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Cubs in Five

Return of the Human Rain Delay
by Jeff Webber

One: Steve Trachsel Back With the Cubs; Scheduled to Start Tuesday, Finish by Mid-Weekend
The slowest-working pitcher in the majors returned to town this week, as the Cubs dealt Cubs in Five faves Scott Moore and Rocky Cherry to Baltimore for late-'90s Cub mainstay Steve Trachsel. Ostensibly, this shores up the fifth starter slot. But Sean Marshall has outperformed Trachsel by virtually every pitching metric imaginable (seriously: pick one and look it up; I'll wait). Chalk it up to: a) hoping for veteran mojo; b) panic about the rough patch Marhsall's going through; or c) Trachsel has naked pictures of Cubs management. Don't get me wrong, if Trachsel can work the kind of improbable magic that helped him win the one-game playoff in '98, I'll overlook the crazy high walks and the disturbing rare strikeouts, and if he helps us win the World Series, I'll kiss him on the lips. More likely, he'll just bug the crap out of any and all Cub fans who prefer to watch a game in under four hours. Sox lefty Mark Buerhle could pitch a doubleheader in the time it takes Trachsel to toss six shaky innings.

Two: Apparently, Wrigley Needs the Clapper
Yesterday's lights-on/lights off silliness, in brief: play was halted in the Cubs' fourth because the (timed) lights were coming on during the inning; umpires halted play until the lights were turned off (rules insist lights can't go on mid-inning), which took a few minutes. During the next break between innings, the lights went back on, Zambrano came out to warm up, but umps halted play again, saying the lights weren't "at full illumination." After several more minutes passed, Dodger skipper Grady Little asked everybody to grow up and let his guys hit. And so they did. Got all that?

Three: Bringing in Reinforcements
You know who might have been more helpful than a washed-up junkball with control problems right about now? A power reliever and a lefty-swinging backup corner guy. Ah, but I digress. Cherry and Moore are gone, but Sean Gallagher, Will Ohman, Geovany Soto, Eric Patterson, Ronny Cedeno and Felix Pie were all called up the big team this week. The big questions, from where I'm sitting are: one, does Ohman get the late-inning lefty work, or does Marshall? And two, do Pie or Soto get to play? Marshall will probably get stuck in long relief unless Marquis implodes or Big Z's struggles end up being injury-related, in which case, he returns to the rotation. Pie would need to get lucky with a fiery-hot day on a spot start to bump the suddenly useful Jacque Jones from center. Soto, sadly, will get most of his work warming up relievers.

Four: Memo to Carlos Zambrano
Now would be an extraordinarily good time to stop sucking. Just pretend like you're still waiting for an extension. If it'll help, we can ship another catcher out of town for a bag of balls. Thank you.

Five: And Because Sometimes Numbers Help Reassure About the Freakishly Unlikely Things That Seem To Be Taking Place This Year
Baseball Prospectus currently rates the Cubs as being twice as likely as any of their rivals to walk away with the division title, at 54.33 percent to Milwaukee's 26.24 percent and St. Louis's 19.35 percent. The remaining shreds of percentiles belong to the Reds and Astros, reflecting the small, but still minutely possible chance that one team or the other could promote Roy Hobbs and Sid Finch from the minor leagues on the same day as the Brewer, Cub and Cardinal team planes collided simultaneously in mid-air.

Sox in Five

Five Reasons to Keep Following the Sox Down the Stretch
by Steve Gozdecki

One: See More Ozzie Meltdowns!
While we here in Chicago are quite accustomed to White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's crazy tirades no matter what the team is doing, the national sports media is just catching on here in this darkest of seasons. Let's see some more Ozzie bibbling and babbling and bleeping over on the Boo Yaa Network over the season's final four weeks. Like Wilde said, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

Two: Watch Thome's Quiet Quest for 500
White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome, the nicest man in baseball according to most, needs to hit five more home runs to become the 23rd player in baseball history to hit 500. Assuming he stays healthy — not the safest assumption, unfortunately — Big Jim should do it this month. Let's hear it for honesty, decency and left-handed power hitters.

Three: Because It's Too Painful to Watch the Cubs
Really? Four games over the break-even mark puts you on track for the playoffs? Wow, that there NL Central is bad.

Four: Watch the Team Play Spoiler!
The schedule says that the White Sox play two more series against the Tigers of Detroit, who have been reeling a bit lately and giving much ground to the division-leading Cleveland Indians. So why not beat up on Magglio and his band of merry defending American League champions the next three games over in their park, then be prepared to do so again the last three games of the season if need be? Go youuuuuu White Sox!

Five: To Check Out All That Exciting Young Talent the Team Will Be Rebuilding Around!
Oh, I kid.

Fire in Five

Another Dose of Reality and a Game You Have to See
by Steve Gillies

One: No Magic Cure
This week's 1-0 loss to New York re-emphasized the fact that even with the new coach and improved overall play, it's going to take time to become a top MLS team again. Still, if you want to measure improvement, think back to the first game in New York, which was basically over within the first five minutes as New York went up 3-0 and then took the rest of the game off. This game, while it looked like we were going for the draw, we were at least competitive. On the positive side, Columbus and Colorado, who are shaping up to be our main rivals for a final playoff spot, split points in a tie. That keeps us in reach, but the Fire need to start racking up the wins, hopefully starting against Columbus next week.

Two: I've Said It Before, And I'll Say It Again... FieldTurf Sucks
On the play that led to New York's winning goal, it certainly looked like a situation that CJ Brown would have been able to take care of in a slide tackle on real grass rather than the Meadowland's FieldTurf. He was far from the only player on either team that looked like he was having trouble negotiating the stuff. That combined with the fact that they didn't clean up after whoever vandalized the field by painting football lines on it made it a pretty hard game to watch. New York has a real stadium on the way, but if MLS wants to attract more big-time foreign stars like Beckham and Blanco, they're going to have to go with real grass all the time. FieldTurf was actually the deal breaker when New York tried to bring in Paulo Wanchope, who has had a lot of knee problems, earlier in the season.

Three: What's Up, Doc?
If Wanchope is really concerned about his health, maybe he should have looked at the Fire training staff's track record before signing on. A recent interview with Tony Sanneh in the Tribune revealed some pretty shocking treatment on the part of the trainers. According to Sanneh, they misdiagnosed his hip injury, wouldn't let him get an MRI or second opinion, and implied that he was faking his injury. Now, I know even less about sports medicine than I do about soccer, but it seems really unprofessional to accuse an athlete of Sanneh's caliber of faking an injury without doing anything remotely like due diligence. The whole fiasco also puts Chris Rolfe's "2-3 week ankle sprain" that lasted half of this season in another light.

Four: Brazil is Coming, Why Haven't You Bought Your Tickets?
With a week to go before the US-Brazil game, only 28,000 tickets have been sold. The game was announced at the last minute so there hasn't been a whole lot of time to promote it. And there has been a lot of soccer in Chicago this summer between the Gold Cup, the Chicago Trophy, the Fire, and, um, the Women's National Team. And I hear a sports league that's fairly popular in this country is kicking off the same weekend. But, come on. This is Brazil. They're bringing they're full squad. The US is bringing its full squad. Don't miss this chance.

Five: This Space Intentionally Left Blank
So you can order your Brazil-US tickets already.

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Comments

Nuke LaLoosh / September 4, 2007 12:31 PM

I wanted to take a quick look back to my predictions for the Cubs' season before I look forward to the Cubs' playoffs.

In April, I said that we should expect the following from the Cubs:

"1) too many walks allowed by our pitching staff;

2) too few walks drawn by our hitters;"

As for item #1, Cubs pitchers have given up 495 BBs, the THIRD MOST in the NL -- just ahead of the Washington Nationals (488 walks) and just behind San Francisco (514).

As for item #2, Cubs hitters have walked just 414 times, which puts us 14th out of 16 NL teams -- just ahead of Milwaukee (411) and just behind St. Louis (418).

I also said we could look forward to:

"3) an inability to move the runner along;

4) mediocre-to-poor infield defense with occassional brilliant saves by D. Lee;

5) an inability to hit with runners in scoring position;"

I didn't look too hard, but I couldn't find team BA with runners on or RiSP. Let me know if you know where to look.

I do know that the Cubs have 82 errors (IF and OF combined). The NL team average is 83. That puts us about where I expected, maybe a little bit better.

While in "hater" mode, I said the Cubs would put up:

"6) too many starts by a bunch of has beens and never weres (yes, I'm looking at you, Mark DeRosa);"

and would experience:

"7) growing pains by young replacement players (yes, I'm looking at you Ryan Theriot)."

Both of these guys have shown themselves to be critical parts of the Cubs this season.

DeRosa's line, so far: .286/.358 /.411
Not a superstar, but definitely a contributor.

Theriot, who has had a few problems here and there, has a respectable line:
.281/ .343/ .366

I'd really like to see that OBP up about 50 points or so, but this isn't too bad. I would say he has had some growing pains, but I admit he has shaped up more quickly than I expected.

Much like the Cubs, my record was slightly better than .500.

Go Cubs.

Michelle / September 4, 2007 12:55 PM

Steve, you should see if you can get into Sox Park for free dressed as a clown. I bet you do a mean Andy impression. Me, I'm gonna see if the custom T-shirt shop can do me up with a Mrs. Roobarb shirt.

anthony s / September 4, 2007 6:10 PM

Whoever scheduled this soccer friendly should be fired immediatly! The U.S. team never gets a break..

Steve Gillies / September 4, 2007 9:56 PM

Fired Anthony? For taking a last-minute cancellation and managing to scrounge up a game against the best team in the world in its place? And it just happens to be taking place in my city. I'd like to buy whoever scheduled this game a steak dinner, but instead I'll have to settle for telling everyone they really shouldn't blow this opportunity to see the likes of Robinho and Kaka and Clint Dempsey and Steve Cherundolo play in person.

 

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 Gozdecki has been a White Sox fan his entire life, with the exception of an ill-advised flirtation with the 1984 Cubs in the days when his town wasn't wired for cable. Because he swears by the work of the "baseball outsiders," who believe that statistical analysis trumps old truisms like subjective evaluation and team chemistry, he found himself pleasantly surprised when the Sox won it all last year. Each week through the season, Steve will bring you five crucial talking points you can use the next time someone says, "Hey, how 'bout them Sox?" Send comments to sox@gapersblock.com.

Steve Gillies has 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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