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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, December 9

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Cubs in Five

Clutch That "Believe" Bracelet As Hard As You Can
by Jeff Webber

One: The Plastic Beer Cup Is Half Full
The Cubs may have dropped 14 of their last 16 games, but at least they've finally found consistency. That doesn't work for you? Well, Kerry Wood is due back any day now, you could hang onto hope there. No? Well, Maddux is still Madduxing, Derrek Lee has his cast off (though he's still six weeks away), Angel Guzman has probably played his way off the team, and we're this much closer to getting rid of Dusty Baker. No? Well, how about this: after losing 14 of 16, the Cubs are fricking due. Law of averages and all, you know.

Two: Pitching Is Our Best Hope for the Crosstown Classic This Weekend
Who's pitching for the Cubs against the Sox in Comiskey Parl New Comiskey U.S. Cellular Field The Joan Sox Park in the big interleague/crosstown series this weekend? In all likelihood, it'll be something like: Maddux, Hill and Zambrano. If there were two guys you'd want trying to right the Cubs' ship against the South Side marauders, certainly, it'd be Zambrano and Maddux. Hill, for his part, is indeed a rookie with a shaky track record at the big league level, but here's hoping his wacky curveball keeps the free-swingers on the Sox off-balance and neutralized. It could happen.

Three: An Object Lesson to Sportcasters in How to Jinx Someone
Ryan Dempster comes to the mound with a Cub record 26 straight save opportunities converted and a narrow lead against the rampaging Padres. What would be the dumbest thing you could do? How about calling the save a sure thing and talking on-air about whether Dempster could approach Eric Gagne's major league record of 84. We miss you Steve Stone. Come home.

Four: This Week's Co-Winners of the Corey Patterson Player You Most Enjoy Blaming Award... Jacque Jones and Scott Williamson
Any theories on why new Cubs Jacque Jones and Scott Williamson seem hellbent on finding some horrible f-up they can make every third day or so to undo any goodwill they might have earned for recent successes? Scoreless inning pitched with a couple of K's? Outstanding. How's about uncorking some run-scoring wild pitches now? Clutch RBI to bring the team the lead? Terrific. Stunning stop of a hard liner to right field? Why not fling the ball at no one in particular with all of the velocity of a beachball?

Five: New Cub of the Week: Jae Kuk Ryu, aka, That Jackass Who Killed the Endangered Osprey
Korean fireballer Jae Kuk Ryu made his debut in relief for the Cubs Sunday, posting a positively Guzmanian line of one inning pitched, two strikeouts, two walks and one run allowed. He'd better get his game in order fast, as Cubs rookies are getting progressively shorter and shorter leashes. Ryu isn't going to have to uncork one on a rare bird to become the new boobird favorite. I'd pay to see him wing Ronnie Woo-Woo, though. Not actually harm him, mind you, just sort of stun him into clamming up for a few innings.

Sox in Five

by Steve Gozdecki on vacation. Hope to squeeze out a column next week, but right now I'm in pre-move Hell!

Fire in Five

That Put Me in a Bad Mood
by Steve Gillies

Maybe it's the six weeks without any home games, but this weekend's game put me in a fairly bad mood. Oh, and before anyone else asks, NO, I am not looking forward to seeing "Goal: The Dream Begins." Not at all.

One: Man That Was Hard to Watch
Another week, another draw. While the Fire played a lot better than they did last week, the game lacked the drama of seeing Zach Thornton single-handedly defy an entire team (although Thornton did play well again). Really, it lacked any kind of drama at all. Two teams that had combined for eight ties already this season, predictably fought out another draw. Even seeing both teams hit the woodwork in the last five minutes didn't get too exciting because the game didn't seem to have any kind of story to it. A bunch of guys ran around doing vaguely soccer-like things for 90 minutes and then the whistle blew and they stopped. I don't know, maybe it just paled in comparison to the English FA Cup final played that morning, which will go down as one of the classic soccer games of all time. Maybe it was because the game was played in an empty football stadium, with football markings and Astroturf (sorry, "field turf"), but it just wasn't fun to watch.

Two: Saving People For the Games that Matter
I wasn't the only one that didn't really want to bother with this game. Coach Dave Sarachan elected to not even bring senior players Tony Sanneh and Chris Armas on the plane to New York with the team. Both of them are recovering from serious long-term injuries, and Sarachan opted not to risk them on Giants Stadium's treacherous field turf. I want to be clear that under the circumstances, I think Sarachan absolutely made the right decision on this, but it points out a couple of the things that are so wrong with this league. First of all, 10 years into the league's existence, teams are still playing on fields that are likely to hurt players. That's totally insane. Secondly, that the league is organized in a way that coaches can afford to field weakened teams for much of the season, because so much of the season just doesn't matter. Last year the championship was won by the 8th place team. So there really isn't a lot to play for, and not a lot to risk during the regular season. Considering the players don't even get win bonuses, like they do in the rest of the world, it's not surprising that so many games end in passionless draws.

Three: Half Our Defense is Injured*
In addition to Armas and Sanneh not making the trip, Jim Curtin's name got added to the injury list. With Segares still out, Sanneh not quite back yet (that's a pun, because he is old and has a bad back, see), our defense is stretched very thin now. So thin that rookie Dasan Robinson went from having zero professional minutes played to being in the starting lineup. The good news is he seemed to handle it well, and hopefully he can gain some experience during this stretch as we don't have a lot of cover in the centreback position right now. I do have to wonder why Jack Stewart, who played very well in the back during the playoffs last season, has seen so little time this year.

Four: You Know, Sarachan Actually Did A Lot Right This Weekend
Like I said above, while I'm not wild about Sarachan's decision to field a weakened team as a fan, it was totally the right call for a coach in that situation to make. He made a couple of other good decisions this weekend. Most importantly, for the first time since I can remember, the Fire were losing a game and Sarachan made an out-and-out offensive substitution. Nate Jaqua came on for defender Leonard Griffin, rather than swapping a striker for another striker, as has been Sarachan's usual pattern. So we ended up with Rolfe, Jaqua and Barrett all on the field at the same time. The moved paid off, with Jaqua getting pulled down in the penalty area to lead to the tying goal. It almost really paid off when Jaqua hit the crossbar on a shot toward the end of the game. In addition to being pleased at Sarachan being less conservative with his subs, it's also good to see Nate getting back to the form he showed last year before injuries slowed him down.

Five: The Justin Mapp Highlight Reel
At the beginning of the local Comcast Sports broadcast they showed a highlight reel of all of Justin Mapp's dribbling runs this season. It was absolutely the best highlight reel I've ever seen in American soccer broadcasts. Mind you, that isn't saying a lot. Most American highlights basically show balls going in the net, without any kind of buildup play at all. So it was refreshing to see a segment that focused on a player that doesn't have any goals or assists this season, but has still had a huge impact on his team. It highlighted a lot of plays that didn't pay off in terms of goals, although the commentary pointed out that some of his runs had led to free kicks that we scored on. Really, what the segment showed though was what a dangerous, and entertaining player Mapp can be. So, way to go local production team.

*I was pretty down on MLS and the Fire when I started writing this. But having to come up with five talking points, really only about two and a half were negative. And when the most negative thing you can say about watching your team play is that it isn't as good as watching the best game played in England this year, that's not too terrible. I guess I have been vaguely cheered up now. Thanks Gapers Block!

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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

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