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Amusing comment from Lou Piniella in Monday morning’s Tribune story about Mark Prior being scheduled for a start in the minor league camp this coming Thursday.
“Get him to go down there and relax, and just pitch. He doesn't have to answer to the media. Hopefully you guys will all be over [at HoHoKam Park] at the 'A' game. Leave him alone, and let him pitch."
Obviously, this will be the most well attended minor league game in Cubs camp in some time. (Here’s hoping AZ Phil’s schedule will allow him to be among those defying Lou on Thursday afternoon.) One man’s relatively uninformed opinion of Mark Prior’s mechanics over the weekend: He didn’t look like a guy pitching through pain or an injury; he looked like a guy who was terrified of getting injured and was throwing accordingly. I say this primarily because of his low arm angle, a fact even commented upon by Ron Santo during the WGN Radio broadcast. It looked like the pitching version of walking with a limp.
On Friday, All The News That’s Fit To Print included an account of Lou Piniella’s first day as captain aboard the good ship Heartbreak. The piece, by Lee Jenkins, describes Piniella as most fans, myself included, have long seen him: “fiery” “known for his outbursts” “naturally animated and restless” “a manager who really knows how to vent” “as famous for his dirt kicking…as he is for any pep talks” “a man…who clearly hates to lose” “(reacting) to every booted ball…with a tortured expression or a fit of rage” But the story isn’t just a string of clichés.
The Cubs may be short these days on professional centerfielders and recent World Championship banners, but the Wrigley Boys are positively drowning in lefthanded pitching candidates. In fact, with five southpaws in line to make the big league roster (see Arizona Phil’s post from early Thursday), it’s difficult to even recognize them as the Cubs. Assuming Ted Lilly and Rich Hill each make 30 starts this season—a big stretch for young Hill; Lilly has hit 30 in three of the last four years—the duo would become the first pair of lefties to do so since Dick Ellsworth and Kenny Holtzman way back in 1966. For a little historical perspective, last season, led by Hill and Sean Marshall, lefthanders accounted for just over 31% of all Cubs IP. That’s the highest total since 1986, when the 70-90 Cubs relied on six lefties for 31.2% of their total IP. (For the record, the “Southpaw Six” were Steve Trout (161 IP), Jamie Moyer (87), Ray Fontenot (56), Guy Hoffman (84), Frank DiPino (40), and Drew Hall (23.7). I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that’s the first time Guy Hoffman’s name has ever been mentioned at The Cub Reporter. Congrats, Guy!)
Ahhh, spring training. A time for doubt, self-pity, hopelessness, and the bitter, burning anger that comes from realizing your heydays are now so far behind you, they’re barely specks in your rear view mirror. At least, that’s what I imagine spring training means to fans of the Royals and the Pirates, and, if you take away the heydays part, to loyalists of the Rockies and Devil Rays. (A Cubs fan feeling sorry for other teams’ fans—pretty funny, huh?) Ever since I first became acquainted with it, I’ve been fascinated by the tiered structure of professional soccer in places like England and Italy, where clubs compete for championships only within their tiers, the top finishing teams at the end of each season are promoted to the next level for the subsequent season, and the bottom finishers are demoted or “relegated” to the next lower rung on the ladder. Such a system would be completely unacceptable in Major League Baseball for a thousand reasons. One of the most obvious is the travel burden it would impose on a team from the West Coast, say, if it was in a division with nine teams from the east. But logic aside…
Chicago real estate bigshot Sam Zell and international despot Rupert Murdoch were mentioned today in separate stories about the possible sale of Tribune Company. The piece in the Trib says Zell has not made a bid on the company but has entered into "preliminary" talks to see if a deal could be put in place, probably involving some sort of partnership between himself and the McCormick Tribune Foundation, which is run by current and former Tribune Company execs, including former Chairman John Madigan and current Chairman/CEO Dennis FitzSimons. The possible involvement of Murdoch, meanwhile, was reported at chicagobusiness.com. Like a feral cat who’s sniffed out the alley behind restaurant row, Murdoch has been prowling around the edges of this affair. His name has come up in connection to the Chandler family, former owners of the Los Angeles Times, who sold out to Tribune Company a few years ago, becoming Tribune’s largest shareholder. Murdoch is interested in "working with" the Chandlers on their bid to buy. So sayeth the devil:
"We are interested quite openly; and frankly, if we could do something — not too expensive — that will lead to a joint operating agreement between the New York Post and Newsday."
(Newsday is a Tribune property.) Nowhere in either of these stories are the Cubs mentioned specifically, and given how little I really understand of the five or six paragraphs I’ve just written, I would have to guess the future of Cub ownership will remain mostly cloudy until a deal for Tribune Company is actually struck.
(Quick aside: I want to thank Rob and the other TCRers for inviting me to play with them. Going back to the days when Ruz was the one and only Cub Reporter, I have marveled at both the quality and quantity of information available here. I hope to measure up.) I have a throwing-things-out problem, as in, I can’t make myself do it. WIFE: What are those? ME: Hockey cards…from 1973. WIFE: Are you saving them? ME: Of course. WIFE: Why? ME: What if one of the kids asks what Henry Boucha looked like when he played for the Detroit Red Wings? Wouldn’t it be nice to have an answer? And so on. As a result of this disorder, a few years ago when I was helping my dad clean out the attic of the house I grew up in, I found a number of Cub treasures I was never able to part with, but had long ago forgotten. The prize of prizes was a 1968 program from the first game I ever attended in Wrigley Field. July 30th. Cubs vs. Giants. Ernie Banks. Ron Santo. Willie Mays. Willie McCovey. Hal Lanier! Jim Davenport!! ADOLPHO PHILLIPS!!! For nearly 40 years, I have had a memory of that day and here was proof I was really there. Today, I pride myself on keeping a neat, comprehensive scorecard. On that first magical afternoon, I marked the outs with an O, the singles with a 1, the homers with an HR, and I was in business. Earlier tonight, I went to Retrosheet and pulled up the box score and play-by-play summary of that game, and the site dutifully provides every detail of the Cubs’ 10-4 victory on 7/30/68: Santo’s homer in the first; Banks’ homer in the third; Bobby Bonds entering the game to replace Mays in center field in the fifth; Hands fanning Lanier on a called third strike in the ninth to end the game. Retrosheet is really a glorious resource. But all in all, I like my old scorecard better.

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