Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wait 'til this Year is movin' on up

Dear readers,

I'm excited to inform you that Wait 'til this Year has been granted a space on the ChicagoNow website. ChicagoNow, in the site's own words, is "an online community created by Chicagoans ... where we connect to each other online and share our interests." It launched in August 2009 and is owned by the Chicago Tribune Media Group. This is an exciting opportunity for me and I hope you'll follow me to my new location.

While this page will no longer be updated, my blog remains, just at a new URL: http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/wait-til-this-year/. So please follow me over to ChicagoNow and enjoy my new blogging community! I appreciate all the support I've had from my readers over the last two years--it's you that helped me gain this great new opportunity.

I truly hope that you'll continue reading my blog at ChicagoNow and I look forward to you sharing your comments and thoughts over there. So head over to ChicagoNow ... now!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Who will be the Cubs' fifth outfielder in 2011?

Starting outfield: Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, Tyler Colvin/Kosuke Fukudome

Bench: Tyler Colvin/Kosuke Fukudome

Spots available: 1

Possible fifth outfielder: Reed Johnson, Brett Jackson, James Adduci, Lou Montanez, Fernando Perez, Brad Snyder, Bryan LaHair

Early prediction: All of them! No, never mind, I don't think Quade would do that. He's so lame. I'm actually going to go with former-Cub-and-now-Cub-again Reed Johnson.

Johnson had a bad year with the Dodgers, putting up .262/.291/.366. BUT, he hit .301 against lefties and has a .312 career average against southpaws, which could be key since neither Colvin nor Fukudome could hit a lefty if he walked up to the mound and swung at the ball while it was still in the pitcher's hand. And as we saw when he was with the Cubs, he's a strong defender. (I couldn't find video of the ridiculous catch he made in Washington, which is pictured above, but here's his grand slam-saving catch against Prince Fielder.)

Jackson, of course, was the team's #1 draft pick in '09, but probably isn't quite ready yet. And Brad Snyder was called up last September but hit just .185. He has played approximately 700,000 minor league games. (Actually 845.)

A quick comment on the right field situation as well: there's definitely a spring training battle at hand given that Colvin and Fukudome are both lefties, meaning a strict platoon won't work. Fukudome is in the final year of his four-year deal and has yet to do anything of note after about May 15 of any season. Colvin posted a low .316 OBP last year but showed significant pop with 20 HR in just 358 at-bats (which translates to about 27 in a full season of work). Colvin could also spell both Byrd and Soriano, as he did last year. Complicating matters is the painful and pathetic fact that Quade might view Fukudome as the team's best leadoff option.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bulls in conversation for best team in East

In Michael Jordan's final year in Chicago, the Bulls went 62-20 and won their sixth NBA title in eight years. The following season under Tim Floyd, they won just 13 games in a shortened season and commenced a run of nearly unwatchable basketball that blew the Bulls right off the front pages of the Windy City's sports sections.

The Bulls have finished over .500 just twice since then, providing one jolt of excitement when they took the more-talented Celtics to seven games in the first round of the playoffs two years ago. They posted a perfectly mediocre 41-41 record each of the last two seasons, and Vegas set the over/under at 46.5 wins for this year.

But with their next win, the Bulls will have already exceeded last year's win total. At 41-18, they're just three games behind the Celtics and two behind the Heat for the best record in the Eastern Conference. Their seed will be vitally important given that they've lost just four home games all year--only the Spurs have lost fewer--but are a pedestrian 15-14 away from the United Center.

Though the Bulls are still looking up at the Heat and Celtics in the standings, they've separated themselves a bit from the rest of the pack and made a case for their Eastern Conference supremacy last week with a riveting win over the Heat, the second time they've beaten them at home this year (though they were LeBron-less the first time). The Bulls will face Miami again Sunday, though this time they'll be taking their talents to South Beach.

The Bulls came up empty in their two trips to the Garden this year, but defeated the Celtics at home and will try to do the same on April 7. A win in that game could go a long way toward improving the Bulls' playoff seed.

With Derrick Rose playing at an MVP level, Carlos Boozer providing a consistent threat down low, Joakim Noah crashing the boards after returning from injury, and a coach who's actually competent calling the plays, the Bulls look ready to make their playoff push. When fully healthy, the Bulls just might be the best team in the East, and it's been way too long since we could contemplate such a possibility.

The Bulls spoiled their fans in the 90s but took none of the spoils over the last decade--after all, they were rarely the victors--but there's finally a reason to be excited in the post-Jordan era. March Madness is just around the corner, but in Chicago, more madness will finally follow in April and maybe even beyond.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cubs make errors in field, judgement

From the You've Got to be Kidding Me Department, Carlos Silva got into a dugout altercation with Aramis Ramirez during the Cubs' spring training loss to the Brewers on Wednesday, proving that no game is meaningless enough to prevent a Cub from being a hotheaded douchebag. Silva refused to talk to the media after the incident, making it impossible to know whether he was angry with his teammates for making three errors in one inning, or at himself for giving up two home runs in his first spring training start as he attempts to grab a spot in the starting rotation.

The Cubs made five errors Wednesday, bringing their four-game spring training total to 14. This might be the first time Mike Quade is happy he suffers from alopecia, because he's probably realizing that one season as Cubs manager would have made his hair fall out anyways.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Women get in (duh), so do men (whaaa???)

It was widely assumed that IWU's men's basketball team needed to win the CCIW conference tournament in order to reach the postseason tourney. But despite getting hammered 76-52 by Augustana in the conference tournament title game, they somehow slipped into the bracket and will face UW-River Falls (seriously, how many UW schools are there?) this Friday at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minn. As essentially a 16 seed, the men have their work cut out for them if they want to match or surpass last year's Elite Eight appearance.

We've known for a while that the women would make the tournament; the only question was whether they would host the first two rounds. The answer, we found out Monday, is yes. The Titans will host Webster and then would play the winner of the match-up between UW-La Crosse and Wisconsin Lutheran. Last year, the women's team won the first two games at home before falling to UW-Stevens Point in the Sweet Sixteen. Looking at the bracket, Stevens Point would be a potential Elite Eight foe this year.

Once again, best of luck to both teams in the postseason!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Who will be the Cubs' backup infielder and catcher in 2011?

Darwin Barney's name alone makes him a great candidate for the Cubs' bench.

With a spring training game officially in the books, it's high time we take a look at some of the position battles that will ensue over the next month. Today we'll take a look at the infield and catcher positions. Who will spell Geovany Soto? Will Darwin Barney make the team? Will Augie Ojeda be mistaken for a bat boy at spring training? So many questions.

Starting infield: Carlos Pena, Blake DeWitt/Jeff Baker, Starlin Castro, Aramis Ramirez

Bench: Blake DeWitt/Jeff Baker

Spots available: 1

Possible IF bench players: Darwin Barney, Bobby Scales, Augie Ojeda, Scott Moore, Marquez Smith

Early prediction: Darwin Barney. A 25-year-old 2007 draft pick, he played 30 games with the big club at the end of last year, batting .241 with a .294 OBP. He had a respectable .976 combined fielding percentage at second, third and short. He was solid at AAA last year, batting .299 with a .333 OBP, and he had 14 errors, mostly at short. If he can put the bat on the ball and play solid defense, his versatility in the field could make him a nice addition off the bench.

I was tempted to go with Marquez Smith, a 26-year-old who was also drafted in 2007. He batted .314 with a .384 OBP in 91 games at Iowa last year, but he's mostly limited to third base where he struggled to the tune of a .938 fielding percentage last year.

As far as the second base platoon, Blake DeWitt got the lion's share of the playing time after coming to the Cubs in the Ted Lilly trade. He struggled, but probably has a higher ceiling than Baker. Expect Baker to play against lefties, though, given his .350 average last season against southpaws. My guess is that Quade will be open to one of the two "winning" the job in spring training, but my money would be on a pretty strict platoon come the regular season.

Starting catcher: Geovany Soto

Possible back-up catchers: Koyie Hill, Wellington Castillo

Early prediction: Koyie Fucking Hill. Who has a .211 career average as a Cub. I hate him like Alfonso Soriano hates outfield walls. I say start Soto 150 games and throw Zambrano behind the plate for the other 12 just to keep him on his toes.

Castillo, who's just 23, had six hits in 21 at-bats (.300) after being called up last September.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Cardinal goes down, a former Cub bows out

First they fail to extend Albert Pujols, now their #2 starter is out for the year. It has not been a good month for the Cardinals.

Adam Wainwright, who finished second in Cy Young voting this past season, is slated for Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire season. This doesn't devastate the Cardinals--they still have Carpenter, Garcia, Lohse, and Jake Westbrook--but it's a significant blow. Instead of one of the most potent 1-2 punches in baseball, they now have one ace and several average-to-above average pitchers.

I must admit, I'm intrigued to see what kind of magical spell Dave Duncan will be able to cast on whatever castoff or minor leaguer replaces Wainwright. Some free agent options include Kevin Millwood (4-16 last year with Baltimore) and Jeremy Bonderman (5.53 ERA last year with Detroit), though they may simply hope for one of their prospects to step up this spring. Surely whomever they choose will set a major league record for wins because Dave Duncan is a witch.

In other baseball news, former Cubs second baseman Mark Grudzielanek has decided to retire. Grudzielanek, who is now 40, batted .314 for the 2003 Cubs team that fell one win shy of the World Series. In fact, it was Grudzielanek who would have taken the flip from Alex Gonzalez, thrown it to first for a double play and ended the infamous 8th inning that cost the Cubs Game 6 of the NLCS. Instead, terrible, unspeakable things happened and part of me died inside forever.