Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cubs Panicked That They Might Reach World Series

Chicago, IL (Sept. 30) - Owners of the best record in the National League, and therefore considered the favorites to win the league pennant, the Chicago Cubs are "panicked" that they might actually reach the World Series for the first time in 63 years.

"The Cubs have always been able to look around lately, when they've made the playoffs, and see a far superior opponent within the National League," said ESPN baseball analyst Steve Phillips. "So, it's never really been a question as to whether they'd make the World Series, because there was always a team much better than them in the post-season."

But now, Phillips says, the Cubs are faced with a cold reality.

"I'm hesitant to say this, but the Cubs are the odds-on favorites to make it through the NLDS and NLCS and represent the league in the Fall Classic," Phillips, a former GM of the New York Mets, added.

That prospect, according to sources close to the ballclub, has the Cubs "panicked" and "reeling."

"Look, they've always been the adorable Cubs -- the team who never has a shot, even when they make the playoffs," said a baseball insider who requested anonymity because he's afraid no one would know who he was anyway. "And that was a comfort level for them. Now you have the prospect of the Cubs actually being in the World Series, and for many in that organization, that's simply too terrifying to comprehend."

The Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908 -- 100 years exactly.

"There's a lot of pressure," said Phillips, "to keep that streak alive. There are millions of Cubs fans all over the United States who revel in the fact that their team is the nation's 'Lovable Losers.' Well, how can they be that anymore, if they even qualify for the World Series."

And if they win it?

"Christ almighty," Phillips said.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella assured his team around the All-Star break "not to worry", and that he was "pretty sure" some other team would get hot and supplant the Cubs as post-season favorites in the NL, the source said.

"But then everyone else gets dysfunctional and you have that G**damn West division, who can't get a champion with 85 wins to save its soul, and those f***ing Mets, who collapse like a house of cards every September...," a Cubs front office employee was overheard telling Piniella the other day.

"Great job, Lou! NOW what?," the employee told Piniella in a sarcastic tone.

As a result of their new front runner status, the Cubs hierarchy is set to huddle today to figure out "a way out of this mess," according to the source.

Some proposed suggestions include firing Piniella and replacing him with Cindy, the bartender at the Hangge Uppe on Rush Street; letting the Cubs' opponents supply their own pitcher when they bat; and simply not showing up for any of the games -- among other ideas.

Regardless, the Cubs are "kicking themselves" for getting into this mess, the source said.

"It just wasn't supposed to turn out this way -- not with Joe Torre in the league now," the source said, referring to the Dodgers manager who came over from the Yankees. "The Cubs were supposed to be playoff fodder."

The source added that "heads will roll" within the Cubs organization following this "unacceptable debacle."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hochuli Offers To "Make Things Right" In Next Chargers Game He Officiates

DeKalb, Ill. (Sept. 23) - NFL referee Ed Hochuli, under fire for admittedly blowing a crucial call against the San Diego Chargers on September 14, has offered to "make things right" the next time he officiates a Chargers game, according to sources.

"I'll take care of it," Hochuli was quoted as saying to Chargers head coach Norv Turner in a text message late last week, one of the sources said. "Don't worry. I'm going to make things right," Hochuli texted.

"No one feels worse about this than Ed," said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. "So it doesn't surprise me that he wants to make up for his blunder," Aiello continued in the wake of the news of Hochuli's offer.

Hochuli incorrectly ruled that a fumble by Denver Broncos QB Jay Cutler was an incomplete pass, giving the Broncos new life late in their game with the Chargers. The Broncos went on to score the game-winning touchdown after Hochuli's mistake.

"I have shamed myself and my profession," were just some of the words Hochuli used publicly to admonish himself the day after the game. "If I had a gun right now, I'd probably shoot myself in the brain," Hochuli also said. "But, absent that, I'll just have to make it right. I just HAVE to."

Hochuli apparently wasn't just paying lip service. The sources said that, in addition to texting Turner, Hochuli has put a "big, red circle" around his next Chargers assignment -- October 19 in Buffalo -- with the intention of "making sure" the Chargers get a "fair shake -- if you know what I mean," the sources quoted Hochuli as he spoke to a friend.

The friend says that Hochuli plans on making it "ridiculously hard" for the Chargers to lose their Oct. 19 game in Buffalo.

"He feels terrible. Believe me, you'll see just how terrible Ed feels," the friend said, referring to Hochuli's planned performance in Buffalo.

Another source said that Hochuli has some things "up his sleeve", which may include some ill-timed roughing the passer calls against the Bills, a "back-breaking" holding call or two, and, if necessary, calling a Chargers field goal good, even if it isn't.

"He feels it's the least he can do," the friend said.

Turner, when reached for comment about the supposed text messages from Hochuli, would only say, "I have complete confidence in the integrity and fairness of Ed Hochuli. Especially now. I mean, ESPECIALLY now," Turner said with a wink and a smirk.

NFL referee Ed Hochuli (left), crafts a suicide letter immediately after September 14's game between the Chargers and the Broncos. He later eschewed the idea

Thursday, September 18, 2008

0-2 Chiefs Change QB, Offensive Coordinator, Playbook, Head Usher, Socks, Color Scheme, Receptionist, Official Gum In Big Shake-Up

Kansas City, MO. (Sept. 18) - Calling the team's 0-2 start "unacceptable", Kansas City Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said the team's shake up wouldn't stop at changing quarterbacks.

In addition to replacing former starting QB Damon Huard with Tyler Thigpen for this Sunday's tilt with the Atlanta Falcons, Hunt said that offensive coordinator Chan Gailey would be replaced by former Chiefs great Len Dawson. But the changes don't end there.

The team's playbook, which had been in a red, 3" three-ring binder separated by rainbow-colored dividers and yellow tabs, will be replaced by a sleeker, "more leathery" spiral binder with, what Hunt called, "very cool" pockets in both the front and back.

The shake up also includes the replacement of longtime head usher Fred Garrison with Thomas Hewitt, an aggressive, 26-year-old "up-and-coming" usher who Hunt said would take the team's ushering in a "bold, new direction." Hunt said Hewitt will make ushering "fun again", and Hunt promised "more and friendlier" usher-fan interaction.

"I think part of our inability to win has been due to a confrontational relationship between our team and its fan base," Hunt said in explaining the change at the top of the usher personnel. "With Tommy, I think we can have more harmony in the stands, which should lead to a more universal acceptance of our team's state right now."

Hunt also announced that the team's socks would change from Hanes to JC Penney, and that the color scheme, which for years had been scarlett and gold, would change to red and mustard.

"The colors of ketchup and mustard," Hunt said. "Which goes back to making our fans more comfortable to go to our concession stands for hot dogs, guided of course by our friendlier ushers, led by Tommy Hewitt."

Team receptionist Amy Lowell is also out, another victim of the shake up.

"Amy's been great, but it's time to have our visitors greeted by someone more...good looking, frankly. Amy's sweet, but she is kind of dowdy looking."

Hunt said Lowell would be replaced by Heather Kimball, a 21-year-old intern who will take over receptionist duties on September 22.

"Heather's hot," Hunt said.

Heather Kimball, the Chiefs' new receptionist, who will take over on September 22 in a big team shake up

The official gum is also changing, from Big League Chew to Bazooka.

"I love those little comic strips that come with each piece," Hunt explained.

Head coach Herm Edwards, when asked about the huge makeover, said, "I'm all about winning. If Clark Hunt thinks we can neutralize the Falcons' running game and confuse their rookie quarterback, Matt Ryan, wearing JC Penney socks and chewing Bazooka, then I'm on board."

When pressed about the more football-related aspects of the shake up, such as the replacement of Huard by Thigpen, Edwards said, "Oh -- that. Well, yeah. I'm sure that will play into it, too."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Jeter: New York Yankees Looking Forward To Nice, Quiet October At Home With The Family

New York, NY (Sept. 16) - The New York Yankees, tired and homesick after 13 consecutive years in Major League Baseball's playoffs, are looking forward to a "nice, quiet" October at home with the family, according to captain Derek Jeter.

"The pursuit of another World Series championship has just gotten to be too much work," the star shortstop told reporters gathered around the batting cage before yesterday's game. "I tell you, it'll be nice to cozy up by the fire, make some hot cocoa, and watch the playoffs on television. Yes sir."

Jeter said the years and years of October baseball has "taken a toll."

"There are things in life more important, you know? Sometimes you need to put things into perspective. Just today I was reading about a family whose wireless Internet hookup died, paralyzing them. No YouTube, no IM'ing for them. That's when I thought, 'Here I am, worried about making the damn playoffs, when those folks are wondering how backlogged their e-mail IN boxes are getting.

"Shame on me," Jeter said.

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter smiles as he talks about "vegging out" with a box of Oreo cookies and watching the playoffs on TV this October

Jeter added that the Yankees decided, in early July, to just "get away from baseball" for awhile, in effect conceding the division championship and wild card spot.

"I'd say just before the All-Star break, we all kind of looked at each other in the clubhouse and said, with our eyes, 'Do we REALLY want to do this again?' It was kind of a cool moment. No words were said. Then we hugged, and everyone got real emotional," Jeter said, adding that after the hugs, the players gathered on the floor, "Indian style", and shared with each other the things they could accomplish, given a baseball-free October.

"It was very heartwarming, to hear things like how Bobby Abreu wants to finally get at that loose cupboard handle in the kitchen, and how Mariano Rivera has longed to go to Oktoberfest in Germany," Jeter said. "Now, we can -- thanks to our resolve and focus to not qualify for the playoffs, at any cost."

Jeter added that he's "looking forward" to the team's mathematical elimination, which is only days away.

"It'll be like a huge weight off our shoulders," he said. "Then we can actually say, 'We did it. We kicked the playoff habit.'"

Yankees acting managing partner Hank Steinbrenner was unavailable for comment regarding Jeter's words, but was reportedly seen chewing on a table leg in his office.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sacrifice Bunt Hailed As Another Example Of LaRussa's "Genius"

St. Louis, MO. (Sept. 11) - Although it had no bearing on the outcome of the game, and therefore did not prevent the Chicago Cubs from defeating the St. Louis Cardinals, a sacrifice bunt called for by Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa Wednesday night was roundly hailed as the latest example of the longtime skipper's "genius."

"Just when you think you've got the hang of this managing thing, Tony does something like that to remind you why he's Tony LaRussa and you're not," Cubs manager Lou Piniella, himself a veteran manager but not as smart as LaRussa, said in the aftermath of the game, won by the Cubs, 4-3.

The brilliant move came in the bottom of the eighth inning with the Cardinals trailing, 4-1. Sensing his team's offensive sluggishness, LaRussa called for what some baseball observers have described in various terms as a move that was "bold," "daring", and "damn-the-torpedoes" when he signaled for a bunt to be laid down by pinch-hitter Brian Barden.

Runners were on first and second with one out when LaRussa, through a series of hand gestures that the observers said were "dizzying yet precise", signaled for Barden, a 27-year-old just called up from the minors, to execute the bunt.

"I didn't think the bunt was coming because there was already one out," Piniella said afterward, simultaneously admitting his lack of baseball intellect when compared to LaRussa's. "Because even if it was successful, there'd be two outs and they (the Cardinals) hadn't done well in two-out situations all night," Piniella added, further illustrating his stupidity when his mind is up against LaRussa, who has infinite baseball brain power.

Barden squared to bunt as the Busch Stadium crowd gasped. The first pitch from Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly was high and outside. Undaunted, LaRussa again went through a series of gestures, adding such wrinkles as gently tugging his left earlobe, brushing his fingers across his chest, and tapping his nose intermittently.

"That stuff had me reeling," Piniella said of the gestures and non-verbal signals. "I look at Tony and he's doing all this stuff," Piniella said as he tried, futilely, to mimic the gestures to reporters, "and I'm thinking, something bad is about to happen to us, and by extension, to me personally."

The second pitch from Lilly, who appeared slightly rattled, was delivered. Barden again squared to bunt, but then, at the last moment, pulled his bat back even though the pitch was a perfect strike.

"I almost threw up," Piniella said of LaRussa's apparent strategy of having Barden alternately showing bunt and reneging.

Finally, on Lilly's third pitch, which was simply lobbed to the plate because the left-hander was too discombobulated to throw anything else, Barden laid down the bunt, which was described by witnesses as being "good."

Cubs catcher Geovany Soto was able to shake himself from his stupor -- an act that Piniella called "courageous beyond belief" -- and leapt from his catcher's crouch. Soto then pounced on the dribbling baseball, picked it up, and threw to first baseman Derrek Lee, who some say had a "stunned, faraway look" in his eyes, but who was still able to catch the throw from Soto.

The incredibly smart LaRussa weighs the effects of his thinking, moments before terrorizing the Cubs with a sacrifice bunt in the 8th inning of Wednesday's game

The bunt, successful, put runners on second and third with two outs.

"If this was football or basketball, I'd have called a timeout," Piniella said. "You know, to gather ourselves and to make sure we didn't lose our composure."

Instead, Piniella wanted to at least go to the mound to talk to Lilly and his infielders, but found himself "anchored to the bench with fear."

"I simply could not move. I was truly helpless at that point," Piniella said, his voice wavering, clearly not soothed by his team's eventual victory.

Lilly managed to gather himself to face the next batter, Cesar Izturis, and despite his "heart pounding out of his chest", according to Lilly, the pitcher retired Izturis with a flyball to center field.

"My legs were like spaghetti when that inning was over with," Piniella said, a shaky hand reaching for a post-game cup of water. "I'm sorry," he added, excusing himself from his office, leaving reporters to their own devices.

LaRussa, according to team spokesman Louis Harrison, had no comment about the bunt.

"Tony doesn't talk about why he does things, mainly because none of you would understand anyway," Harrison said. "You're all dumb. Baseball dumb."

Too intimidated mentally to argue, the group of reporters all nodded knowingly. One was heard saying, "That's why LaRussa's a genius and we're the idiots writing about him."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Nationals, Padres To Split Upcoming Three Game Series In Half

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 9) - The last-place Washington Nationals and the equally-as-last-place San Diego Padres have decided to not play their upcoming three-game series in Washington, agreeing instead to award each other 1-1/2 victories in the standings.

"If you can think of one good reason why this series should be played, I'm all ears," said Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden yesterday as he spoke to reporters in the team parking lot, between mouthfuls of a McDonald's Quarter Pounder with Cheese. When that statement was met with silence, Bowden raised his eyebrows and said, "What? Cat got your tongue?"

Sources close to the negotiations said that Nationals and Padres executives held a "two or three minute" conference call Monday and "pretty much decided right away" to take the weekend of September 19-21 off, when the Padres are scheduled to visit the Nationals.

The execs cited several reasons for the cancellations, including "the games don't mean s***"; "who really cares?"; and "we've all got tons to do around the house, with school just starting". Bowden himself, it was reported, expressed a desire to "take in some football" and "not feel guilty about it," as he would if his team was playing that weekend.

Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman, when reached in the same parking lot moments after Bowden drove off, seemed willing to go along with the decision.

"I don't know much about it. I hear we're going to be assigned some stats, so I might hit a home run or two while I'm golfing," Zimmerman said with a chuckle, referring to the plan to "play" the three-game set using the electronic video game "MLB 2008" and putting it into "auto mode."

In the standings, each team will receive 1-1/2 victories. That part of the plan needs MLB approval, though.

"We in the MLB offices really couldn't care less if the Nationals and the Padres play," said spokesman Jeff Treadwell. "But the one-and-a-half wins each thing, we have to think about. Won't that look obvious, and kinda stupid?"

The Nationals and Padres each sport 56-88 records and are deeply burrowed in last place in their respective divisions.

As for the fans who hold tickets for the games, Bowden said, "They will be reimbursed for their costs." Sources say the reimbursement will likely come in the form of Nationals souvenirs and coupons to local retail outlets, and that efforts to reach out to those who hold tickets will begin "soon." When asked how many fans will be affected by the cancellations, the source said, "Gosh...hundreds."

Friday, September 5, 2008

Report: Half of NFL Teams To Make It Through Week 1 Undefeated

New York, NY (Sept. 5) - A report released on the eve of the opening weekend of the NFL season indicates that exactly half of the league's 32 teams will emerge from Week 1 undefeated.

"Statistically there is almost undeniable truth to that notion," said Dr. William Strong of the Hayes-Morgan Institute, which was commissioned by the NFL to do the study. "And, as we've already seen after just one game, that trend is holding true," Dr. Strong added, referring to Thursday night's game between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins, won by the Giants, 16-7.

The study was asked for to satisfy skeptics who claim that NFL games are fixed.

"How can they be fixed if 50% of the teams will be happy and 50% will not be?", said Dr. Strong.

The study, which lasted six months, covered games played between 1985-2004.

"In those 20 seasons, without fail, half of the teams came away from Week 1 undefeated," Dr. Strong said. "And we saw that trend continue throughout the season."

Dr. Strong said that, although games from 2005-2007 weren't included in the study, he was "confident" that the "50/50 rule" would hold true for those games as well.

The next NFL study that Hayes-Morgan will do will be to determine whether clouds of dust actually materialize after rushing plays that gain three yards.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Amidst Tampa Bay Rays' Turnaround, Pittsburgh Pirates To Change Name To "Rates"

Pittsburgh, PA. (Sept. 4) - Buoyed by the success of the Tampa Bay Rays following their name change, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced that, next season, the team will be known as the Rates.

The Rays, who had been known as the Devil Rays since their debut in 1998, dropped the "Devil" portion of their name and changed uniforms. The team is now enjoying its first winning season ever, and is destined to make the playoffs.

"As steeped in tradition as the Pirates franchise is, that does not mean that we are not willing to change with the times," Pirates spokesman Kenneth Franklin said in announcing the change. Franklin added that the team's colors would change from the age-old black and gold to a more "modern" combination of Sky Blue, black, and Sea Foam.

"We're pleased to announce that, beginning with the 2009 season, the Major League Baseball team in Pittsburgh will be known as the Pittsburgh Rates," Franklin said, reading a prepared statement at a press conference in the lobby of the team office. "We are dropping 'Pi' from our name, in keeping with the 21st century baseball fan's desire for sleeker, more streamlined nicknames."

The Pirates have not qualified for the playoffs since 1992, and have not had a winning season since '92, either. They hope to reverse those trends with the new name.

Franklin said the name wouldn't be pronounced with a long "a", is in "prime rates", but would be in keeping with the second syllable of "Pirates", thus meaning the new name will be pronounced "Rets," with a short "e".

"Rhyming with 'bets'," Franklin explained.

The team's logo will also change, as the franchise will part ways with the familiar Pirate, or Buccaneer, and change to something that is "to be announced."

"First, we need to determine exactly what a 'Rate' is, and how it should be portrayed," Franklin said.

He said the team will hold a contest, soliciting fans' visions of what a Rate is.

Early rumors indicated that the decision on a new logo has already been made, negating the need for a contest. Sources say the contenders are: an image of Gone With the Wind hero Rhett Butler; a rat; dollar signs; Willie Stargell; and a python.