Collateral Estoppel

Thoughts mostly on the Cubs, but also anything else that I feel like talking about, and not necessarily in that order. The CE legal disclaimer: All rights reserved, void where prohibited, no warranties either express or implied (screw UCC section 2-316). So there.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

My Vote Goes to Joe, Plus a Bonus Taxi Adventure

I listened to Pat and Ron last Thursday as the Cubs beat the A's 2-1 in the Cactus League opener, and since then I haven't really followed it very closely, mostly because I'm not terribly worried about this team. I think the offense will be there, despite much media worrying about how they are going to replace 70+ homers from Sosa and Alou (neglecting to mention that Sammy hit .253 last year). Aramis is going to do what he does, D-Lee will be steady at first, Todd Walker and Nomar are going to be solid up the middle, Corey will cut down on his strikeouts, Burnitz will hit 30 homers, and whoever plays left (I prefer Jason Dubois, but I would have nothing against Todd Hollandsworth) will be fine. Plus Michael Barrett can hit.

Pitching? The rotation is fine. Closer spot? That's where the title of this post comes in. Let's review: the Cubs win 88 games in 2003 and come within a game of winning the pennant. Joe Borowski saves 30-something games. Last year, the Cubs win 89 games and miss the playoffs by three games. The numbers of games that I can count off the top of my head that the Cubs blew a lead in the ninth inning last year? At least seven (both games in that May DH in Pittsburgh, a June home game against the Bucs, an April home game against Cincy, an August game in Houston, the September game at Shea, and the final week blowup against the Reds [again!] at Wrigley, one that I personally witnessed). How many wins would that have been with a healthy Joe? Theoretically 96, as there are no guarantees that he would have done the same thing last year. But anything would have been better than Latroy Hawkins trying to get the last three outs.

I realize that three of the games I listed were blown saves by Joe himself, but it was obvious last year that he was not the Joe of 2003. That's why I think he's the closer until something goes wrong. I really like Ryan Dempster, but he's kind of the right-handed swing guy of the bullpen (with Glendon Rusch as the lefty, but I think he should be in the rotation). Chad Fox? Good setup man, not a closer. You don't need an overpowering closer to win in the playoffs. After all, how much good did Eric Gagne do the Dodgers in the NLDS last year? He never had any leads to protect. Keith Foulke and Jason Isringhausen are both good closers, but nobody will ever mistake them for Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter, or Lee Smith at their primes. What the Cubs need most is consistency: one guy that everybody knows is coming into the game in the ninth inning to get the last three outs. I think Joe is that guy if he is healthy. Fortunately, nobody cares what I think, least of all Dusty Baker.

Time for a Chicago cab story: today my wife and I went to the Field Museum to see the Jackie Kennedy exhibit (my wife's namesake). We go outside of our building to get a cab. Our building is right across from Navy Pier, and the Field is about two miles straight down Lake Shore Drive. The exit even says "Museum Campus" on the sign. So we get in the cab, tell the driver where we're going, and he sort of doesn't understand. I repeat it, and he says OK and we go down Lake Shore. We're cruising down until we pass the exit we should have taken. I start to think, okay, we're going past Soldier Field for some reason, and we'll take the next exit. But we pass that one, and soon we're coming up on McCormick Place. So I tell the driver, we're going to the Field Museum. He thought we were going to the Museum of Science and Industry, which is down in Hyde Park. So we get off at 31st and turn around, and we thought he had turned off the meter because of his horrible knowledge of Chicago destinations. We finally get off at the correct exit, and we get to an intersection where a left turn takes us to the Field, and straight takes us to the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Plantarium. Even though the Field is a huge building and there are signs all over it, the driver doesn't seem to know where it is, and as my wife says to turn left, he goes straight instead. Of course, the road loops us back around, where he proceeds to stop next to a parked taxi to ask this driver where the Field is. The other driver, somewhat incredulously, says that it's right next to us. So we finally get to the South Entrance and the meter says $4.10. I didn't even want to tip the guy, but I give him a twenty and tell him to give us $13 back. He starts telling us that it's really $7.90 plus this $4.10; apparently he didn't actually turn the meter off, he just sort of cut it in half. We tell him that we weren't the ones who didn't know where the Field was, and we finally agree to give him $10, and upon exiting the cab my wife tells him that he was the worst cab driver we've ever had, which was true.

What's most inexplicable about this was that if there was a top ten list of destinations that Chicago cab drivers should be required to know how to get to, the Field is definitely on the list. We weren't asking for some small museum (and if we were, I would have given the address as well), we wanted to get to the biggest museum in the third biggest city in the US, and the cab driver didn't seem to know where it was or how to get there. Unbelievable. And don't get me wrong: 99% of the drivers either me or my wife have are no problem and know exactly where they're going. I even had one get me to Webster and Southport when all I gave him was the address of 1401 W. Webster, and I didn't even know where the hell I was going. But to not know the Field? That's like not knowing how to get to the Met or the Guggenheim in Manhattan. It's completely unacceptable for a cab driver. Is it worth calling the city's cab hotline over? No. Does it make me think that the proposed cab fare increase is not a good idea? Yes, especially if a knowledge of city streets and destinations is not going to be a requirement for being a cab driver in this city.

The new dugout and bullpen seats go on sale this weekend, and the registration starts on the Cubs website tomorrow. I'm there, especially if I could get lucky enough to snag them for a weekend series in the summer. Mucho resale value there for the ones I wouldn't use.

And as Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament approaches, I realize that the only way my alma mater, UC Santa Barbara, will be a participant is for them to win the Big West Tournament and defeat top-ranked Pacific along the way. If that's what's required, then I know my Gauchos can do it. If not, I'm still going to win any tournament pools I enter.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Just Like I Planned

The virtual waiting room really started to clear out after 11:00 tonight, to the point where I was frequently getting back to the schedule where you could pick your game without being kicked back into the room at all. In the end, my final tally is 11 games total, one with two tickets so my wife can go, and the other ten single tickets. The singles allowed me to go to two Cardinal games and a couple others the Cubs website is indicating is either sold out or has only scattered singles available. My games are scattered throughout the year (I tried to get one game per homestand, of which the Cubs have 12 this year), and overall I'm very pleased. The only annoying aspect was having to buy one game per transaction, meaning I had to put credit card info in eleven different times, which means I'll probably also end up with 10 different envelopes containing one ticket each in the middle of March, when they mail them out (the bleacher ticket I got was will call or print at home only; they wanted another $2.50 so I could use my own ink and paper, but I said no thanks). I need to resist the urge to keep buying tickets to games I know I could go to, because I know I will go overboard (that happened last year when I went to 18 games total, but my rationale is that it was my first full summer in Chicago). So eleven is it. I really need to get season tickets as soon as I have an income.

I like the bleachers the best, but I only got one game, on April 24th against Pittsburgh, due to their almost complete unavailability. This only means one thing: save me a seat, Al, because I'm coming over to right field!

Friday, February 25, 2005

It Actually Works

When Cubs playoff tickets went on sale for the Divisonal Round and then the NLCS in 2003, I endured the so-called "virtual waiting room" online in an attempt to get tickets. That endeavor was unsuccessful, which led to me spending of $250 for a bleacher seat to Game 1 of the NLCS, probably the best $250 I have ever spent in my life. The Cubs lost that one on Mike Lowell's homer in the 11th, a ball that I can still remember the distinct sound it made when it clanged into the basket in front of the shrubbery in center. However, that game provided Sammy Sosa's two-out, two-run blast to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, my favorite Sammy moment and the absolute loudest I have ever heard Wrigley, even louder than the day the Cubs swept the Pirates in the doubleheader and clinched the division.

But I digress; the point is, I got on the computer today at 1 o'clock, entered the virtual waiting room, and, to my surprise, it let me in at about 4:30 or so to buy tickets. Of course, I was limited to one game, and by then the Red Sox and the White Sox series were both sold out, as was the home opener and a few Cardinals games, and I'm fairly certain I'll be able to get tickets for the other games that I want, so I snatched up a couple field box outfield seats for the June 7th game against Toronto, so my wife and I can go sit in a close section for her one game of the year that she can stand. I also like to see random American League teams when I get the chance, since I'm not interested in venturing down to the Cell to see the Palehose. I'm currently in the virtual waiting room again, and I will likely be doing this all weekend, but I want to go see the Cubs, dammit, and I'm not going to be denied. At least it worked once for me so far.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Cubs Are Back, and So Am I (and Hopefully on a Regular Basis)

With the news that the 2nd Annual Cubs Blog Army over at Northside Lounge predictions contest is upon us, and as a member of said army despite my complete lack of posts for about, oh, seven weeks now, as some famous actor once said in something (I think it was Jason Alexander as George in Seinfeld), "I'm back, baby!" I try not to predict anything about the Cubs because of my complete and utter lack of objectivity, but I will do anything for the purposes of competition and/or gambling.

Anyway, to recap all that's happened since January 3rd, my last post: the Patriots won the Super Bowl (I predicted their two AFC victories, as you may or may not have noticed), and Sammy Sosa got traded. Both events were expected, and both made me happy. I already like the Cubs' attitude this year. A little less pressure, combined with a lot less bad apples in the clubhouse, should mean a better team (not that 89 wins is bad).

Last year I did the whole wristband thing at Wrigley and waited almost nine hours there on that Friday before I finally got to buy, but it's not happening this year. I've figured out a process that will allow me to go to most of the games that I want without resorting to trying to get them right away. Unfortunately it won't work for you unless you want to go to games by yourself. Since that doesn't bother me, and since I'm not very good company when the Cubs are losing, it's a great system.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Why the Playoffs Are Different

Now that January (and cold rain here in Chicago) is upon us, it is not too crazy to turn our eyes to the impending beginning of spring training in a mere six weeks or so. With Carlos Beltran still unsigned, and it appearing that it will stay that way for at least a week, I am still confident that Jim Hendry will step in at some point and make a competitive offer for his services. You and I both know that the Tribsters are capable of paying both Sammy and Beltran for 2005.

Now that Randy Johnson is finally out of the National League (thank God, the Cubs never hit him, though this year they do play in Yankee Stadium) and in the Bronx, all the East Coast-centric pundits are ready to proclaim the Yankees' rotation as one of the best ever. If they could somehow convince me that Carl Pavano is not a fluke and that Mike Mussina has not passed his prime, I might be inclined to believe them. But if trading what remaining talent the Yankees have left in their farm system to acquire a 41-year-old pitcher with back problems is their panacea, who am I to question it? And, for the record, I'll take the Cubs' rotation for 2005, even with Matt Clement's departure to Boston: Prior, Wood, Zambrano, Maddux, and Rusch. I don't care if the Cardinals picked up Mark Mulder (though he is quite good, the Cubs can usually hit lefties), the Cubs have the best rotation in the division, and I would argue in the entire league. Atlanta's acquistion of Tim Hudson is a good one, but Russ Ortiz and John Thomson are still prominently involved. Houston's depends on Roger Clemens' whims, and the Dodgers should be decent with Javy Vasquez, but in the end I'll take the Cubs. Of course, there is bias involved.

And now I turn to the most powerful sports team in my fan garage, if you will: the Patriots. A workmanlike 21-7 dispatching of the 49ers yesterday ended their season at 14-2. If the Colts beat the Broncos, they will travel to Foxboro, but if the Broncos win in Indy (not likely), the Pats will host the winner of the Jets-Chargers game. Since we all know that the Pats are capable of beating the Colts, and beat the Jets twice, the only unknown here is the Bolts. They are a good team, despite the liability of being coached by Marty Schottenheimer, but since the Broncos have only slightly better odds than a snowball in hell of winning in Indy, we'll let the Steelers worry about the Bolts.

I will say this much: Bill Belichick knows how to coach in the playoffs. His last postseason loss as head coach? Over ten years ago with the Browns. The Pats went 3-0 in the 2001 playoffs and 3-0 in the 2003 playoffs. They didn't have home-field for the AFC Championship in 2001 either, just like this year. It's funny how similar this year is to the playoffs of three years ago, minus the fact that nobody thought the Pats were any good entering those playoffs. The Steelers were already booking their flights to New Orleans after the Pats escaped in the Snow Bowl against the Raiders (the "tuck rule" game, whose play was ruled correctly to the consternation of many Raider fans). Enter an unproven quarterback in Kordell Stewart, the Pats pick him off three times, and, along with a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown, they go to the Super Bowl instead. Now, I am aware that the Steelers have the best defense in the NFL, and that they have won either 13 or 14 in a row (I'm not exactly sure, but I don't want to look it up). However, the Pats always stop Jerome Bettis when it counts, they didn't have Corey Dillon when they lost in Pittsburgh on Halloween, nobody knows what Ben Roethlisberger is going to do when it counts in the crunch time of the playoffs, and no coach on the league is better at putting game plans together than Belichick. All told, I like their chances in the AFC Championship. Of course, they do have to get there first, so let's not put the cart ahead of the horse. (And I did accurately predict their loss in Miami.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

They're Allowed to Lose One Game

I did predict it, though it was definitely tongue-in-cheek. I thought that last night's game was a trap game for the Patriots: the Dolphins always play them tough, Tom Brady never plays that well against them, and they never seemed to put it away when they had multiple chances to do so. But, come on, they're still 12-2. Let's get some perspective here. They didn't blow home-field because they needed a Steelers loss to get it anyway. Two main reasons why this loss isn't that big of a deal:

1) They won the AFC Championship in January 2002 in Pittsburgh with Drew Bledsoe coming off the bench and a team that was not as battle-tested at this year's version, so it's not like home-field is an essential component to them returning to the Super Bowl. Plus Corey Dillon was still missing the playoffs with the Bengals then.

2) They hold the tiebreaker over the Colts for the second bye, and though I hear that the Chargers hold the tiebreaker over the Pats (I'm not sure how unless two of the Bolts' losses came against NFC teams), the Colts and the Bolts are playing each other on Sunday, and, barring a tie (highly unlikely), somebody has to lose. Because the Pats beat the Colts in Week 1, a Colts win would help sew up the second AFC bye. Not that I don't think they could win two games on the road to get to Jacksonville, but I'd prefer that they don't have to.

Onto what little Cubs news there is. Tim Kurkjian just said on Sportscenter that the Yankees are set to offer Carlos Beltran about six or seven years at about $17 million. You're telling me the Tribune Company can't find that kind of cash? They gave it to Sammy, and they can give it to Beltran. Beltran doesn't necessarily want the money, though having Scott Boras as your agent does little to suggest otherwise. My point is that Jim Hendry hasn't even stepped up to the plate yet, so let's see what kind of offer the Cubs put out there before we cede Beltran to the Yankers just yet.

On a completely unrelated note, the Cubs resigned Jose Macias to a one-year deal. I actually don't mind Macias: he plays a few positions, he hustles, and he has occasional pop. You need guys like him around. I also saw that Kent Mercker signed with the Reds. They can have him.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

I'm Back

That's right, finals are over, I can have my life back, and it's just in time for the Patriots' inevitable run through the AFC playoffs on the way to the Super Bowl. If anyone legitimately thinks that the Steelers are beating the Pats in the AFC Championship, they're insane. You can't beat the Pats right now. (Watch, now they'll lose to the Dolphins Monday night.)

But, considering as how this blog is supposed to be about the Cubs some of the time, and I'd like to be an esteemed member of the Cubs Blog Army, it's time to discuss everything that's gone down in the past month or so.

Sammy Sosa: Is he staying? Is he going? Do I even care any more? Don't get me wrong, I love Sammy, and he was my favorite player for a long time after Ryne Sandberg officially retired, but he's slow, he can't field anymore, he strikes out too much (of course, he's always done that), and he doesn't really hit singles anymore. That said, I'm not sure why another team would want him, but we shall see. The point is, however, that trading him is not a necessary event for the signing of...

Carlos Beltran: This is a must sign for the Cubs. They pick him up, stick him in center, move Corey Patterson to left, and with the rest of their lineup, they can throw Jason Dubois in right and it would be fine. Scott Boras is a moron, and he's not going to get 10 years and $200 million for Beltran. I think the Cubs can get him for about 8 and $140 mil or thereabouts. Beltran says he loves Chicago, we all know how well he hits at Wrigley, and does he really want to go to the Bronx? Not with their ancient pitching staff (and Carl Pavano is a one-year wonder, I can tell you that much).

Matt Clement: Hey, he had some good years, but I was never truly confident having him on the mound, and he was truly snake-bit for most of 2004. Good luck to him in Boston; the thing that I'm most happy about is that he went to the American League and he won't have the chance to torment the Cubs for the next three years. (See Greg Maddux, 1993-2003.)

Todd Walker and Nomar Garciaparra: Two underrated resignings, especially considering that Nomar is amenable to sticking around after 2005. If you give him a full season at Wrigley, I have no doubt that he's going to hit over .300. I love Walker too; he needs to be starting if for no other reason than the Cubs need another left-handed bat.

Neifi Perez: Just one of those useful guys you need around to play a lot of positions. I have a lot of faith in Dusty Baker guys.

So how would this lineup look on Opening Day in Phoenix?
Walker 2B
Garciaparra SS
Beltran CF
Ramirez 3B
Lee 1B
Patterson LF
Barrett C
Dubois (or whoever) RF


Where can I pick up my World Series tickets? Oh, the optimism of December.

I also want to congratulate the men's soccer team of my alma mater, UC Santa Barbara, who agonizingly lost the national championship in a shootout to Indiana last week. My Gauchos have still only won one national championship in the history of the university, and I thought this one was going to be the second. At least they got UCSB mentioned on Sportscenter for something.

And to part, overheard on the #66 bus as I got on this week:
Driver: "You need to stand behind the yellow line."
Crazy old man: "Only God tells me what to do."
He got off two stops later, but I was wondering how long he tormented the bus driver that night.