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Sunday, December 15

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Airbags

Cubs in Five
by Jefff Webber

One: Dusty Baker Is the Jimmy Carter of Baseball
You know how Jimmy Carter gave that unfortunate speech during his term as president in which he described the American people as being mired in a sort of malaise? And you remember how that came back to bite him in the ass, when Reagan stomped in the the '80 election and people were using that as Carter's epitaph? Yeah, well, I'm going on record right now that Dusty Baker's description of the 2005 Cubs season as "anguish" is going to go down much the same way.

Two: A Pitcher of Long Island Iced Teas Might Have Straightened This Whole Thing Out
So if — if &mmdash; the Cubs can win every game they have left this year (three of 'em as of this writing) they can finish at .500, which is to say that they'll have won as many games as they lost. It's kind of like hoping you'll hit right on 21 right before you leave the blackjack table... all so you can break even. Maybe this whole "break even" thing would have been more tolerable for Cubs fans if, like casino patrons, we enjoyed unlimited free booze.

Three: So Long Todd Walker
Odds are, Cubs second baseman Todd Walker isn't coming back. It's not that he stunk or anything; actually, he was pretty good. But the Cubs are looking to turn over a healthy chunk of their lineup for next season and Walker seems a likely candidate to go. Maybe they'll sign Atlanta speedster Rafael Furcal and move Ronnie Cedeno to second. Maybe they'll let Nomar have a crack at it. But for whatever reason, it doesn't sound like they're up for hanging onto Walker.

Four: Who to Root for in the Playoffs, Since the Cubs Have Blown It Yet Again
Well, the White Sox, obviously. And while you hope to see the Red Sox win the American League East just because they aren't the frigging Yankees, rooting for the reigning champs is deadly boring. And obviously, we hate St. Louis. Then the Angels are kind of boring. So who's left? Well, the wild card teams, whoever they end up being. But this year, I'm going to be pulling for the Braves and the Padres. The former because they're overloaded with rookies; the latter because they may finish with a below .500 record and still win their division. And seriously, how warped is that?

Five: And Now We Close With a Joke Told by the Emcee at the Green Mill Last Night
Q: What did Jesus Christ say to the Chicago Cubs?
A: Don't do anything 'til I get back.

Sox in Five
by Steve Gozdecki

So, who will the Sox be hosting Tuesday night as we kick off the playoffs — the Yankees? The BoSox? The Angels? We may not know until Sunday (heck, there's still a slight chance that the team will open the playoffs on the road). What we do know is that the Chicago White Sox are your 2005 American League Central division champions, and that the resurgent Jose Contreras will be the starting pitcher in the first game of the playoffs, and that it feels mighty good. But I'm getting ahead of myself, so here's Sox in Five.

One: Roaring Against the Tigers
They can steal our Magglio away, but they can't derail us on our road to winning the division. Nosirree, the Chicago White Sox are indeed AL Central champs after yesterday's 4-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers, as the team rebounded from losing the previous two games of the series by winning a pair to clinch. Amazing — the Sox held onto first place from beginning to end this season. Savor the moment. Or get drunk. Or both. As Ozzie Guillen says all the time, the beer always tastes better after you win.

Two: Chief Wahoo Gets Whammoed!
Of course, it took a little return to reality on the part of the Cleveland Indians for the Sox to clinch when they did. The Indians finally remembered how to lose this week despite hosting a pair of very bad teams, the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. With this return to normalcy, the once hotly anticipated regular-season-ending series between the Sox and Indians is virtually meaningless for the Sox. Look for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees to squawk a little bit about the potential lack of effort we may see from the Sox, as they'll be putting out a complete dog of a lineup tonight against the Indians while the regulars sleep one off. I suspect tonight's Sox lineup will look something like this:

2B Willie Harris
LF Timo Perez
1B Ross Gload
DH Chris Widger
CF Brian Anderson
RF Joe Borchard
SS Pablo Ozuna
3B Geoff Blum
C Raul Casanova

Hmmmm... That's actually not so different from some of the gruesome combinations Ozzie has put together at times this year.

Three: Jurassic Carl — Back from Extinction?
Designated hitter Jurassic Carl Everett, who has practically been transmogrifying into crude oil before our very eyes since August 1, hit his first triple in more than a year to drive in a pair of runs during Wednesday night's 8-2 win over the Tigers. Then he did it again yesterday, tripling in two guys in the first inning of the greatest game ever (2005 regular season edition). Amazingly enough, Everett now has twice as many triples this season than speedy leftfielder Scott Podsednik (he of the 58 stolen bases this year). It's a funny game, baseball.

Four: Paulie Power
In the long, not-so-storied history of the Chicago White Sox, only two of the team's hitters have managed to string together back-to-back 40-home run seasons. The first, of course, was Frank Thomas, who did it in 1995-1996. Now, after smacking 41 dingers last season, Paul Konerko joined the man he replaced at first base after hitting homer number 40 to help seal yesterday's victory. Paulie, yessssss!

Five: Way to Go, Joe!
Congratulations to third baseman Joe Crede and his wife Lisa, who likely assumed that the Sox would be eliminated from the race as usual at this point in the season when time came for the couple to try for their second child last winter. After a complicated pregnancy, Lisa gave birth to their second daughter, Lucy, this past Tuesday. Joe was there in Missouri to lend his support, forcing him to miss two games against the Tigers. While the Crede haters, who often include me among their numbers, may scoff at the notion that his presence makes a difference in this lineup, it's worth noting that he was the team's hottest hitter during the offense's recent cold spell, hitting just under .400 with six homers over his last 17 games.

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 throughout the regular season this column lets you know where you can catch them on the tube — which means this is the last installment. All games are also on WMVP AM 1000.

Friday Sept. 30 - at Cleveland, 6:05 pm, Comcast Sports Net Chicago and ESPN
Saturday Oct. 1 - at Cleveland, 12:25 pm, WFLD Channel 32
Sunday Oct. 2 - at Cleveland, 12:05 pm, Comcast Sports Net Chicago

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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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