up with a far more impressive snapshot earlier today. After Fred Wilpon summoned Keith Hernandez from his winter vacation to school Daniel Murphy in the finer points of, well, not fielding like Danny Murphy, it appears as though the Mets’ principal owner has successful convinced Sandy Koufax to lend words of advice to mega-erratic lefty Oliver Perez.

It’s another fascinating development at a Mets camp that apparently cannot possibly accommodate too many catchers. It’s nice that Fred is calling in so many favors, though wouldn’t it have been great if Captain Fucko had been provided with investment guidance from another Wilpon crony?

If You Happen To Find Yourself In The Alleged Live Music Capital Of The World During Mid-March (Pt. III)…

Posted in Internal Affairs, Rock Und Roll at 6:20 pm by

CSTB’s highly unofficial-not-affiliated-with-SXSW-in-the-slightest event on Wednesday, March 17 has already been noted in this space, but it appears Cumbucket Media has an insatiable appetite for promoting poorly attended afternoon rock shows.

Have Tommy Keene & Grant Hart ever shared a stage before? Is this a 2010 event or an attempt to reunite Austin area subscribers of The Bob? All kidding aside, both gentlemen are very much at the height of their creative powers, as recent albums & shows have evidenced. Simple Circuit, Sally Crewe & The Sudden Moves and The Zoltars round out the more tuneful portion of the afternoon, all of ’em in world-class form. Monterrey, Mexico’s XYX, no strangers to Austin stages, are on a good day, the best band in the world. Presumably, they have bad days, too. They’re only human.

Austin’s Dikes Of Holland were recently disparaged by a local blogger as “atonal…obnoxious” and guilty of “malicious drilling repetition” Hey, one man’s bad review is another’s tip for the top. Frankly, I’d like to meet the person responsible for this review and beat his brains in, but it seems someone’s already done the job.

Between 12:10 and 12:35, the Air Traffic Controllers will be tuning up.


Dismayed By NBC’s Olympic Hockey Coverage? Larry Brooks Would Like You To STFU

Posted in Hockey, olympics, Sports TV at 6:34 pm by

(Team Canada’s Scott Niedermayer : he’s no Evan Lysacek, but he’s trying very hard just the same)

Who amongst us hasn’t been frustated by the National Broadcasting Company’s penchant for joining Men’s Olympic Hockey coverage moments after the games have begun?  Try the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, who argues, “If you are one of those people who has been endlessly whining about missing the first four minutes or so of Canada-Norway and the first three minutes or so of Team Jagr-Team Gaborik, you sound childish.”  WAAAAAH!

Hockey is not being disrespected by NBC. Viewers who happened to be home during the day and would have enjoyed watching Lindsey Vonn go for it live in the downhill, they were disrespected. Sports and competition are being disrespected by NBC, but hockey does not measure among the victims.

I have never quite understood why people who love hockey are so consumed with validation from the masses who simply do not appreciate the sport. Of course NBC isn’t devoting three hours of a preliminary-round hockey game between the U.S. and Canada on its prime commercial network.

To expect otherwise is lunacy, and to protest the network’s decision by playing the lack-of-respect card is counter-productive.

Yes, it is unfortunate that the enticing matchup will not be available in HD while it is televised on MSNBC, presumably from start to finish. Anyone who wants to watch — maybe not DirecTV people, actually, which would be unfortunately commonplace for them, given the ongoing dispute that has kept Versus dark all season — can watch, just as every single game in the tournament has been and will be televised.

Live, by the way. As will the gold medal game be next Sunday on NBC.

I’m posting this while in the UK, ironically, a country with far less interest in ice hockey than the United States, and tonight’s US/Canada tilt is scheduled to be shown on the BBC — in high def.   If Sidney Crosby isn’t considered a bigger ratings draw than Lindsey Vonn, fair enough, but we’re also talking about a game that should be a far more enticing showpiece for the sport than all of the Winter Classics combined.  And let history show that Brooks is not necessarily a company man, what with the open plug for MSNBC programming (albeit the sort that doesn’t feature Non-Metallic K.O.)

The Universal Language Of Analyst Hated (Or “Ken Tremendous As A Global Pioneer”)

Posted in Football, Sports TV at 4:01 pm by

“Both the beauty and cruelty of the web is that it never forgets” observes  Ian Plenderleith in the March edition of When Saturday Comes, taking a long look at a bloggy phenomena Awful Announcing readers will no doubt appreciate — the dogged, somewhat obsessive abuse of TV soccer commentators.

Fisted Away dons the persona of Alan Green to describe how he witnessed a tentative young couple take their first kiss. “What are you trying to do, thinking you can kiss at this level!” he exclaims. “I’m not negative about many things; just the paucity of Anfield’s vending machine crips selection (I have written several letters) and the warmth of the sun.” There’s nothing original about slating Green, according to a piece on Two Hundred Percent, “but that’s no reason to shy away from the task”. It points out that : “In a highly competitive media environment…which is currently subject to stultifying budgetary limitations, the continued employment of someone as self-centred and incompetent as (Green) feels less and less tenable. This needs reiterating…as often as possible.”

If Eric Gagne’s Ever Accused Of Murder, T.J. Simers Should Conduct The Interrogation

Posted in Baseball at 2:42 pm by

“I hear that song come on the radio and I still get goose bumps,” says Eric Gagne of Guns’n’Roses’ “Welcome To The Jungle” in a confessional conversation with the L.A. Times’ T.J. Simers.  Perhaps distracted by comparing his own career to that of Izzy Stradlin, Gagne — trying to win a job at Dodgers camp after 3 years toiling (badly) for Texas, Boston and Milwaukee — proves to be one of the easier suspects to break.  Frank Pembleton, not required!

“Why did you use HGH?” I ask, and he says, “I didn’t.”

But he knows better. He and I have had a long relationship.

“You were using HGH, weren’t you?”

“I did,” he says. “I hate to talk about it. It just doesn’t do anyone any good. But I thought it would help me get better when I hurt my knee. I just don’t want that to sound as an excuse.

“I’m so ashamed. It wasn’t smart. If I knew what I know now. . . . I didn’t need it. I regret it so much, just now maybe getting over the guilt. It was stupid.”

“That’s all part of my past, part of my resume,” he says, and when he’s asked if he was doing HGH during the entire time he dominated or just part of the time, he says, “part.”

But you cheated — weren’t you cheating Dodgers fans?

“In my head it was different,” he says, but what will he tell his own kids about his tarnished career?

“I’ve been asking myself the same question, but I’ll tell them straight up like I do everything else. I’ll make them understand action and reactions to those actions, and making a decision and living with the consequences.

The last five years his body has betrayed him, one injury after another, and so does he think it’s because he was on HGH?

“I don’t know how it reacts on your body like that,” he says, “but from what I’ve heard, it doesn’t help.”