sports: October 2005 Archives

Chicago wins the World Series!!

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Never in my wildest dreams, given their strong showing a couple years back, did I think an entry with that title wouldn't be about the Cubs, and would instead be praising their South Side brethren.

One of the reasons that I've never gotten all that much into hockey is that it never really crossed the line into comprehensibility for me. In other words, and I'm fully willing to admit my own ignorance here, I just don't understand what makes one squad good and another bad. I've been to a few games, and I've enjoyed them, but I don't really understand the sport in the way I do most others.

And while I'm happy for the Sahx, almost as happy as I was last year for the Sawx, I must admit that I really don't understand how a team with pretty good pitching and average hitting managed to lose only a single game in the playoffs. Granted, their pitchers pitched above themselves (Garland and Buerhle couldn't pitch out a paper sack for much of the 2nd half of the season), and granted, they're a very solid team, but position by position, they're not that much better than the Red Sox, Angels, or even Astros (who got there with very good pitching and below average hitting). Are they?

Maybe the answer is consistency, top to bottom. The Cardinals last year had a staff that was comparable, certainly, but lost to a team with a couple of serious stoppers in Schilling & Martinez (and Lowe pitched out of his mind). The Astros' stoppers didn't. Bakke turned out their best pitching performance of the Series, and the 'Stros didn't support him.

Hmm. Still, I would have liked to see the one matchup that didn't happen, and that would have been White Sox-Yankees. The Red Sox had to play the Yanks to get in, and the Angels had to play them in the first round, but the WSox got through without having to face them. I would have probably preferred to see the Sox face the Cardinals, who seemed to age before our eyes in the NLCS. (You have no idea how hard it is for me as a Cub fan to type the first part of that sentence.)

In the end, though, however it happened, the Sox buzzsawed through the other teams, and did it in a way that all the big budgets and moneyballers couldn't have predicted. Good for them.

And a razz to all of the sports twits who think that the quality of a series is measured by its TV ratings, and only national TV ratings at that. I can't tell you how tired I get of the idiots who honestly believe, in our ESPN-saturated sports culture, that they don't have any influence over perception, that they're just "reporting" the "facts." Every time one of the talking heads asks whether people will be interested, they're raising the possibility that it won't be interesting. And the fact of the matter was that, for all that it only lasted four games, this was a fun series to watch.

Even if the Cubs weren't in it...

Dear CBS,

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Just so you know, pre-empting the final four minutes of what had become a really good, close, and hard-fought game between two of the best teams in the NFL (Philly & San Diego), so that we can see the first quarter of an average game between two largely underachieving teams (Buffalo & Oakland)? Not so smart.

I hate the "regional loyalty" package, where all I get to see are Bills', Jets', and Giants' games, but I understand why you might stick with that model. At the same time, pre-empting a good game for the 1st quarter of one of these is stupid.

Just so you know.

No shirts, no shoes, no shots

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For a few days now, I've been wanting to post something about the recently-announced NBA dress code, and a few of the colossally moronic responses to it. My personal fave was a particular player, who makes more in a year than I may in my entire career, suggesting that it wasn't "fair" unless all of the players received clothing stipends on top of their salaries...

And then I read Mark Cuban's post on the subject. At the risk of sounding like I'm fawning, if there is someone out there who honestly doesn't believe that Cuban is good for the NBA and good for pro sports in general, that person needs to read this entry.

You don't have to agree with everything he does, but the one thing that you should take away is that Cuban treats his players (a) like adults, (b) like professionals, and (c) like they have a stake in more than just wins and losses when it comes to the team. In other words, he treats his players in exactly the way that many fans wish that players would behave. In other words, he gives them the respect that he expects in return. And what do you know? It works.

More power to him.

No accident

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I'm pretty sure that no one in their right minds would have noticed this other than me, but who knows?

As I was watching the Yankees' last gasp last night, they put in two pinch runners, Tony Womack and Mark Bellhorn. My first response? "Hey, those are both ex-Cub second basemen!"

And as I thought about it, the list of former Cub second basemen in this year's playoffs continued to grow. Bellhorn, Womack, Eric Young (Padres), Jose Vizcaino (Astros), and of course, Mark Grudzielanek (Cardinals). I'm pretty sure (but could be wrong) that all active ex-Cub second basemen made the playoffs this year, which is a pretty astounding (albeit useless) bit of baseball trivia.

But before you write your local GM and demand a trade for Todd Walker so that you can make him the 6th ex-Cub 2B and ride that trend into next year's playoffs, think about this: this is also the year that the best Cub 2B of all time, Ryne Sandberg, was inducted into the Hall of Fame. It could very well just be a one-year deal.

Reading this, you'd think that I have nothing but time on my hands. You'd be wrong. That is all.


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Okay, so maybe that's debatable.

But one thing that's gone largely unremarked in the talking heads' gush over yesterday's marathon matchup between the Braves and Astros is the crucial role that Kyle Farnsworth played. The Braves brought him in yesterday in the 8th to protect a 6-1 lead. And as KF gave it up in consecutive innings to Berkman and Ausmus, Rick Sutcliffe (Sutty??) talked about him as though he'd never been to the playoffs before--the playoffs are a whole different experience, quoth Sutty.

Well, shame on Sutty. If his memory were a little longer, he might have recalled that Farnsworth got the call in Game 6 of the NLCS two years ago, when he was pitching for the Cubs. Yes, Prior got into the jam that eventually made Bartman a household name, but KF came in, faced 4 batters, walked 2 of them, retired only 1, and gave up 3 runs. For years, Farnsworth's best pitching came in the 7th inning--whenever the Cubs used him as a stopper or a closer, KF demonstrated decisively that he has all the talent in the world, but lacks the head to be able to use it. He's had wicked, wicked stuff for several years now, but as soon as the pressure's on, he's a house of cards.

Which means, most likely, that even had the Braves been able to pull yesterday's game out and win another, they would have been in a similar situation (with similar results) had they visited the house of Cards.

As I was watching the game yesterday, and they brought Farnsworth in, 5-run lead or no, I knew the Braves were in trouble.

Go Padres!

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Over the next week or so, we're going to hear all sorts of nonsense about the playoff-worthiness of the San Diego Padres, who won the NL West with an underwhelming record of 82-80, a record that would have earned them 4th place in the NL East (and even then, only a game lead over the last place team).

You think the Padres don't deserve it? Just wait. One quarter of the way into the NFL season, and the standings for the NFC North are as follows:

Chicago, 1-2
Detroit, 1-2
Minnesota, 1-3
Green Bay, 0-3

And just so we're clear, the division's 3-10 record includes 2 intradivisional games, which means that the NFC North is actually 1-8 against the rest of the league. It's really difficult to imagine that any of these teams will win more than 6 or 7 games this year. We may actually have a team in the NFL win their division while earning themselves a top-10 draft pick for the following year. 10 out of the other 12 NFC teams would be in first place in the North.

And so on. So before you jump all over the Padres, who have done a really nice job of rebuilding as a mid-market team, take a look at the definition of suck that is the NFL North. And I say that as a lifelong Bears fan.

That's all.



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This page is a archive of entries in the sports category from October 2005.

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