King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

Cubs manager Dusty Baker: We just need to gain a game a week. Translation: We're screwed. Plus: The Futures Game.


We’ve had this year’s first sighting of that old baseball manager’s chestnut, the quote about how the club just has to make up one game a week.

There’s no surer sign that a team’s goose is cooked in a race than when the manager of a team several games out of first place in the second half of the season starts talking about how all they have to do is make up one game a week and they’ll be fine.

“Hey, man, we have time,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said as his team headed into a weekend series in St. Louis, where they lost two of three to fall from six to seven games back in the National League Central. “That’s what I was taught. You don’t have to make it all up right away. I was taught in my Dodger days by Tom Lasorda. A game a week — that’s all we ask. Pick up a game a week.”

Actually, with 11 and a half weeks to go, the Cubs would win the division going away if they picked up a game a week. Here’s the problem: You don’t pick up a game a week. It doesn’t work that way.

Remember, Baker didn’t say, “If St. Louis would only collapse, we’ll be fine,” so let’s assume the Cardinals will keep playing at the .621 pace they’ve set so far. If they do that, they’ll win just about four games a week, on average. So Baker’s asking his team to gain a game a week on a team that’s going 4-2 or 4-3. That means the Cubs have to go 5-1 or 5-2.

In the 14 full weeks of the season so far, the Cubs have won five games in a week three times.

Put another way, if the Cardinals play .580 ball the rest of the way, the midway point between their surprising first-half run and the Cubs’ disappointing .540 winning percentage, St. Louis will end up with a record of 98-64. To win the division, the Cubs would have to go 52-23 the rest of the way. That would be way better than anybody’s played so far this year in either league. It would be six and a half games better than the surging Marlins played after the All-Star break last year on their way to the championship.

Teams come from seven games out and farther, but they don’t do it by gaining a game a week. They do it by going on a hot streak, preferably while the team they’re chasing is on a cold streak. They make up five games in one week, not one game a week for five weeks. A shortcut is to beat the first-place team a bunch of times, which the Cubs can’t do now because they only play the Cardinals two more times. They’ve gone 8-9 against St. Louis so far.

So why would a smart guy like Dusty Baker say such a dumb thing about making up a game a week? Because it’s seen as unmanly to talk about the wild card this early in the season, like you’re giving up on the division race. But the name of the game is to make the playoffs, and the Cubs’ goal for the season has to be to do that as the wild card. At the break they trail the Giants by a game and lead the Reds and Padres by half a game. The Brewers, Braves, Marlins, Mets and Astros are also all within four and a half games of the wild card lead.

That game-a-week stuff is code for “Stay interested, boys. We can still make the playoffs even though we’re not going to win the division.”

- – - – - – - – - – - -

The future is now for 19-, er, 23-year-old [PERMALINK]

The All-Star weekend kicked off in Houston Sunday with the Futures Game, a minor-league All-Star game. The game features players from all minor league levels, and pits a World team, foreign-born players, against a USA team. The Futures Game is one of the nice consequences of the ever-growing, days-long hype of All-Star week. It’s great to have all these top prospects, from all minor league levels, playing a ballgame on national TV.

The best moments came early and late. After Rockies Double-A left-hander Jeff Francis of the World team pitched the first inning, he was interviewed in the dugout by Gary Miller of ESPN, which carried the game on a henchnetwork, ESPN2. An on-screen graphic had identified Francis as a 19-year-old as he warmed up. Following a couple of questions about the inning, Miller asked the thin, baby-faced Canadian about his youth.

“You’re still a teenager,” Miller gushed. “What does it mean to be in this game?”

“I’m not a teenager,” Francis said with the poise of a 23-year-old. “I’m 23.”

Miller laughed nervously. “All right, that’s a teenaged question, sorry.”

I don’t know if Miller’s mirthless laugh was a result of embarrassment at his gaffe or anger at whoever was feeding him info for making him look bad. It’s just a shame there was no convenient place for Miller and the ESPN crew to go to find out Francis’ true age.

The other great moment came at the end of the game. USA recorded the final out on an infield grounder, and a moment after first baseman Prince Fielder, a Double-A Brewers prospect and the son of former Tigers slugger Cecil Fielder, squeezed the throw, fireworks went off. Fielder flinched. Actually, he ducked. I guess the Huntsville Stars don’t shoot off fireworks at the end of games.

The MVP was Aaron Hill, a Blue Jays Double-A shortstop who turned a 2-0 game into a 4-0 game with a double in his only plate appearance. It actually should have been a line out to left, but Jorge Cortes, a single-A player in the Pirates chain, took a fatal step in, then watched the ball sail over his head. Oh well, that’s why they call them the minor leagues.

Jose Capellan, a Double-A pitcher in the Braves organization, was the most impressive player, flashing a blazing fastball as he struck out two in his only inning for the World team. He gave Fielder, one of the most promising hitters in the minors, the old good morning, good afternoon, good night treatment, whiffing him on three pitches. Fielder did have a solid base hit against another impressive pitcher, Felix Hernandez, an 18-year-old right-hander working in Single-A for the Mariners.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

Did you know? [PERMALINK]

I hadn’t realized this, but it turns out the Futures Game wasn’t exactly World vs. USA, since the U.S. team had help from the Coalition of the Willing. That explains why players from Palau and Azerbaijan were eligible, not to mention that all-Estonian outfield in the third inning.

That wasn’t a bad-hitting outfield, by the way, but they all had gloves of Estonia.

Previous column: Junk stats with no context

- – - – - – - – - – - -

  • Bookmark to get the new Kaufman column every day.
  • Send an e-mail to King Kaufman.
  • To receive the Sports Daily Newsletter, send an e-mail to

  • Featured Slide Shows

    • Share on Twitter
    • Share on Facebook
    • 1 of 11
    • Close
    • Fullscreen
    • Thumbnails

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
      Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
      Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Here by Richard McGuire
      A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
      The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
      This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
      For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Over Easy by Mimi Pond
      When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
      You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Shoplifter by Michael Cho
      Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
      This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

    • Recent Slide Shows



    Comment Preview

    Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>