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Tuesday, July 23

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Cubs in Five

Five Faces That Aren't Going Anywhere
by Jeff Webber

As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, talk here at Cubs in Five is inevitably going to start turning to trades — who's going, who's staying and, best of all, who we might get. But as hopeless as things might seem some days, it's still just June, and it's too early to start talking breakup. Instead, this week, let's highlight some Cubs we've barely touched on here at Cubs in Five, a shortlist of Cubs who aren't going anywhere.

One: It's Pronounced "Koi," Like the Goldfish
The Cubs are 5-2 with Koyie Hill behind the plate, with a nifty 1.75 ERA. So who is Koyie Hill? A journeyman on a hot streak? He's already spent time in the Dodgers, D-Backs, Yankees and Cubs systems and hasn't exactly set the world on fire. Or maybe he's a late bloomer. Since recovering from Tommy John surgery, Hill has added markedly improved defense to the sweet switch-hitting ways that got him noticed as a prospect a couple of years back. And he is just 28. They say the learning curve for catchers is slower and we're going to find out. Because even if Michael Barrett's big mouth and poor game-calling don't him run out of town at the trade deadline, odds are steadily shrinking that he'll be re-signed at the end of the year. And that will make Hill the prime candidate to inherit the gig. Cubs pitchers, at least, would be overjoyed.

Two: Les Petit Cajuns
Mike Fontenot spent the first two years of his career in the Cubs system as the answer to a bar trivia question: quick, name the middle infielder the Cubs got as a throw-in in the Sammy Sosa deal. Funny thing, though: he can hit. Fellow Louisiana native Ryan Theriot is a bit younger, and thanks to his pesky leadoff skills, flashier. Maybe that's why Fontenot had to spend two and a half years raking the ball for the Cubs' minor league clubs while Theriot got the express train to Wrigley. We'll get to see how both develop, as Piniella seems dead-set on keeping them both.

Three: Pagan Rite of Passage
OK, OK, I love to make jokes about Angel Pagan's name, but maybe it's high time I spoke about his bat. Only 25 and, like Hill, a switch-hitter, Pagan has shown some real life in his bat, putting up a .293 batting average and a .359 on-base percentage in 2007. Heck, we go on and on about Felix Pie (justifiably, but still...) but Pagan's career numbers at the plate (a .721 OPS) would make him very nearly a league-average starting centerfielder. After Jacque Jones finally gets the boot, Pagan will have moved up the depth chart into a position where we see what he can become — career extra outfielder, or scrappy contender for a starting job.

Four: The Two New Letters For Cubs Pitching: S & M... Er, Wait...
Pssst... Sean Marshall is good. Really good, even. The lanky, 6'7" lefty has managed a Quality Start in each of his five appearances this year, putting up 27 strikeouts against just 34 baserunners in 34 innings pitched. Can he keep that up? Nah. Of course not. He's going to have a much harder time his second time around the league as scouts catch up with him. But is this hot start a good omen for things to come? You bet.

Five: I Will Not Make a Marmalade Joke Here. I Promise.
Carlos Marmol is our next closer. Piniella may love Angel Guzman (and I'm nuts about him, as is well documented). And Bobby Howry may have the veteran experience. But sooner or later, Cubs brass are going to get tired of seeing the game fall apart in the ninth inning, and who are they going to turn to? Our guess is, it'll be the guy with the 94 mph sinker, the 97 mph rising fastabll, and oh yeah, 18 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings pitched. The kid is sick, sick, sick.

Sox in Five

by Steve Gozdecki

...has been rendered mute by the continued crappiness of your 2007 Chicago White Sox. Be back next week.

Fire in Five

by Steve Gillies

...is gearing up for the upcoming Gold Cup games at Soldier Field. Back next week.

Sky in Five

Officially Better Than Last Year
by Anne Elizabeth Moore

One: More Wins Now Than All of Last Season
Doesn't take much sometimes, but here we are, with our sixth win, already topping all the wins of last season. Sunday night's 87-74 victory over the four-in-a-row losing streaking Connecticut Sun wasn't helped by the stunning height of Margo Dydek, who sunk only four of seven for the team. Oh-six All Star Dupree dropped 28 total points and took eight rebounds, while Dominique "The Beast" Canty is averaging almost a steal-and-a-half per game; Chastity ("No Nickname Yet") Melvin's maybe not holding up her end of the rebounding bargain, but is helping the steal average at least once per game. Writers across the country are ponderous over the dramatic upheaval from last year's five-win-all-season record, but if you actually come out to a game, expect to be a little too wowed by on-court play to think it through.

Two: The .500 Game
Friday's home game against the New York Liberty saw several grody turnovers — particularly late in the game when the opposing team finally got angry they were about to lose — but the Sky stayed staunchly in the lead throughout most of official play and ended with a trouncing of 73 to 66. In fact, the grizzled old stats-keeping sports writer next to me kept grumbling about it. "Six turnovers, this quarter alone," he muttered under his breath during the first, barely looking up from the scorecard. They made up for it in assists, though, logging 21 throughout the game to the Liberty's 10. Forward Candice ("The Gum Chewer") Dupree surpassed her PPG average of 18 with 24 in nearly 35 minutes of play; the Sky averaged a 44 percent success rate for field goals and only 60 percent for free throws. But can we talk about Armintie ("The Athlete") Price's free throw posture for a second? The girl looks like she's backing into a cannon.

Three: Kaos In the Drum Line
The Chicago Sky Drum Line got themselves a new sponsor, and consequently a new T-shirt design. It's a bit of a loss to see the janky Kaotic Drum Corps name go — and profoundly weird that some of their routines retain the shouted spelling of their original name, self-aggrandizing cheer style — but even a spiffy-clean drum corps is better than no drum corps. Kaotic got its start when 25-year old Jamie Poindexter started showin' kids (boys, mostly, but they've lately added a few more girls) how to take their aggressions out on the skins in a community center on the South Side of Chicago — in a safe space where they wouldn't be subjected to urban pressures like gangs and drink and drugs. Their DIY ethos still shines through, though, even with the fancy new sponsored shirts. In other music news, DJ Chicago Sky has officially worked a Ramones song into regular get-psyched rotation and I just couldn't be any happier. It sort of reminds me of the time I was in a Borders cafe by accident and a 50-something woman came up to me when a Ramones song came on. "God, don't you just hate what they've done to our music?" she asked me, and although I was horrified a graying woman in Borders 20 or so years my senior felt we were similar in any way, it was still the Ramones. You know?

Four: Catch-up 'Graph
But let's catch you up quick. June 7 saw the Sky's away defeat at the hands of the Phoenix Mercury but not before Melvin got her third double-double of the season with 11 rebounds. And June 9 in San Antonio, the Sky defeated the Silver Stars 70 to 60. Melvin started in the game for the first time and took 12 rebounds and her fourth double-double. Jia Perkins scored 10 points in 22 minutes of play (although her game high is almost twice that, in 26 minutes of play).

After Sunday's game, in which the team acheived the same number of wins they had all last season, Stacey "Moral Center" Dales attributed the team's current success to two things: leadership — which we can interpret to mean a decent coach — and watching a lot of film. Which I think we can interpret to mean they are watching tapes of their own basketball games, and not, like, Citizen Kane or something. But she didn't clarify!

Five: Fan Fashion
The Sky is claiming attendees in the mid-3,000s per game now, but I'm not sure the numbers are quite adding up. More importantly, their fashion sense is attrocious, and hardly a way of showing support for a now-winning team. T-shirts that say "Chicago Sky" are fine if you're, like, a day trader with no creativity or time to change, but that should be the very minimum outfit requirement in the stadium. Where are the hand-made signs? Matching headbands? Halters made of team towels? I only saw one kid, two weeks ago, wearing any face paint. Seriously, you should be raiding your closets on a weekly basis for the craziest sky blue and yellow couture you can find. This is why they call it a game: it's supposed to be fun!

Rollers in Five

Jackpot!
by Scorey Feldman

One: Beating the Odds in Vegas
While the Windy City Rollers took on Sin City's Neander Dolls June 9th in Las Vegas, yours truly stayed home to clean gutters. Big mistake. Though most expected this bout to be a "learning experience" — code for "humiliating defeat" — I awoke Sunday morning to a dozen text messages informing me that the All-Stars had absolutely crushed the Neander Dolls 117 to 36. By all accounts, the Windy City defense was rock-solid against a team that's ranked in the top ten nationally and well-known for its brute strength and bone-jarring blocks. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we've officially graduated to National Contenders.

Two: Out of the Frying Pan
The travel team didn't get much time to enjoy the win, however. As soon as their plane hit the O'Hare tarmac, the All-Stars each went their separate ways to train with their respective squads for Game 3 of the regular season. With temperatures in the 90s and a rekindled rivalry that had the Cicero Stadium abuzz before the first whistle, the night's first bout between the Hell's Belles and The Fury was clearly fueled by equal parts Gatorade and loathing. Assistant Head Ref Unk had to step in between captains Athena DeCrime and Crimson Crusher more than once, and even the fans seemed a bit stunned by the bout's intensity. With their 54-50 win, the Hell's Belles remain undefeated... but we saw the same thing last year, didn't we?

Three: Manic: Depression.
What's to be done about the Manic Attackers? Saturday's soul-crushing loss to the Double Crossers by a beastly 75 points saw the loony ladies looking listless. They clearly have the talent: jammer extraordinaire Malice With Chains is a dominant force on the travel team and fan favorite Ying O'Fire seems even quicker this year than last, but neither seemed able to fight their way through the rock-solid wall of blockers in black. The Manic defense looked even worse, as newcomer Peg Legs ran roughshod all over them with a pair of 12-point jams and the rest of the Crossers' jammers scoring almost at will. They'd better figure something out soon: at 0-3, they'll have to pull off a worst-to-first miracle for a chance at the Ivy King Cup.

Four: The Floor is not your Friend
Stifling heat, a sweaty track and fierce competition resulted in some seriously frightening wipeouts. Riley Coyote barely had time for a victorious fist pump when a shoulder block sent her flying off the track and into a wall. Wreck N Shrew had to be helped off the track after a nasty spill in the south straightaway resulted in a concussion. Belle Diablo's cries of pain could be heard up in the back row when she landed directly on her tailbone. Yikes. My humble suggestion: pad those fishnets with some official WCR seat cushions.

Five: Cicero is not Philadelphia
I was at The Coliseum in Nashville for the 2004 Bears/Titans game, and when Adewale Ogunleye drilled Fred Miller in the end zone in overtime to win the game, I flung up my arms to make the safety sign. With that gesture, I accidentally sent my pal's half-finished beer 15 feet in the air, soaking a 20-foot radius of stunned Titans season-ticket holders. I was reminded of that moment Saturday night when I heard someone behind me screaming "Bullshit!" over and over at Belle Diablo while she lay writhing on the floor with what will most likely turn out to be a broken tailbone. That's not being a fan, pal: that's being a dick. Take it from someone who knows.

Bonus: Cornholers!
You didn't think I'd let one bad apple ruin the barrel, did you? All sport is best measured by its tailgaters, so hats off to Chicago Jimmy and the rest of the superfans who brought their grills and beanbags to the bout for pre-game madness in the parking lot. You do us all proud.

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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.

Anne Elizabeth Moore didn't go to professional blogging school or anything like some of these sports writers today, but she's been nominated for more comics awards. That's gotta mean something.

Scorey Feldman made the mistake of seeing the Windy City Rollers debut at the Congress Theatre in 2005 and has been neck-deep in derby madness ever since. He's currently serving as the league's Head of Rules & Regs despite his status as one of the worst rollerskaters the world has ever seen.

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