I'll start with random thoughts and quasi-analysis. It seems to be what I do most of the time, anyway.
-Cards fans here have been asking me what I thought about Alfonso Soriano joining the central division fracas for the foreseeable future. The four or five admitted Cubs fans I am forced to encounter have offered comments along the lines of, "Dude, the Cubs are shilling out dough for these free agents! New coach, new approach, hope is here for the Northsiders! D-Lee, Sori AND we re-upped on Aramis!" Or something. I probably made that whole conversation up in my head. But I imagine that's what they're thinking.
This worries the J-Ray not because of a simple truth, held evident through the past century of ineptitude that is the Cubs. The Chicago Cubs will not win, because they are, indeed, the Chicago Cubs. Firing Dusty and this impending spending spree is a frantic grasp at a market that has turned, and rightfully so, toward the Sox. The Trib company feels a combination of pressure from Ozzie's bunch, a growing need to win in a massive-market city that loves baseball during an era when the sport is BANKROLLING, and, oh yeah, they were worse than the mighty Pirates in 2006.
So what do they do? They dole out a backloaded 8-year deal to a low-contact, fly ball hitter who has already beat 30's door down. If they don't win in the next couple of seasons while 1) Soriano is sub-35, 2) D-Lee, Zambrano and Aramis are still in their peak years, and 3) Lou Piniella is moderately sane, they will dread this contract. My prediction - Soriano rips up a knee by July 2007, and he's an albatross for the next three years, until they ship him off to an AL team for bad pitching prospects. There, he'll hit 50 HR's as a DH in Toronto or something in 2011. Yes, I said it.
Speaking of Piniella, I know the guy has been a great manager in the distant past, but what about his riotous tirades in Tampa Bay made Cubbies brass believe he could tolerate the Cubs young pitching staff putting up 6+ ERA's? Piniella, really? The over-under on Piniella calling Rich Hill a shithead in a news conference is August 31. This is why I love the Star being in the Cubs division.
One more point - the truth is, most of the Cubs die-hard fanbase that would rather do kegstands in the bleachers than talk about VORP. It's about the lovable loser image and drunken haze gameday environment for these folks. They will always have that going for them.
But J-Ray, what about Carlos Lee? The Star just gave 100M to a fat outfielder with a history of knee problems. Call me a homer, but I'm taking Lee here. He's a better contact hitter, fills a more pressing need for the Astros (the Cubs needed pitching far more than another bat), and his contract wasn't hand-written by Scott Boras. More on this when I have more time.
-USC is ridiculously fast. An elementary point, but I got to watch them for an entire game for the first time last week, and their athletes on both sides of the ball were blowing the Irish off the map. Note my advocacy for OSU-USC. And you may not be excited about BSU going to the Fiesta to play the OU/Nebraska winner, but it's about time the Broncos got a shot against a legit big tymer. They've been bubbling my whole adolescance as the quirky-good team from the middle of nowhere.
-It's time to gauge how good.. ok, mediocre.. the Tigers are when they play Arkansas tonight. Our RPI will be dogshit all season, even if we run the table in out-of-conference, with the exception of the Illinois game. Think Texas A&M the past 2 years. We're 7-0, and our biggest win is Davidson. The only other game I've seen in person this year was against Army, where we nearly blew a 15-point lead. To Army. I ain't on the Tiger train yet.