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Wednesday, November 14

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Airbags

Cubs in Five
by Jeff Webber

One: Trying out for Other Teams in a Cubs Uniform, or, No More Nomar Garciaparra
Mr. Mia Hamm has been kicking this last month, hitting .333 with five homers and 14 RBI, but it doesn't mean much for '06 Cubs. Given what little return they've gotten for their millions so far, they're unlikely to bring him back again. These flashy few weeks are really just a high profile audition for the various suckers who might throw money at him after they lose out on the younger, healthier Rafael Furcal. Our shortstop is likely to be Ronny Cedeno, who Baker finally agreed to find room for in the lineup... only for the the 22-year-old Carabobo, Venezuela native (isn't saying Carabobo fun?) to promptly break his hand. You'd swear there was some kind of curse on this team or something.

Two: Neifi Looking to Find an Everyday Job for 2006; May We Recommend Something in Sales?
"My body tells me I can play every day," Perez said. Yeah, well, my body says I can drink nine beers and eat an entire pepperoni pizza, but experience tells me I'm just going to end up sick. Experience tells us you're just going to be lousy, Neifi. Of 29 major league shortstops who've played in at least 100 games, only five have gotten on base less often than Neifi. Let's hope this everyday job Neifi's itching for materializes in another town, where his ineptitude might do us some good.

Three: Fun Person to Root for in 2006: Jerome Williams
Exactly one good thing came from the LaTroy Hawkins era in Chicago: Jerome Williams, the guy San Francisco sent us when we shipped LaTroy's ass out of town. In 86 innings as a Cub, the 23-year-old starter has put up a respectable 3.87 ERA, right in line with his 3.92 career ERA. At 6'3" and a listed (i.e. "he wishes") weight of 246, Jerome Williams is a big fella. But when he's on his game, working his low-90s fastball, setting up a very good changeup, he looks like he could help shore up the back-end of the '06 starting rotation. Watch for the puka shell necklace he wears every start in honor of his late mother, who gave it to him just before she died of cancer.

Four: Revenge of the Redheaded Stepchild, or, If Only Dusty's Foresight Were as Sharp as His Hindsight
Dusty Baker's redheaded stepchild Matt Murton carries a six game hitting streak into Thursday's game, along with a sterling .404 on-base percentage and eight extra-base hits in just 97 at-bats. "You get young players in against guys they can have success against to build their confidence. This young man is performing well." Gotta love how he takes credit for the kid's success, even as he has repeatedly refused to find him regular playing time. It'd be even better if he'd just admit Murton should have been starting for months now, but as long as he's no longer standing in the kid's way, I guess we should be happy.

Five: And the Corey Patterson Fun to Blame This Week Award Goes to... Corey Patterson
Why not name the damn thing after him at this point? The Cubs centerfielder is hitting an appalling .115 over the last 30 days, reaching base just 14 percent of the time. Given his $2.8 million salary for 2005, that works out to around $67,000 for each of his seven hits during that month. The only non-pitcher on the team he's outhitting over that span is Jose Macias, whose very name is actually Spanish for "slow roller to third."

 

Sox in Five
by Steve Gozdecki

Seven-game White Sox winning streaks to start a September homestand? Those we like. Going 1-6 since then due to crummy pitching and defense, while the Cleveland Indians continue to win win win? Not so good.

Let's do this thing, Sox in Five style.

One: As the Sicilian Would Say, "Inconceivable!"
What the heck is going on, you ask? How has the White Sox magic number become the tragic number? Can the Sox possibly hold the Cleveland Indians off? OK, take a deep breath. If a full month or more remained in the regular season, then even I in my guise as Stevie Sunshine (proud possessor of four club-level seats for game two of the American League divisional series, woo hoo!) might be worried about a White Sox collapse. But with just over two weeks to go, the Sox still hold a healthy four-and-a-half-game lead heading into this weekend's action. More importantly, they square off against the Indians six more times this season, meaning that both teams hold their fate in their own hands, which is, dare I say, the way it ought to be. If the Indians do sweep the Sox, chances are they will win the division while the Sox hope and pray for the wild card. If the more likely scenario holds true, and the two teams split the games, then nothing is gained and nothing is lost and the Sox should be the 2005 AL Central champs. And for what it's worth, the Sox are 9-3 this year versus the Indians.

Two: Cy-onara, Baby?
Don't look now (really, it's too ugly a scene — avert your gaze!), but while speculation abounded just a few weeks ago that either Mark Buerhle or Jon Garland would add a Cy Young award to his resume, the balance of power in the White Sox rotation appears to have shifted. Leastwise, any game of "name that ace starter" now favors Jose Contreras, who has as many wins (four) over the past three weeks than the rest of his rotation mates combined. And while wins can be a rather misleading stat, Contreras's 2.96 ERA over the past three weeks far outshines those of Garland (4.00), Buerhle (5.06), Freddy Garcia (7.23) and Orlando Hernandez (6.75), who has pitched more like dooky than El Duque this year and should probably be left in the bullpen during the playoffs, when four starters will suffice thanks to all the off days. With the dog days of summer behind us, it's time for the starting pitchers to return to the level of excellence they displayed during the season's first four months.

Three: Mike North Heading South?
It was recently announced that Sox radio announcer John Rooney will not be following the Sox down the dial to 670-AM WSCR next season due to salary-related reasons. In the wake of the news that Ed Farmer would be paired with a new partner in 2006 come whispers that Score morning guy Mike North — who epitomizes the love'em or hate'em nature of talk radio hosts — would like to double dip and add Sox play-by-play duties to his morning show gig. My highly unscientific poll of Sox fans reveals that should the obnoxious North gets the gig, 75 percent of fans will either opt to watch Sox telecasts in silence, learn Spanish and listen to games on AM 1200 WRTO, or listen to the opponents' broadcast online through mlb.com.

Four: Hey, How 'Bout Those Twins?
Back in the spring, most Sox fans circled this and next weekends' series against the Minnesota Twins and hoped that they would decide the division (despite many a prediction that this Sox club would finish in third or fourth). But while these games against the Twins remain crucial, the luster has worn off a bit on the rivalry due to the three-time defending AL Central champs' struggles this year, which have revealed that there will be times when "the little club that could" simply cannot (win, that is). Still, something tells me that the Twins will bring their A-game against the Sox, giddy with the possibilities of derailing the chances of the good guys in black after all the smack the two clubs have talked about one another over the past few seasons.

Five: Me Duele el Cuello — o Es la Cabeza?
Weird goings on this week with left-handed Sox reliever Damaso Marte. Marte, who up until now had avoided the whole "flaky lefty" tag, claims to have, according to various reports, a sore neck, back or shoulder that prevents him from pitching. When last he appeared in a game, back on the 7th against Kansas City, Marte beaned both batters he faced, leading to a quick hook and some tense moments in an eventual 1-0 White Sox victory. Afterwards, the pitcher complained of various ailments, but an examination by the team doctor failed to unearth anything more serious than a sore trapezius muscle. Marte also told manager Ozzie Guillen that he isn't in the right frame of mind to pitch after showing up late to this past Sunday's game, putting the team in a potential bind by leaving Neal Cotts as the sole reliable lefty in the bullpen. There has already been talk among team management that Marte may have pitched his last game in a White Sox uniform.

Where Can I Catch the Sox in the Coming Week?
Because the White Sox are baseball Bedouins, with their TV broadcasts wandering up and down the dial, each week this column lets you know where you can catch them on the tube, as well as any promotions going on for those who want to catch a game in person. All games are also on WMVP AM 1000.

Friday Sept. 16 — at Minnesota, 7:10pm, WCIU Channel 26
Saturday Sept. 17 — at Minnesota, 11:10am (not on TV)
Sunday Sept. 18 — at Minnesota, 1:10pm, Comcast Sports Net Chicago
Monday Sept. 19 — v. Cleveland, 7:05pm, WCIU Channel 26 (Value Monday — 1/2 price tickets)
Tuesday Sept. 20 — v. Cleveland, 7:05pm, Comcast Sports Net Chicago (Two-for-one upper deck seats and Stitch'n'Pitch)
Wednesday Sept. 21 — v. Cleveland, 7:05pm, Comcast Sports Net Chicago (Win-a-jersey Wednesday)
Thursday Sept. 22 — v. Minnesota, 7:05pm, Comcast Sports Net Chicago (dollar hot dogs)

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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 Gozdecki has been a White Sox fan his entire life, with the exception of an ill-advised flirtation with the 1984 Cubs. Because he swears by the work of the "baseball outsiders," who believe that statistic analysis trumps things like subjective evaluations and team chemistry, he finds himself baffled by the success his team is having in this 2005 season. Each week through the end of the Sox's playoff run — which will hopefully end around Halloween — 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.

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