Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Lunch, beer and the NL Central

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Not that anyone back in Chicago cares what I have for lunch or where I go for beers after the game when I'm on the road, but here are two strong recommendations if you're planning to be in Houston this summer: Try Azuma, a Japanese restaurant with two Houston locations, including one downtown. Great sushi and tempura. In Texas. Really. And for the after-game beers, check out the Flying Saucer on Main Street, about five blocks from the ballpark. Good crowds, even on weekday nights and hundreds of different beers -- at just the right chill for those still-80-degree nights.

As for the baseball and the Cubs around here tonight ... Howry looking stronger ... Jim Edmonds not so much. ... and still wondering when we'll see that first road series win since April 10.

Which brings up a question that might be worth asking again now that we're almost two months into the season. ...

What do you make of the NL Central at this point and who has the juice to stay with the Cubs this season or even knock them off for the division title? Does St. Louis or Houston have enough pitching? Can Milwaukee get enough starts from Sheets and enough finishes from that bullpen? Is Pittsburgh closer to the team that's 1-8 against the Cubs or 20-16 against the rest of the field? And what about a Cincinnati team that might have as much 1-through-4 starting pitching depth as anyone in the division besides the Cubs -- yet is in last place?

And before you go writing off the division as some kind of Comedy Central, consider that every team in the division has a winning record at home and the six teams' cumulative record outside the division is 77-66 (.538). Only the AL East has a better record outside its division.

So who's going to give the Cubs the most trouble in the division this year?

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The record suggests that Tony LaRussa is the best manager of our time and whatever roster he is given he puts together a winning combination. Having Dave Duncan is a plus to all that. Look for the Cardinals to finish second. The Astros have a wrecking crew as a lineup and another one, not in a positive way, as their rotation. They have a closer, though, and could finish third. The Brewers, who were reputed to be contenders, have no rotation and no closer. Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will contend for the 4-5-6 spots in a highly improved division.

Many experts suggested the NLCentral would be weak again this year. The record suggests otherwise. The White Sox, not the Cubs, are in the weak division, where a few games over .500 will make a team a contender.

Meanwhile, I am watching Sean Gallagher DEAL against the 'Stros. If this young man stays in the rotation and manages to put some quality starts together, the Cubs will be that much better. They should win the division by at least ten games.

I guess you posted this before he gave up 5 runs.

I'd like to bring some lightness too. Check out the exchange between the "super-snooper media" and Lou:

"I don't know where all this stuff came from, but I'll tell you this—(pitching coach) Larry Rothschild told me [Tuesday that Zambrano] had the best 'throw' day he had all year," Piniella said. "So, physically, there's nothing wrong."

So the Cubs are not concerned about Zambrano?

"What did I just say?" Piniella replied. "There never has been any concern. There never even has been any question of concern. I'm more concerned about my shoulder than I am his."

That's why we will win this year. Right now, the Cubs are back to "pressing" because Huston and St Louis are on their arse. Lou will lighten them up and give timely "days off" (Soriano) or "threats" of days off (D-Lee) to make sure that our team stays loose.

One last note: Thank you Mike Brown! You are a true Bear!

Cut Carlos Zambrano. Let him break bats in the Mexican Rookie league. That's where he belongs. Crybaby millionaire wuss...

Luis said that he guessed you posted this before he gave up 5 runs. At least it does not appear Gallagher will be a good pitcher, and end up a whiner like Carlos (I'm a crybaby millionaire) Zambrano. Like I had said a year ago, cut this idiot. Let him break bats over his knee in the Rookie League. Cut his sorry 'I will win the Cy Young this year' behind. Putz...

Born in Chicago a Cubs fan. Moved from Chicago-land in 1978 and followed the Cubs in absensia for years from cities with an AL team or worse no team. In 2001 moved to Houston and resisted the Astros with all my might but succumbed around 2003.

I have been an Astros fan since. When the Cubs play the Astros I root for the Astros. When the Cubs play anyone else I root for the Cubs but without the hometown fervor.

At last night's game a group of yuppie-ish Cub fans (I think I even heard one of them refer to them as The Cubbies) from Chicago sat behind us. They were the kind of Cubs fans Mike Royko would have loathed. The mouthy guy had some baseball smarts but his pals were dumb and dumber.

So, for the guy who sat behind me who couldn't see anyone but the Cubs winning the Central because the Astros don't have any pitchers but Oswalt and the Cards have no pitching, I say watch out Cub fans for the June swoon.

The Cubs haven't been tested on the road yet since most of their games have been in the friendly confines this year. The Astros have Oswalt who if stays healthy will be their ace but I think Chacon did a nice job shutting the Cubs down last night. He's pitched well all year as has Backe. When Rodriguez comes back we'll have four strong starters with Sampson being the weaker of the five starers but then again he took care of business with a quality start and a win Tuesday night.

With Bourn and Matsui setting the table for Tejada, Berkman and Lee I am not bothered by our less than stellar starting rotation. In all hitting stats for the league we have one or two players in the top five. Berkman and Tejada with the sticks and Bourn for SBs.

Our bullpen has a couple weak links but is sound and has a league leader in saves. As for the Cards, they're doing well right now without Carpenter, Mulder and Isringhausen. I am a little frightened thinking about their return. It's a long season.

I said before the season started that it would be the Cubs and Astros battling it out for the division and the Cards there as well. Back to dumb and dumber.

The kicker was when the chatting left baseball talk (because the Cubs were losing) and turned to the topic of Juneau Alaska. Dumber asks, "How far is Juneau from the coast?" Hello McCub's on the coast.

The cubs are unproven. Look at their record against teams that are above .500. Nothing real spectacular except the series against Arizona. You can't play the Pirates, Reds, Washington, etc all season long.

I see the Cubs (not 'Cubbies,' thank you) will win the Central, but both Houston and St. Louis will keep things interesting.

Nice post, Al. (And if you had to switch allegiances, that's cool, so long as you did not become a Cardinals fan...That woulda been like Jim McMahon spending one season in Green Bay toward the end of his career.)

The only thing that is going to give the Cubs trouble in the Central this year is Lou. What the bleep was he thinking in Pittsburgh Saturday night? Marmol is on cruise control in the 8th and he pulls him for Wooden Head. Then he pulls Lee so a backup catcher can blow the game for us. Just bleeping ingenious Lou. If Louie would let me call the pitching changes he would have at least 3 more wins right now. Of course he doesn't think you win the pennant in May as he says you just get in position and win it in September. I hate to upset your apple cart Louie but a win is a win is a win, no matter what month it falls in. You knot head!!!!!!!!!!!!

Soriano giveth & taketh away! No way a mlb player should of let the sun play him(sunday versus pirates). Not to mention a catchable home run called ball he flop on earlier in game. Soriano is not that great considering his pay! Glad cubs have him & not the Sox. Sox have issues too but at least Sox aren't paying big bucks to a overrated Soriano.

Check out this about Jim Hendry and the closer situation...

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on May 21, 2008 3:02 PM.

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