View Full Version : The Moron column count '02: Flubs 9, Sox 2

04-08-2002, 09:11 AM

I've been extremely busy writing about baseball, as you can see. 3 columns in one weekend, all about the Flubbies. They might as well put me on the payroll.

And yes, can you believe I have the stones to actually Sham-ME's basket-bonker an actual home run? I pride myself on my Sham-ME love.


I give this one a 3 based on the scale

5=Extremely positive
3=equal parts positive and negative
1=extremely negative

That makes the totals (columns/points/average points):

Flubs 9/33/3.67
Sox 2/7/3.5


No Alou, no can do

April 6, 2002


They've been thwarted by billy goats and black cats, curses and hexes, any number of karmic obstacles. But this definitely is a new one, the strained right calf that has reduced Moises Alou to a $27 million piece of peanut brittle and threatens to turn the Cubs into a run-challenged mush unit.

In a home opener that found Trib-une Co. wilting under its windscreen politics and Sammy Sosa lobbying successfully for an irrelevant home run, the most urgent news involved Ow-lou. Turns out the reason his right calf is a lingering three-year problem, he said, is because he has favored his left leg since the 1999 surgery that repaired his left knee. A doctor, I am not. But watching him walk ever so gingerly, I can assume the same ailments that bothered Alou the last two seasons will bother him this year, starting with the 15-day disabled-list stint announced Friday.

''They're not easy to control,'' Alou said of calf care. ''It's not like a hamstring or something you can play with. The calf is a lot different. It's not as bad [as last year], but it's sore. One day, it feels OK. The next day, it feels bad. I'm really sick and tired. ...''

And how long has this been an issue? ''I tore my ACL, and other nagging injuries came because of that,'' he explained. ''I was favoring my left side--blah, blah, blah--and that's where my problem came from last year and the year before.''

In other words, the Cubs suddenly are at the mercy of a 35-year-old's calf muscle. Is it possible Andy MacPhail, whose offseason intentions were good, has done nothing but replace one injury-prone outfielder (Rondell White) with another? ''Seems like left field has been a problem the last two years,'' groaned Don Baylor, who doesn't need an ongoing headache as he faces an early 1-3 hole. ''When you have a hitter of Moises' caliber, he's missed a lot. He was going to share some of the load with Sammy. We're not getting good swings. In our three losses, we've been one base hit away every day, it seems.''

Without a healthy Alou, the Cubs won't make the playoffs. It's that simple, as 40,155 hardy souls realized on a frigid day when the offense managed only four hits against seven Pittsburgh pitchers and wasted a terrific start by Jason Bere. They had their opportunities, but looked feeble in the final innings of a 2-1 loss. Why was newcomer Alex Gonzalez, who already is requesting a long-term deal, swinging on a 2-0 pitch--and popping out--with one out and two runners on? Wasn't it painful watching Joe Girardi, who can catch and run but can't hit anymore, dinking a checked-swing roller to the pitcher to end a rally? And when your ninth-inning artillery consists of Rosie Brown, Darren Lewis and Mark Bellhorn, it's no wonder many of the fans fled to the taverns before the inevitable thud.

''Everyone knows Moises is a good hitter,'' Sosa said. ''As you can see, we miss him. We're leaving a lot of opportunities out there. When he's ready to come back, we'll be ready for him.''

But when will that be? And I don't mean Ow-lou, but Alou at full strength? Figuring out the weather seems an easier task. ''You come to a place, you sign a three-year deal, the fans are expecting to see you Opening Day,'' Alou said. ''Not to be able to be there is really frustrating. I'm not happy about it, but what can I do?''

It was a game best avoided. Or, closer to the point, watched behind a dark green windscreen. How silly to take our first awe-struck gaze at Wrigley Field and see the big drape, stretched around the top of the bleachers from left field to right field, the Tribune's symbolic and rather pathetic way of fighting a political battle with the city and neighborhood. This was no way to get what the Tribsters want, approval of the bleachers expansion plan. Nor was it a way to block views of the rooftop owners, who generally could see through the transparent netting. But the screen was up anyway, a backdrop for Trib executive Mark McGuire as he stood on the field and yammered like a desperate politician.

''We have made a point,'' McGuire said. ''There is a message in what we did. And we'll leave it at that.''

If there's a message, it's that a communications conglomerate has no idea how to win over the masses. The only concession to the mostly negative public reaction was a late decision not to install helium-filled balloons that would further impede rooftop views. The Trib's higher-ups made the call, not wanting to exacerbate an already tense situation.

All this over a handful of shrewd building owners who have capitalized on the Wrigley experience to make money 81 dates a year. If the Tribsters are so uptight, why not buy the buildings? Rarely has a company looked so petty. ''When they were up there with their Weber grills and lawn chairs and very few dollars changed hands, it was a romantic thing that really we didn't have a whole lot of interest in,'' McGuire said. ''The reality now is that they are paying more than $100 a person to be up there today and enjoy our product. And we're getting nothing out of it.''

And they refer to Wrigley as the Friendly Confines. It's more like a battleground, the suits vs. the fans, not very cool after Sept. 11. When asked his opinion of the fray, Sosa toed the company line. ''I didn't know about any of this until I saw it [Friday],'' he said. ''The [rooftops] are built high. You've [rooftop owners] got to deal with it.''

It should have been a day to celebrate Cubness. Ron Santo hobbled on a cane and threw out the first pitch, a wonderful scene. Huge American flags hung from the very rooftops in question. Sosa hit his requisite home run, a disputed liner that appeared to nick the top of the right-field screen and bounce off the concrete wall behind it--which would make it legal.

But something was missing. His name is Alou. Which rhymes with boo-hoo.