Archive for the ‘Cubs’ Category

What time is it?

September 6, 2007

Actually, time for my fantasy football draft but TTL is boldly not studying this year. After getting burned by drafting with a little bit of knowledge the past few seasons, going with the gut this year. That’s all you’ll hear about my NFL fantasy but maybe more on my Premier League Fantasy Team (c’mon Clint Dempsey) as the season goes on.

The 2007 Rugby World Cup begins Friday in France. Most pundits including TTL (a little bit of knowledge is dangerous) predict New Zealand to win it. The All-Blacks have only won 1 WC despite being the best rugby-playing nation in the galaxy. There is a huge gulf in talent between the top 8 sides and the rest of the world, so expect some ridiculous scores posted on teams like Namibia, Portugal and sadly the semi-pros from the USA. The big interest in the pool stage is who takes 2nd in Pool D, France or Ireland, although Argentina has a puncher’s chance of sneaking into 2nd. Anyway, the 2nd-place finisher faces NZ in the quarterfinals which is something that contenders Ireland and France want to avoid at all costs. Particularly the French, as this game takes place in Cardiff, Wales and not in France. And the tournament organizers, the IRB, whose dream final is NZ v France in Paris.

TTL enjoys international rugby and will spend some time at the pub watching games. And due to an unprecedented media blackout of the RWC watching live games might be the only way to go.

Also glad that England will relinquish the Web Ellis trophy they won in Australia in 2003. The defending champs are a shadow of the physical side that bullied and kicked its way to the title. Definitely have a like/loathe relationship with England international teams as TTL knows all the players and sorta wants England to do well but just so I can root against the English. They’re like a nation of passive-aggressive Philly fans but with much cooler singing.

As this post takes on a personal nature, might as well bemoan the fate of the Cubbies. Dropped into a tie for 1st in the Central with Milwaukee today after closer Ryan Dempster gave up 4 in the ninth to lose 7-4 to LA. Troubling developments all week as this team looks close to imploding a la 2004. Not playing very good baseball, particularly at the plate, as they continue to swing away with reckless abandon. Over the 4 game series the Cubs’ batters walked 18 times, stuck out 22 times, left 58 men on base and grounded into a mind-boggling 10 double plays. Not quite the winning formula. As a lifelong Cubs fan it is terrifically exciting when the Cubs play meaningful September baseball. Just wish they wouldn’t play so much like typical Cubs.

That’s it for today. Thanks for checking TTL.

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Talkin’ Baseball*

August 9, 2007

Well, Barry Bonds finally surpassed Hammerin’ Hank Aaron by hitting his 756th homerun on Tuesday night off of Washington Nationals lefty (and trivia answer) Mike Bascik. This historic homerun chase seemed to last forever no matter whether one loves/hates Bonds. He is undeniably a lightning rod capable of stirring strong emotions in even the most casual fan. Cheat/liar/drug abuser or greatest player of his generation (and perhaps ever)? Whatever your opinion Bonds is the New Home Run king.

TTL’s gut reaction after viewing the homer (for a unique look at the homer check this clip courtesy of www.deadspin.com) and all the accompanying media stories was simply relief. Feel that baseball was hijacked by Bond’s quest, and that now it is fulfilled, we can together return back to the game itself. And instead of looking forward to the next Bonds homer, baseball fans can concentrate fully on looking ahead to the most beautiful part of each season, October baseball.

As for Bonds, he belted 757* last night, but hopefully he can fade away into a graceful retirement. TTL does not like Barry Bonds. He is a modern day superstar, arrogant, selfish and awesomely talented. By most accounts, Bonds allegedly started juicing because he was extremely jealous of the media attention showered upon Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire during their historic (and now tainted by steroid allegations) chase of the single-season homerun record in 1998. Bonds, despite his 7 MVP awards(!), has always felt underappreciated by his peers and the media. His egomanical desire to be the sole focus of baseball, to be the undisputed Man led him (allegedly) to steroids.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Many pundits argue steroids don’t help someone hit a baseball. That many other players were using, including the very pitchers Bonds homered time and again off. But TTL disagrees with this logic. The “everyone else is doing it” defense is hollow to the core. And steroids do help you hit a baseball. The baseball season is a grind, a 162-game drain of endless travel, nagging injuries and myriad other physical and mental challenges. Steroids help your body recover faster from fatigue, help you maintain the same physique during the dog days of August, help you feel better physically overall. It’s a huge advantage to be fresh when other players are wearing down and TTL believes Bonds benefited from this. Steroids enhanced Bonds otherworldly hitting ability to record-breaking proportions. Bonds was always going to be one of the Greats, but with steroids he’s become Mythical, which is what he always wanted.

TTL hoped Bonds wouldn’t get the record. Barry Bonds is no Henry Aaron, a decent, dignified player respected by all during and after his career. TTL really wanted Bonds to retire at 754, to make a spectacular gesture to Aaron, baseball and the fans. In retiring before breaking the record Bonds would have gone from pariah to hero. Easily would have been one of, if not the greatest, act of sportsmanship in history. Instead, TTL turns its lonely gaze to Alex Rodriguez to break Bond’s record. Only Barry Bonds could make A-Rod likeable. For now though, Barry Bonds stands alone at the top of baseball.

Upcoming Events

August 3, 2007

Hello again.  Here is a what to expect in the near future from The Third Leaf.  Coverage of the Rubgy World Cup taking place in France, Ireland and Scotland in September.  Can England defend its crown won in Australia in 2003?  Will the best team in the world, the All-Blacks finally bring a 2nd trophy home to fanatics of New Zeland?  Can enigmatic France rally at home and play some inspired rugby?  All World Cup competitions are fun, and the Rugby World Cup is no exception. 

Preview of the Premiership which kicks off this Sunday with the Community Shield Match (Premiership Champ v FA Cup Winner).  Just so happens to be Man U v Chclsea so could be interesting.  The real season kicks off on Saturday, August 11th. 

The Cubs have barely caught fading Milwaukee, but still haven’t got to 10+ .500 which would certainly win the weak Central.  Still, its August and the Cubs are in the postseason hunt which is a rare occurrence. 

As always, try to comment on the whole spectrum of sports.  But right now, hope you are enjoying the sunshine somewhere.   The Third Leaf will get updated regularly starting on Monday, August 6th.  Enjoy the games you play and watch. 

BACK AGAIN!

July 6, 2007

Hey all, TTL went all-European and took an extended holiday (vacation to us Yanks) from updating.  So here’s a hit-and-run, quick hits, scant comments on what’s been going on (in other words, no real writing just like big-time sports columnists). 

Transfer News

Here is an excellent summary of the top 10 transfer deals of the summer so far.  TTL had previously mentioned several of these deals but let’s delve into a few more. 

Thierry Henry leaves Arsenal after 8 years for Barcelona for a paltry 16.1 million (pounds).  This is a steal for Barca, considering Darren Bent cost Tottenham 16.5 million.  Henry is the best striker in the world and played only 17 games last season due to various leg injuries.  Fresh and hungry, expect Henry to have a huge season for Barca, especially with the likes of Ronaldinho, Xavi and Lionel Messi supplying him with cutthroat passes.  With the addition of Henry, Yaya Toure and possibly the best leftback in the world Eric Abidal, Barca is piecing together a truly scary squad after a last season’s twin dissapointments of an early Champion’s League exit and finishing 2nd to hated Real Madrid in La Liga. 

Where Barca seems to be ascending and are TTL’s clear favorites in La Liga, Arsenal are not quite descending but are certainly leveling out.  The Gunners are in a tough spot, burdened by debt with the opening of their new Emirates Stadium this season and racked with boardroom turmoil.  Rumors are swirling concerning the fate of their beloved manager Arsene Wenger who has only 1 year left on his contract.  Wenger is the master of signing and developing young players with the young midfield maestro Cesc Fabregas perhaps the epitome of a Wenger player.  For all of Henry’s brilliance, Wenger is Arsenal.  And Wenger will have to do another masterful coaching job this season if Arsenal is to remain in the Top 4 in the Premiereship. 

Liverpool signed Spanish striker Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid for a club-record 27 million and Luis Garcia.  TTL loves, loves the signing but it is a steep price.  Torres will get the famous #9 shirt at Liverpool which is akin to signing with the Chicago Bulls and getting the #23 jersey.  Will be heaps of pressure on the 23 year-old Torres to score lots of goals something LP’s rotating stable of strikers has been unable to do the past few seasons.  Get the inkling that Torres is up to the task and is exactly what LP needs.  Also would like to say muchas gracias a Luis Garcia one of the most pleasurably frustrating players to watch these past 3 seasons at LP.  Prone to the silliest of mistakes he nonetheless scored some HUGE goals for LP (2005 CL semi v Chelsea).  Saw LP play at Anderlecht 2 years ago and nobody on the pitch even came close to matching the sheer hustle and running of Luis Garcia.  Buenos suertes a Atletico Madrid

TTL know this has been a huge summer for the USA team.  They won the Gold Cup and were knocked out of the Copa America last night.  Unfortunately with the time difference and all, did not get to see any USA games so can’t really offer any insights.  Would just be commenting on other blogger’s reactions (and round and round it goes) which is not something TTL enjoys.   So, for a realistic overview of the USA team’s performance head to the spot-on thatsonpoint

In other realms of sports, the Cubs are an MLB best 21-10 since June 3rd.  Trading troublesome catcher Michael Barrett was a genius move even if the catching tandem of Hill/Bowen is hitting a combined negative .200.  In a weak Central Division, the Cubs with a 43-41 record, only trail the Brewers by 4.5 games.  If the Cubs manage to reach 10 games over .500, then things will get mighty interesting. 

That’s it for 2day.  Get out and play something.     

Poor Sweet Lou

June 5, 2007

What a week for the Cubs?!?!  In all their storied history, not sure if the Cubs have ever bottomed out as completely as last week.  Let’s recap:

May 29th:  Before the Marlins game, Cubs manager Lou Pinella speaks about all the fundamental things the Cubs need to correct.  Main topic was baserunning.  In the 5th inning, Mark DeRosa gets thrown out at 3rd while trying to advance from 2nd on a grounder to shortshop.  In the same inning, Michael Barrett is picked off 2nd base by the Marlin’s catcher.  Cubs lose 9-4 and Pinella says “that might be our worst game of the year.”  If only that statement was true.   

May 3oth:  Cubs hold 30-minute players only meeting before game that is endorsed by the manager.  Players presumably talk about baseball-related matters.  Then in true Cubs fashion, get smacked 9-0 by Marlins behind a strong pitching effort from former Cub Sergio Mitre.  Pinella calls it “a good old fashioned, you know what — a butt-kicking.”  He adds for comic relief that at least Cubs ran the bases good. 

May 31st:  Merciful day off as Cubs have lost 8 of 10.  A friend sends the following email:

In the top of the 8th inning last night, Florida was winning 8-0 and with 1 out some minor-leaguer doubled and then took third on a wild pitch.  At that point something incredible happened.  The Cubs pulled their infield in at all 4 positions.  Swear to god.  As if they could come back from 8 down, but 9 was insurmountable. Almost as incredibly is that the next minor-leaguer batting hit a soft roller to second, DeRosa looked the runner back to third and got the out at first.  It worked!  The knowledgeable baseball crowd gave a loud (sarcastic) ovation for executing so well on defense.  Unbelievable.

Cabrera then knocked a base hit to bring in the 9th run.

Apparently the Cubs are now using games to catch-up on some much needed practice. 

June 1st:  Cubs erupt as Big Z and Barrett fight.  (Volume is a bit low, but turn-up to hear Pinella’s post-game rant). 

Cubs are once again a national joke.  The baseball media takes a break from the only 3 topics they cover, Bonds, Clemens, Yankees/Red Sox, to break out all the tired woe are the Cubs tales.  Yipee. 

June 2nd:  Cubs manager Lou Pinella is ejected for his 8th-inning tirade in 5-3 loss to the Braves.  Later, he is suspended 4 games for making contact with an umpire.  No truth to the rumor that Pinella is pissed about the length of the suspension.  He wanted it to be much longer. 

June 3rd:  Cubs break out of 99-year funk and hammer the Braves 10-1.  (And they won last night as well).   

Like any true Cubs fan, and despite the new lows the Cubs hit last week, TTL has not given up on this season.  The Cubs, 24-31 on the year, are only 6 games out of 1st in the atrocious NL Central.  Optimism remains steady that Cubs can win the division at .500 and then get swept in the 1st round of the playoffs.  The Tribune Co. can claim a successful season and complete the sale of the team for 600-700 million dollars.  Gives the new owners enough time to prepare for the Centennial celebration of the Cubs last World Series win.   As Jack Brickhouse famously said, “any team can have a bad century.”   

Transfer News (doesn’t really go with Cubs theme today, but leaving it due to technical difficulties)

Some wheelings and dealings from the summer transfer market.   Manchester United raided Portuguese clubs last week, signing Anderson and Nani.  Very impressive coup for the Red Devils.   

Mark Viduka has taken his Aussie goal scoring ways to Newcastle from Middlesbrough, furthering speculation that Michael Owen won’t return to Newcastle. 

Chelsea hasn’t splurged at all but did get the impressive defender Alex back from PSV Eindhoven.  He was loaned out to the Dutch club this season and will provide a great back-up to central defenders John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho.  Also Bayern Munich striker Claudio Pizarro has joined the Blues on a free transfer.   Most importantly for Chelsea, none of their signings is African, as Chelsea is set to lose Drogba, Mikel, Kalou and Essien for a month next season as these stars play for their respective countries in the African Nations Cup. 

Liverpool signed captain Steven Gerrard and defender Jaime Carragher to improved 4-year deals while continuing their snit with UEFA over fans’ behaviour at the CL Final. 

That’s it for today, as Justine Henin is currently kicking the crap out of Serena Williams (6-1, 1-0).  Back tomorrow with preview of the Euro 2008 qualifying games on Wednesday.  Enjoy the games you play and watch.