Author Archive

There’s No Place Like Home

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Imagine yourself behind the steering wheel of a 2010 Lexus ES 330 for a few moments – interstate 90, stretched out as far as the eye can see. Gas pedal to the mat, anxiously anticipating that first, glorious moment of seeing 9 of your favorite men skip over the white chalk line and trot out to their respective places on the field. Nothing can compare to that moment of sheer joy as the pitcher winds up and delivers a perfect strike to begin the game.

Baseball season is right around the corner and the countdown to seeing the Boys of Summer suit up this season is at 60 days. The anticipation is building daily.

While the old adage, “Everybody loves the Cubs,” is a relative statement, it rings true for a large group of people. It seems as though people love the Cubs as a team so much, they lose sight of the glorious structure that supports their love for this team and this sport.

That structure, of course, is Wrigley Field. To some, it is merely the place where the Cubs play half of their regular-season games, while to others it is the closest thing to heaven they will ever see. Heaven, with clear blue skies, perfectly manicured lawns, and deep brown dirt seems to be the perfect place for a ballpark.
Wrigley Field has a charm about it that hits you as soon as you see it from Addison Street. It is filled with rich history and great stories that would entertain a person for a lifetime. When the scoreboard lights up with “Go Cubs, go!” the excitement of going behind the walls of the stadium consumes you.

People say that Disney World is the happiest place on Earth, but I would like to politely disagree with them. Why waste your money on fairytales? Why entertain the false hope of having perfectly combed tresses and consistently flawless makeup, when you could spend it on learning the invaluable life lessons of patience, sportsmanship, and the proper technique for calling somebody out? I can tell you that Disney World is not that place.

Disney is filled with empty promises and stomachaches from consuming too much cotton candy. At least at Wrigley the stomachaches are from hot dogs and nachos.
When Ernie Banks dubbed Wrigley as “The Friendly Confines,” he could not have found a more perfect nickname for it. (That is, as long as you love baseball and do not go around looking for trouble.)
Day games at Wrigley are like nothing else on the planet. The colors and sounds of the game are amplified. The beauty and precision of the crisp foul lines and the groomed dirt of the infield are mesmerizing; it’s like a whole different world inside the ballpark. Everything happening in the outside world is of little consequence for that 2 1/2-3 hour glimpse of heaven. Your joy hangs on every move that your favorite player makes – he better not let you down.
If you are a Cubs fan in need of resorting to the sought-after “happy place” that many folks talk about, you should not have to look far. Wrigley Field is that happy place.  (Unless, of course, your name is Steve Bartman or Milton Bradley.) Walking where legends have walked, sitting where they have hit foul balls and homeruns, and singing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch are incomparable joys that can cure almost dreary day. Wrigley Field is a special place.
The one, most important thing that makes Wrigley Field so special is the special bond it creates with loved ones. Sharing a fifteen-dollar helmet bowl of nachos with a close friend, heckling the opposing left fielder with your younger brother, discussing the likelihood of a go-ahead home run from Reed Johnson with your father, and getting a wink from Anthony Rizzo as he ducks into the dugout cannot be replicated anywhere else.

Wrigley Field is a happy place. There’s no place like home.

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Morning News: Evening Edition

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

In case you missed it, the Pro Bowl rosters were released yesterday. Guess who is starting for the NFC? That’s right, Aaron Rodgers. And, much to the chagrin of Patriots fans, Tom Brady is not starting for the AFC. Peyton Manning gets the nod under center to begin the game.

The Bears had 5 selections, including Brandon Marshall and Charles Tillman. I will say that the Bears Pro Bowlers earned their spots on that roster. Tillman is playing phenomenally. To see the entire roster, click here. I think Russell Wilson got snubbed. What say you?

Staying on the topic of football, is anyone a fan of Duck Dynasty? The patriarch of the family, Phil Robertson, was a top-tier athlete in his day, playing at starting quarterback ahead of Terry Bradshaw at Louisiana Tech University. You can check the whole story here.

The baseball world is abuzz with the Red Sox and Yankees making the headlines. The Red Sox bolstered their bullpen with the addition of Joel Hanrahan, the former Pirate, in a 6-player deal that sends Hanrahan and Brock Holt to Boston for right-handers Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel, infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr. and first baseman-outfielder Jerry Sands. Boston is also in talks with Mike Napoli, but no official deal has been agreed upon quite yet. The Red Sox might get Cubbed on this one!

And finally, 2012 is winding down and Christmas is over. Did Santa bring everyone what they wanted? Did anybody get tickets to the Cubs Convention? It’s only three and a half weeks away! Now, if only Theo & Co. could get a semi-high profile player to sign…

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Morning News: Sandy, Smith, and Coping Mechanisms

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Hurricane: Sandy made landfall yesterday. Just before reaching land, she was downgraded to a Superstorm, but still, much damage was done. At least 5.7 million people were left without power, and 13 people lost their lives.

This is reportedly going to be one of the costliest storms in U.S. history, with the estimated damage being anywhere between 10 – 20 billion dollars. New York’s transit system has been shut down, and rain and snow are barraging the East Coast. Times like this make my heart ache for those caught in the disaster. Times like this also make me appreciate the Midwest and its generally-consistent weather patterns. My favorite weather patterns are the ones consistent with Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois: Almost Winter, Winter, Almost Summer, and Road Construction. No unexpected tsunamis for us (fingers crossed)!

But in all seriousness, thoughts and prayers to those caught in the storm’s path. Be safe.

NFL: Anyone who owns Alex Smith on a fantasy team has some kind of love/hate relationship with him. He is inconsistent. Anyone who owns Alex Smith and Vernon Davis on the same fantasy team have a hate relationship with Smith. I speak on terms of personal experience.

Alex Smith threw a nearly perfect game last night, going 18-for-19 with three TDs. Great for him. Too bad Vernon Davis wasn’t on the receiving end for any of them!

All bitterness aside, it was a good game for Smith. It is good to see him coming to his own as a QB. Thankfully, he beat Rodgers for the first overall pick in ’05. That’s probably the only category he’ll ever beat Rodgers.

MLB: Baseball season is over. Is anyone else’s spirit crushed? Thankfully, there is approximately only 153 days until Opening Day. Yes, I am counting. No, I cannot wait. Coping strategies that may work for you: 1) Wearing Cubs attire on a regular basis. 2) joining twitter under a pseudonym and incessantly tweeting about baseball. 3) Perhaps find a website that streams Dominican Winter League games.

Hopefully those tips are helpful! Happy Tuesday!

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Morning News: You Just Never Know

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Baseball:

If for some reason you were isolated from any form of social media, television, or radio broadcasts, allow me to inform you of yesterday’s events:

American League: Oakland was blanked by Detroit. Verlander pitched a 4-hit shutout, sending the young cast of Moneyball 2 back to the dugout via strikeout 11 times. The Tigers move on to face the Yankees in the ALCS, which should be a pretty good series.

The Yankees beat the Orioles 3-1 behind CC Sabathia’s complete game effort. Hopefully the ALCS will be filled with great pitching and overall good baseball with these two teams. Maybe A-Rod will be able to muster up a hit, maybe even one for extra bases?

Nevermind. Verlander and Fister have already put that silly notion to rest.

National League:

The Giants are on their way to the NLCS after beating the Reds in stupendous fashion on Friday, winning 6-4 courtesy of a Buster Posey grand slam.  Thank goodness we won’t have to deal with Dusty’s toothpick-twirling face on television sets until next season.

With their win, the Giants will face the Cardinals in the NLCS. I stayed up to watch the end of the Cardinals and Nationals duke it out, thinking that the Nationals had the game in the bag with a 7-5 lead in the top of the ninth. Silly me. Everybody knows that the Cardinals rely on late, dramatic comebacks in the postseason. I watched in disbelief as Drew Storen was unable to control his pitches and keep the Cardinals lineup in check. St. Louis went on to score 4 runs in the ninth to win game 5 and clinch their spot in the NLCS.

Today would have been Strasburg’s start. If only, if only.

Other News:

Melky Cabrera was reinstated after his 50-game suspension, but will not play for the remainder of the year, however long that may be.

There is an MLB pitcher who has a new pet named Cat Latos. I bet you can’t guess who it is!

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Game 155: 100 “L”s Loom on the Horizon

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Box Score / Highlights

Cubs 0 @ Rockies 6

Usually when I write a recap, I like to divide it into good/bad/ugly sections, trying to find a glimmer of hope amongst the dingy, less than lovely baseball that the Cubs have been bringing to the table lately.

With 96 losses on the season, it’s hard to believe that people still watch games, read blogs, and tweet about this team with such enthusiasm! Some of it is sarcasm, but it is enthusiastic nonetheless.

Now, with the hope of a top first-round pick, losing 6-0 in a rain-delayed game at Coors Field seems like a decent strategy. Unfortunately for the commentators that have had to broadcast most of these redundant games, they have run out of material to discuss. Even the team’s reporters are having a hard time finding content for their writing!

The Cubs squeaked out 5 hits tonight. Zero runs. An error. Mather got thrown out at third to prevent Sappelt from scoring. Joe, the man who has become the object of many a fans’ ire, added more fuel to their fires with that boneheaded play.

Playing to lose is tough to swallow. Even if it means getting a high draft pick, it is such an unknown whether the pick will be successful or not. I think it is a bit foolish to play to lose, but when you’re 4 losses away from 100 losses, at least playing to lose is playing for something, right?

To close with a high note, Soriano did flash some leather out there in left field. He made a slightly awkward sliding catch to rob Colvin hit number 3 on the evening. Darwin Barney is also 2 games away from owning the errorless streak record.

On another high note, Ed Hochuli will be donning the zebras this weekend.

Closing Questions:

With Darwin and Brandon Phillips in the running for the Gold Glove, who do you think will win? Obviously, we want Barney to win, but does he make big enough plays to garner the votes he needs?

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Game 149: Corpas Can’t Handle Gregorious

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Boxscore / Highlights / Condensed

The Good:

Jason Berken pitched a pretty decent game, giving up only 2 hits in 6 innings pitched.  He held the Reds to zero runs. Pretty darn good if you ask me! Especially for it being so late in the season and the Reds contending for a playoff spot, Berken was phenomenal. Jaye Chapman also pitched extremely well: no hits, no runs, no walks, and a strikeout. These young pitchers are showing glimpses of good things to come! I’m looking forward to their development. And possible trades.

Our top 3 of the lineup each had two hits! David DeJesus is turning out to be a solid, average player. He puts together quality at-bats and plays some pretty great defense. Barney is almost batting .270. Rizzo is batting almost .300. Castro and Castillo also had two hits apiece. Nice show of individuals, but not a good team effort, as evidenced by the runners left in scoring position.

The Bad:

The Cubs lost, therefore the Reds clinched the very first playoff spot of this postseason. Boo.

The Cubs were 1-10 with runners in scoring position. We could not get a man home before the seventh inning, and even then we left a lot of men on.

Manny Corpas surrendered all five of the Reds runs in the seventh inning. All five. In one inning. Seems like Corpas was channeling his inner Chris Volstad.

Summary:

The Reds managed to win even without their trusty manager. He’s in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat. Maybe he staying away from the team is good. Their pitchers might actually have arms 20 years from now if he did that.

Because the Reds won tonight, they clinched the first playoff spot of the year, and the Nationals followed up shortly thereafter, clinching the second playoff spot for the 2012 postseason. Because the Cubs are not contending, it is safe to say I will be pulling for any American League team that is not from Chicago, Boston, or New York. Who is your pick?

Side note: The entire time I was writing this recap, I kept wondering to myself: “Does Berken wear Birkenstock sandals?”

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Game 141: Volstad Gets the W

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Recap:

Tonight’s recap will be short and sweet; the complete opposite of the game.

In what seemed like the longest game of the season, the Cubs managed to squeak out a W. Volstad managed to pitch 5 innings of one-run ball, our relievers only surrendered two hits, and Marmol didn’t blow it!

Dave Sappelt was 2 for 5 with 3 RBIs, bringing his average up to .200. Vitters is batting .093, Rizzo was 0 for 4, and Soriano and Castillo both managed to draw two walks!

Darwin Barney continued his NL-record errorless streak, managing some pretty impressive defensive plays to help hold the Astros to one run.

 

Summary:

By the end of the game, Minute Maid Park was nearly empty. This late in the season, nobody wants to watch two of the worst teams duke it out in a battle of the losers. Personally, I would like to see some NFL players out there on the baseball diamond. Maybe have Clay Matthews as catcher?

If there was one football player you would like to see as a position in player in baseball, who would it be, and why?

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Game 136: Boys to Men, or Boys vs. Men?

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Boxscore  / Highlights

The Bad:

Hitting: The Cubs managed to let themselves be dominated by Gio Gonzalez for five whole innings. It wasn’t until the sixth inning that we managed to squeak a single out of the infield. Barney got the first hit of the game for the Cubs, keeping the no-hit streak alive at 7,475 games. The last time the Cubs were no-hit was on September 9, 1965, against Sandy Koufax. It was a perfect game.

The Cubs had three more hits, only one run. Thank goodness for Anthony Rizzo, or else this game would have been even more embarrassing than it already was. He hit what Len described as a “majestic” home run in the 9th to put us on the board.

Pitching: The pitching tonight was horrendous.We gave up 6 home runs altogether. We gave the Nationals more home runs than we had total hits. The pitching is always bad, though, so nothing new here!

The Ugly: Dale. Dale, Dale, Dale. What is the point in getting ejected in the fifth inning of a game against the best team in baseball? Planning on firing up the players? The fans, perhaps? You’re about 4 1/2 months too late.

Also, calling this series a “men vs. boys” series is accurate. Four of tonight’s starters have spent a reasonable amount of time in the Minors at some point this season. The Nationals are the best team in the league. The rest of the season is going to be quite rough.

Summary: The Nationals are pretty good. This beating should not come as a surprise to anyone. It is late in the season, young players are being tried out, and good teams are surging toward the playoffs. If you haven’t grown a thick skin/picked your AL favorite for the postseason yet, I suggest you get moving.

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Game 133: Good Wood, Bad Marmol

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

The Good: Hopefully these words don’t come back to haunt me, but Alfonso Soriano is playing like the player we signed to that huge deal prior to the 2007 season. Although it was his only hit yesterday, he hit his 25th home run of the season to put the Cubs up by 2 runs during the fifth inning. He even made a leaping catch against the ivy to rob Matt Cain of a double. Yes, he leaped. Against the ivy.

David DeJesus is turning out to be a nearly-elite player. Yesterday he was 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. He is only batting .271, but considering that Rizzo and Castro are the only two starters whose averages are higher, he’s doing pretty well! It’s also safe to say a person can find him making at least one finesse defensive play on any given day. I hope to see him stick around for a couple more years. He’s not flashy, but he is solid.

Travis Wood did not get an at-bat yesterday, but his average is .216. Maybe Dale should have let him bat for himself, considering he’s batting about the same as most of our bench players.

The Bad: Not one single starter is batting near .300. Rizzo is the closest, at .287, while Jackson is the farthest at .190. Ouch. We did get 6 hits off Cain yesterday, which is fantastic and slightly surprising, but maybe we should try hitting average pitchers as well.

Travis Wood is winless since the All Star Break. Thankfully yesterday he got a no-decision rather than a loss, but the bullpen should be able to hold the lead for him. Unfortunately, The Marmol reared its ugly head once again, giving up two runs in the ninth and earned the loss.

Summary: The end of the season is always hard on fans. Some people even go so far as to disown the Cubs for the final month. It is too bad that folks do that, because they miss out on some exciting young players and $20 bleacher seat tickets.

Regardless, the team still stinks. However, I think things are looking up for next season. We have some potential for decent pitching and good hitting. Call me optimistic, but next year is looking tolerable.

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