Monthly Archives: July 2010

Cubs Trade Lilly, Theriot, for DeWitt, Two Minor Leaguers.

Good luck, Teddy.

The Chicago Cubs have traded their best starting pitcher, Ted Lilly, and starting second baseman Ryan Theriot to the Los Angeles Dodgers for second baseman Blake DeWitt and minor league pitchers Kyle Smit and Brett Wallach, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

The deal earns an “amen” from this baseball business junkie/desperate Cubs fan who only want to see the team improve.  It is a little bittersweet, though, as Lilly’s been one of the best Cubs players in my lifetime, and Theriot, uh, had a cool name.  I could honestly take him or leave him, but I know female Cubs fans everywhere will be pissed.

You, too, Theriot.

However, it’s a good deal for all involved, because Lilly, who will be a free agent after the season, certainly wasn’t going to have a shot at the playoffs with the awful, awful Cubs, who are 11 games under .500 after last night’s 17-2 drubbing by the Rockies.  Lilly’s 3-8 record could easily be reversed if the team scored any runs for him, but he has the second-worst run support in all of baseball, but with his taste for big games and level-headed approach to pitching, the Dodgers should get their money’s worth out of him.

As for Theriot, 30, he’s contributed — seriously, would it hurt to take a walk? — to the yearlong offensive swoon the Northsiders have been dealing with, but he is fast on the basepaths and provides depth at the middle infield spots, so L.A. looks to have a serviceable player in him.

The new Cubs second baseman, Blake DeWitt.

The haul for the Cubs looks moderatly promising, as the 24-year-old, lefty-swinging DeWitt replaces Theriot as the starting second baseman and provides depth at third base for Aramis Ramirez, as he’s split his time in the majors at those positions.  He’s having a modestly good year with a .270 batting average, but his .352 on-base percentage shows the guy knows how to work the count and will gladly take a walk, something the Cubs do not do well.  And he’s a lefty, another thing Chicago needs in the lineup.

The minor league pitchers, 21-year-old Brett Wallach and 22-year-old Kyle Smit, are both enjoying good years in the Dodgers’ minor league system, with starter Wallach posting a 6-0 record while striking out more than a batter an inning in Single-A, and Smit, a reliever, having a good year with a 2.35 ERA at two levels.  They’re still at least a couple years away but could certainly help the major league team at some point in the future.


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Smith, Bears Report to Camp, Will Be “A Good Football Team.”

Here we go again... Unless Lovie's right, for once.

The Chicago Bears 2010 training camp begins today, and I’m not too enthused by their prospects, although beleaguered head coach Lovie Smith sure thinks they’ll be the feared “Monsters of the Midway” of old (although I’d gladly take the 2005-’06 version), according to this Chicago Sun-Times article.

The author of the piece, Rick Morrissey, has a lot of fun talking about Lovie’s well-known optimism, a trait that, at this point in the coach’s Chicago career, most Bears fans have grown sick of, myself included.

Let's hope Cutler has a better time this year.

The optimism was tolerable when Rex Grossman was stinking up the field, as long as the defense was swallowing up opponents’ offenses, but since their 2006 Super Bowl loss to the Colts, that defense hasn’t exactly been top-notch, and the offense slid from mediocre to poor, even with the addition of the team’s new “savior,” quarterback Jay Cutler.

If the team stands a chance of smelling the playoffs this year, it will be because of Cutler’s improvement upon his awful 26-interception 2009 season.  This was a man who went from preseason MVP talk to a week one performance in which he took a big, steamy (although aided by poorly run routes) dump, and in Green Bay, no less.

Despite last year’s woes, in the picture to the right, Cutler looks as though he’s bulked up a bit in the offseason to withstand the hits his piss-poor offensive line will subject him to.  A bounce back year from Matt Forte and the addition of Chester Taylor could make the running game a little better, too.  If only those receivers looked in any way like NFL-caliber players…

Anyway, I digress.

On the defensive side, at least one thing has improved, as the team signed free agent defensive end Julius Peppers to shore up a pass rush that hasn’t been anything special in the last three years.  His presence should help take the pressure off the clearly aging — and arthritic — Brian Urlacher and the perpetually injured Tommie Harris.

So, yes, coach Lovie does have a little reason for hope, but I, like the rest of Chicago, feel this team is set for another year of mediocrity.  This time, though, the ending will be different and we won’t be hearing the positivity from Lovie’s mouth next year.

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Lindelof To Pen ‘Alien’ Prequel? Or Something New Altogether? Giddy.

Lindelof has been busy since the end of 'Lost.'

Former Lost co-showrunner Damon Lindelof has been tabbed by 20th Century Fox to either put some geek gloss on the existing Alien prequel script, or write some new sci-fi flick entirely, according to this story from Deadline’s Mike Fleming.

Whatever the studio’s plans, they couldn’t have chosen a better screenwriter than Lindelof, who wrote some of the most seminal television ever in his recently concluded sci-fi/fantasy/whatever epic for ABC.

And Fox’s plans are pretty ambiguous, as the studio isn’t sure what they’re going to do with what Lindelof turns in to them.

If they like Lindelof’s reworking of the current script, by Jon Spaihts, it’ll get used in the film, to be directed by original Alien helmer, Ridley Scott.  They also apparently think they could have Lindelof rework it further and turn it into a completely different movie outside the Alien franchise.  Confusing, I know, but worthwhile no matter what happens.

If Fox does use Lindelof’s Alien treatment, it will be his third big-screen sci-fi adventure since the end of Lost, along with Cowboys & Aliens and Star Trek 2, and I’m getting excited about seeing what a big budget can do for his words.  For as great as Lost was (and yes, I liked the ending), the television budget limited what the creators could do visually, but now that Lindelof and his Lost co-creator, J.J. Abrams, have moved on to films, I’m excited to see them play in that big monetary sandbox.

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On My Christmas Wish List: ‘The Goonies’ 25th Anniversary Set.

I can't wait for this boxed set.

I don’t care that I’m 21 years old and “need to start getting more responsible,” I am totally psyched for the recently announced 25th Anniversary Collection DVD boxed set of The Goonies, a film I still only own on VHS — inconvenient, considering how the Samuelson VCR has been out of commission since, oh, 2003 or so.

The set comes out November 2nd, and I will certainly go back to Christmas wish list-making.

Why is the Steven Spieldber-produced, Richard Donner-directed The Goonies so important to me?  Because it’s adventure, pure and simple.  “HEY!  YOU!  GUUUUUYS!,” the Truffle Shuffle, Short Round in another role, the Fratellis (no, Blackhawks fans, not them).

Everything about this movie makes me happy and reminds me of when I was an imaginative kid.  If I get to add a board game and original storyboards to that love, I might explode.

So, come November, I’m there.  Anyone who misses the old Amblin movies should be there, too.

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HBO Hopefully Gearing Up For Greatness With ‘Boardwalk Empire.’

Buscemi stars in HBO's new fall series, 'Boardwalk Empire.'

Boardwalk Empire, the 1920s period drama about prohibition in Atlantic City, from writer-producer Terrence Winter (The Sopranos) and one of my idols, Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull, Goodfellas), and starring the always great Steve Buscemi (Fargo), debuts on HBO September 19, and I will absolutely be watching for all the corruption, political and literal back stabbing, and acting gravitas this series promises.

Watch this trailer to see what I mean.

Despite its television budget, this show looks beautiful.  The period clothing and those lush exterior shots of the boardwalk of old are mind blowing.

But, of course, it’s the talent involved, both behind and in front of the camera, that will get me watching.

If Scorsese, one of the greatest living filmmakers was drawn to this project, then Winter — who, I’ll admit, is an unknown to me as I’ve never seen The Sopranos — must have written one hell of a script, based on the book by Nelson Johnson. Scorsese directed the pilot, but his role as an executive producer indicates he’ll be involved with the series well beyond the first episode, and that is certainly something to get excited about.

Taking a look at the cast, it’s apparent the show is going for mostly talented character actors to surround their star, Buscemi.  This allows his wiry neuroses and magnetic charm to take over and carry the show.  It will be interesting to see what he can do as a man of power instead of the odd bit player.

I wish this was on right now.  But I guess I’ll have to wait.

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‘Let Me In’ Gets a Trailer. I’m Pessimistically Optimistic.

Let Me In, the unneeded Americanized version of 2008’s great Swedish child vampire film, now has a trailer, and you can count me among those who are surprised at how good it looks.

The movie, starring Kick Ass‘s standout Chloe Moretz and The Road‘s Kodi Smit-McPhee, is released later this year and, while I see no reason to remake the original Let The Right One In, this could still be a worthwhile moviegoing experience.  See what I mean?

Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) really seems to nail the stark, gritty nature of the story.  The trailer is short and focused on the scarier aspects of the film, though, so I can’t quite tell if he has the oddly sweet relationship between the two young leads completely figured out.

And if Reeves loses that relationship, the movie’s simply not worth making. After all, that was the portion of the original that had everyone talking and the thing that elevated it to be more than just another bland horror flick in that dreaded vampire genre.

After seeing this trailer, I’m hopeful Let Me In will be good, and if it is, many more people will be introduced to the fantastic original.

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Rookies Cubs’ Lone Bright Spots

They might not suck for much longer!

The Cubs beat the Cardinals (GASP!) mere seconds ago, and while I recognize 2010 to be a lost year, I’m going to take time out to stop ripping on the team for their woeful hitting, lack of trading usable players to contenders, and their sleepy manager and actually praise them for something.  The Cubs’ minor league system this year has produced stellar rookies Tyler Colvin, Starlin Castro, and Andrew Cashner, who have all turned on-the-job training into major league production.  And there are more exciting prospects on the way.

Outfielder Tyler Colvin.

For all the hype Castro’s received, no conversation about the young Cubs can begin without Colvin.  The talented 24-year-old outfielder spent much of the first two months of the year relegated to pinch-hitting duties for inexplicable reasons, as he’s outhomered everyone on the team except Alfonso Soriano — Colvin’s second leadoff shot in two games has his total up to 15 — but now he’s playing every day at one of the outfield spots.  He hasn’t been the most patient hitter, as his .318 on-base percentage shows, but that’s partially because he had to deal with getting one at-bat a game until June, and he is getting better.

The shortstop of the future, today!

The other young gun in the Cubs’ everyday lineup is 20-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro, a Dominican phenom who just won’t stop hitting.  He, too, added his third home run of the season today, but he’s not expected to be a power threat.  Castro’s game is batting average, speed, and defense, and he’s done well in two out of three of those categories.  His defense has been at times spectacular, but he also has a tendency to make boneheaded mistakes on routine grounders or throws to first.  However, with the hitting tear he’s been on this month, raising his average from the low .250s to .305 as of the sixth inning today, and his daily defensive work with coaches Alan Trammell and Ivan De Jesus, he could very well end up in Rookie of the Year discussions.

Cashner has become a prime part of Lou Piniella's bullpen.

While young bullpen pieces like Justin Berg and James Russell have performed well, it’s Cashner, the team’s 23-year-old 2008 first round pick, who has been the standout of a group that’s turned one of the National League’s worst early year bullpens into less of a late inning nightmare.  Cashner’s brisk fastball and dominating slider have led him to a 2.28 ERA and a position as the team’s go-to eighth inning set-up reliever for closer Carlos Marmol.

With all those good young players on the team, one could reasonably expect the Cubs to quickly start contending, but with the talent on the way, they could become an NL Central powerhouse, with guys like last year’s first round pick, centerfielder Brett Jackson (.308 with eight homers between High-A and Double-A ball), speedy middle infielder Hak-Ju Lee (.352 OBP and 24 steals at Single-A Peoria), and top pitching prospects Jay Jackson (77 strikeouts at Triple-A Iowa) and Chris Carpenter (7-4, 3.07 ERA at Double-A Tennessee) all coming up the pipeline very soon.

Cubs fans can expect to see some or all of them when rosters expand in September, or sooner if the front office gets their heads out of their asses and decide to trade away Ted Lilly and anyone else.

And, of course, should the team complete some trade deadline deals, I’ll be able to add more prospects to this list.  I guess I do have a little optimism for the future.  But then again, I am a Cubs fan, so I guess that just goes with the territory.


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Band Pimping: The Bird & The Bee

George and Kurstin update '80s classics.

For anyone who’s ever worked a retail job, the adult contemporary sounds of Hall & Oates are very familiar.  That’s what the members of indie band, The Bird & The Bee, Inara George and Greg Kurstin, were thinking as they cut their recent album, a tribute to the ’80s roots-pop band.

The album, Interpreting The Masters, Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates, is extremely catchy as you’d expect from the original versions of these songs, but George and Kurstin add electronic flourishes everywhere and George’s voice sounds great singing these tunes.

This song, “Kiss On My List,” an update of Hall & Oates’ 1981 hit, is my favorite of the collection, which also features versions of “Man Eater” and “Rich Girl,” among others.

You know the drill.  Click, listen, enjoy/don’t enjoy, and comment with your reasons why.

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I’m Getting Fit. You Can Too with the Fight Club Workout.

What I'm aiming for, sort of.

You may not know it from looking at my 5’10”, 136-pound frame, but I’m huge on fitness.  I’ve worked out four or five days a week, whether it’s weight lifting or jogging, for the past couple years, but I hit a snag this past school year when I got tonsillitis and wasn’t able to do much at the gym until a few months after my tonsils got taken out and my strength came back.  Then summer finally came and I went back to the first program I did a couple summers ago and I’ve gotten results and compliments aplenty.

Ricafranca's Men's Workout Guide website is great.

I chose the How to be Ripped like Brad Pitt from Fight Club in 12 Weeks or Less, from Men’s Workout Guide, based on my love of Fight Club and general man crush on Pitt — swoon.

While I’m not quite ripped like Tyler Durden, after lifting three times a week and jogging lightly for the past 10 weeks, I’ve put on about eight pounds of muscle and I’ve noticed my arms, chest, and legs expanding each week.

The beauty of this program is its flexibility.  You can do what I did in the summer of 2008 and follow it religiously, listening to the program’s creator, Arnel Ricafranca, give his tips on eating and sprinting; I wasn’t in need of losing weight at that time but I dropped 15 pounds just by eating that food and running like a madman.

Or you can do what I’ve done this summer, by using heavier weights, eating terrible food along with protein and creatine shakes, and jogging instead of sprinting to enable my muscles to grow without losing weight.

I’m almost done with the Durden program, but that doesn’t mean my relationship with the website is ending.  Mr. Ricafranca offers several more programs, including a four-month hypertrophy (that means “muscle-gaining”) one I began last summer that helped me gain 10 pounds before the throat attacked me and I lost it all.  I’m either going to tackle that one or attempt Arnel’s scary 300 Spartan program.

No matter what I choose to do, I bet I’ll get up to my goal of 150 pounds and feel way healthier doing it.


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New ‘Weeds’ Trailer: Zany Good Fun.

Showtime released a new trailer for the sixth season of their suburban mother/pot dealer comedy, Weeds, and I’m excited about what could be the show’s final year.

This trailer shows the family on the run after li’l brother Shane’s misguided attempt to protect the family in the season five finale.  It looks nuts, and I wouldn’t take the show any other way.

Say what you will about the show “not being good since season (insert whichever one you want here),” but I watched the entire series last summer during the spat of boredom in which I also began this website, and it never failed to make me laugh.

The show may have lost any semblance of reality, but that’s freed it to become TV’s leading example of absurdist humor, as Nancy’s (Mary-Louise Parker) devolution from well-meaning-but-failing mother to perhaps the worst television mom ever has been hilarious every step of the way, from getting her California suburb burnt to the ground to marrying a Mexican politician/drug lord.  The supporting characters, like Justin Kirk’s Uncle Andy and Kevin Nealon’s pot-smoking accountant, Doug Wilson, never fail to disappoint in their dialogue or their half-baked schemes to make extra money.

Weeds is still funny and I’m looking forward to season six.

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