Monday, July 31, 2006

Hail Cesar

The Cubs acquired Cesar Izturis for Greg Maddux.

I know some won’t be unhappy to see him go, and while it was fun to see him win #300 with the Cubs (that's him in the background), we did get the 2004 Gold Glove shortstop, though he has had Tommy John surgery since then.

He appears to be not much offensively, and is hitting a robust .196 this year during day games.

The Dawn of the Jose Ceda Era

The Cubs acquired Jose Ceda in exchange for Todd Walker in a trade that will help neither side.

Walker blamed the trade on Bob Brenly.

Ceda is 6’4”, 207, and has had 114 strikeouts in 89 innings as a pro. Of course, we will probably never hear from him again.

Good trade. More playing time for Neifi, who is a key part of the 2007 Cubs.

*The picture to the right is not Jose Ceda.

Cardinals Make Great Guests

The Cubs sweep a four game series against the Cardinals for the first time since 1972, and are now 10-3 against the hated Cardinals, including 7-0 at home.

A wonderfully hot and sticky weekend, capped by Carlos Zambrano outpitching last year's Cy Young winner, Chris Carpenter.

Of course, momentum is tonight's starting pitcher, and Arizona has Brandon Webb going.

The Cubs' built-in excuse for losing tonight? Last night's Kerry Wood Strikeout for Cancer or whatever it was last night....

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Lemonade, That Cool Refreshing Drink

From Froomkin today:

On the way out of a fundraiser in Charleston, W.Va., yesterday, Bush's motorcade stopped by a conveniently located lemonade stand, for some nice pictures.

Just in case you had any delusion that this was anything other than a cynically staged photo op, Dave Gustafson and Anna L. Mallory write in the Charleston Gazette: "Charleston attorney John Miesner's 8-year-old daughter, Mary Melinda, set up a lemonade stand at their home on Bedford Road, but moved it Jim and Jean Miller's property on Loudon Heights Road after the Secret Service asked them to move it."

And, even more telling: "Bush did not drink the lemonade himself, telling the kids he had to watch his weight since he turned 60, Miesner said."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Big Z is 11-3

He is surrounded by underacheivers, and he still plays his heart out. Every time out.

Yes, this team is going nowhere, a potential sweep of the Mets notwithstanding.

Big Z's next few projected starts:

July 30 vs. Saint Louis
August 4 vs. Pittsburgh
August 9 at Milwaukee
August 14 at Houston
August 19 vs. Saint Louis

You get the idea...these are the only Cub games worth attending...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Topps and Flops

A fun article about the death, in popularity, and of big value, of baseball cards. My first compete set was a 1981 Fleer set, and I don’t think the set has increased in value since.

My favorite card story was trying like heck to get the 1979 Dave Kingman card. Kingman was a then-unheard-of free agent signing by the Cubs, and he rewarded us with a 48 HR season in 1979, so that summer, his card was a hot item, and I couldn’t find it. Luckily, none of my trading partners could, either.

Then, on a trip to the A&P across from the library, I got one. I cannot quite put into words what this meant, but I knew I could get whatever I wanted for it.

So, I causally told my pals in the neighborhood, in between whiffle ball games featuring the lineups of the Cubs and Pirates, that I had the Kingman card.

To make a long story short, I was convinced to take, along with numerous other cards, the “rookie” card of a Yankee phenom, sorta like Brian Doyle, the hero of the 1978 World Series.

George Zeber had great numbers in limited action in 1978, so I agreed to do the deal. I refused to take any Hostess baseball cards, as I found them to be beneath me.

I then waited for George to be on an All-Star ballot, and take his place among Willie Randolph, Manny Trillo, and Dave Concepcion. It never happened.

Luckily, I found another Dave Kingman card that summer. But I still remember George Zeber.

And I still have boxes and boxes and binders and binders of cards in my garage. Gathering dust.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Post-Traumatic Inflammation, Indeed

The Cubs begin the planning for 2007, by putting D-Lee on the disabled list. I heard Brenly raise the specter of “shutting down” Lee for the year and getting him ready for 2007 during Friday’s game.

Can anyone tell me that this injury simply needs time to heal, or is his long-term effectiveness in question? In other words, will the 2005 Derrek Lee come back next year?

Will Todd Walker be playing first? Will he still be able to monitor the announcers from there? Will this increase his trade potential?

Can A-Rod play first base?

Theriot back up, along with Rich Hill, Michael Wuertz, and David Aardsma.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Maddux v. Clemens

Two 300 game winners facing off at Wrigley tonight, with the real interesting factoid being that this will be the matchup with the most total wins coming in (among those games between 300 games winners).

But to gauge whether this game is worth watching, you need only watch the top of the first. If Maddux gives up a leadoff hit, or gives up a walk in the first inning (unless its of the intentional or unintentional-intentional variety), he doesn't have his good stuff, and he will be giving up some runs.

This is not what led to his dismal showing after a 5-0 start. Since he no longer has the margin of error he needs, he has been consistently flummoxed by shaky-to-bad defense and, like all the pitchers on this staff, an anemic offense. Trade rumors scare me, as Maddux is the best pitching coach in baseball. Ask Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall. You cannot expect anything near full value for him.

Clemens seems to suffer from anemic offense, and in the starts I have seen this year, seems susceptible to giving up a key 2-out hit, etc.

This would be a more exciting matchup in 1996, but the first 3+ innings should be a credible display....

Prior to the April 2005 game between Maddux and Clemens, the last time two 300-game winners started against each other was Aug. 4, 1987, when California's Don Sutton faced Minnesota's Steve Carlton.

From June 28, 1986, to Aug. 4, 1987, Sutton had four starts against 300-game winners: two against Phil Niekro and one each against Carlton and Tom Seaver.

Before the Maddux/Clemens game last year, the last time 300-game winners started against each other in a National League game was in July 1892. Philadelphia's Tim Keefe and St. Louis' Jim Gavin squared off against each other twice that month, playing in St. Louis on July 4, and on July 21 in Philadelphia.

Third Base Coach Blows Through Stop Sign

Now, that’s irony!

Cubs Third Base Coach Chris Speier was busted for blowing through a stop sign and received a DUI early this morning.

Drinking after the first victory in a series-opening game in a month makes sense, but don’t go driving, Chris.

Needless to say, he just lost the interim managerial job. But, if Dusty keeps playing for the future (he let Carlos "the Fork" Marmol work his way out of 2-out trouble yesterday), he will get that extension. But I still hope not, dude.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Rock Bottom (Again)

They were up 5-0 and had 2 on and one out. Todd Walker (remember that name), couldn't get any runs in. They then have a 5-2 lead in the 6th, when with one out, Todd Walker, cannot get the ball over to first in time. E-4.

So, instead of 2 outs and no one on…then a bloop single and another bleeder, so the bases are loaded and one out.

Two grand slams, and another Todd Walker error later later, eleven runs had scored. Then the classiest fans in baseball (the bleacher crowd) littered the outfield with Budweiser and Mai Tai cups.

Walker, who must have a TV in the dugout, because he was criticizing Bob Brenly for his analysis of Walker’s slow toss that turned Friday’s game, took the blame, though his soon-to-be-former teammate, Phil Nevin, defended him.

Fire them all: Baker, Hendry, and MacPhail. Top to bottom. Start over.

The Cubs can expect sellouts for 2 years, even with a 100 loss team. If the team shows a direction and the players show hustle. I get the feeling the Tribune doesn’t believe that, so we will continue to have free agent signings like Jacque Jones, extensions for Neifi and Rusch, and trades for Phil Nevin.

That said, can I interest you in some bleachers for tomorrow night? Low cost?! E-mail me and I will give you a deal.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

It Was Thirty Years Ago Today

The scene was Veterans Stadium for the 1976 All Star Game, and a young Cubs fan was in front of the TV, hoping to see the lone Cub All Star, Steve Swisher.

Alas, he could not crack the box score for reasons that will never be adequately explained to me. Well, here, at least, is a picture of good ol #9 from 1976, with fellow NL All Star, Bill Russell.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Proof This is the Slowest Day in Sports

It’s an interesting world we live in. People are taking sides as to the interview, and here, too, so I will simply make a few points:

* Nowhere in the blog do I say I am Dan Serafini. A cursory review should indicate that I ain't him. Only when asked for the interview (I did not seek it) did I start the prank. Check out the May 12, 2005 entry, and tell me that anyone would think I was him.

* Yes, the title of the post is a Lou Reed lyric, and if you click on the title, you will see I acknowledge that. The Clark Kent post title was stolen from my buddy in Cincinnati. Thanks, pal.

* This is not identity theft. Under any definition. I don't think I harmed him in any meaningful way. I would bet he doesn't even know about this, and if he did, would have a (c)huckle over it.

The Glasses Fall Off Clark Kent

Nothing like a little national publicity to jump start the hit-meter on one’s blog. Jeez!

A hearty welcome to Deadspin readers, keep coming back, because, as Bluto would say, "Don't cost nothin'."

As this blog was (until now) relatively fungible with other bloggering idiots, I only mentioned its existence to my brothers and a couple pals when the Serafini interview came up. I didn’t tell my wife either, and she didn’t know why I would be leery of telling her about this compendium of “useless musings.” She loves even my useless parts. I guess that is why she is my wife.

Now that this story got some play at the scene of the crime, I hope the prankees will take it as just that, a ruse, a canard, a shenanigan.

More interesting than last night's All-Star Game, though, right?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Don't Believe Half of What You See, and None of What You Hear

I have been writing this blog for a little over a year, and I named it Serafini Says as I figured Dan Serafini would be a good pseudonym.

In 1999, I was living in a townhouse on the near north side of Chicago. Across the courtyard, a townhouse was rented out by Dan Serafini, a pitcher who was called up early in the season from Iowa.

Back then, I had the weekend/night game season ticket package for the Cubs, and, on a number of occasions after I got back from a game, I would see Serafini walking his dog, and we would chat occasionally. Serafini pitched one year for the Cubs, and then was on his way to his next stop.

At the end of the 2000 season, I went to the Cubs’ garage sale, which offered game used jerseys, flags, etc. I decided I wanted a jersey, but didn’t want to spend the often ridiculous prices charged. Then, I saw it, the #33 Serafini jersey. It was $85, and with the backstory, it was an obvious buy.

So what?

So, when I started writing this blog, I simply used that name, but never, ever, represented myself as this crafty lefty.

Until last month…

On a Tuesday, while checking the email linked to this blog, I received an email from a producer with WCCO and the Twins’ radio network. Dan Serafini was the #1 pick of the Twins in 1992, and played for them for a couple years.

Turns out, they wanted to interview “me,” me being the former major leaguer. Who was I to say no? After allaying my wife’s fears, who thought I would be sued or arrested, and telling my buddy, who demanded I drop his name into the conversation, I agreed to tape an interview on the Thursday before the Cubs-Twins series in Minneapolis.

So, on Thursday, after emailing the producer a cell phone number, I got a call from Steve Thomson, the talent, but not the producer who set up the interview. He first asked me where I was (I told him Chicago), and why I ended up there, and started the tape.

The night before “my” interview, I figured I should be ready to answer some questions about “myself.” I checked various baseball sites, and learned such interesting tidbits as the fact that Serafini went to the same high school as Barry Bonds. I also found when Serafini made his MLB debut, got his first hit, and first and only major league save.

This research took all of twenty minutes. Turns out it was about nineteen more minutes than the radio boys did.

After an introduction, and my best Spinal Tap-esque “Hello Minnesota,” I was asked my first question, "Was there pressure being a #1 pick?”

The beginning of my answer was the completely Freudian, “I won’t lie to you…” before giving some great Bull Durham-type answers. I also spoke convincingly about growing up in the Bay Area, seeing games at “the Stick,” and even referenced a Mark Twain quote about the weather in San Francisco, as well as the feeling of playing in Chicago (“Wow, what a thrill.”)

I did get a chance to work in the names of my pal and my brothers as people I contacted right away when I got my call to the Show. Coincidentally, my brothers and I were in Minnesota that weekend on our annual Cubs Road Trip, so we listened to the show from our hotel.

I had one answer prepared. When the Cubs are playing exceptionally poorly, I watch the NBC Game of the Week broadcast of the Ryne Sandberg Game with Bob Costas and Tony Kubek (an all-time underrated duo). During that broadcast, Kubek and Costas were commemorating that on that date in 1971, Rick Wise threw a no-hitter, hitting two home runs along the way. As Kubek talked about Wise, he said that he was now “managing his investments,” a great way of saying, “not much.”

So, when I (or should I say Dan) was asked what had been doing since I left the majors, I was ready, but first I mentioned another tidbit I had picked up.

Serafini was on the Chiba Lotte team that won the 2005 Japanese League championship for manager Bobby Valentine. I learned that when I came upon a picture of Serafini getting a beat down from another former Cub, Julio Zuleta. I BS’d my way through a bunch of questions about playing for Valentine before being allowed to tell the listening audience in the Upper Midwest that I was in Chicago “because of the love of a good woman” and was currently “managing my investments.”

As we wrapped it up, my questioner said thanks, and said goodbye, simply hanging up, and not saying a thing about the interview. I wondered if I had been found out, and had to wait until the Twins Weekend Magazine show that Saturday to see if I would be receiving my (or Dan’s) fifteen minutes. Sure enough, the interview was played in its entirety minutes before the Twins regular pre-game show.

I resisted the temptation to make news (i.e. "Yeah, I saw Barry juicing back in high school, and Sammy in 1999..."), and kept it very vanilla. Still, they bought it.

I immediately emailed the producer who set up the interview and asked for a tape or mp3 of the interview, and got no response. None. Did they figure it out? Who knows. I held off posting this in hopes of getting a recording, but this will likely end any chance of getting it.

Point is, next time you hear someone being interviewed on the radio, don’t be sure it is who they say it is.

And, Dan (the real one), if you read this, I hope you remember, Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

Rain on Their Parade

So, Bud, who gets home field advantage if the All Star Game is rained out?

The National Weather Service forecast for the next few days has got to be making Bud, etc. pretty nervous.

Tonight’s forecast is making Chris Berman either ecstatic (lots more time without all those baseball players interfering) or petrified (his Berman-est moment rained out). Maybe they can rerun his appearance with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

C’Mon Rain!

Here is Pittsburgh Radar .

Sunday, July 09, 2006

It Just Doesn't Matter

Three out of four against the Brewers is impressive. Just as it was when you took three out of four against Cincinnati. Too bad you followed that up with six straight losses against Houston and Detroit. At home.

The players are rallying around you, Dusty. You must be really easy to play for.

Now, it is good that Marmol and Murton are playing well, and that Nevin is not playing so much.

You almost forget that the team is still 20 games under .500.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Theatre Beat

So, went with the wife, some siblings and their spouses to Martin Short in Fame Becomes Me, a one man show with a cast of six. Now, I don’t usually go to the theatre, and this appears to be a lot different than most. I chose to go (and organize the evening) because I really enjoy the over-the-top entertainer that Short is.

Ed Grimley is featured very briefly, and Katherine Hepburn makes a shorter appearance. A personal favorite, Jackie Rodgers, Jr. is explained. Jiminy Glick is featured in a longer bit, as he interviewed a “random” audience member. I think that spot will be used for a celebrity in the crowd, as last night featured a person who is on CLTV, a cable-only local news channel. Once they get out of Chicago and have higher wattage stars, the bit will be funnier than it was last night, and last night it was very funny.

The other cast members, Mary Birdsong, Nicole Parker, Capathia Jenkins (who belts out the showstopper, as planned), and Brooks Ashmanskas, are all very funny and talented, at one point doing wickedly funny and accurate impressions of Jodie Foster and Renee Zellwegger. I am not sure if I ever saw another Jodie Foster impersonation, and I doubt I will see a better one.

Mark Shaiman co-wrote the show and does a good job as a performer as well.

The framework for the show is the life story of Martin Short, though very little was truly part of his life. That fact was drilled into a potentially skeptical audience by the appearance of Martin’s very Canadian brother who was outraged with his and his family’s portrayal. Very astute SCTV fans will see that Short’s portrayal of his own father is the same as Brad Allen, Scrapco Metals boss.

Short’s actual role in Godspell was referred to, as he played Jesus’ stepbrother in a funny song. Most of the songs are short and very witty, making the pace of the show (especially in the first half) very quick.

That said, I wonder if the typical Broadway fan will appreciate or recognize the many show-bidness in-jokes and (pardon my Roy Leonard), sometimes rough language. Or maybe I am just hopelessly out of touch.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Could be a Longer All Star Break for Some than Others

The fingers are starting to point, and that, dude, likely means the end of Dusty Baker in Chicago, man.

When told that Hendry would be evaluating the team over the All-Star break, Baker, as always, was completely unconcerned, saying, “You have to expect that, no matter what job you have. You expect that."

A-Ram would be well served to keep his mouth shut, though some of his comments may be accurate. Either way, this is the type of finger pointing that gets managers known for being good team builders fired.

Once one of the pitchers bitches about lack of hustle, then we will be getting somewhere.

Dusty apparently sees the problem, but cannot solve it. "They got two-out hits, and we didn't get any," manager Baker said. "Mark threw the ball better than he had all year to me. It was just those two-out hits."