In Which We Have a New All Star

Since the Cubs keep sending Bobby Scales away every time we do something nice for him, we thought we would capitalize on that serendipity and see if we could get someone sent away who actually wanted to be sent away. Our very own, NICK HAWKINS, is a world traveler extra ordinaire. He has traveled to every continent on the planet except Antarctica. But, with your help, we can change that.

Nick is one of a select few who are eligible to be a Quark Expeditions travel blogger.

If you have ever read any of NICK’S posts, you know that he is smart, irreverent and perfectly capable of immersing himself in the local color. 

If Nick wins he will be blogging regularly for Quark Expeditions and, I am sure, we will get some wonderful little vignettes as well. Plus, as you fans of Saul who became Paul well know, having someone prostletyzing on your behalf is a great way to get the word out. Certainly, Antarctica needs to be as free from bad journalism as the rest of the planet. And, with your vote, that can happen.

NICK (click on his name to vote for him) also is a connoisseur of Chicago style Hot Dogs. In fact, he is so rabid about his tastes that he refuses to spell k-e-t-c-h-u-p.

In other words, he is exactly the kind of man you would want representing Chicago.

A vote for Nick is a vote for all that is Good and Holy. So, vote for Nick and feel better about yourself.

Also, according to an ex-girlfriend of his, the further he is from her, the happier she is, so that means there will be one more happy single girl in Chicago for the rest of you. And she drinks beer too!

CLICK HERE TO SAY “HI” TO NICK! and then send his butt to the Antarctic.

In Which We Lighten Up A Little

First off, I would like to thank Tyrone for getting me some free beers yesterday. Since he doesn’t drink, I did what I could to hold up his end of the bargain as well as my own. It seems some people read this site after all.

Now, on to stuff that really means less but somehow seems to mean more.


Yes, after sweeping the last place Indians and, once again, fanning the flames of hope in the hearts of fans, the Cubs went to battle first place Detroit and embarrassed themselves. Then, just for good measure, they went and did it again last night. Today, the best they can hope for is to avoid being swept themselves.

PAUL SULLIVAN (Tribune) compares the current Cubs to sleep aids.

Some people count sheep when they have trouble getting to sleep.

But after watching the Cubs’ sleepwalking offense the last two months, Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella are counting the days until Aramis Ramirez returns from his shoulder injury.

Whether Ramirez single-handedly can revive the slumbering Cubs lineup is unknown, but his prolonged absence has removed any doubts about who’s the most valuable player on the team.

The Cubs put on another display of offensive ineptitude in Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to Detroit.

They stranded 13 baserunners and went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position after going 0-for-14 their last two games. The Cubs are the worst clutch-hitting team in the majors, ranking dead last with a .219 average with runners in scoring position.

“Maybe we’ll draw the names out of a hat,” Piniella said. “Leave a couple of guys doing the job in their positions and draw some names and see where they fall. We can’t do any worse.”

How bad was it?

Milton Bradley couldn’t even break his bat over his knee after striking out against Fernando Rodney with two on in the ninth.

Yep, that’s bad.

On the south side, things were slightly better as the Sox came up with a win and stand poised to take their third complete series in a row. The fourth one was postponed until September due to weather.  Our new best friend, ADAM L. JAHNS (Sun Times) fills us in.

The Sox (34-37) hit six home runs, one shy of the club record and their most since June 8, 2004 against the Philadelphia Phillies. It was also the most homers allowed by the Dodgers since Aug. 2, 2001.

Fields, who started at first base in place of Paul Konerko and talked about being excited to get more at-bats before the game, led the charge with two homers, including a two-run shot in the fourth. Fields went 3-for-4, including a single in the second inning that ended an 0-for-16 streak.

“It was a much-needed game,” Fields said afterward. “We’ve been struggling with offense at home. To come out of it and kind of go off like that, it was a good day. Hopefully, we didn’t get rid of all of it [and] we saved some of it for [Thursday].”

So, the Sox won 10-7 and, so far, KW has avoided selling team members for hot dogs and beer. I didn’t say he has ruled that out, just that he hasn’t done it yet.

Oh, and a quick reminder for you kids at home, sleep aids and beer don’t mix.


In Which We Write An Open Letter to President Obama

Kirk: You’re not going to admit that, for the first time in your life, you made a completely emotional decision based on desperation?
Spock: No, sir.
Kirk: Mr Spock, you’re a stubborn man.
Spock: Yes, Sir.
Galileo Seven


Dear President Obama

As you are astutely aware, Mayor Richard Daley has recently reneged on a promise to the citizens of Chicago by unilaterally deciding to sign a contract with the IOC guaranteeing city tax payers to absorb the cost of unpaid Olympic bills.

Sir, we are in the dark abyss of one of the most depressive global economic downturns.  And this is a most desperate hour for the City of Chicago.

No different than other regions of the United States, the midwest has been grossly damaged by this seemingly neverending recession. And although your efforts are heralded by many, questioned by more than a few, and steadfastly opposed by some, by and large the majority of the greatest nation on earth supports your Presidency.

A growing segment of the Chicago tax paying populace is gravely concerned by this recent action of Mayor Daley and his Olympic voice piece Patrick Ryan.  For a city that seemingly cannot maintain the employment of several thousand city workers, by and which include administrators within the public educational system, nor demonstrate a suitable ability to repair street potholes without the unique corporate sponsorship of Kentucky Fried Chicken, it seems rather high handed for Mayor Daley to exercise this declaration of Olympic guarantee payment without in the very least informing the Chicago City Council.  It seems odd for many of us that the Mayor routinely declares the city budget is in perilous shape and yet there is evidently no monetary value deemed overly expensive when such financial matters turn to the Olympic bid.

Mayor Daley does not have $500 million of his own personal funds to cover the cost of the 2016 Olympics should private investors bail on this project.  This commitment of guarantee without the expressed knowledge and consent of the City Council is an unnecessary financial risk and burden for Chicago tax payers. And not for just this generation. Must our kids and their kids be subjected to the risk of repayment for this two week international sports exhibition extravaganza?

Could not happen? Just ask Montreal. Or Atlanta. Maybe perhaps Vancouver? And of course, our political allies in London, England. Even Beijing with Chinese federal funding is struggling during the aftermath of the most spectacular crowd pleasing Olympic Games ever hosted.

Now many of us understand you are very busy. In fact, it is a rather comical understatement considering international fracases with North Korea and Iran, never mind the economic policies and reformation legislation proposed to pull this nation out of its economic slump. But we suspect that if you still find the time for family and leisure, then we sincerely hope it is not overly presumptuous that you would review the ongoing quagmire of the Chicago Olympic bid and address our grievance of unfair public non-disclosure of Olympic bid proceedings.

However, name one responsible leader that a Chicagoan should trust from our home state other than yourself? Mayor Daley? Is this Olympics bid really fused with the best intentions of Chicago or does it simply monetarily feed and reward those that work and operate within our city’s legendary corrupt political machine? How does one trust a Mayor when such a decision of guaranteed commitment is made after assuring the public that no such burden would be risked? Our Governor has been impeached and is facing trial. Our acting Governor is mired in state debt and yet somehow advocates $250 million to the Olympic cause. And please don’t ask us to turn to Senators Durbin and Burris, as our senior Senator is a little preoccupied with providing answers to his recent stock dumping while the other is apparently happily chipping away his most recent accomplishment of dubious evasiveness upon granite marble.

And hence, here we are altogether reviewing this serious matter. A liberal passage from the Chicago Tribune’s David Greising’s excellent column is provided for your reading:

People who recoil at the creeping cost of the Chicago 2016 bid got another reason to be wary Monday. It turns out Ryan had plenty of warning, well in advance of last week’s presentation, that the city would need to sign up taxpayers to back the bid.

Ryan took a secret trip to Switzerland early this month, he disclosed at Monday’s press conference. The trip was necessary because the IOC surprised him by flat out rejecting Chicago’s effort to sign the host city contract with amendments designed to protect taxpayers from runaway costs.

Returning to Chicago, Ryan did not disclose his trip or its stark message. Then he winged back to Switzerland last week and let Daley drop the news, a transcontinental bombshell.

Is this the type of transparency and change that your hometown deserves, Mr. President?

Many of us have all heard the promise of more jobs for Chicagoans if the Olympic bid is won. Where in writing is this guaranteed? Which insurance company will back up this financial guarantee to avoid bankrupting Chicago? And will such a policy definitively not benefit any member of the Daley genealogy? Will the construction of the Olympic sites be mired with controversy in a suspicious cloud akin to the O’Hare Airport expansion? Where is the proof in the pudding?

Yes, we still read newspapers in this town. And we are alarmed when our Mayor makes such statements that federal stimulus money usage cannot be disclosed to our media because it may be criticized. Such concern can only deepen when Olympic monetary guarantees are made after the fact without public knowledge or debate among our representative Aldermen.

We cite a direct quote obtained from the Tribune’s investigative team of Kathy Bergen, David Heinzmann and Hal Dardick:

“We can’t go to the City Council today,” bid team leader Patrick Ryan said at a press briefing Monday. “We’d look like dummies because we don’t have it all complete.”

If financial terms are not completed, then why must Chicago bear the responsibility of a project that is anticipated to go over budget no different than past Olympic projects elsewhere?

Our representatives are Chicago’s Aldermen. And they are being told to wait 2 months for further disclosure of the financial responsibility of these Games. Sir, we do not find that acceptable nor responsible.

We are astutely aware of your support of the Chicago 2016 Olympics bid. Yes, we have reviewed your statements of encouragement and promise of prosperity to Chicago should the bid be won. But in these times Mr. President, we require more than just nice words and feel good sentiment. You must pardon our skepticism and perhaps lack of creative vision. However, it is our money at stake. And real numbers need to be crunched. Full disclosure of potential tax payer responsibility must be shared with Chicago. Such guaranteed backing makes this project no longer in the sole discretionary care of a select group of individuals operating from behind the scenes.

Please do not forget the best interests of your home town. Part of your appeal to the American public is your thoughtfulness. And your seeming ability to think matters over and perhaps change course in a decision making process.

“I’m president of the United States, and I’ll carry out my duties as I think are appropriate. All right?”

Yes indeed sir, you are the President.

Under the current political and economical landscape of Chicago and all of Illinois to be frank, do these Olympic Games satisfy the needs of the many or just the needs of the few?

Olympic Games and international flash in the pan prestige versus affordable health care services, proper public education, better roads and stabilized financial institutions?

We know what really matters in these times. As would Spock.

And we hope with all sincerity, so do you.

Thank you Mr. President for your time and attention to this matter. Your response is most respectfully anticipated.


A Gravely Concerned Tax Paying Citizen
Chicago, IL

In Which We Try to be Fair to Fehr

When Donald Fehr stepped up and took over the MLB Players Association in 1983, the average player made around $290,000 per year. As he steps down that same average player made $2.9 million last year. To get from there to here he lead the union on three work stoppages, one of which resulted in the cancelled season in 1994.

He has fought collusion by the owners to the benefit of players throughout the league. But he has also fought to allow players to maintain illegal activities at the cost of the game. Not just the obvious use of steroids, but speed and other drugs were left outside of MLB purview even though they were blatantly illegal for the rest of the country.

Think of it this way, inside MLB clubhouses Toko’s rules for life applied. The porn was just a bonus. Outside, the rules the rest of us know were, and are, in effect.

PHIL ROGERS and DAVE VAN DYCK (Tribune) try to put everything into perspective.

But while the union continued to win economic successes for its members, it is seen by many to have contributed to the anything-goes, wild-west mentality of baseball by opposing random drug testing long after it had become a reality in other sports.

Fehr and Orza most recently have been in the news because the union failed to expeditiously order that samples from a confidential round of drug testing in 2003 be destroyed. Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa have been identified as steroid users off those samples, which have been preserved because of a court order sought by federal officials.

Former Commissioner Fay Vincent said Fehr protected players at a cost to the game’s credibility.

“He was wrong to see things in terms of civil liberties for the players and not in terms of the overall interests of baseball,” Vincent said. “He always said that was your responsibility [the commissioner and the owners]. But I don’t want to harp on that as it is just one aspect of an outstanding career.”

Fehr said he understands the criticism that links him to the widespread use of steroids—and an even bigger cloud—in the last two decades.

“If we—I—had known or understood what the circumstances were a little better, then perhaps we would have moved sooner,” Fehr said.

The union has been livid about leaks from a list of 104 names testing positive in the 2003 round of testing. The union sued unsuccessfully to get the list out of the hands of federal prosecutors and continues to pursue an appeal through the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

There are many people, myself included, who think that the timing of Fehr’s retirement has less to do with job stress and a desire to learn needlepoint than a deep need to get the hell out of Dodge before the Congressional bullets really start to fly.

But, on the other hand, I know a man who has met Fehr on numerous occasions. He claims that Fehr has a wicked sense of humor and a pathological sense of decency. Such a man would go to the wall for individual rights. I can easily see that. But, and this is for all of our conspiracy theorists out there, such a man might feel obligated to put all the cheaters on the same page with the rest of the American populace.

In other words, such a man might have “accidentally” forgotten to burn a list that has 104 names on it.

Right now, it may not be fair to guess, but it is still fair to wonder.


In Which We Send Out Memos

As has been noted here many times, people seem to keep missing important memos. Today, in an effort to rectify that situation, I thought I would put them all in one easy to find spot.

A MEMO to the referees for Women’s Professional Soccer;

What? Have you all been trained by blind howler monkeys? You are a disgrace! I have seen better officiating at un-scored children’s matches. What’s worse is that your wildly inconsistent calls are directly effecting the outcome of matches. It is not fair to the athletes who give their all and play the game right just to have them watch helplessly as the outcome is decided by people who clearly need red tipped canes and guide dogs. Watching WPS officiating is like watching the Calvin Ball Championships on acid. Get it together or go home and let people who know what they are doing find employment.

A MEMO to the marketing department of the WNBA;

The level of play in the league has gone up every year over the last four years. People might want to know about that. Since your entire marketing program seems to consist of “word of mouth” it might behoove you to actually get some mouths talking about it. Your wildly divergement discount programs are a mess. Worse, absolutely none are targeted at 7th through 12th grade students or school trips of any kind, which is where your future lies. I have seen enough games to know that people want to embrace this league. And, let’s be blunt, nothing ramps up the excitement level more than a room full of amped up kids out for a night on the town.

Oh, and my wife says that some hot male cheerleaders would be nice too.

A MEMO to the Chicago Cubs;

I have many friends who are fans of your team. They seem like perfectly normal people for the most part. However, until your recent sweep of the Indians, I have been watching them nip from flasks they are keeping in their desks. They are really worried that not only will this year be 101 and done, they are also fearful that the only baseball that will be available on the north side in October will be on the TVs at the Cubby Bear.  It is my belief that you have it in you to get back to the post-season and make a run for it. Don’t prove me wrong. You wouldn’t like me when I’m wrong .....

Also, you are messing with our vibe here. Please bring back Bobby Scales so that we can WRITE IN OUR VOTES to get him into the NL All Star Team at 2nd Base.

A MEMO to the White Sox;

It was great to read today that you will face a contractual log jam next year in the outfield. It is always heartening to have too many good players. But, before we get too worried about that, could you do me (and all other Sox fans that may soon need AA counseling) a favor and just win some freaking games? Is that too much to ask? You may find this hard to believe but your maddening climb towards possibly attaining a .500 record is not really lighting a fire under the fans. Other than in the sense that we feel burned every time we think about it.

A MEMO to the Chicago Bears;

No offense to David Haugh (Chicago Tribune - referenced by the above link), but we’ll believe it when we see it. After watching bizarre call after bizarre call from the sidelines, our faith in this team has been shaken. Hearing that a June mini-camp got the players excited is nice. But, in one form or another we hear that every year, with or without Jay Cutler. Show us a team that plays consistent football on both sides of the ball and we’ll get in off this ledge. Until then, could you pass me a beer? It is kind of breezy out here and I don’t want to slip by accident.