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Perhaps you have run into "word clouds," a visual device that represents how frequently different words appear in a text.  As a historian I love it, as I can do fun things like compare Obama's 2008 Democratic National Convention nomination acceptance speech with McCain's from the Republican National Convention.

That's useful stuff.  I can show word clouds like those to my students, and ask them what the clouds do (and do not) reveal.

But who cares about utility.  Let's use some word clouds to navel-gaze, and check out our favorite baseball-related websites.

 

Holy Moses! Wood K's 20, Parts Red Sea


W - Wood (3-2), History. Fastballs over the outside corner.  Generous outside corners.

L - Reynolds (2-3), any losers who didn't see this game live because they were out in the rain and cold shooting a bad round of golf.  Trying to come up with an adequate term for that freaky breaking pitch of Wood's.

Box Score, Photos, Standings

 

Things to Take from This Game

1. Wood Strikes Out 20, Two Batters Reach in Complete Game Shutout

From the first few pitches of the game it was clear that Wood had a potentially history-making fastball and breaking stuff working today.  Wood K'd his first five,and gave up his only hit on a grounder by Gutierrez off of Orie's glove.  This won't make me the most popular guy around here, but yeah, it was a hit.  It also was a play that Orie probably makes more often than not.  Tough luck for everyone involved. The only other runner came on a curveball that got away from Wood and beaned Biggio.  The performance is every bit as dominating as the box score will indicate.  Almost without exception, the Astros looked completely helpless.

2. Cubs scratch out 2 runs against Reynolds

Reynolds threw a complete game gem, himself, with 10 Ks and 1 ER in 8 innings.  The Cubs' scores came on a Grace "double" in the second, on an incredibly generous ruling where third-baseman Howell got completely devoured by a bouncer.  Grace then advanced to third as left-fielder Dave Clark throws away the potential play at second base.  Oh Henry! drove him in with a sac fly to Alou in deep center field.  They added another for good measure in the eighth; Morandini and Grace singled, with Morandini scoring on an attempted 5-4-3 double play that was too slowly turned and resulted in a fielder's choice.

3.  Greatest Game Ever?

A traditional recap can not adequatly contextualize this game.  The central question at this moment, just minutes after witnessing this gem, is not "what do we take from this game?" but "where will this game place among the all-time great games ever pitched?"  Larson's perfect game came in a far more important context.  Haddix's perfect game through 12 innings kept more hitters off base for longer.  Clemens has two 20-K games to his record, but as I thumb through the pages of my favorite baseball encyclopedia, I see that Clemens gave up five hits in his 1996 gem, and a run on three hits in 1986.  The 1996 Tigers and 1986 Mariners, furthermore, were no 1998 Astros.  IS this the greatest game ever?  If only we had some sort of pitcher's in-game dominance statistic, and a place that compiled every statistic from every game ever played.  Then we might have a more objective idea of where this game ranks on the list of all-time great pitching performances.  In the meantime, here's hoping that Wood's career is as successful and distinguished as the Rocket's.

4.  Looking to the Future...  All the way to the Year... 2000...

This has to portend well for the Cubs.  If Wood can stay healthy and anchor a rotation with Trachsel, and another talented young arm like Geremi Gonzalez or Terry Adams or Telemaco emerges as a compliment, we could have a dominant rotation for a decade to come.  We just need Wood's health to hold, and though we know he was worked hard in high school, he seems to be a very well built young man, and hopefully can keep his strength up.  The Cubs winning a world series may be about as likely as a black president or a second Great Depression, but Wood may have the arm to get us there.

The if-this-is-his-rookie-year, just-imagine-the-things-to-come details, below.

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I was meaning to write a nice update of spring training storylines like Rob has done in the post below, but I'm too busy reading rejection letters from Universities being chased by spurned Valentines to scour the globe for the informative content that you, the reader deserve.

Then I remembered that it's spring training, and the stories write themselves.

So here are your Mad Libs that need filling in.  The story itself is below the fold.  (No peeking until you've entered your words!)

 

1. A Cubs Player

2. A number

3. A celebrity

4. A food

5.  A gerund (a verb + ing) 

6.  A noun

7. A Cubs Player

8.  A body part

9.  A medical procedure

10.  A number

11.  A roster position

12. A Cubs Player

13. An adjective

14.  A Cubs Player

15.  An Adjective

16.  A player from another baseball team

17.  A sports reporter

18.  A retired player

19.  An adjective

20.  A roster position

21.  A feature of Wrigley Field

22. +  23.  Two corporations

24.  An occupation

25 + 26.  Two Celebrities

27.  A tragedy

28.  A Cubs Player

29.  A noun.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been arrested on corruption charges.  The most prominent charges involve allegations that he essentially tried to sell his pending appointment of a successor to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Obama.

However, the indictments also include a charge that Blagojevich threatened to make assistance in the Tribune's efforts to sell Wrigley Field conditional on the Tribune firing members of its editorial board who had criticized his administration and even called for his impeachment.

Not wanting to pre-empt the winter meeting updates too much, the details are after the break.

Some of this has already been reported in the previous thread, but rumor has it that there are a few jerks out there who don't read every comment of every thread.  I can't imagine who would be such a loser, it's just something I heard...

 

For those ignorant non-message board reading unwashed masses, I sadly report that Henry Blanco's brother has been murdured in Venezuela.  Carlos Blanco had been kidnapped two weeks earlier and held for ransom.  For several years now, Venezuelan players in MLB have had cause to worry about their families' safety back home.  Before making news for his attempt to use a machette to, uh, creatively beat out the fire he had started by dousing five employees with gasoline, Ugueth Urbina had to cope with his mother's kidnapping.  The personal security measures that Venezuelan players have felt compelled to take since then are eye-opening.  Our sympathies are with the Blanco family. 

 

Our sympathies are also with Dusty Baker, if he thinks Kerry Wood will sign with Cincinatti in order to serve as set-up guy to Francisco Cordero. 

The latest rah-rah piece from Muskat informs us that the Cubs like their current roster as they enter the winter meetings.  As well they should.

Finally, there's some phony-baloney corporate-sponsored baseball awards that the fans can vote on, and that carry about as much weight and meaning as your vote on ratemypoo.com  (I didn't link to it, on the grounds that no good could possibly come of it.)

My votes:  

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Psandberg 23: "The Cubs are my Ballclub"
 
The Cubs are my Ballclub, I shall not want.
They maketh me to watch games in green fields.
They restoreth my soul:
they leadeth me in the path of happiness for their name's sake
Yeah, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of elimination, I will fear no Dodger:
for Harden art with us;
his fastball and his splitter they comfort me.
They preparest a pennant before me in the presence of mine enemies:
They annointest my jersey with Wood;
my beer cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and victories shall follow me in all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Cubs forever.

Booted

W - Billingsley (1-0)

L - Zambrano (0-1)

Box Score, Photos

Things to Take from This Game

1. Alex Gonzalez Redux

Second inning with Ethier on first, the dodgers put on a hit and run.  Loney hits the ball to shortstop.  But with Theriot covering the bag, he's out of position, can't make the barehand stop of the chopper.  Ruled a hit.  Correctly. Two batters later, DeWitt hits a potential inning-ending double-play ball right at DeRosa, but it pops out of his glove, and everyone's safe with a run scoring on the play.  Lee makes an error on the next play, a chopper right at him hit by Blake, loading the bases.  A Furcal bunt and a Martin bases-clearing double to the left-center Gap, and the Cubs found themselves down 5-0 going into the bottom of the second. A particular shame as Z had looked really focused, sharp, pitching quickly, with an awesome fastball, only to have his defense betray him and then give up a legit double.

  • Ramirez also made a lame error a couple innings later.  No damage was done, save to our pride. 
  • And Theriot gives the Cubs infield the Defensive Anti-Cycle, an error by each infielder, when he throws one away in the ninth.

2.  Manny Ramirez Redux

Manny hit a gargantuan home run.  He's good. 

3. Ah, screwit.

Cotts and Marmol struggled, the Cubs got through 2/9ths of a 9-run comeback in the bottom of the ninth, other things probably happened to.

 

The "we have not yet begun to fight!" "No, really...  we haven't yet begun to fight...." details, below.

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Gyeh.

 

W - Lowe (1-0)
L - Dempster (0-1)

 

 

Things to Take from This Game

1.  Cubs out to an early lead

DeRosa lofted a home run down the right field foul line for a two-run homer in the second.  His first swing in a week.

2.  Dempster's wildness catches up to him

Dempster looked really sharp in the first, but the Dodgers didn't chase the splitter out of the zone, the umpire didn't call fastballs just off the corners, and Dempster lost progressively greater command of his fastball.  Seven walks by Dempster alone, three of them in the fifth inning, and after nearly, nearly, nearly escaping with a near-strike out of Loney on a foul tip, Loney lined a grand slam out to center.
 
3.  Not much good to report from there
Manny Ramirez hit a remarkable home run on a pitch at his shoelaces, and Martin also hit a shot into the basket.  Wrigley was quiet most of the second half of the game, save when a few fans found the energy to boo.
 

The worrisome details, below...

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Cubs Clinch Division, First Back-to-Back since 1907-1908, Earliest since 1932

W - Lilly (16-9), You, Me, Santo, Harry, 104-year-old-dude-who-threw-out-the-first-pitch, all Cubs fans.

L - Pineiro (6-7), the rest of the NL Central

S - Wood (32)

Box Score, Photos

Things to Take from This Game

1. A bases loaded three-run single for Soriano

Well, two rbis and an error leading to the third run.  In the bottom of the second Soriano lined a single right at Brian Barton in left. The ball kicked off his glove and rolled to the wall, clearing the bases.  The Cubs raced out to a 3-0 lead.

2.  More fielding problems, more runs.

The Cubs got two more runs in the fourth, as Soto began the inning by smashing one through Glaus at third.  DeRosa hit a double high off the ivy to score Soto, and after advancing to third on a Fukudome ground out, scored on a nicely executed suicide squeeze by Lilly.  5-0 Cubs through four innings.

3. Glaus homers in 4-run Sixth

Lilly looked great, very economical, through five. In the sixth Felipe Lopez gets an RBI single on a smash up the middle off Theriot's glove, and Glaus unloads a no-doubt three-run home run into the left field well.  Suddenly we had a close game.  5-4 through six.

4.  Lilly Recovers, Marmol and Wood close it out

Other than a leadoff walk to Glaus in the ninth, the last three innings passed uneventfully as Lilly pitched the seventh, with Marmol and Wood doing their jobs to close out the game.  A soft fly out to Edmonds off the bat of Aaron Miles ended the game, and a happy Cubs team celebrated between the pitcher's mound and first base.

 The Back-to-Back NL Central Champion Details, below.

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Brewers Give the Cubs a Game, Cubs Happily Accept

 

W - Wood (5-4), Rob G's childlike faith in spells, fairies and magical comebacks
L - Villanueva (4-7), Brewers' base-running coaches.

 

 

Things to Take from This Game

 

1. Harden reprises Marquis
Like Marquis the night before, Harden got into all sorts of trouble in the first before settling down.  The difference between the two starts being that Harden escaped with only one run allowed. Three very economical innings allowed him to get to the fifth, where Harden again struggled.  There he snuck out of a bases loaded jam with 115 pitches thrown, and just the one run from the first.  Velocity looked good, but Harden had no command on the fastball.  6 walks, 9 K's

 

2. DeRosa struggles at 2nd, Cubs struggle in 6th.
DeRosa had a throwing error in the first as he chose to try to turn a very tough DP instead of going to first.  The first run of the game scored on the play.  A bobbled grounder in the sixth helped spark a big inning for the Brewers, abetted by Samardzija's struggles to throw strikes.

 

3. Solo Scoring
Edmonds and Ramirez hit solo home runs, but that was the extent of the Cubs scoring.

 

4.  Crazy-ass rally.
The Brewers ran into two outs on the basepaths in the top of the ninth, squandering a chance to blow the game out.  Instead it's "just" 6-2.  Bottom of the ninth, two outs, and Ramirez squeaks a double just under Braun's glove. Edmonds and DeRosa single, scoring Ramirez.  Soto, who had made a nice block of the plate and nice throw in the top of the inning, takes the first pitch from Salomon Torres and hits a game-tying 3-run homer.

 

5. Lee wins it.
With runners on 2nd and 3rd in the bottom of the 12th, Lee singles up the middle to drive in the winning run.  The Brewers had 25 (yes, TWENTY FIVE) runners LOB to the Cubs' 11, plus the running gaffes.  The Cubs certainly had their issues between Harden's wildness and DeRosa's early-game defense, but overall the Brewers deserved to lose this.

 

The almost-there details, below.

 

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