Author Archive

The 2008 Chicago Cubs Convention and Other Marketing Miracles

Friday, January 18th, 2008

On a Saturday afternoon twenty-three years ago, former team President John McDonough and Cubs Vice President of Marketing and Broadcasting Jay Bunk sat down to talk about ideas away from the office. Bunk was skeptical about a Cubs Convention because as Chicago baseball fans know there is nothing pleasant about downtown Chicago in the middle of winter with the first pitch being months away. McDonough thought differently, and the rest as they say, is history. The 23rd Annual Cubs Convention will be held this weekend at the Hilton Chicago.According to, proceeds from the Convention benefit Cubs Care. The 2007 Cubs Convention raised more than $300,000. To date, the Cubs Convention has raised nearly $4 million for Cubs Care. The convention is not the only McDonough marketing miracle, there are more. Let’s take a closer look.

Cubs Convention
Obviously this event provides fans an opportunity to mingle with current and former Cubs players, broadcasters and front office executives, although who really wants to mingle with front office executives? As big as the event has gotten, it is still a good time, and here is why. The Cubs record at the time of the convention is 0-0, and with that record comes hope. Could this year be it? Watching Jim and Lou under the microscope. There are NO questions off limits and usually the best and most honest questions are asked by the kids.

How about shaking D. Lee’s hand and looking up and up and up and up. Sitting next to Andre Dawson and being too scared to say a word, looking over at him and see him smiling at you. Having a beer with Jody Davis and Keith Moreland. Seeing the ’89 team, those rock stars. Don’t worry there is also useful Cub information too, the coach’s panel is always informative. Watching Kathy and Judy from WGN make the players blush, except of course, Mark Grace. Sitting in the same room with Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams and listening to their stories. I could go on and on, but you get the drift.

Attending a Cubs convention, simply put, is an experience.

Beanie Babies
This may be more than you ever wanted to know about beanie babies, but bear with me for a second. The first giveaway, Cubbie, was on May 18, 1997. The first 10,000 children at these games received Cubbie accompanied by a commemorative card noting the special event. Today, these first Cubs giveaways sell for $100+ on the auctions today.

The whole beanie baby idea from a business standpoint is smart. One or two games a year, the team will draw thousands of young fans they otherwise might not attract. Who knows, maybe the young boy or girl will fall in love with the game that day.

Oh, and did I mention “retired” beanie babies draw extra security at the ballpark? I think it is odd that baseball teams have had to hire extra security on beanie baby day, but I have seen the lines at the mall the day after Thanksgiving and the stories about body slams over Elmo dolls. It is serious business. I find it funny that dads want their beanie babies just as much as their children do and players have their own collection.

Here comes abhorrence from baseball purists. I know, I know, baseball should be about the game and that is it. Well, the Hall of Fame shouldn’t allow cheaters in either, but it is not a perfect world.

Guest Conductors
According to Vineline, the Cubs monthly publication, some of the most famous people in the world contact the Cubs to ask about being a “guest conductor” for the seventh-inning stretch. OK, I understand no one messes with tradition at Wrigley Field unless you are a) ready to spend big bucks or b) content with the fact you may be lynched by a mob of angry, drunk fans. Let’s be honest and take the guest conductor role for what it is – product selling and celebrity worship – which has what to do with baseball?

The official message is it is a way to honor the memory of Harry Caray. Yeah, I am sure Ozzie Osborne knows exactly who Harry Caray is. How about Jeff Gordon? He didn’t even know where he was, it is Wrigley Field, not Wrigley Stadium. Here is some advise Jeff, prepare a little. In my opinion, if you want to honor Harry Caray drink a Budweiser, now that he would respect. I know I have touched on this before, but I say let Ron do it. He would love to and is giddy with Cub love anyway. At the very least get people who care about the Cubs or baseball or at least Chicago. That way we can still poke fun at the Ditkas of the world.

Three very different marketing tactics, yet they are all tied to John McDonough and the Cubs tradition. Of course he had a little luck on his side too, namely Haray Caray, Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville. As successful he was for the Cubs, McDonough has said, “winning is the greatest marketing idea of all time.” I agree maybe the Cubs should try it.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Hall of Fame Emotions and Reasons Why the Hawk Should Be in the Hall

Friday, January 11th, 2008

I have good news and bad news.

The bad news is I get to write about the baseball’s Hall of Fame, an institution I am becoming more and more jaded by. It symbolizes the game we all love, rooted in abstruse statistics and over-analysis.

The good news is because of said institution, I also get to write about my favorite Cub of all-time, Andre Dawson.

Before I do, I have to give my two cents on Cub trade talk. I know Brian Roberts was on my holiday wish list, but, if getting Roberts (and according to David Kaplan as of Thursday morning) means Rich Hill and several much more highly regarded players that could include Felix Pie, minor league outfielder Tyler Colvin, and others, then I have two words for Jim Hendry – forget it! Please, please, please do not trade away all of our home-grown talent. The Cub’s farm system is FINALLY starting to look a bit promising, and although I am as anxious as the next fan for a World Series, what I’ve seen is that winning, consistent teams are built around a strong farm system.

Moving on, in case you haven’t heard, the only member of the Cooperstown Class of 2008 is Goose Gossage. He became only the fifth relief pitcher elected to the Hall of Fame, earning baseball’s highest honor in his ninth try on the ballot. The Goose received 466 of 543 votes (85.8 percent) from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

I think voters have overcome their bias against relief pitchers but Gossage will be the last one to join the likes of Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Bruce Sutter for a long while. Relief pitching has become so compartmentalized and specialized. These days, we are lucky to see the closer for three outs, whereas Gossage just pitched and pitched and pitched. I think baseball fans will have to wait for the next generation of relief pitchers to be inducted – the names Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman come to mind.

HOF voters may have overcome their bias, but they didn’t overcome some really bonehead votes. Travis Fryman accumulated two votes? I didn’t even know what team he played for before I looked it up. Then you have Rick Telander, who didn’t even fill out his ballot this year. Are you telling me that because of the Mitchell Report and voters like Telander, who have “no wind in their sails,” legitimate HOF candidates may be denied their proper place in the history of the game? That is just bogus.

Speaking of legitimate candidates, hometown favorite Andre Dawson did not make it again, although I wasn’t as much surprised as I was sad. He came up short for the 2007 edition as well, garnering 56.9% (309) of the votes. There are two reasons I think Andre Dawson should be in the HOF. The first appeals to the inner baseball card nerd in all of us, statistics. First and foremost, hitting 400+ home runs and stealing 300+ bases puts you in pretty elite company. He was dominant in his era with 1,373 runs, 2,774 hits and 1,591 RBIs, and don’t forget about the eight Gold Gloves.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that in terms of the HOF, the bigger the club, the less prestigious it is. I also understand that, while most everyone would say Dawson was good, not everyone agrees that he was on a whole different level than the rest of the field. In my mind, the HOF would not be worse off with Andre Dawson in it.

The second reasons why Andre Dawson should be in HOF will appeal to the giddy Cub fan in all of us – purely sentimental. And yes, I do realize sentimental reasons do not get players in the HOF. Dawson was the first Cub that I officially labeled my “favorite” and because of that I chose # 8 for every team I played on. Who doesn’t remember that Chicago poster back in the day, the Hawk with a bat, Walter with a football and MJ holding a basketball – all in tuxedos no less? When Dawson stood in the box, do you remember how intimidating he looked? He didn’t intimidate in that big, meat head type of way either, but more of an “I dare you to pitch to me” sort of way. Who can forget his rocket from right field?

Remember that game in 1987 against the Padres when Dawson took an Eric Show fastball to the cheek? As I was watching it on television, him laying there motionless, I honestly thought he was dead. He couldn’t even move to charge the mound, so you know what happened? His teammates did it for him. Dawson is that type of guy. The HOF voters are always preaching integrity and class as critical components of the voting process, well then wake up because Andre Dawson encompasses both.

The Hawk also exemplified my favorite type of baseball player; one who works hard, plays hard and for the most part, doesn’t say much. He let his on-field talent do the talking. Dawson won the National League MVP the year the Cubs finished last. How often does that happen? Besides A Rod, not very often. Also, remember the man’s knees? Sometimes it just hurt watching him.

He has HOF backers. Ryne Sandberg said this about Dawson at his own Hall induction:

“No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more or did it better than Andre Dawson. He’s the best I’ve ever seen. I watched him win an MVP for a last-place team in 1987, and it was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen in baseball. He did it the right way, the natural way, and he did it in the field and on the bases and in every way, and I hope he will stand up here someday.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

My Christmas List

Friday, December 21st, 2007

It is time for Christmas List 2007 Seven Up, Seven Down style (mostly Cubs style). This year, all I want for Christmas is:

For Cub fans to use some common sense and realize Fukudome may start off slow. He may slump. Please, do away with the booing. While I agree fans have the right to voice their displeasure, think of it this way, even if you boo Fukudome, he wont understand what you are saying anyway.

For Brian Roberts to be in the starting lineup come Opening Day. Gold glove second baseman…check. Potential to steal 50 plus bases…check. Admitted steroid use…check. Oh well, two out of three isn’t bad. Here comes the “Are his numbers really that good or did the steroids inflate them?” chatter. By the way, did I mention I really like high OBP guys?

For Fukudome to teach some of the current Cubs the value of FUNDAMENTAL baseball. You know, things like hustling during batting practice, not missing signs and running down the line. These are the things most little leaguers know how to do. On a another Fukudome note, Ronnie start practicing how to pronounce his name….now.

For Mark Prior to not return to 2003 form and burn the Cubs. don’t get me wrong, I wish the man the best, but out of all the teams I have heard rumored to be interested in him, a couple stand out with varying degrees of annoyance for me. The Yankees, yawn, are always in the mix. San Diego, well Prior is a California guy. So it does make sense. BUT, what if the unimaginable happened? Mark Prior, the ace of the Cardinals rotation? No, thank you. Even better, how about this little scenario? Introducing #22 for the Chicago White Sox, Mark Prior! I would have to poke my eyes out.

For the American League to NOT beat the National League in every interleague game this year. See my next wish.

For the Tigers to NOT run a lineup in 2008 in which seven of the nine everyday players have made at least one All-Star team since 2005. Oh wait….

For Cubs fans to think for a second before they call in to WGN, ESPN or the SCORE. Comments such as: “We should have never gotten ride of Jason Kendall” or “I think we should split time between Fukudome and Murton” make me cringe.

For the Cubs to reach .500 baseball before July! I don’t think I need to elaborate there.

For Cub fans to definitely enjoy, but not drink the kool-ade of Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot. Hear me out, I love Theriot, love his work ethic, love his passion for the game but he must come into spring training in the best shape of his life in order to have a successful season. He ran out of gas last year. Fontenot is good but let’s not get carried away with how fiercely Cub fans put him on a pedestal.

For Carlos Zambrano to learn how to leash the crazy. I am all for him embracing it, but sometimes you can literally see him psyche himself out of games. Don’t lose the crazy Carlos, just leash it.

For Roger Clemens to stop hiding behind lawyers and carefully worded statements and end the speculation. Roger, if everything said about you is wrong, sue them up and down. Before you do, though, you better make sure you have NOTHING in that closet of yours. Highly unlikely.

For Jose Canseco to just go away, period. Oh, and take Pete Rose with you. While I am on that tirade, Curt Shilling you can go away too. Sometimes I think he likes to hear himself talk. By the way Curt, weren’t you a .500 pitcher until you were 30, then won 20 games three times after 30. See what this speculation talk is going to do to us? Oh and Sammy, consider yourself VERY, VERY lucky you have flown under the radar thus far.

And finally, one a semi more serious note, one hundred years is a long time to wait. My final holiday wish is for my dad and me to be able to see the Cubs win a World Series together!

As I was putting together my wish list I realized I could have gone on and on. I never even touched on my wish for Ryan Dempster to NOT be the closer, but I will turn it over to you. What is on your holiday list?

I hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

A Sad Day to Be a Baseball Fan

Friday, December 14th, 2007

I am not big on steroid stories but since Seven Up; Seven Down focuses on the week in baseball, I almost have to touch on it. Yesterday was a bad day to be a baseball fan. So lets get to it.

By now most of you have read the report, or at least the main parts. I am not going to dissect it line by line.

In doing a quick search. Here are some ex-Cubs on the list. Benito Santiago, Jerry Hairston Jr., Glenallen Hill, Todd Hundley, Gary Matthews Jr., Rafael Palmeiro, Todd Pratt, Rondell White, Matt Franco. Aww, why Glenallen Hill? Remember that homerun he hit to almost dead center that is probably still in the air? This obliviously doesn’t mean they used during there time in Chicago.

Anyway, this topic alone could start about a million debates but I wanted to touch on a few. First of all, is anyone really shocked by the players that were named? OK, maybe Pettite surprised me a bit. I was also shocked to see so many Brewers on the list. Shouldn’t they have won more games in the early part of the decade? Oh, and does anyone really think Sammy Sosa didn’t use steroids.

And what did this report really tell us? Athletes take drugs and enhancers to at least they hope,improve their game. Now that is a shocker! Think about it, what about Babe Ruth and his beer or amphetamines during the golden years of Mantle and Co., or stealing base signs, or corking bats. Cheating has been around and baseball knew and chose to do nothing about it. Now Selig can parade his dog and pony show around talking about how he will not back down from acting on any recommendations. Please Bud spare us the tough guy act.

We could also get in the argument about whose fault it is. Its the owners fault, the GM fault, the players fault, the guy who sells Budweiser on the third base side, even his fault, but what about us as baseball fans? Is any of this our fault? Is our tolerance for drug use/cheating, etc so high, they we had no problem turning a blind eye. The fans wanted to see Mark and Sammy belt out homerun after homerun engrossed in a head-to-head race. It was fun to watch. They want to see Roger Clemens strike out the side with an unhittable fastball. That is what fans want because that is what is exciting. To me it is just sad because I can still enjoy a 1-1 pitchers duel and be just as excited.

I also think that are players not on this list who for some reason escaped publication. Well, they should be ousted too. Yes, I am talking about you Sammy. I do feel however, the argument about these athletes being children’s heroes is now null and void. If anything this list will inspire kids to stay away from steroids because 80% of the players on this list are not very good.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Vice President of Rules and On-Field Operations and New Rules

Friday, December 7th, 2007

As we have spent the last few days engrossed in baseball meetings,watching the American League get better, the Cubs stay static and most free agents go to California, I wanted to write about something that caught my eye this week.

The Boston Red Sox are not only World Series champions but now they are getting rules named after them as well. On Monday, Bob Watson, Vice President of Rules and On-Field Operations for Major League Baseball, said that managers will no longer be able to wear the pullover jackets as part of their in-game uniforms. It is going to be a Francona Rule. As we all know, Boston’s skipper typically wears a pullover and has butted heads with the league when asked to display his uniform top, especially this summer when MLB uniform police went into the Red Sox dugout during a game versus the Yankees to check Francona’s uniform.

According to Watson, You can only wear your uniform top or jacket. You cant wear your night-shirt, or whatever it is. You can wear it before games, or after games, but not during games. You have to have your uniform top at all times. Oh, and it gets serious – the first offense for not wearing a uniform top would be $1,000, second offense would draw a $5,000 fine, and a third time would result in a one-game suspension. Attention John Gibbons and Eric Wedge, Toronto and Cleveland coaches, Bob Watson is watching and you are next.

Are you kidding me? In a game where ticket prices are so expensive, the average fan can barely make it out to the ballpark and one of the most prestigious records in all of sports may have to be marked with an asterisk because of steroid use, this is how you are spending your time? Wow.

How about someone takes a look at making the game more fan friendly or figure out how to address the disparity not only between the two leagues but small versus big market teams as well. I mean will the Kansas City Royals ever be able to compete with the Yankees or Red Sox? I just think there are bigger fish to fry here and a little individuality never hurt a game filled with narcissistic millionaires.

BUT if I was the Vice President of Baseball Rules and On-Field Operations, what rules would I implement? By the way, is that not the lamest baseball title ever? It sounds like it should be a class in the Harry Potter series. I managed to come up with a few new rules:

The Ryan Dempster is Not a Closer Rule. It looks like we may have to enforce this rule after once AGAIN, Sweet Lou talks about the possibility of Dempster as the Cubs closer. I will say again, he is not a closer, especially when Marmol is just sitting there waiting to be utilized. This rule will ensure other teams do not make bonehead decisions regarding the closer role.

The I Couldn’t Even Imagine the DL without Mark Prior Rule.This simply states any player has the option to skip out on the DL if Mark Prior is not there for support. Luckily for players who get hurt this season, no worries he’ll be there.

The Kenny Williams Thou Protest Too Much Rule. This rules states that any general manager that has to sit and watch their divisional opponent get light years better right before their eyes, should immediately blame loose-lipped sources and the media for failing to land the big names.

What rule would you enforce?

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us: