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Sunday, December 15

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Cubs in Five

Bob Brenly Changes MySpace Profile to "Available"
by Jeff Webber

One: Cubs Only Three Games Out... of Dead Last
After dropping three of four to the Braves and three of four to the Pirates (yeah, I know... don't you think it hurts me to type that?), the Cubs find themselves a scant three games above Kansas City for the dubious honor of "Worst Record in the Majors." They've already locked up a choice pick in next year's amateur draft, though, as neither the Royals nor the Devil Rays will have the dough to pony up for whoever next year's hotshot college talent is. So they could maybe sign the next Mark Prior. "The next Mark Prior"... take that one to bed with you tonight.

Two: And Now a Quick Word on the Old Man in the Cub Rotation, Rich Hill
Older than Zambrano, older than Prior or Wood, and several years older than fellow prospects Sean Marshall and company, Rich Hill is a guy I've frequently lambasted in the past. And no, his recent excellent work hasn't won me over to his side yet. That said, I submit the following numbers for your consideration. Hill's career line, before the 2006 All Star Game: 10.13 ERA, 40 innings pitched, 38 strikeouts, 34 walks allowed. And since? How about a 3.21 ERA, 53 1/3 innings pitched, 46 strikeouts, and 17 walks. So long as Jim Hendry doesn't give his job to some $8 million a year deadbeat free agent, he might yet end up a steady part of the Cubs rotation.

Three: No, I Didn't Forget About Wade Miller
He sure is older than Rich Hill, and he is technically a Cub starting pitcher at the moment, but he's a free agent at the end of the year, so really, he's just auditioning for a better gig somewhere else. So you can forget him.

Four: Not That He's Hinting or Anything, But...
Former D-Backs skipper and current Cubs broadcast voice Bob Brenly is chatting openly about his possible future as a manager. Y'know, for some club, nowhere in particular in mind. "Did, I, uh, did I show you my World Series ring? I did... Um. Oh and what do you know, I dropped a copy of my resume right there on your desk. You may want to hang onto that. Y'know, just in case." He also just changed his MySpace profile to "available."

Five: More Moore, 'Cause That's All There Is
Cubs in Five fave Scotty Moore went 2-for-3 with a homer in Thursday's loss to Pittsburgh, a fragile light of hope at the end of a dark season. And who was there to see it? 27,105 "paid attendance." Looked like maybe two thirds of that in raw numbers. Even that listed total made it the lowest attendance at any Cubs home game since September 26, 2002. (Ahhh, Bruce Kimm, we hardly knew ye.) So maybe that's something to look forward to: if the Cubs keep sucking this bad, it might actually go back to where a normal person can get good tickets without flexing a credit card months in advance. Yeah, we're all about the optimism.

Sox in Five

...has fallen silent with despair this week. by Steve Gozdecki

Fire in Five

We're in the US Open Cup Final And Pretty Close to the Playoffs
by Steve Gillies

One: Too Much of a Good Thing?
With a massive 3-0 win against DC United in the US Open Cup Semifinal and a win over Columbus last weekend, the Fire can suddenly claim to be the best team in MLS right now. So I should be deliriously happy, right? Instead I'm getting nervous. For one thing, we're not going to be the dark horse in the playoffs. Teams will be spending some serious time thinking about how to beat us. Also, the thing about streaks is that there's an inevitable letdown when they end. Look at DC United's shaky form right now, after going 15 games unbeaten earlier in the season. As much as I'm enjoying it, I'd almost rather see them lose soon than extend the streak into record-breaking territory and have to deal with the pressure of that. Notice I said almost. I never really want to see the Fire lose.

Two: You Should Go to the US Open Cup Final at Toyota Park
I'm sure I've mentioned that I love the US Open Cup before, right? And how my only complaint has been the lack of promotion the tournament's received from the league and US Soccer in general? Well, I am hereby promoting the US Open Cup Final at Toyota Park, September 27, 2006. If you've watched an MLS game on TV and been turned off by the lackadaisical play of two teams who know they're going to the playoffs no matter what, you won't see any of that. The Open Cup games have been my favorite games this season. There's so much more of an edge to games when something is at stake. And that should go triple for a Cup Final at a brand new stadium with prize money at stake (remember some players could really use the bonus). Plus they're playing LA and I don't think any American that watched the World Cup should pass up on the chance to boo Landon Donovan in person.

Three: Calen Carr, US Open Cup MVP
One of the main reasons the Fire have made it to the US Open Cup Final has been the play of rookie striker Calen Carr. Mostly used as a sub during league matches, Carr has started every game of the Fire's Cup run and really used it to make a name for himself. He scored the Fire's first goal against Kansas City, set up two Andy Herron goals in the Quarterfinal, and scored two in the Semifinal against DC. I don't think the US Open Cup awards an MVP title to anyone, but if it did, Carr would definitely be in the running. He has been rewarded in a way, though, since he's recently seen a lot more playing time in the league games.

Four: A Lot of People Still Haven't Seen CJ Brown Score
CJ Brown scored the game winning goal against the Columbus Crew Saturday night. Brown's been a fan-favorite since the Fire's inception in 1998, but the hard-nosed, heart-on-his sleeve defender isn't exactly known for his goal scoring prowess. In fact, he hadn't scored a goal in MLS league play since the Fire's inception in 1998. It's a shame the game wasn't broadcast on television in Chicago or Columbus or anywhere else on the planet, as footage of the goal would have been quite the collector's item. If anyone has some grainy, home video footage they'd like to share, let me know. Actually grainy, home video footage might be the best way to view something that's that much rarer than a Bigfoot sighting.

Five: This Team that Cares About Its Fans
The Fire have always been touted as a fan-friendly bunch and we definitely saw that in the US Open Cup Semifinal. Am I talking about the way players walked around the field after a huge win and applauded the fans before an extended celebration in front of Section 8? Not really, that's pretty much par for the course. I'm talking about how when a fan ran on the field and the entire security staff swarmed him, Thiago shouted to warn him. Not that it did much good, but seeing the concern on the diminutive Brazilian playmaker's face as the fan was carried off by overenthusiastic security guards made it really hit home. This team cares about its fans.

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About the Author(s)

Jeff Webber spends hours and hours every day taking in every printed, spoken, and broadcast word he can find about the Chicago Cubs, and each week till the end of the season he's boiling them down into five simple crib notes you can use to stay on top of any watercooler or corner bar Cubs discussion. Send comments to cubs@gapersblock.com.

Steve Gillies watches too much soccer to be completely healthy. He's been a Fire fan since he stood in a torrential downpour while the Fire beat New England 6-0 and he realized watching American soccer games in person was a lot better than watching European football matches on television. Each week he'll give you five things to talk about if you happen to get cornered by one of those soccer people at a party. Send comments to fire@gapersblock.com

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