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Sunday, December 3

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Cubs in Five

Will Our Humiliation Ever End?
by Jeff Webber

One: Short on Offense, The Cubs Draw a Blanco
So Michael Barrett gets a 10 game suspension for sucker-punching A.J. Pierzynski and what do Cubs fans get? Well, after Barrett's pointless appeal of said suspension gets thrown aside, we'll get 10 games of Henry Blanco. That's the same Henry Blanco who's hitting a jaw-droppingly bad 2-for-39 this year. His career average? .215. Hey... what are you doing out on that ledge?

Two: And the Braves Killed Him Like an Endangered Osprey
Maybe you were hoping Korean-born fireballer Jae-Kuk "I Killed an Osprey with a Thrown Baseball Just to Be an Ass" Ryu would breathe some new life into the Cubs's miserable season. That probably ended on Sunday, when Ryu notched as many home runs allowed as outs (four). Although Ryu's P.U. maybe didn't stink as bad as the Cubs collectively allowing a team record eight homers in one game, or worse yet, the winning run reaching base when a high popup smacked Aramis Ramirez right on top of his frigging head. Back away from the ledge, buddy. This isn't funny. You're starting to really worry me.

Three: Your Starting Second Baseman: Tony Womack!
The next time you pay your friendly Cubs-owned ticket scalping service $150 for a bleacher ticket, I want you to stop and think about the fact that the same Cubs management rolling around naked in your loot have decided that their best bet to upgrade the second base position and the top of their lineup is a guy who mustered just a .556 OPS last year. Hey man, you don't want to jump from there, you're young, buddy. You've got so much to live for.

Four: Keeping Away from the Joneses
Yeah, so you know how I enjoy mocking the many-splendored ineptitude of Cubs outfielder Jacque Jones? Apparently, I should ease up a bit, or his mom Linda is liable to rip me a new one. So from now on, let's go back to hating Neifi. And anyway, there's at least a chance we'll be getting Derrek Lee back within 10 games. Not that one man could even hope to turn around an offense that's neck and neck with Kansas City for worst in all of baseball. C'mon now, buddy. Step away from the ledge. Your wife's here and she's worried sick.

Five: Prior/Wood Progress Report
So Kerry Wood sure looked good Monday against Cincy. Maybe if he can do that three or more times in a row, we can dump him off on some pitching-starved contender for prospects whose bones aren't made of papier-Mache. It'd sure be better than paying him $11 million next year to send him to more doctors. Prior for his part got smacked around in his first minor league rehab start. Sure glad we didn't trade him for Miguel Tejada, huh? Hey, buddy: don't jump. It may seem hopeless, but you could always root for the White Sox.

Sox in Five

Tigers and Thomes and Crowds, Oh My!
by Steve Gozdecki

Ah, the wonders of the long baseball season — a columnist can tune out for a few weeks whilst tending to reality and then find that nothing much at all has changed on his beat since last he threw some words your way.

Oh, I kid. Detroit posting the best record in baseball, and thus leaving the second-best White Sox behind in the AL Central? AJ Pierzynski fined for taking a shot to the dome from the new master of anger mismanagement? The joy of a sweet 5-1 home stand swiftly dissipating as the Sox continue to underachieve on the road? Sounds like it's time at last for a new Sox in Five!

One: Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me for Eight Consecutive Weeks, Shame on Me.
Because we whupped'em but good back in the season's second week and haven't played them since, it has been all too easy to overlook just how good the Detroit Tigers have been through the first third of this season. Despite being shut out in back-to-back games, Jim Leyland's squad sports the best record in baseball at 35-16 and sits a game and a half ahead of the Sox as of this morn. There are certainly some danger signs ahead for the Tigers, including the recent loss of starting pitcher Mike Maroth to injury, a full week of nightly visits from the Yankees and Red Sox, the danger that young Justin Verlander will start pitching like a rookie at some point, and a whole lot of games against the White Sox still to be played. But it still looks like everyone, including me, severely underrated this Detroit club while overrating the woeful Indians of Cleveland back in March.

Two: My Man-Crush on Jim Thome Just Continues to Grow
An American League-leading 20 home runs and 49 RBIs with two more days to go in the merry month of May has me loving Jim Thome to death. Like something out of the world of Norman Rockwell, the big kid with the wide grin from the small city downstate may well have his best season at an age when he should be winding down his career. At this rate, he should be hitting the 500th home run of his career in a Sox uniform sometime next season, at which point he'll have to be considered a near-lock for the Hall of Fame. Dare we hope he be enshrined wearing a Sox cap?

Three: Pitching and Defense, Eh?
Suppose you had a team with an outstanding pitching rotation, extremely good hitters at DH, first base, third base and right field, good hitters at catcher and second base, and very strong defenders who can't seem to hit a lick at shortstop and center field. Now suppose the shortstop was a "proven veteran" who has mainly proven that he's pretty much uncoachable and is just going to take real big swings every time he comes to the plate, and the center fielder was a rookie with a decent pedigree and ceiling that projects to him ultimately being good but not great with the stick. Question: which of these guys would you be in a hurry to replace? If you're this year's White Sox, it looks like you'd want to ditch the rookie rather than allowing him to develop at the big league level, which is a roundabout way of saying that Brian Anderson may be sent back down to AAA Charlotte this week, which would leave the club with a decent-hit, no-glove platoon of Rob Mackowiak and Pablo Ozuna in center field and the continued regular presence of Juan Uribe in the White Sox lineup. Yuck. Let the kid play!

Four: White Sox Fans, You've Got Class
I missed the opportunity to comment on it earlier, but watching yesterday afternoon's game drove home to me just how much more class White Sox fans have than they're generally given credit for. Consider: a slugger who is widely acknowledged to be the nicest guy in the sport plays his heart out for his team for more than a decade, and is then allowed to leave for greener pastures as his team begins to undergo a rebuilding program that doesn't include him and his 32 years. After three seasons playing in the other league, he returns to play for a divisional rival of his original team, and is met with a chorus of boos and spiteful signs from his former fans — such is life for Jim Thome, Mid-American idol. Conversely, the Sox were the only team that the very talented, oft-injured, chronically whiney Frank Thomas played on for nearly 15 years before he burned many a bridge on his way out of town this off-season after being a fringe player on the squad that won the world championship. Did Sox fans boo him upon his return, or pelt him with rocks and garbage? Why, no — they gave him a standing ovation in his first-ever plate appearance as a member of the Oakland A's at the Cell, and he in turn homered in that at bat. Next time up, Sox fans cheer him again, and he gets another hit, then homers yet again in the fifth inning of a game that the Sox eventually won in 10 innings despite the big hits by the Big Hurt. Chicago, you're my kind of town.

Five: Who You Callin' a Sellout?
Got your tickets to see the Sox when they come back home this Friday night to host the Texas Rangers? If not, get'em while you can — last week's six-game home stand against the Cubs and A's found the team selling out all six games, the first time in team history they've ever sold out an entire home stand. Weekend sales have been brisk all season, so even the "meh"-inducing Rangers should draw well, and with Detroit and Cleveland following them to the Cell, the place should be packed in early June. Oh for the days when you could wait 'til the late afternoon, call up a buddy or two, and meet up outside of Gate 3 at 6:30 and still buy good seats. You snooze, you lose — but these Sox keep on winning!

Fire in Five

One Step Forward...
by Steve Gillies

The Fire managed to strike a blow against the cautious optimism fans had been building with a 1-0 defeat to league bottom-feeders Chivas USA. The loss brings the Fire down to 5th place in the Eastern Conference, though they're also only three games out of 1st place — it's called parity.

One: We Hate it When Our Friends Become Successful... Against Us
This year's revamped Chivas USA team features several faces familiar to long-time Fire fans. They're coached by our original coach, Bob Bradley who brought in former vice-captain Jesse Marsh after his public falling out with Dave Sarachan last year. Chivas USA also features temperamental striker Ante Razov, who holds the Fire's team scoring record, and a player many consider to be the worst to ever regularly don a Fire jersey, Orlando Perez. All three saw playing time in this weekends game, and the victory must have been a little bit sweeter for them than most. I guess looking on the bright side it's nice to see Jesse and Bob, who served us well over the years, finding a life after the Fire, and at least Ante didn't score on us.

Two: An Open Letter to Tony Sanneh
It's been three games since he returned from his last injury, so when Tony Sanneh limped off the field after about ten minutes with a strained hamstring it felt a little overdue. Since my poking a little fun at Zach Thornton a few weeks ago seemed to light a fire under him, I have to assume that Fire players are reading this. So, I'd like to speak directly to you, Tony Sanneh. Please retire. The second you do, me and all the other idiots on the Internet criticizing you will turn around and sing your praises for having such an outstanding career. You had, without a doubt, on of the best World Cups anyone has ever had for the US, but it's over and it has been since before you ever put on a Fire jersey. Now every new injury gets a little bit more depressing and every week you stay on the roster drains the Fire's salary cap room and keeps us from acquiring two or three younger, fitter players. Tony, if you're reading this (and I can tell by your MySpace profile that you spend some time online), I'm sorry it didn't work out, but you can look forward to a couple of years from now when you're deservedly getting inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame — wearing a DC United jersey.

Three: Of Course, Tony's Not the Only One Injured
It's hard to figure these things out since none of our local papers give the Fire a lot of coverage, but we haven't seen Justin Mapp since he got kicked in the face in that game against the Red Bulls. I'm assuming he's got a broken face of some sort, hopefully not too serious. Diego Gutierrez strained his hamstring, Gonzalo Segares seems to be off the IR list but not in the lineup. And both of our central defenders, Jimmy Curtin and CJ Brown, are out (broken foot and strained neck respectively). This area hurt us the most this weekend, with their replacements Dasan Robinson and Jack Stewart having a total of 16 professional games between them. Both look like they have very bright futures (although I think Stewart's might be as an outside back rather than in the center). But when you're giving up the type of goal that they gave up in the first minute, there's definitely some experience missing and anyone looking to rush CJ and Jimmy out the door should remember this game.

Four: Only One More Road Game Left
At the beginning of this road trip, Fire coach Dave Sarachan set a goal of getting 15 points on the road. That's out of reach now, as a win next week would close out the road trip with 13 points, which would be respectable, all things considered. Next week's opponents, Real Salt Lake, started the season dismally, but have shown signs of life with two wins and a draw in recent weeks. Still, RSL is the kind of team the Fire should be beating on the road if they have serious post-season ambitions, and with the team lifted by the prospects of playing in front of a home crowd soon they should be shooting for a win.

Five: When is a First Game at Home not the Home Opener?
A casual glance at the Fire's schedule reveals that they play the New England Revolution on June 11 at the new-as-of-yet-unnamed stadium in Bridgeview. However the official opening day won't be until June 25 against the New York Red Bulls. June 11 will have a limited seating capacity and is marked as a Public Safety Event. What's a Public Safety Event? Seriously, I don't know, if anybody can clue me in I'd be grateful...

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Kevin / June 1, 2006 2:20 PM

Hey Steve. I'd just like to make a few comments.

Thome will not be enshrined in a Sox cap anymore than Thomas will be enshrined in an A's cap.

While I whole-heartedly agree Cleveland fans are really class-less in booing Thome so badly, it is much easier to welcome your long-time power-hitter back to his old stompin' grounds when, during the off-season, you prayed he wouldn't be back for another year. Cleveland wanted Thome back. Cleveland made him the best offer they could (and a fair one at that). Cleveland fans were heart-broken when he left for Philly, but at least it was for another team in another league. Seeing him in the division rival's uniform is tough. Seeing him blast those towering homers for the White Sox is a bitter pill to swallow. I wish that Cleveland fans would finally show him the respect and appreciation he deserves for all he did for Cleveland. But please don't compare the response Thome receives to the response Thomas receives. For all we know, people were cheering Thomas, because he is finally another team's propblem.

Steve / June 1, 2006 2:52 PM

Hey Kevin -- thanks for the words.

Yeah, I know Thome won't be going into the Hall wearing a White Sox cap. Nor will Thomas, since I suspect he's going to get dissed when his name comes up for consideration around 2012 or so (I'm guessing he puts up a pair of low-average, decent-power years for the A's before retiring). Brilliant first decade, then pfffft! The DH factor will hurt him, too. He's in my HOF, but Cooperstown may not happen for him. He could well be our own personal Jim Rice.

Cleveland fans suck for booing Jimbo. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. It's like the guy who happily remarries but still goes out of his way to be a dick toward his ex-wife. Thome's been gone from there for more than three years, and he wouldn't fit in on the current Indians squad unless the club was going to stick Pronk out at first, which would be a disaster.

The people I know who were cheering Thomas at Game 1 of the Oakland series sure as heck weren't taking the piss, but it's an interesting suggestion.

If you want a better comp for Cleveland v. Thome, perhaps it should be 2005 Sox fans v. Magglio, who received a decidedly mixed reception when he finally played in a Detroit uniform at the Cell last July. What was interesting/surprising in his case is that a quiet fan favorite turned into a Mini Big Hurt with the bridge-burning blathering on his way out of Chicago.

Ken Dryden / November 20, 2006 8:48 AM

Well some of us belived the first study and were not suprised by the second one. There are some key differences though. This one has a slightly larger sample size giving a lower error rate. The findings confirm the estimates of the 2004 paper so the statistical anomaly argument won't wash. The work is solid though I suspect I will here a whole bunch of government commentators trying to deny the reliability of the study this time as well. However Jack Straw and others, including the PM, ought to apoligise to the authors of these studies on the floor of the house seeing as that is where they trashed the 2004 paper.


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

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 2006 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

Steve Gillies watches too much soccer to be completely healthy. He's 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

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