Tag Archives: Cubs

Cubs Trade Fukudome, Ask “Please Sir, May I Have Another?”

The Cubs unloaded (female) fan favorite Kosuke Fukudome today, making my #1 blue alternate a collector’s item. In exchange for Kosuke’s services, the Cubs get a pitcher who can’t pitch in AAA (.450 ERA), and a hitter who can’t hit in A (.244 BA, with a 0.18/1 walk-to-strikeout ratio since 2010). They sure are some shrewd barters. In fairness, the Tribune’s Phil Rogers thinks the hitter, Abner Abreu, could potentially be a solid outfielder – he does have 12 homeruns this season. But his article states that Baseball America doesn’t rank him as one of the Indian’s top 30 prospects, so don’t paint me excited.

But don’t take the Cubs for suckers. In exchange for two no-name minor league guys, they also get to pay 83% of Kosuke’s contract. So there’s that.

**update** According to the Chicago Cubs press release, Abner Abreu is in his fifth professional season. So if he continues this blistering move to the majors, we will be fortunate enough to see him strikeout 30% of the time at Wrigley in about 2021. I’m waiting with bated breath.


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Cubbies Sweep and Prior Weeps

Friday I said that Daryl Ward has been practically useless off the bench. Actually, as of Friday afternoon he was literally useless, as he had not had one hit in a pinch hit appearance.

Saturday, off the bench, he had an RBI single which scored Mark DeRosa (who’s been one of my better fantasy league pickups, but that’s another blog) which tied the game, and yesterday he hit a two run double which ended up being the winning hit in the final game of a series sweep against the Diamondbacks at Wrigley.

So you know, I’m taking full credit. You’re welcome.

Of course, the other side of that story is Ward pinch hit for Felix Pie. Now, I understand the theory is Pie has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. Last year he hit .362 with a Bonds-esque .973 OPS, so that certainly seems to be the case. But if a guy can’t hit in the majors, he can’t hit in the majors. And this guy can’t hit in the majors. Meanwhile, Matt Murton is hitting .368 with a .870 OPS in Iowa, so it’s not like he has a hell of a lot to prove, either. But he can hit in the majors; he has a career .295 BA, which most people would think is pretty damn good. And even though his field work’s not as good as Pie’s, he’s not exactly Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn, either (of course, they would argue that he’s not exactly Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn, either).

Sean Gallagher had a great game in his first major league start (Zambrano was supposed to start but was held up because of an hour rain delay). He couldn’t make it past the fifth inning, but he has been a reliever for quite some time now so five innings at one go is asking a lot. Not sure I want him to stay in the starting five all year, but he certainly deserves another start or two to see what he can do, and if it seems to be just a fluke then hopefully Rich Hill will have his stuff together by then, or at least Sean Marshall will be ready to step in. And since the rotation includes Jason Marquis, it’s always good to have that one extra guy who can step in just in case.

In other news, Mark Prior is having shoulder problems again. According to the Chicago Tribune, the San Diego Padres (or as Mom would say, the South Dakota Padres) wanted him to be in a minor league rehab assignment by now. Instead, this is his second delay due to shoulder soreness, and he hasn’t even made it out of extended spring training yet. This is a familiar story. In case you don’t recall, last year he wanted to make the Cubs 25-man roster and start the season in the bigs. The Cubbies thought that wasn’t such a good idea, said he would start the season in the minors, and had him pitch in extended spring training. Of course, the Cubs were being complete jerks about the situation. He was fine, but there was nothing he could do because he was “just an employee.” “It’s up the Cubs if they want me,” he said bitterly, joking that he could be in the minor league Futures Game because he was going to pitch so well and show us all. He was shut down by the end of April, and hasn’t played in the majors or minors since.

What a loser.

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For the 10,000th Time!!

There have been a lot of things to discuss recently, but nary any time to discuss them. I desperately wanted to point out the unfair treatment given to Obama’s “bitter” remark. I don’t think he meant to apply it universally to the lower socio-economic class, but growing up in and among the American proletariat I can personally attest to accuracy of his claim on a somewhat limited scope.

I also thought the criticism given to Bush for planning on attending the opening ceremonies of the Olympics was quite unfair. I certainly think the U.S. should take a hard line against China’s treatment of workers and their citizens in general, but the Olympics isn’t exactly the best forum to do so. Both parties have supported trade agreements with China which not only allowed, but actually enabled, such violations of human rights, and for either party to insist on such a meaningless protest while refusing to discuss foreign policy which would actually change the situation is damn hypocritical.

McCain said some stupid things, Hillary Clinton is complaining about Obama complaining about the media after she has spent the better part of twenty years doing the same, and Jerry Angelo decided that the best way to cure da Bear’s ills is to swap out their best offensive player for a couple of average receivers and take a hard line on their best player since Walter Payton (pay the Lurch! This isn’t rocket science, just pay the guy! He’s Brian freakin’ Urlacher for cryin’ out loud!!)

But today I have something much grander to discuss. Forget the fluttering importance of something as trivial as the Presidential election, something truly historic has just occurred.

The Chicago Cubs have won their 10,000th game.

The Cubs won their 10,000th game in the same city they won their 9,000th, Denver Colorado, in a 10th inning (one for every thousand wins) affair against the Rockies.

Nobody said it would be easy.

Fittingly, Kerry Wood, the Cubs most storied and tenured player, was the victor. Typical of his ebb-and-flow career, he was awarded that distinction only because he blew the save in the bottom of the ninth inning. But he is on my fantasy team so it worked out fairly well for me.

Despite their loveable loser label, the Cubs are actually the only team in the major leagues to never have a franchise record below .500. That is to say, the Cubs are the only team in the major leagues to have a winning record throughout their entire existence. Their first victory was in 1876 against Louisville (?), and they went on to win the first League Championship. They become only the second team to reach 10,000 victories, behind the New York/San Francisco Giants. The Giants have won 119 more games than the Cubs, but the Cubs are pretty good this year and the Giants are terrible, so we may catch up to them eventually.

The only team to lose 10,000 games is the Philadelphia Phillies. Jon Lieber, who gave up a home run which almost cost the Cubs the game today, was also part of the Phillies team to carry that dubious distinction.

The history does not stop there, either. It was Lou Pinella’s 100th win with the Cubbies, which isn’t really extraordinary but the roundness of the number is interesting. But it did give Lou Pinella his 1,619th career win as a manager, moving him into a tie with Ralph Houk for 14th all-time.

The Cubs just won their 15th game of the season, placing their record at a solid 15-6. Since 1908, this is only the fourth time they’ve started that well. The other years were 1937 (went to the World Series), 1969 (lost the pennant to the Miracle Mets, but came close) and 1975 (terrible record that year). Today was the sixth victory in a row, and the previous four were not even close. They won all the games by at least six runs, and the last time they won four games in a row by at least six runs was . . . 1886. 122 years ago.

It happened exactly one week before the 25th anniversary of Lee Elia’s famous rant against Cubs fans, which I mention only because the rant is kinda funny, even if it is extremely offensive (“85% of the world’s working, the other fifteen come out here!”)

Of course, it’s been 100 years since our last World Series victory, which is about the only stat most people know. It’s also the stat they point to when they make their firm proclamation that the Cubs will surely suck, because they always do. (People don’t seem to care they won the division last year, or went to the playoffs three times in the last ten years, which is pretty respectable in baseball. But on the flip side, most people who stake that claim don’t actually know a lot about the game.)

Here’s hoping the Cubs end that little piece of history this October.

On the same date the Cubs won their 10,000th franchise victory, Sirhan Sirhan was sentenced to death, George Washington moved into the first executive mansion (in New York), the U.S. Army Reserve was created, James Earl Ray and Boris Yeltsin died, Hank Aaron hit his first major league home run, and “Sticky Fingers” was released, featuring a real, working zipper on the album cover (Mick Jagger was wearing underwear). People born on April 23 included William Shakespeare, Sir William Penn, Max Planck, James Buchanan, Stephen Douglas, and Michael Moore.

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The Starting Rotation and Tampering with Briggs

Well, in case you noticed (and you probably didn’t) I completely blew it.  My prediction was dead wrong.  Entirely incorrect.  Not even remotely accurate.  That’s right; my preseason pick for the final two starting spots was bad.

I said Lieber and Marshall would get the spots, Dempster would end up in the bullpen, and Marquis would be out the door.  Dempster and Marquis won the two positions.  Oops.

So the rotation is Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Rich Hill, and Jason Marquis.  Not too shabby.  Of course, Rich Hill is really the number 3 starter, but he’s going to pitch in the fourth spot to separate the two lefties.  That’s smart.

And there are options in case this whole thing goes awry.  Lieber is going to be the long man in the bullpen, and I’m sure the Cubs will hold on to him.  And Sean Marshall didn’t have a bad spring, 3.65 ERA with 9 Ks and 6 walks in 12 innings, so he could be a good call-up (or trade bait) later on.  And that’s good, because I’m still not sold on Marquis and Dempster hasn’t pitched 100 innings since 2003 and hasn’t pitched 200 innings since (gulp!) 2000.  That’s a shoulder injury waiting to happen.

In all, I’m happy that Dempster’s getting the chance to start, and Marquis has had a great spring, so things are looking good for the Cubbies’ front five.  And Wood is going to close, so at least I got that one right.

Finally, da Bears may have had a rough year, but at least they did better than the 49ers.  Turns out they tried to illegally sign Lance Briggs by talking to him before he was a free agent.  This is going to cost them a fifth round pick, and they have to swap third round picks with the Bears.

What’s worse than getting caught engaging in illegal conversations with a free-agent target?  Not being able to sign him once he hits the market.  Ouch.  That’s like getting a penalty for holding the guy who sacks the quarterback.  At that point, you just can’t do anything right.

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Many Words about the Cubs and Bears, and Some Love for Grossman

I’ve been talking a lot about politics lately, and I’m sure I’ll have some more stuff to say after tonight’s debate.  But I haven’t spent much time at all on sports, and it’s been a busy week for sports in Chicago.  No, I’m not talking about the Ben Wallace trade.  An NBA man I am not.  Rather, da Bears have been active, and it’s spring training.

I must say that I’m pretty excited about this coming baseball season.  I’m not sure Dempster’s World Series prediction is completely justified, especially with the Mets being the Mets (then again, the Mets are the Mets), but they should have a pretty decent shot of making the playoffs as the division champion or wild card.  It’s always hard to say a team’s a lock for the playoffs in baseball, because the season is so long and the playoffs are pretty exclusive, especially when you compare baseball to other sports (you have to be pretty bad to not make the playoffs in hockey and basketball).   But I it’s obvious the Cubs are better this year than last, when they won 85 games and the Central Division Championship.

The fifth spot in the rotation worries me a little bit.  Right now there’s competition for the fourth and fifth starters between Ryan Dempster, Jon Lieber, Jason Marquis, Sean Gallagher, and Sean Marshall.  Like I said before, when you have a lot of competition for a spot, it usually means there’s not a solid choice.  A team will usually spin it to say there are several strong candidates, but that’s typically not the case.  I certainly don’t mean to imply that a couple of good players competing for a spot is bad; competition usually makes the winner more productive and depth is often just as important as who’s starting.  However, when you start getting three or four players competing for a spot then usually there’s not a solid starter between them.  Most teams are not going to have three starting-caliber players for a position.  It doesn’t make sense; it’s a waste of money, and at least one of those is not going to get much playing time and will probably start to get disgruntled.

Pitchers are a little bit different than position players, because you need so many of them.  But to have five guys trying to pitch into two starting spots makes me nervous about the quality we’re going to get from the winners.  I’m sure out of the five at least one of them will have a solid year, so the fourth spot doesn’t concern me much.  But the Cubs already had Dempster, Marquis, Gallagher, and Marshall, and still found it necessary to sign Jon Lieber, so I think even they have their doubts about what kind of contributions they can expect out of the five spot. Fortunately, most teams’ fifth starter is kind of a “mop up” guy, and overall the Cubs do have an above average, if not excellent, rotation.

My preseason prediction, and mind you that there hasn’t even been an exhibition game yet so don’t hold me to it, is Sean Marshall will be the fourth starter, Jon Lieber will be the fifth starter, Gallagher will go back to the minors in case Lieber gets hurt (he has been hurt a lot the last few years), and Dempster will end up back in the bullpen.  Marquis’ days in the Cubs organization are probably numbered; though he might end up in the ‘pen he will probably be traded or released at some point.  He is an inning hog, but there’s not really room for him and he’s no better than any of the other four, so there’s not really any reason to keep him and he could be a valuable addition to a team lacking a fifth starter right now.  Also, Marshall is a pretty solid prospect and Gallagher does show promise, so I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of them get traded by the end of the year.

Despite the competition “problem” that often manifests itself in a crowded field, there are three people (Kerry Wood, Carlos Marmol, and Bob Howry) competing for the closer’s spot, and I feel very good about this.  First, all three of them are going to be valuable out of the bullpen, so it’s really more like a competition for the number one spot in the rotation then, let’s say, starting at second base.  I also think all three will do a very good job.  Lou Pinella is going to reward the position based upon spring training performances, but I think Kerry Wood should just be given the job.  I have a lot of faith that Kerry Wood will be an exemplary closer.  I also have a lot of faith that Bob Howry would be exemplary, but he is probably the best pitcher in the bullpen and I would hate to see him pigeon-holed into the closer’s role.  Many people feel the best reliever should be the closer, but there are many times in a game which you need a big out just to get to the closer.  If the game is close and bases are jammed with one out in the seventh, I’d much rather have Howry coming in than sitting there waiting for a lead in the ninth.  I think Carlos Marmol is an extremely talented pitcher who can compete with Howry for “best in the pen,” but he’s still very young and closing is the most mentally and emotionally challenging position in baseball.  If you have a one bad inning, you probably just single-handedly lost a game your team should have won.  And you might be expected to come out tomorrow with the game on the line again.  Closing can kill a kid’s confidence, and sometimes his whole career, and veterans should fill that role with very few exceptions.

Honestly, though, I really think Dempster should just close, as he’s done for three years now.  People claim he’s too inconsistent to close.  If you examine his performance, that’s simply not the case.  Dempster had 28 saves in 31 opportunities last year.  28-3 in close situations is not inconsistent.  Any team would love to have a closer who’s 28-3, and most don’t.  Over the last three years, he has 85 saves in 99 opportunities.  Compare that to the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera, widely considered the best closer in the game right now, who has 107 saves in 118 opportunities (the Yankees have 56 more wins than the Cubs during that time, by the way).  That’s not a bad comparison at all.  Dempster got the “inconsistent” label because he struggled when he pitched in non-save situations.  The solution to that is easy; only pitch him in save situations.  Not getting enough work?  Have him throw BP.  Put him in during a blow-out.  I don’t really care how he gets his work in, but anybody who was 28-3 in close situations should be the closer the next year.  But I guess Dempster wants to start, and Pinella is rewarding his efforts with the opportunity.  He has worked very hard to for it, and I do hope he’s successful.

Overall, I feel very good about the pitching this year, and there are very few weak spots in the field, too.  Starting second baseman, Mark DeRosa, has had arrhythmia and might need an operation.  This is bad news, but the Cubs are pretty deep in the infield (I have no problems at all about starting Mike Fontenot), so as long as he’s not lost for very long (which he shouldn’t be) they’ll be okay.  The Cubbies have been entertaining trading for Brian Roberts all winter, and this may convince them to finally give up what the Orioles want for him.  He would be a great addition to the team and really push the Cubs over the edge, but he might only be around for a year or two and would probably cost Matt Murton and a couple other young guys to get him.  Murton doesn’t have a spot in the outfield right now, which makes me sad.  I love this guy, and hope he gets a chance to be the everyday right fielder at some point in the future.  Soriano in left, Fukudome in center, and Murton in right is an outfield that I would love to see for years to come.  Murton does have to work on his defense and show a little more consistency at the plate, but man, do I like him.

Center field is probably going to be weak offensively.  I just don’t think that Pie is going to turn into the player the Cubs have been touting him as for the last couple of years (Corey Patterson comes to mind).  But he is a great defensive player, so I’m happy to give him a shot.  The Cubbies should have a good enough offense to make up for him even if he drastically underperforms at the plate, and it’s important to have a strong defensive center fielder.

Da Bears I’m not so optimistic about.  They did not franchise Bernard Berrian, and I am very worried he won’t be back.  This could be fatal for them next year.  The Bears did sign Rex Grossman to a one-year deal to give him another shot (which I love, and will explain why in just a second), and I think that’s going to go a long way in convincing Berrian to stay.  But if he ends up leaving via free agency there’s not a lot of people for Sexy Rexy to throw to. (Or Kyle Orton.  What’s a good name for Orton?  Old Style Kyle?  He does look like a drunk.  If the Bears hadn’t released Muhsin Muhammad I’d go with “Orton Sees a ‘Moose’”, but most people probably wouldn’t get it anyway.)  They did resign Dez Clark, and between him and Greg Olsen have one of the better, if not one of the best, tight end groups in football.  Devin Hester is going to be a great wide receiver someday.  Someday.  I think he’ll always have problems dropping the ball, and you just don’t go from defense to great receiver in one year, especially if that one year is in the NFL.  Mark Bradley is a good receiver, but he’s hurt a lot and any team which lines even a healthy Bradley as their number one option is in a world of trouble.  Rashied Davis has made a few huge catches for the Bears, but he seems like a specialty receiver who’s really only effective in three or four receiver sets.  I think Bernard Berrian over-estimates his skill level, but he’s the best the Bears got, and by a lot.  Plus, he seems like a team guy.  Nobody ever complains about him, and he doesn’t have that WR affliction of running the mouth that seems so prevalent in the NFL today.

I appreciate that the Bears organization does not want to overpay for anybody.  I really do.  It makes good football sense and as a fan I’m happy they won’t be handicapped for years by a stupid signing in the heat of passion.  But the Bears need to just pay the guy what he wants, or at least let him test the market and start matching offers.  It’s going to be very, very difficult for them to get all the new people they need to be successful, and I’m one of the few individuals who’d actually be happy with Grossman, Orton, and Griese back next year.  On the Bears list of “needs” is a starting running back, at least one starting offensive tackle and one starting guard (and they could do with three new starting O-linemen), a solid backup safety capable of starting, (since Mike Brown’s always hurt) and a solid linebacker (Lance Briggs is as good as gone; they do have a couple of guys in place who can start, but you need a good contingency plan when you lose a guy like Briggs).  The draft is loaded with good offensive tackles; they should do well there.  But most teams could use a good starting running back or offensive linemen, so it’s not like we get our pick of the litter here.  It’s going to be tough to fill all these positions with quality people, let alone to do it and find a number one receiver.

I can just see it now; they lose Berrian, Benson takes 75% of the snaps, they aren’t able to adequately fix the offensive line, and then when the offensive sucks more than Monica everybody says they made a huge mistake staying with Grossman.  You almost have to wonder why he would want to be back.  People, Grossman is not the problem.  The QB play in general is not the problem.  But since everybody seems to have an anti-Rex bias, let’s try a little “hypothetical” thinking exercise, shall we?

Let’s say you’re the general manager of a football team, and you have to rebuild your offense.  Now let’s say last year the passing game was ranked, oh I don’t know, fifteenth in a league of thirty-two teams.  And let’s say your running game was ranked 30th, just for shits and grins.  And let’s say you have the oldest offensive line and NFL.com ranked them second to last in the conference and 29th overall.  Now, would you be in panic mode trying to get a new quarterback?  Would you think the reason why your offense is sub-par is a crappy passer?  There is no reason why almost any team should have a passing game ranked in the middle of the pack when they have no offensive line and no running game.  None.

Let me put it this way; teams with good running backs, good offensive lines, and bad quarterbacks don’t get their passing game ranked fifteenth in the league.  Teams with bad quarterbacks, bad offensive lines, and bad running backs get ranked at the very bottom in passing.  The very bottom.  We’re talking as low as, well, as low as the Bears offensive line and running game was ranked last year.  Teams with bad quarterback situations just don’t end up doing as well as the Bears did last year under the conditions which they had to work with.

Of course, that’s not going to stop people from complaining about the quarterback play because, let’s face it, people want to believe two things about the NFL:  First, the quarterback is a magical player who will transform any group of twenty-one other guys into a world champion just by showing up and giving a good motivational speech during half time ever now and then (the premise for every football movie ever made, save “Rudy”).  Secondly, the Bears will never, ever, ever have a quarterback who is good enough to play on a professional football team.

I’ll tell you this much though.  If the Bears let Berrian go, don’t find another number-one running back, and don’t dramatically improve the line in the offseason, Jesus Himself couldn’t quarterback this team to the playoffs unless somehow Jerry Angelo can convince Durga to play wideout.


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Today in Washington, Wednesday in Mesa

On Fox News Sunday, Bush gave his critique of Obama, saying “I certainly don’t know what he believes in.  The only foreign policy thing I remember he said was that he’s going to attack Pakistan and embrace Ahmenidajad.”  Evidently he feels like America doesn’t know what he stands for.  Fortunately for us, Barack Obama has given us a fairly detailed account on his plans for American foreign policy under his administration.  I can’t really blame Bush for not knowing what it is, however.  If he wasn’t able to keep up with foreign policy issues when he was running for President, why should we expect him to keep up with another candidate’s?

It’s ironic that such statements were an example of “the old Washington game trying to tear somebody down” when they were directed at him, but seem acceptable when he’s the old Washington guy.  I guess he’s the typical “dish it but can’t take it” type.

What I find especially insulting, though, is that he’s making such negative remarks about Obama when Obama’s policies really reflect some of the few bright moments in Bush’s historically inept foreign policy.  When Obama said he was “going to attack Pakistan” he was saying that the U.S. should unilaterally embark on bombing campaigns inside Pakistan if there is credible evidence that they would help capture or kill Osama bin Laden but the Pakistani government won’t assist with the effort.  You know, kind of like how we attacked Afghanistan and overthrew their government because we had credible evidence bin Laden was there but the Taliban wouldn’t assist with the effort.  In other words, Obama said he would take whatever actions are necessary to clean up Bush’s mess, since, you know, Bush wasn’t able to find the guy.  Of course, there is a big difference; in Obama’s “attack” he said he’d avoid situations like bombing wedding ceremonies. 

As far as the “embrace Ahmenidajad” remark, Obama did certainly say that he would embrace diplomatic relations with Ahmenidajad to help stabilize the region and remove the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.  Remember when Bush said unilateral diplomatic relations with North Korea would be embracing Kim Jong-il but then his hard stance ended up enabling a nuclear-armed North Korea and then all of Asia hated us and the only way he was able to stop it was to finally just talk to the Korean dictator?  Evidently Bush doesn’t.

I guess the question then becomes, how can we expect Bush to know what a Democrat candidate’s positions are when he evidently has so little knowledge of his own?

By the way, don’t you hate when Republicans claim withdrawing combat troops from Iraq would encourage terrorism when Obama said he would keep troops in Iraq to battle al Qaida and will use the withdrawal to increase the focus on Afghanistan?  I sure do.  Of course, God forbid the GOP might have to face the reality that the Iraq war is what caused al Qaida in Iraq and allowed the Taliban to come back in power.

In other political news, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has changed managers.  First she has to give $5 million to the campaign, then she asks for weekly debates, then she gets swept over the weekend, and now she’s changing managers.  Sounds like she’s on the ropes to me.  Of course, she denies it.  I guess she could have a point.  After all, don’t successful baseball teams change managers in the middle of a season all the time?  And don’t companies who are very profitable often change CEOs just to “liven things up a bit?”  And didn’t California elect Schwarzenegger because Gray Davis was doing so well?  Wait . . . my sources are telling me the answer to all of those questions is “no.”  Evidently, only a moron would believe that.  Well, that’s what I pay my crack research team for.  Good catch, guys!

Anyway, we’ll see if Obama can keep it up through March 4.

Finally, Wednesday is one of the most joyful days of the year.  The signal that winter is nearing an end and warmer days are upon us.  A beacon of light in the darkest of every year.  A renewal of hope that could only come from the graces of all that is good and whole in our lives.  I’m speaking, of course, of the day that Cubs’ pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

I’m cautiously optimistic about this upcoming year.  I am a little disturbed when I hear claims that 85 victories could win the Central division, as that is the total the Cubbies had last year and they should be better this year (and we shouldn’t have to suffer the Pinella “break-in” period that took most of last April and May).  The Cubs didn’t do much this offseason, but they were able to keep all their important pieces, shed Mark Prior (addition by subtraction, I think), and sign Kosuke Fukudome (which was huge).

However, two things do worry me.  Namely, they have five pitchers competing for the last two starting positions, and three competing for the closer’s job.  The obligatory argument from the Cubs is that signifies how deep they are in those spots.  The thing is, usually when you have a bunch of people competing for one spot, it doesn’t mean you have a bunch of excellent candidates; it means you don’t have a one.

The Mets signing Santana makes them the obvious favorites to win the NL pennant.  But I do think this year’s Cubbies are going to be a lot of fun to watch.

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*note* If you have gotten this far, but don’t care to wade through my ramblings, please at least read the last two paragraphs. I think this is kinda important to remember next time you hear reporters spewing obvious misinformation about polling points.

Tuesday was a sad day for elections. First, Andre Dawson, once again, was denied entry into the Hall of Fame. He is not the best player to not be in the Hall; certainly there are others (Ron Santo and Buck O’Neil come to mind) who deserve to be in the Hall but have not been selected for whatever stupid reasons. Still, Dawson deserves to be there; he has some of the best numbers of anybody that’s not in the Hall, and better than many people who are. He was the first person to ever win the MVP on a last place team and was MVP runner-up twice. He played the game the way it was supposed to be played; hard and with pride. He never complained, never whined to the press, never made excuses for bad play, and worked hard every day of his career. He won eight Gold Gloves and went to the All-Star game eight times. He hit 438 home runs and stole 314 bases; Hall of Fame numbers by anyone’s standards. In fact, he’s one of only six people to ever hit 300 homers and steal 300 bases, and one of only three to hit 250 home runs, steal 250 bases, have 2,500 hits, and 1,500 RBI’s. The other two are Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. Company anybody would love to be in.

I have no doubt that he will get in. His vote totals have increased every year, except last year which was probably due to the fact that two first-time nominees were elected (baseball writers try not to vote too many people in on any given year, so since two first-time nominees were voted in totals for players who were on for a while should be expected to go down). This year he received the most votes of anybody not elected, and if the vote totals keep increasing at the rates they have been since he was first eligible should be in within two years; three at most. Still, it’s hard to wonder why it’s taken so long.

The second sad election was, of course, the New Hampshire primary. This primary was terrible for two reasons. First, McCain winning the Republican primary opens the whole field up for just about everybody but Mitt Romney. Huckabee can be seen as a real contender because he wasn’t supposed to do well in New Hampshire anyway, and now Romney can no longer be seen as a real front-runner. But what I’m most concerned about is if the GOP doesn’t find someone who starts to pull away by the time Florida’s primary is up, Guiliani might end up having a late, big-state push after all. The sooner that guy is out of the picture the better. Hopefully either McCain or Romney will win the next few states so we can put some of these Republicans out to pasture.

Then there’s Hillary. I don’t know what to say except, one week ago this race was wide open and then everybody seemed to think Obama would win in a landslide just because he won Iowa. His “wave” seemed to be invented by the media more than a reality, but since, as Billy Bob Thorton said in “Primary Colors,” “The media giveth, and go f*ck yourself,” the myth that Hillary killed Obama’s wave may end up causing less than mythical damage to Barack. I must admit I was surprised he lost; I was really riding high after his last victory. However, I have to laugh at the Tom Brokaw’s and Chris Matthews’, who seemed shocked and stunned that, get this, polls could be so wrong. Um, hello? Don’t we have this exact same conversation every election cycle??

There were several reasons why the polls could have been wrong; mainly because people were expecting Obama to get the same results from women as he did in Iowa (he didn’t and it wasn’t even close) and because many of the independents he was counting on ended up voting in the Republican primary. But I think the biggest difference between New Hampshire and Iowa was the large number of people who voted based upon the economy. If Obama can convince people he’d be just as good with the economy that should help him out a lot. However, I think most people nation-wide are going to vote based upon their desire to change politics in Washington or the Iraq issue, and Obama is beating up Clinton in those two areas. So unless the economy is a much larger issue nationwide then it has appeared, I think New Hampshire is somewhat of an anomoly. (Still, I am concerned.)

One myth I would like to dispel right now is that Hillary’s victory was due to people feeling sorry for her after either the debate earlier this week or when she “broke down” and, God forbid, showed some emotion. I personally think much too big a deal was made of her crying spell (in which there wasn’t actually any crying). I’m surprised nobody is talking about the things she said while she was crying; she more or less accused Obama of running for President as “a game” and lacking the desire to actually help people. If she would have said the exact same words with a straight face, the media would’ve been talking about how her remarks were downright cruel and completely uncalled for. And let me ask you, do you really want someone who can’t take being “attacked” by two people belonging to her same party during a debate as President? This is so small compared to what she would go through as President that if it does affect a candidate they simply do not have what it takes to succeed in the White House. To her credit, however, I think it offended her supporters much more then her. Isn’t going to stop her from playing the sympathy card if she thinks she can get it, though (she plays cards more than Johnny Cochran). But I digress . . .

The truth is, based upon exit polls (it should be noted the polls that everyone was using to say Obama won were taken before the weekend; the exit polls should be fairly accurate) reported by MSNBC, neither the debate where she was “ganged up on” or the “crying game” could have helped her too much. When asked when they chose what candidate they were going to vote for, exit polls show that 17% decided on the day of the vote, but out of those 39% decided to vote for Clinton and 36% decided to vote for Obama. Now, most people in the media would point to that and say “Ah ha! Clinton won by three percentage points, which was the difference between her and Obama, so that must be it!!” However, remember that most people in the media are idiots. This is 3% of 17%, which is far less than the 3% of the total vote she won by. Further, 21% of democrat primary voters decided who they were going to vote for in the last three days, and Obama beat Clinton in that category by 37% to 34%. For those who still believe Reagan was a great President, 3% of 21% is greater than 3% of 17%. Also, 10% said they decided “sometime within the last week,” which would presumably mean between the Iowa caucus and three days prior to the election. Out of that group, Obama won handedly; 43% to 28%. Obama also won with voters who decided in the last month, which consisted of 17% of the vote, 44% to 34%. Clinton, however, won the votes of almost half the people who have been decided for over a month; over one third of the voters, or 34%, belong in this group, and they overwhelmingly supported Clinton: 48% to 31%.

So looking at those statistics, it is obvious that Clinton won because of people who had not changed their minds for a while, not because of people who recently had. There were more voters who decided to go with Obama three days prior to the primary, even when considering the ones that decided on Clinton the same day. So Obama presumably had come closer to Clinton than he would have if the election was held right after the Iowa caucus. It’s amazing how MSNBC can report these statistics, and then still claim that she won because of something that happened two and three days before the primary. I can’t count the number of times reporters have used data like this and said 39% of New Hampshire voters decided for Clinton on the day of the election, or added up the 39% and 36% and said 75% of voters decided on the day of the election, when the data specifically states only 17% total decided the same day. They’re not even looking at their own data before reporting on it.

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