Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Willie Mays is very much alive, thank you

So I was sitting in the third row of the White Sox press box the other day when I overheard a couple of fellow scribes talking.

"Hey, did you see who died?" asked one.

My ears perked up. It had been a newsworthy week for celebrity deaths - Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson - and I was naturally curious to hear who was next.

"Yeah, Willie Mays," said the other. 

The two then changed to a different subject, which I thought was odd. I mean, come on! 

Willie Mays, the greatest ballplayer of a generation - the greatest ever, many believe - is dead, and these two supposed baseball guys just blow it off with a simple mention?!?

So I went on a couple of sports Web sites and I didn't see word one on the passing of The Say Hey Kid, which I thought was even odder. He might not have been as big as the King of Pop, but surely he had more star power even now than Farrah or Johnny's sidekick.

Then I got busy writing and kind of forgot to check on it again until I got home from the ballpark.

Over dinner, my son Ben asked: "Did you hear who died?"

To which I answered with great certainty: "Yeah, Willie Mays. What a bummer."

My son laughed and so did my wife, which I thought was the oddest thing of all.

"What?" said I, clearly upset. "Maybe the best ballplayer ever is dead and that's your reaction?"

"Billy," Ben said.

"Huh?" I asked.

"Billy Mays is the one who died, you dodo," my wife said, leaving me with only one response:


"You know," Ben said, "the guy from the infomercials."

I didn't know. I'm not trying to trivialize a man's death. I simply had never heard of him. 

After dinner, I went online and looked up Billy Mays. His picture was vaguely familiar but, until right then, I wouldn't have known who he was if he had been sitting next to me in the press box.

A couple of the obits I read referred to him as an "infomercial legend."

Really? There's such a thing as a legend of infomercials?

If Billy Mays is a legend, what does that make Willie Mays?

Anyway, I'm sorry, Willie. I didn't mean to bump you off before your time! 

I just hope I'm listening more carefully if I overhear folks talking about the death of legendary cream cheese inventor Philly Mays.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cubs-Sox points to ponder, and the All-City Team

With the Cubs and White Sox finished beating up on each other for now - freeing them to get back to the business of losing to other teams - here are some thoughts about baseball in Chicago. My All-City Team follows.

1. Progress: Instead of smashing umpire Brian Runge over the head with his bat Sunday, Milton Bradley seemed to count to three after striking out in the sixth inning. Milton then seethed quietly as he walked calmly to the dugout.

2. Not progress: With a play that could kindly be called tentative (and could unkindly be called lack of hustle), Bradley turned what should have been a routine single by Chris Getz into a double.

3. Also not progress: As the media gathered around him after Sunday's game, Bradley grumbled to no one in particular: "Is this necessary? Didn't get no hits, didn't get no runs. Unbelievable!" Hey Miltie, you're not in Arlington any more. This is the big city. Chicago fans hold their $30 million ballplayers accountable.

4. Bradley just might make Lou Piniella quit - though perhaps not before Bradley gets Jim Hendry fired.

5. My, hasn't Mr. Hendry built a mentally weak, emotionally fragile team of underachievers? I'm not sure this group can even be close enough to collapse in the season's final week, the way the weak, fragile underachievers of '04 did.

6. Both times Carlos Zambrano plunked batters Sunday, the White Sox reacted perfectly. After Cra-Z hit Getz in the third, Alexei Ramirez followed with a homer to give the Sox the only runs they'd need against the anemic Cubbies. Obviously irate that he let Getz steal home in the sixth, Cra-Z nailed DeWayne Wise. Wise then stole second and eventually scored. The next inning, John Danks hit leadoff man Ryan Freel in the arm and the silliness ended. Of course, it helped that Cra-Z had been yanked by then.

7. Freel knew what was coming and even jokingly asked the umpire to issue a warning right then and there. And once Danks did the deed, Freel never thought about charging the mound: "Absolutely not. I believe in peace. I believe everybody should get along."

8. Overheard in the Cubbie clubhouse about 3 hours before Sunday's game: "Nothing! They got DeRosa for (bleeping) nothing! Chris (Bleeping) Perez! Jesus H. Christ!" That was before new Cardinals superstar Mark DeRosa went 0-for-3 in a lopsided loss to Minnesota.

9. The Cubs convinced themselves (and more than a few fans who should have known better) that they had turned things around when they won three straight games via walk-off hits last week. Hello! Reality time! Baseball's a difficult game, kids. You can't keep winning with luck, smoke and mirrors.

10. Loved the Sun-Times headline Sunday morning: END IT LIKE BECKHAM.

11. When was the last time a team scored in the same inning on an error after the infield fly rule was invoked and on a steal of home that was supposed to be a suicide squeeze? Miss a little Cubs-Sox action, miss a lot.

12. Several Cubs were upset about the "security leak" that led to Sun-Times reporter Gordon Wittenmyer finding out about Piniella calling Bradley a "piece of (poo)" during their Friday altercation. Piniella, meanwhile, was upset that Wittenmyer wrote the story. The only thing the Cubs didn't seem upset about was their own wretched play.

13. QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I'm pissed off. I didn't think we'd get him anyway, but he's going to the Cardinals. What am I supposed to say? I'm happy for him? I don't wanna see him in our division, much less see him on the Cardinals." - Ryan Theriot on DeRosa.

14. LOU-ISM I: "I still cling to the fact that we're gonna have a good second half of the season. The second half, I'm not talking about after the All-Star Game. It could start the first of July. It could start today, for that matter. And I think that when it's all said and done, people will be pleased with what we do here the rest of the year." (Note to Lou: That's not a "fact" you're clinging to, it's an opinion. And right now, it's a minority opinion.)

15. LOU-ISM II: "We went to Detroit and we lost three ballgames, but you know what? There were 42,000 people at the ballpark every day and it was great for the economy over there. And I saw where the Dodgers came in here the other night, a good baseball team, and 22,000 people were here. The Cubs were in town for the city series and there's 40-some-thousand people here. Let's look at it from a different standpoint than just a baseball standpoint. There are a lot of positives ... a lot of good things that people just don't think of. My job is to win baseball games but I understand the ramifications of everything else, too." (Yay! The Cubs are No. 1 ... for the economy!)

16. OZZIE BEING OZZIE: "Maybe they want to talk about the visiting clubhouse rather than the problems they have." (Nah, much easier to blame clubhouse attendants and the media.)

And now ...

The 2009 Post-City-Series All-Chicago Team

(I know, I know, a rainout has necessitated a Sept. 3 makeup game at Wrigley, but it wouldn't be any fun waiting until then.)

FIRST BASE: Paul Konerko

Derrek Lee has been hotter recently. And as Konerko demonstrated again Sunday, when he couldn't save his pitcher an error on a slightly off-target pickoff throw, Lee is a superior fielder. But Konerko gets the slight nod because he has been more consistent since Day 1.


As is the case at many positions, a player on one team wins by default by being less bad than the other team's candidate. All you need to know about the Cubs' woes at 2B is that Lou actually considered putting Alfonso Soriano there ... and the idea didn't seem all that ridiculous.

SHORTSTOP: Ryan Theriot & Alexei Ramirez (tie)

What a couple of teases! Theriot flashed a little power but his average suffered and he finally settled back into his slap-hitting ways. Ramirez has flashed some amazing leather but all too often has gotten lackadaisical on routine plays. And then there's this: SS might not be the best position for either one of them.

THIRD BASE: Aramis Ramirez

With Mark DeRosa, Joe Crede, Jake Fox and Bobby Scales as close runners-up. Yes, it's been quite a season so far for Chicago third basemen.

LEFT FIELD: Scott Podsednik

Since the Sox picked him up off the scrap heap, he has been a savior with Carlos Quentin sidelined. He has far fewer K's and a far better OBP than Soriano. And, it's worth mentioning, more RBIs than Bradley.

CENTER FIELD: Kosuke Fukudome

He's doing that screw-myself-into-the-ground thing again. And he's been forced to play CF, which isn't his best position. But who's been any better on the South Side? Center field: another Windy City abyss. 

RIGHT FIELD: Jermaine Dye

No drama, just typically productive.

CATCHER: A.J. Pierzynski

Though Geo Soto is coming on fast now that he's stopped indulging in herbal glaucoma medication.


In a town that over the last decade has featured - with great fanfare and/or at great expense - Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano, Greg Maddux, Matt Clement, Bartolo Colon, Jose Contreras, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, Ryan Dempster, Rich Harden, Todd Ritchie, Javier Vazquez, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Esteban Loaiza, Almost Cub Jake Peavy, Almost Sox Jake Peavy and others whom I no doubt have forgotten ... all Buehrle keeps doing is showing up, throwing strikes and winning games.


The crazy thing isn't that this unknown Cubbie rookie with 2 wins and some amazingly hard luck is the choice. The crazy thing is that it isn't really even close.

SET-UP RELIEVER: Matt Thornton

Though it sure is tempting to go with Angel Guzman, whose latest injury has become Lou's latest excuse du jour. Carlos Marmol? He's so 2007!

CLOSER: Bobby Jenks

Almost a sure thing. Too bad he'll be one of the first out of town if the Sox fall hopelessly out of contention.

MANAGER: Ozzie Guillen

Lou has more talent to work with but also considerably more divas to deal with. Still, you don't hear Ozzie whining about Carlos Quentin's injury every day the way Lou boo-hoos about Aramis, so that's the tiebreaker.

Say it ain't so, DeRo!

Thanks for showing up, Cubbieland, but it's all over.

Not only have the Cubs been mired in muck for most of the season but now they will have to make do for the rest of 2009 knowing that the unthinkable has happened.

Three words: Mark ... DeRosa ... Cardinals.

Given the degree of angst in Cubbieland about life without DeRo, it's hard to imagine a team with Albert Pujols and Mark DeRosa ever losing another game.

OK, I'm having a little fun here at the expense of Cubbie fans, who after a rough decade or ten are getting a wee bit miffed at others having fun at their expense. Still, some of this does ring true.

With the fold-the-tent Indians sending DeRo to St. Loo, Jim Hendry's worst trade ever has come back to bite him squarely on his Cuboose.

But hey, somebody has to finish second (or third), right?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fiery Lou burns Bradley

The Bald Truth

At about 1 o'clock, Lou Piniella was insisting that he hasn't lost his passion for the game even as his Cubbies have been sinking into a morass of mediocrity.

"I've got as much fire as I ever had!"

A few hours later, after Milton Bradley struck out (again), got mad (again) and started busting up the dugout (again), Lou confronted the $30 million hothead in the tunnel on the way to the clubhouse and sent Bradley packing. It was only the sixth inning.

Fire, meet gasoline.

"He threw his helmet and smashed a water cooler, water flying all over; I just told him to take his uniform off and go home. Followed him up to the clubhouse and we exchanged some words. I don't like those things to happen. I'm just of tired of watching them. This has been a common occurrence and I've looked the other way a lot, but I'm done with it."

A few minutes after that, Geo Soto smoked a pitch some 400 feet for the game-winning 3-run homer. Nice to see Geo smoking the baseball as opposed to, well, you know.

The Cubs held on to win, but not before Carlos "Latino Wild Thing" Marmol - the people's choice for closer - tried very hard to lose the game (as he usually does) and Kevin Gregg - the people's choice for any role but closer - nailed down the victory (as he all too often doesn't).

In other words, just another boring Cubs-White Sox clash.

The Miltie Mess could kill Pennant Push '09 before it ever really starts. He's hitting .237 with little pop, he plays right field only slightly better than I play golf, he's getting booed by the home fans, he's moody and his manager has lost respect for him. 

Piniella said he simply got sick of watching so many Cubs going ballistic in the dugout; Bradley has done it repeatedly, but Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster also have been among the guilty. Would Lou have sent Mike Fontenot home if the little infielder had taken a bat to the cooler? Doubtful. 

So Bradley feels like an outsider in his own clubhouse ... and maybe those feelings are at least a little justified. 

Before Friday's game Bradley told Paul Sullivan, the Tribune's outstanding reporter, that he doesn't feel close to any of his teammates.

After the Cubs' 5-4 victory, Bradley's mates publicly supported him - mostly. Alfonso Soriano, another slumping slugger and one of the team's leaders, said this:

"He's a great guy. The only problem with him is his attitude sometimes. A lot of people don't like that, but that's him. I hope when he comes back he can help the team win. If he's not 100 percent to help the team, we don't need him."

Ready? Everybody sing: "We are fam-i-lee! As long as we don't count Mil-tie!"

You know, as families go, these guys are far more Soprano than Brady.

Remember This

Infamous irritant A.J. Pierzynski so often has been involved in big plays - especially in these intracity games, it seems - that we've come to expect huge hits and bizarre happenings.

Well, he doesn't always come through. And his work isn't always memorable.

After Latino Wild Thing pitched the Cubs into serious trouble in the eighth, Pierzynski strode to the plate against Sean Marshall. One pitch later, the Cubs turned an easy double play and the White Sox were toast.

Ozzie Guillen's blunt assessment: "Bad at-bat."

A.J. must have been thinking: Damn! Where was Michael Barrett when I needed him?

The Balder Truth

A bunch of us Chicago-chapter Baseball Writers Association of America members got together before the game. The topic: Should we draft a proposal asking the Hall of Fame to give the BBWAA guidance for dealing with juicers?

The verdict: thumbs down. (I was among those who spoke up for this majority decision.) 

Hall honchos already give us guidance, including "integrity" and "character" on the list of what we should be considering. So we should just trust our judgment, as we have successfully for decades.

If the Steroid Era results in several years of no new players getting in, so be it. 

Lou-ism of the Day

"I smoked dope one time in my life and it didn't do a damn thing for me and I never smoked it again."

This a few days after he said he didn't know the difference between steroids and reefer.


"What To Do With Miltie?" is a most unpleasant problem for Piniella.

A much nicer problem - but one that still might cause migraines: What To Do with Jake?

Aramis Ramirez will be coming off the DL soon and Lou can't wait to put him back at 3B. The problem? That's where Jake Fox has been playing - and he has been by far the hottest hitter on a team desperate for offense. 

Fox, who tore up Triple-A pitching for two months, had three more hits Friday, including a homer and a double. He's at .395 and the ball is jumping off his bat.

Said Piniella: "I like his bat, put it that way, I really do. We'll see where we use it, but how can you not put his name in the lineup every time you have a chance?"

How, indeed?

Problem is, Fox can't play SS, 2B or CF. He had been a catcher once upon a time but long ago was deemed inadequate there. (Besides, Soto finally has started to hit now that he's stopped taking hits).

That leaves 3B, 1B, LF and RF.

Third, of course, belongs to Ramirez. First is Derrek Lee territory, and he's been the only other consistently good hitter lately. 

Soriano is not much of a LF and he's been bad at the plate for nearly two months. But he has unique skills, he has been known to get hot at a moment's notice, he is popular with his teammates, Lou likes him and he is guaranteed $100 million over the next 5 1/2 years.

Hmmm ... methinks another Miltie meltdown is coming soon. 

Friday, June 26, 2009

Soto's not hot, but he sure is smokin'!

The List

Top five signs that Cubbie catcher Geo Soto is a pothead (aside from his lethargic first half of the season):

5. Always refers to Lou Piniella as "that awesome, gnarly dude."

4. During a recent seventh-inning stretch, he could be heard singing: "Give me Doritos and Ho-Hos, bro; I don't care that my butt's gonna grow ... "

3. Didn't start lobbying for baseball to be an Olympic sport until he was told he'd get to hang out with Michael Phelps and Shaun White.

2. Just before taking a swing at Yadier Molina during a basebrawl, he reached out, embraced the Redbird catcher and said: "I love you, man!"

1. Commissioned Louisville Slugger to make him a 32-ounce bong.

Ozzie Being Ozzie I

After spending more than 2 minutes loudly and forcefully insisting that Shaquille O'Neal will hurt LeBron's Cavs because Shaq is old, broken down, useless and in need of a wheelchair, Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen concluded:

"Like I (bleeping) know about basketball."

Sweet-Talking Lou

Asked by the Chicago Tribune if he'll run the Cubbies beyond this season: "I'm signed through next year."

Then Piniella repeated it two times.

Hmmm. The man hasn't sounded that enthused about managing since his final weeks with the Devil Rays.

Ozzie Being Ozzie II

On Alexei Ramirez, who made two "lousy and lazy" errors Thursday against the Dodgers:

"I made a big mistake in January when I said he's gonna be a better shortstop than Ozzie Guillen. I never thought I was that bad."


Our old friend Steve Kerr has done a heck of a job running the Phoenix Suns.

Into the ground.

He's only a couple more trades away from securing the most Ping-Pong balls in next year's lottery.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stepping out of MJ's shadow

The Bald Truth

Although I've had only a few conversations of any length with Jeff Jordan, I can tell he's a good kid.

Intelligent, humble, likable, respectful, proud to be Michael's son but anxious to make his own way in the world. 

Many are surprised by Jeff's decision to walk away from his backup role at Illinois to concentrate on his studies, but it makes perfect sense. 

He proved he could make it as a jock - going from walk-on to scholarship athlete by playing good defense, working hard in practice and growing into a leadership role - but, as he said in his statement: 

"I have come to the point where I’m ready to focus on life after basketball.”

Playing college sports is a huge time commitment. My daughter played two years of Division III ball and she had little life outside the team. And the commitment is even more all-consuming at the major-college level.

Jeff only was going to play a few minutes a game for the Illini and he wanted to get on with making his mark outside of athletics. So he opted to step out of his dad's long basketball shadow to focus on real life.

It was an admirable, mature decision.

Nice job, kid, and good luck.

The Balder Truth

NBA teams are in love with the potential of Spanish teen Ricky Rubio, who is expected to be either the second or third player drafted Thursday.

Well, he might be the goods. Or he might not be. Nobody really knows.

Give me Stephen Curry. He can handle the ball, he's an excellent passer and he'll be a big-time 3-point shooter.

A stiff breeze could carry Curry into the next county, true, but we know he has a lot of game.

Can anybody really say as much about Ricky Rubio?


The fine folks of Albuquerque are going ga-ga for Manny Ramirez, and you know he'll receive much the same treatment when he returns to Tinseltown.

Yep, baseball fans sure are outraged by these juicing cheaters!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ryno slams El Roido

The Bald Truth

I've not yet decided how I'll vote when Sammy Sosa's name appears on the Hall of Fame ballot in five years. Ryne Sandberg, who hopes to be the Cubs' manager by then, is giving me the punt sign.

That's right: Ryno is saying no-go to El Roido (a.k.a. El Corko).

"Part of being in the Hall of Fame, they use the word integrity in describing a Hall of Famer ... and I think there are gonna be quite a few players that are not gonna get in," Sandberg told a Chicago radio station Tuesday.

Yes, there is an integrity clause ... but it's tricky. Should spitballer Gaylord Perry have gotten in? What about selfish Reggie Jackson? Racist jerk Ty Cobb? Should I vote for Robbie Alomar, who spat in an umpire's face?

Ryno unquestionably is right about the last thing he said, though. No matter how I vote, I doubt the likes of Sosa, Mark McGwire, Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro will get in.

There simply is too much sentiment against the cheaters. McGwire, the first of the eligible juicers, has gotten less love from BBWAA voters than Jon has lately from Kate (and vice versa).

Even Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are in doubt.

And I really don't like the Hall chances of Alex Sanchez and Felix Heredia, who must not have followed directions on their 'roid labels very well.

The Quote

"People love me everywhere I go." - Manny Ramirez

Especially people who sell syringes.

The Balder Truth

While talking to reporters before Tuesday's game, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen saw that the Dodgers' Juan Pierre was listening in.

Ozzie: "We're gonna play 10 guys in the infield. You're not bunting! I tell you, we're gonna have everybody in the middle."

Juan: "When I get a bunt base-hit, I'm gonna look right at you!"

Ozzie: "Two million dollars if you get a bunt base-hit on me!"

Thanks to a diving catch at third base by Gordon Beckham - robbing Pierre of a bunt hit in the eighth - Ozzie gets to keep his millions.

It was the only good news on this night for Guillen, whose impotent losers fizzled again at home.

A Hall of a Voter

Longtime loyal reader Doug Nicodemus asked why I have a Hall vote. Here's the deal:

Every 10-plus-year member of the Baseball Writers Association of America in good standing gets a ballot. Because I was in the BBWAA for 25 years before my newspaper company so generously set me free, I received lifetime membership - and lifetime Hall voting rights.

So I'm kind of like a Supreme Court justice, only more objective - and not quite as bald as Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


It is absurd that MLB is letting Manny be Manny for a bunch of minor-league "rehab" games before his drug suspension ends.

Maybe they were just worried he wouldn't be able to make ends meet without that Triple-A meal money: 20 bucks a day.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Perspective - the best Father's Day gift

2009 has been a tough year for us so far, but you have managed to keep it all together well - especially as a husband and father. Thank you for keeping your priorities in place and being there for our kids and me. I know Katie and Ben appreciate everything you do for them ... and you know how much I need you. You are a wonderful father and husband, and we love you.

That's the note my beautiful wife, Roberta, wrote in the Father's Day card she gave me.

If it's true that my wife and kids are lucky to have me, I'm luckier tenfold to have them. They make me happy, keep me grounded and give me a feeling of security.

Mostly, they help keep things in perspective - and in our society these days, the only thing in shorter supply than money is perspective. 

I see people who lose their jobs falling apart. Many have reason for concern and sadness, of course, but panicking certainly isn't the answer. Now is the time to accentuate the positive and think of what we have, not what we have not.

Even worse, I hear people who have good jobs complaining about them. Not only my fellow sportswriters - though this definitely applies to many of them - but also multimillion-dollar athletes, corporate CEOs, politicians and others who have absolutely no reason or right to whine.

I admit that there have been times I've felt blue since I got dumped by a bad company in a bad industry, but such feelings always pass quickly. What's weird is that I find myself wondering why I feel so good 99.7 percent of the time. Then I think about it and I realize it's because of all the great people I have in my life.

On this Father's Day, I unwrapped the gifts I received - a baseball cap and sunglasses from Roberta and a cool Beatles Anthology book from Ben and Katie. I took a couple of nice walks on this first day of summer. I partook in my annual tradition of golf (U.S. Open) and guacamole (Roberta's delicious homemade recipe). I thought about my wonderful dad, who passed away 11 years ago. And I thought about how fortunate I am to be the father to my family. 

If you have a dad and haven't called him, get on that phone right now. If you are a dad, I hope your day has been as incredible as mine. 

Even if neither of those apply to you, I'd still like to give you the Father's Day gift of perspective.

No matter what, refuse to feel sorry for yourself. 

Appreciate everything you have but realize that things are just things - easily replaced and ultimately unimportant.

Hold your loved ones close. 

Take care of yourself by staying (or getting) healthy, both physically and emotionally.

Do at least one truly fun thing every day. 

Celebrate life, dammit, and that's an order! 

Saturday, June 20, 2009

KO is OK ... for those who like it a little rough

Kevin O'Neill, the coach who once told me he preferred the NBA to college hoops because, "In the NBA, I never have to lie to an 18-year-old's mother," has succeeded disgraced cheater Tim Floyd as the new guy at USC.

And those of us who know Kevin - especially the fact that Ozzie Guillen is linguistically refined in comparison - know here's what O'Neill would have to say about his new gig:

Hot bleepin' damn! I'm the new bleepin' coach at U bleepin' S bleepin' C! And anybody who don't bleepin' like it can go bleep themselves!

Trojans everywhere must be so bleepin' proud.

Friday, June 19, 2009

D-Lee's no dis-Grace

Great fielder ... big reputation ... low-RBI middle-of-the-order guy ... warning-track power.

Gotta admit it: Up in the pressbox, I was starting to refer to Derrek Lee as "Mark Grace."

"Except," I'd say, "Grace batted .300 and didn't strike out much."

Then Lee got hot and started hitting home runs left and right. Clutch homers, too, including Friday's off Kerry Wood to tie it in the ninth to make yet another unlikely victory possible for the Comeback Cubbies.

Lee's a good guy who has been through a lot, including a serious wrist injury and his daughter's health issues. It's nice to see good things happening for him again.

Besides, I guess it's not exactly a slam to compare a hitter to Mark Grace ... even if Grace did only have warning-track power.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Great comeback ... great choke ... not-so-great teams

The Bald Truth

This one had the feel of a season-turner.

On the verge of falling two games under .500 for the first time since the first week of the 2008 season, the Cubs came from out of nowhere to score four runs in the eighth and another in the ninth to beat the White Sox, who had been on the verge of tying their season-high winning streak at four.

Some losses are easier to recover from than others; this will be a tough one for the Sox.

Meanwhile, the Cubs might have saved their season.

Then again, maybe I should cut the drama because these were just two mediocre teams that spent two days at Wrigley Field treading water.

Lou-ism of the Day

"Look, these guys get paid well because they've done things in the past. As frustrating as it gets at times, you've got to give these guys every opportunity to work themselves out of it." - Piniella, after the game Thursday, one day after he threatened to make big changes in the lineup but instead decided to stand pat.

Ozzie Being Ozzie

"Zambrano, I love - I love! - the way he handles stuff on the field. People say he's crazy, that he's out of his mind. I like that. I don't want people falling asleep on the mound. I like competition. To me, when he kicked the umpire out of the game, that was the funniest thing this year. That was awesome. Baseball needs people like that, more into the game. More enthusiasm. More competitiveness. I love him. I love to see him pitch. It's not because he's my friend (or a) fellow Venezuelan. Everybody from Venezuela is kind of calm. If you look at Magglio, Abreu, Santana - they're really low-key guys. Me and Carlos drink the wrong water or something. You don't see too many Venezuelan guys out there acting the way we do."

The Balder Truth

As soon as Ozzie yanked Gavin Floyd in favor of Scott Linebrink, my AP cohort, Rick Gano, predicted that the White Sox would blow the game.

Great call by a great writer.

By the way, I'm still trying to figure out why Guillen was saving Bobby Jenks. The Sox blew a late four-run lead to their hated rivals without ever even warming up their best reliever. Wow.

The Quote

"We have to win. It's no time to mess around. It's time to start winning ballgames. It's almost the middle of the season and we need to start turning our engine on and start playing better." - Zambrano

It's nice of Cra-Z and his Cubbies to finally realize they should start playing ball. All of you who bought tickets during the first two months of the season, feel free to contact the team for refunds.


Tigers manager Jim Leyland benched Magglio Ordonez, a 2006 postseason hero, the 2007 AL batting champion and one of the highest-paid players in baseball.

Now that Alfonso Soriano delivered the winning hit against the White Sox, we might never know how close Piniella came to benching the biggest financial investment in Cubs history.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lou wanted McLouth - and could have used him vs. Sox

The Bald Truth

Let's start today's post with a little news: A source high in the Cubs organization told me Wednesday that the player Lou Piniella really wanted this past offseason was then-Pirates center fielder Nate McLouth.

Piniella liked the idea of adding McLouth, a left-handed hitter with a live bat, so he could keep Kosuke Fukudome in right field. In fact, Lou liked the idea so much that he specifically asked Jim Hendry to check out trade possibilities. 

I don't know how far the GM got in the process. Maybe the Cubs didn't have enough good minor-leaguers in their system to get McLouth from Pittsburgh. Or maybe Hendry just found it easier to buy moody, injury-prone outfielder Milton Bradley for $30 million on the free-agent market. Regardless, the deal didn't get done and the Pirates ended up trading McLouth to the Braves two weeks ago.

He hasn't hit as well as he did last year, when he made the NL All-Star team, but he still had 10 HRs and 36 RBIs going into Wednesday's action. That's 9 more RBIs than any Cub and 3 more HRs than any North Sider not named Alfonso Soriano

Throw in McLouth's fielding, speed, baserunning and hustle, and he would have helped a team desperately in need of all the help it can get.

The Balder Truth

What I took out of the White Sox's 4-1 win Wednesday was that Ozzie Guillen would make a good NL manager and that Piniella is as frustrated as any time since he accepted his sentence to Cubbieland.

Guillen had his guys running and bunting, taking extra bases and squeezing runners home. It always looks good when the players execute well - as was the case with Scott Podsednik's perfect squeeze bunt with Chris Getz charging home from third. 

Ozzie is on a roll, coming off a series victory in Milwaukee (another NL park) in which he thoroughly outmanaged Ken Macha.

Meanwhile, Lou spent his brief postgame media session searching for answers. All he had to offer was a vague reference to stirring up a lineup that already has been shaken repeatedly. 

"I mean, it's getting to the point where I'm gonna have to start making tough decisions and getting different people into the lineup. Look, what we've been through here the past I don't know how many games ... anyway, we'll see ... we'll see ... we'll see ... we'll see."

OK, we'll see. Got it. But will Lou see better baseball than what he's been seeing?

After Ryan Theriot, a notoriously awful baserunner, didn't come home from third on Derrek Lee's fourth-inning fly, Piniella dropped his head into his hands in agony. The Cubs didn't score that inning after having runners on first and third with nobody out - something that's happened again and again over the past 26 games, when the Cubs have averaged 2.96 runs while going 9-17.

"You know ... look ... I ... what can I say? For the most part, yeah, for the most part they are proven hitters. It ... uh ... it ... uh ... it does make it more perplexing. Sooner or later, you gotta start hitting. If not, you gotta give somebody else a chance."

If Lou doesn't sit Soriano - or at least move the absolutely lost $136 Million Man down in the batting order - I will be surprised. Otherwise ... Cra-Z Zambrano batting cleanup, perhaps?

Tough Zell

Maybe both teams had trouble at the plate because bankrupt Tribune Co. honcho Sam Zell didn't authorize his people to turn on the lights at Wrigley Field.

With thick cloud cover enveloping Chicago all afternoon, it was dark in there!

Lou-ism of the Day 

"We'll play him with one foot on the line so he won't have to dive to his right." - Lou, on 3B Aramis Ramirez, who expects to come off the DL next month. (It was a joke, folks.)

Ozzie Being Ozzie

"Lou is getting old and I'm getting poor; every year, I donate too much money to Major League Baseball." - Ozzie, to those who say he and Piniella should be showing more "fire" by getting kicked out of games.

The Quote

"It doesn't really matter now. Sammy isn't going to give his money back to the Cubs. And the Cubs aren't going to give their money back to the fans." - Ex-Cub Brian McRae, in Wednesday's USA Today.


So now that their heroes aren't even playing .500 ball - dropping below the mediocrity mark with a loss to the hated Sox - is it time for Cubbieland to panic? 

Naturally, Ozzie was more than willing to weigh in on the subject:

"They've got a good ballclub. All respect for St. Louis, Milwaukee, all those teams, the Cubs are gonna be in the pennant race. People in Chicago, relax. Quit panicking. Worry about something else. Worry about the family, kids going back to school and having good grades. Don't worry about the Cubs. They'll be fine."

Fine? Hmmm. 

In the words of a certain flabbergasted manager ... 

We'll see.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

No cork-popping for Sammy

The List

Sammy and his handlers aren't talking publicly yet, but they already are getting their excuses lined up in a row:

5. It was a mistake. I just picked the wrong drugs, the ones I use for batting practice - just to put on a show for the fans. I like to make people happy.

4. I accidentally took the spiked supplements that Miguel Tejada gave Rafael Palmeiro.

3. No comprende, senor.

2. Have you ever tried to pick up the key to New York City? It's heavy, buddy! I had to do something to get a little stronger.

1. It was A-Rod's cousin's fault!

The Bald Truth

But seriously, folks ... I don't know about you, but I am shocked.

Shocked, I tell you!

I mean, who would have looked at Sammy Sosa back in his 60-plus-homer heyday and thought, "Hey, this guy just might be ingesting more than Flintstones vitamins, his claimed performance-enhancers"?

Sammy was so svelte back then. Not at all Michelin Mannish. His head wasn't the size of a musk melon, only a cantaloupe.

And he was so even-keeled. No 'roid rage with Sammy. No paranoia. No moodiness. He was always about the team. Never about the stats. Never about the money. 

He certainly wasn't the kind of guy who'd panic and react to a slump by corking a bat or anything.

Hey, just because the New York Times says Sammy's name was on the list of 104 juicers - right up the alphabet from A-Roid Rodriguez - in what was supposed to be an anonymous testing back in 2003, does that make it true?

Next thing you know, all these negative nabobs will be saying that Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds were taking steroids, too!

The Question

While giving journalistic props to the Times and to Sports Illustrated (which broke the A-Roid story earlier this year), doesn't it make you squirm just a little knowing that something supposedly done in strict confidence is being leaked to the media drip by drip?


They are all guilty, every last one. 

From the juicers themselves to the skinniest dude in cleats who never even took aspirin to the managers to the GMs to the union honchos to The Commish.

They all knew it was going on and they all looked the other way.

Nobody's clean. Nobody.

So when the time comes, do those of us with Hall of Fame votes check the box next to Sosa, Bonds, Roger Clemens and their ilk ... or do we refuse to vote for anybody who played between 1983 and 2004, even if it means we have to turn in blank ballots?

Monday, June 15, 2009

A college graduate? My Katie? No way!

Theoretically, on Sunday, our daughter Katie graduated with honors from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis. 

I say theoretically, because it really couldn't have happened.

I mean, wasn't it only about 5 minutes ago that we were dropping her off at college for the first time?

And wasn't it only about 8 minutes ago that I was writing a column about the game-winning, buzzer-beating jumper she made in her final high school road game?

And wasn't it only about 15 minutes ago that we were wondering how we were going to survive Katie's sometimes difficult prepubescent years?

And wasn't it only about 22 minutes ago that she was telling her second-grade teacher that she planned to be the first female president of the United States?

And wasn't it only about 27 minutes ago that she was tormenting her little brother, Ben, making him dress up in all kinds of crazy outfits while she played teacher or doctor or, yes, president?

And wasn't it only about 33 minutes ago that my wife, Roberta, and I were hugging each other in joy the day Katie was born?

So there is no way that Katie is now a 22-year-old college graduate.

No way.

Still, just for argument's sake, let's say it's true. How lucky for the rest of us that we have gotten to know her and gotten to be amazed by her intelligence, kindness and sense of humor.

And how lucky for the rest of us that we will continue to experience all of those wonderful things that make Katie special.

But that's just a make-believe scenario because it was only a few minutes ago that she was trying to decide which college to attend ... and that she got her driver's license ... and that she first kissed a boy ... and that we first talked about dealing with peer pressure ... and that she made her first basket ... and that she attended preschool ... and that she fainted because she got angry and held her breath too long ... 

... And that I told her I loved her as I held her in my arms for the very first time.

Well, be it 22 minutes or 22 years, my love for Katie only has grown. And over the next 22 minutes and 22 years and 22 whatevers, it only will grow more.

That's no theory. That's a fact.

Phil wins again, Ozzie strategizes, Lou lets buddy take a fall

The Bald Truth

He is smug, condescending and egotistical. Often full of crap, too. Phil Jackson also is a 10-time champion.

Yes, he's had great players. Hello! What winning coach hasn't? Red Auerbach had a few great players, too. So did Scotty Bowman, Pat Riley, Casey Stengel, Chuck Noll, Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Miller Huggins, etc.

Think about all the superstars those great winners coached/managed ... and not a one
of them won 10 titles.

Jackson's secret? He empowered his players to believe in themselves and in each other. He put his players in position to succeed, getting the most out of what they could do and rarely asking them to do something they couldn't. Mostly, he was willing to get out of his very best players' way and let them lead.

Yes, Michael and Kobe were/are great players. No, Jackson never won a title without them. But you know what? They never won without him, either, and they had plenty of chances to do so.

Next Verse

No longer can Shaquille O'Neal say Kobe needed The Big Attention Hog to win championships. Fact is, Shaq never came close to winning without being carried by a great game-closer - first Kobe, then Dwyane Wade.

Anybody who thinks it was the other way around wasn't paying close enough attention.

The Balder Truth

The few who begrudgingly give Ozzie Guillen credit for being a good manager usually cite his motivational abilities. As a strategist, well, to his critics he's no Tony La Russa, no Mike Scioscia, no Bobby Cox.


All I know is that not many managers would have given A.J. Pierzynski the green light in the ninth inning of a tie game with two on, two out and a 3-0 count against Trevor Hoffman, a future Hall of Famer who hadn't allowed a run all season.

Ozzie did. A.J. singled. And the White Sox beat the Brewers, with Guillen outmanaging his Milwaukee counterpart for the second straight day using NL rules.

The Quote

"One thing about Wrigley Field, I puke every time I go there." - Ozzie Guillen

Yep, this is gonna be a fun week of Chicago baseball, kids.


In canning Lou Piniella's hand-picked hitting coach, Gerald Perry, it is clear that Jim Hendry used his authority as Cubs GM to pull rank on Sweet Lou.

That means something.

For one thing, it means Piniella has less control than most of us thought he did.

For another, it means a desperate Hendry has shifted into cover-my-ass mode: I brought in these hitters. Therefore, they can hit. If they aren't hitting, it must be somebody else's fault.

There have been hundreds of Cubbie scapegoats over the years, so Perry has to get in line. But facts are facts: Right up until the day before the move, Lou was singing Perry's praises.

That the skipper would just sit there and let his friend fall on the team's sword tells us more about Lou than we knew 24 hours earlier.

I like Lou, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't more than a little disappointed in him.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Milt has a thank-you note to write

The Bald Truth

Luis Castillo is the best thing to happen to Milton Bradley all season long.

As I wrote for the AP on Friday, Bradley played right field like a doofus. He was all set to be the talk of baseball until ...

... Castillo dropped what should have been A-Roid's game-ending pop-up, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to score in the Yankees' win over the Mets.

As we all know, if it happened in New York, it's bigger than any event in any city, in any state, in any country, in any continent, in any solar system.

So Castillo was Friday's Official Baseball Goat.

Bradley had to settle for Knucklehead of the Day.

The Quote

"I give 250 percent every day. If you can't see that, there's something wrong." - Milton Bradley

This from a guy who can't count to 3.

The Balder Truth

No joke, just a simple statement: Joe Mauer is the best player in baseball right now.

Lou-ism of the Day

"We just shook it up a little bit to see if it helps out. We're gonna try a few different things and see what happens. We stayed pretty constant for 60 games or so. I think it's time to change things around a little bit. Look, there's no magic formula."

Yep, big changes for the Cubbies. Mike Fontenot batted second for the first time this season. Kosuke Fukudome batted sixth for the first time. Ryan Theriot was moved from second to seventh. Bradley, banished from the No. 3 spot a month ago, was back there.

So how did it work? The Cubs managed all of four hits in six innings against appropriately named Twins starter Kevin Slowey - who kept challenging them (and beating them) with 88 mph fastballs. 

Fontenot, Fukudome and Theriot combined to go 0-for-10 with six whiffs. Fukudome, back to the spin-a-rama strikeout style that made him so special last season, looked especially lost.

Bradley, yeah, he did have a couple of hits but, as mentioned earlier, he didn't exactly cover himself with glory on this day.

If anybody has the magic formula, methinks Lou would pay a pretty penny for it.


Congrats to the Pittsburgh Penguins for winning a thrilling Game 7 of an exciting Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings.

The last time I enjoyed the sport this much was when I was a sharp-elbowed floor-hockey terror in Mr. Pirelli's gym class at Jonathan Law High School.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Green is the color of the day

The Bald Truth

Just days after paying AC Milan $92 million for Brazilian midfielder Kaka, Real Madrid agreed to fork over $131 million to Manchester United just for the right to work out a contract with Portuguese midfielder Christiano Rinaldo. Wow! That's a lot of green just to increase the team's goals-per-game average from 1.04 to 1.05.

And this just in: Sources say the Yankees contacted Real Madrid to see how much the soccer club would pay for Alex Rodriguez

"We can't promise he'll come through with the season on the line," Hank Steinbrenner was overheard saying. "But at least he'll supply his own syringes."

The Balder Truth

The Eagles have given Donovan McNabb a new contract, and the deal is unique to say the least.

It contains the first per-boo incentive clause in sports history.


Gotta give John Daly credit: The man has style.

He's charitable, too. After the St. Jude Classic, he's donating his pants to the Sad Clowns Society.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Da Hypocrite

The Bald Truth

From the Do As I Say Dept., we bring you these words of wisdom in the L.A. Times from Da Coach, who was asked about the Vikings' wooing of Brett Favre:

"What's the message folks up there are sending their quarterbacks? 'You're not good enough. I'm going to bring in somebody better than you.' Come on. I'm not really sure I understand it, but then again, that's me. You build from within."

So says the guy who benched everybody for Doug Flutie.

The Quote

"I didn’t kill nobody, I didn’t rape nobody, so that’s it, I’m just going to come and play the game." - Manny Ramirez, in his first interview with reporters since being suspended for getting caught with his hand in the steroid jar.

Predictably, some people have their undies in a bundle over Ramirez's choice of words. They are accusing him of downplaying the seriousness of murder and rape.

If they actually read and think about his words instead of having knee-jerk reactions, they might realize that Ramirez was saying murder and rape are serious, horrible acts - much worse than, say, taking performance-enhancing drugs.

These days, the only times I really get outraged is when knee-jerk yahoos get outraged about crapola like this.


Was it only three weeks ago that the White Sox thought they had won the Jake Peavy Sweepstakes?

Well, if they keep losing at the rate they're losing, they'll be sellers instead of buyers by month's end.

It's gotten so bad that Ozzie Guillen and his troops are talking about how satisfied they are after well-played losses.

Way to shoot for the basement, boys!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Prior knowledge

The Bald Truth

Congrats, Nats. You used the No. 1 pick to draft can't-miss, sure-thing, lead-pipe-cinch superstar pitcher Stephen Strasburg.

Now here's hoping Strasburg has a better go of it than the last can't-miss, sure-thing, lead-pipe-cinch superstar pitcher to come out of college. Guy named Mark Prior.

Those stupid Twins, drafting that no-talent hack of a catcher Joe Mauer back in 2001 instead of the cinch superstar Prior.

Ah, the baseball draft. The least exact science this side of blind dates.

Announcing Follies

1. It didn't take Steve Stone long to follow Homer Hawk's lead in constantly calling the White Sox "we." Then again, at least Stoney pitched for the Sox way back when. All Hawk did for the organization was screw it up royally during his 10 minutes as Sox GM.

2. In the closing moments of Stanley Cup Finals Game 6, did NBC's Mike Emrick really say the winner would be "the team that wants it more"? Yep, what a bunch of disinterested slugs those Red Wings were during their 2-1 loss to the Penguins.

3. I'm enjoying the work of ABC's Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson during the NBA playoffs, but I gotta admit that I miss Marv Albert. Is Marv the best basketball announcer ever? Yesssss!

The Balder Truth

The White Sox are doing enough damage to their own chances. They don't need help from ump Jim Joyce, who on Tuesday badly blew a call at home plate that would have given the Sox a ninth-inning victory over the Tigers.

The Tigers went on to win the game in the 10th.

Obviously, they wanted it more.

The Quote

"We're all frail as humans." - Phil Jackson on Kobe Bryant, who missed five free throws and had the ball stolen from him by Dwight Howard during crunch time of the Lakers' Game 3 loss to the Magic.

Funny. I don't remember Phil ever using "frail" as an adjective to describe any other high-scoring guard he coached.

Frosh Follies

A few days after learning that Derrick Rose enjoyed letting others do his schoolwork at Memphis, we learned that Tim "Blago" Floyd was using payola schemes to get O.J. Mayo into USC.

I can't blame David Stern for refusing to let 18-year-olds into his league. But does that mean our institutions of higher learning have to prostitute themselves to let these kids play ball?

There are other options for the likes of Rose and Mayo, including Europe. Let them eat pasta, baby.


Dozens of kids who used to shoot hoops at the backyard court of our North Side home went on to play high school ball. A few even have gone on to play in college. But here's a first:

Kerry Masterson, 23, who played alongside my daughter Katie on a dominant grade-school team and often brought her game to our court on summer evenings, has been charged with first-degree murder for allegedly shooting a West Side shopkeeper during a robbery attempt last month.

No jokes. No clever rejoinders. Just another reminder that reality occasionally intrudes angrily on our everyday lives.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tiger vs. Roger: It's a win-win proposition

Tiger or Roger? Well, it's kind of a trick question. 

And depending upon how it's asked, there really is no wrong answer.

By winning the French Open, Roger Federer pulled even with Eldrick Woods in the Majors Won Dept. at an incredible 14 apiece.

If you're asking which player has had the better career in his chosen occupation, it's Woods - and he likely will continue his dominance long after Roger has put his racquet in mothballs.

Such is the nature of the two games. Woods won his first major - the 1997 Masters, by a record landslide, as a 21-year-old - before anybody even knew who Federer was.  And Woods has kept winning and winning and winning.

Meanwhile, after dominating tennis for several years, Federer has been overshadowed and overwhelmed lately by my good son, Rafael Nadal ... to the point where some respected observers were wondering out loud if Roger's best days were done. 

Tiger? He's been No. 1 for so long now it's hard to remember when he wasn't. He was No. 1 as an amateur, he was No. 1 in college, he established himself as the No. 1 pro as a 21-year-old kid and he's still No. 1 as a 33-year-old father of two even after undergoing major surgery that kept him out of action for nine months. 

Sad to say, tennis pros simply don't have that luxury of longevity.

OK, but whose run of 14 majors has been more impressive? 

That's a different question - and one with a different answer.

Woods is nearly six years older than Federer. Nevertheless, if Tiger wants to keep winning well into his 40s, he surely will. Roger can have all the want-to in the world, but he simply won't be able to compete with younger players.

So Roger had neither as much time nor as much room for error to get to his 14. Roger won his 14 in a six-year span - twice as quickly as Tiger got his 14.

And then there's this: 

Tiger never hit a drive only to watch Phil Mickelson or Sergio Garcia or Ernie Els slam the ball back at him. There is no way to defend Tiger because golf is the ultimate me-against-myself game. 

There is, however, a way to defend Roger. Nadal has been doing it quite well for a couple of years now. Before that, Federer had to get the ball past Andy Roddick. Before that, Andre Agassi

You can make a great shot in tennis ... only to see your opponent return it for a winner anyway. Tiger has never had to worry about a great putt being kicked out of the cup by Vijay Singh.

Hell, Tiger goes ballistic if he hears the slightest camera click. Imagine how he'd react if his opponent was charging the fairway the way Pete Sampras used to charge the net.

So yes, Tiger has had (and will continue to have) a wonderful career. And yes, he deserves props-a-plenty for being the most accomplished athlete in all of sports. 

But I'm giving props for Best Major Achievement to Federer, who has had to both psych out and physically whip his opponents.

Still, when Tiger gets Major No. 15 - very likely in two weeks - I reserve the right to change my mind.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Prince Albert, the anti-Manny and other baseball musings

One-third of the way through the baseball season, here are 13 musings from a guy who has no hair to get in the way of rational thought:

1. The NL Central, full of flawed teams, is up for grabs.

The high-priced Cubs would seem to be the best of the bunch but how good can they be if they lose one player (Aramis Ramirez) and fall apart? The Brewers have iffy pitching and lousy fielding. Even with a healthy Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals are short on arms. The Reds are too young. The Astros spent far too much dough on old hitters. The Pirates being the Pirates, they already have moved into fire-sale mode.

2. Ditto the AL Central, except even moreso

The Tigers have serious bullpen issues. The Twins don't have one starting pitcher any opponent fears. The White Sox are poorly constructed, with too many big-bucks oldtimers, too many not-ready-for-prime-time kids and too few ballplayers who are just right. The Indians are loaded down with injured players, one-dimensional guys and one-hit wonders. The Royals have Zack Greinke and, um, did I already mention Zack Greinke?

3. At least the NL Central has a chance to produce the wild-card team. 

If you don't win the AL Central, you finish 10 games out of the playoffs. If not 20.

4Chris Carpenter is a marvel. 

He's like one of those old-time bobo dolls: Punch him in the nose and he keeps popping back up. Except he has much better stuff and much less to say.

5. If I tried to sell a screenplay about Bobby Scales, it would have been thrown back in my face as farfetched and corny.

"A 31-year-old substitute teacher who spent 11 years in the minors suddenly contributing to the mighty Cubs? Tell me another one. And what's that? They sent him back down to the minors but had to call him right back up after Ryan Freel got hurt - and he immediately helped them again? Have another drink, doofus."

6. Zack Greinke and Roy Halladay are baseball's best pitchers.

But if I had to win one game, I'm not sure I'd choose either over Johan Santana.

Or Bartolo Colon

(Just wanted to make sure you were still paying attention.)

7. Whatever injury Joe Mauer had, we all should be so lucky to get. 

Here's hoping he didn't buy his medicine at Manny & A-Rod's Pharmaceutical Emporium.

Unfair? Of course. But that's the problem with juicers, folks. Every single ballplayer is guilty by association.

8. After trying to decide between Raul Ibanez and Milton Bradley, the Cubs went with the fragile, disruptive dude with, like, half an RBI.

Right now, it seems Ibanez is the only NL player with a chance to challenge Albert Pujols for MVP honors.

Wait. Who am I kidding?

Unless the Cardinals go completely into the tank, Prince Albert's got it in the can.

9. It's the Damn Yankees and the Freakin' Red Sox. AGAIN.

Thanks for playing, Blue Jays and Rays. Enjoy the lovely parting gifts.

10. While Manny Ramirez is busy getting pregnant or whatever he's doing with his drugs of choice, the Dodgers just keep winning thanks to ... Juan Pierre?

If somebody had asked me to pick a less likely hero before the season started, I'm not sure I could have. And as my girlfriend Jessica Biel would attest, I have a very active imagination.

11. Don't pitch to Adrian Gonzalez. Ever. Period.

I mean, look at the rest of that Padres lineup!

Any manager who lets any pitcher throw a hittable strike to Gonzalez should be fired before the baseball settles into the upper deck. 

12. A pitcher who beans a batter just because he can't get said batter out is a chickenspit loser.

That's right, Vicente Padilla, I'm talkin' 'bout you!

The weak-willed Padilla is one of the many reasons I am still not buying the Rangers' pitching renaissance and am still predicting the Angels in the AL West.

13. Right now, it's a three-way race for AL MVP between Jason Bay, Mark Teixeira and Ian Kinsler.

It's still plenty early for Evan Longoria, Justin Morneau and Miguel Cabrera to do something about that, though.

Should be a fun four months, huh?