Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ryne Sandberg Back at Wrigley Field

Ever since Ryne Sandberg, a.k.a. "Ryno," retired from playing baseball, Cubs fans have waited for the day to see him manage in their beloved Wrigley Field. This Friday they will get that chance. The lesson here is to be careful what you wish for.

Sandberg may be managing at the major league level in the Friendly Confines, but it may not be as friendly as he remembered. He won't be wearing a Chicago Cubs jersey. He's managing the visiting Philadelphia Phillies.

After managing in the Chicago Cubs Minor League system for four years he realized that the Cubs weren't going to make his dreams (and mine) come true so he moved on to the only other team that he ever played for. He began managing in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system in 2011. This year, after the firing of Charlie Manuel, Sandberg got his chance.

Since Sandberg took over as skipper on August 16th The Phillies have gone 7 for 12. The last 7 games that they had won before Sandberg took over took 26 games. That's over a fifty percent improvement.

Is Ryne Sandberg the reason why the Philadelphia Phillies have seen a quick turnaround? If you ask any true blue blooded Cubs fan the answer is "Obviously!" Theo Epstien once said that Sandberg had one of the greatest baseball minds. Tony LaRussa said that Sandberg has done more than most managers and paid more dues and he had faith that Sandberg was more than ready. For some reason he never got a chance.

Now is his time. The "Sanberg Era" has begun. I, like most Cubs fans, am sad that it's not in Chicago. I am happy for him and wish the best for him. Most Cubs fans will be cheering for the Phillies on the side now.

The real question is who will the true fans cheer for this weekend? How can you root against Ryno? How can you cheer against the Cubs? I guess most fans will want the home team to be the victor, but in all honesty they won't be too disappointed if Sandberg takes a game or two.

This Cubs fan will never cheer against the best second baseman in Chicago since Johnny Evers. Even if he's wearing the wrong uniform. Don't get me wrong, I want the Cubs to win, but I'm okay with a loss against Ryne Sandberg. Here's hoping the best team wins and that Sandberg can turn around the Phillies. In the mean time...

Go Cubs Go!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Air is Changing

Every year around this time the air seems to change. Spring starts peeking around the corner ever so slowly and the expectations of new beginnings floods the hearts and minds of everyone in sight of it. There are some individuals who have the special ability to smell a different kind of scent in the air. The flowers beginning to bloom and the sun warming the sky means something special to them. It's more than just better weather or more opportunities to get out of the house. There's something in the blood, in their soul that cries out of another beginning. They see the beginning of a new season. A new chance for the unbelievable magic of baseball to once again come alive.

To those who aren't fans this may seem strange, but it's quite natural. For over a century millions of people have seen this time of the year as something special. It's more than just an interest in the local team. It's what causes hundreds of thousands to cram themselves into small spaces on trains and in cabs and cars. It's what causes many to stand on their feet for hours outside of ballparks. It's what causes them to stay in hot smoke filled bars pressed up against people they don't know just to see the moment of victory.

It's more than that. It doesn't just cause people to do things that in any other situation would seem irrational. It's the thing that inspires millions of people around the country and even around the world. It inspired J. Patrick Lewis to write Reasons for Rainbows. It inspired many to begin to sing the Star Spangled Banner long before it was our national anthem. It has inspired countless young boys to dream dreams bigger than themselves. It has inspired those same young boys to become victorious and inspiring men. It inspired Walt Whitman to write about it, “it belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our Constitution's laws; is just as important in the sum total of our historic life."

To many it's more than a game. As James Earl Jones said in Field of Dreams, “it's a part of our past”. Theres' something majestic about it. To some it reminds them of being a kid again. For some it's an experience for them to bond with their own children. For many it's an outlet of their competitive spirit. For many more it's Americas greatest past time.

Yes, it is a game, but please don't say that it's just a game. For so many people, it's so much more. For most it's not just about the winning and losing. It's about the journey that the game takes you on time and time again, season by season. It's the well spring of hope that maybe this year is the year and if not, maybe next year.

 For whatever reason you love this game, for whatever reason you watch, this is your year. This is your year to be a kid again, to experience the roller coaster of emotions that are about to take place. It's that time of year again. The air seems to be changing

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Long Way To Go

After leaving the winter meetings Jed Hoyer said, " "There's a long way to go until we get to Mesa." The question is how long?

The Cubs have been active tis offseason. They haven't added any all star names like Boston did recently with Napoli, but they are trying to plug in some holes.

One of the biggest holes that the Cubs had this last season was with pitching. That has been on the minds of Espstein, Hoyer and Sveum. The Cubs have added two potential starters in Scott Baker from the Twins and Scott Feldman from the Rangers. I put a big emphasis on the word potential. Neither of these pitchers have outstanding resumes. They both have their struggles, but they may be a solid 4 or 5 pitcher in the rotation. We'll have to see how they play out.

The Cubs also went out of country to find a player from Japan. Most of the Japanese players that have come over have been big name starters or position players. The Cubs went after a reliever. Kyuji Fujikawa was a closer for the Hanshin Tigers. He will not initially be used as a closer for the Cubs. Sveum has assured us that Marmol is still the closer. It's hard to imagine Marmol keeping his position if he struggles like he's been known to do with a solid man waiting to take his place. It's also hard to believe that the Cubs went to Japan simply to get a $9 million set up man.

The Cubs also seem to be close to a deal with outfielder Nate Schierholtz, who seems to be a mediocre player. Just like many of the other deals the Cubs have done this seems to be a cheap pickup with potential.

The Cubs walked out of the winter meetings having made only one real deal. They resigned Stewart for one year. Stewart showed some performance last year at times. He wasn't always a sure thing and he spent some time on the DL, but it could be a good affordable pickup. 

The problem is that potential doesn't win games, actual performance does. It appears that most of the Cubs dealings aren't built on actual performance. It's possible that they are trying to temporarily fill some holes why some younger talent develops but that has yet to be seen.

As Hoyer said, there's a long way to go and there's most definitely time to make some big moves. Hopefully this is just a glimpse of some better moves to come.

Go Cubs Go!!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Who's Going Next?

With the changing of the guard to the Theo Epstien era, the Cubs have seen some big changes. There are some familiar faces who are gone and it appears that the strategy is thinking more long term than win now. Those aren't necessarily bad things. When you change an entire culture there are bound to be a lot of moves. There were quite a few in the off season, but Epstien and Hoyer have expressed that they're not quite done.

We saw the first sign of that with the move of Marlon Byrd to the Red Sox. Cubs fans shouldn't expect that's all there is. There will be more moves coming, the big question is who and when. I think I can answer that at least the first part of that.

A friend and fellow Cubs fan asked me yesterday who was going to be traded next. My honest answer to that is Bryan LaHair. He was floored. He thought for sure it would be Soriano. He couldn't imagine the Cubs getting rid of LaHair.

I agree that Soriano should be the first player that the Cubs should want to move. However, wanting to move him and actually being able to are two different things. His contract is still way too heavy for anyone to be interested. At the end of last season the Cubs were aggressively trying to get rid of Soriano and Zambrano, but they weren't finding any takers. I can't imagine any takers now. There were no takers when the Cubs were offering to take most of the remaining contract so I don't see them lining up now. If the Cubs get an offer then they should take it, but I'm trying to think more realistically.

The biggest thing the Cubs are missing is pitching. They traded away one of their best pitching prospects for the future in Andrew Cashner to get Anthony Rizzo who is currently sitting in the minor leagues batting a .380 with 7 home runs and 21 RBI.

Why trade such a good commodity for a good player that you're going to stick in the minor leagues? Even at the beginning of spring training, Hoyer was adamant that LaHair would be the starter at first base. Why? Why not let Rizzo and LaHair compete for it?

I'll tell you why. The Cubs have known the entire time that they wanted Rizzo but they knew that at the time they couldn't get much, if anything, for Lahair. So they traded what they did have, a good pitcher knowing full and well that they would let LaHair get enough playing time to boost his trade stock. When he got hot they would trade him. That's my theory on the situation.

I don't know if you could call LaHair hot at this point, but he's not looking bad. This may be the best he trade stock will get this season so I expect him to be the next to go.

After that it depends. I see the Cubs trying to deal either Marmol or Soto sometime this season. The problem is that both of them are playing some of the worst ball they've ever played right now. No team will want to trade for them. When one of them heats up and starts looking good, then I expect the Cubs to field offers for one if not both of them.

Especially Soto. There are several teams that need another decent hitter out there in their lineup to fill it out and a few teams like Tampa Bay who are looking for catchers. If Geo heats up at the right time the Cubs could get a decent trade out of him.

Those are the next ones to go. Soriano if we can find a GM crazy enough, LaHair sooner rather than later and Geo and Marmol as soon as they heat up.

The truth is that we need to build a good long lasting team and to do that you have to trade some good players and players that you like. I believe the Cubs will be better for it in the long run and Cubs fans will have more to root for.

Go Cubs Go!!!

Taking a Trip

Every year I try to go to Wrigley Field at least once to catch a game. I have a great connection to get really good seats behind home plate. I usually go to some of the less meaningful games but this time I decided to splurge and go for the gusto. Cubs vs. White Sox at Wrigley!

I asked a few friends and was going to be all set to go with four tickets. My friends were all excited to go and that included one lonely Sox fan. Then I found out that the deal fell through. I was pretty disappointed but then I decided to go for it again. The next best thing. Cubs vs. Cards at Wrigley.

That deal went through and we went. Normally I stay somewhere on the southside and take the Metra into Chicago. From there I hop on the Red Line to Wrigley. That was the plan this time as well. A few of my friends came with me and we drove to our hotel to get settled. We went to the Metra station in time (or so we thought) to catch the train only to see it pull out.

I was pretty upset. I hadn't ever not taken the Metra when going to a Cubs game and I wasn't looking forward to driving in but if we waited for the next train we would've been late to the game. I wasn't having any part of that. When we realized our train was pulling away we ran into a young kid named James. James was a Cardinals fan who came with other Cardinals fans, but like Cardinals fans would do they left their buddy alone at the station as they barely got on the train on time.

I offered James a ride with us. To avoid parking fees at Wrigley and to save some drive time we parked by a Red Line station and still took it half of the way. The place where we parked closed at midnight but that was gonna be okay since the game started at 7:05.

After an extra hour of driving in Chicago traffic and quickly parking the car, we ran to the next station and made it in time to crowd in like sardines with a bunch of baseball fans. Cubs fans and Cards fans a like. It was hot, smelly and wonderful. I love Chicago!

We finally made it just in time to get to our seats and see the first pitch. Samardzija pitched a great game. The Cubs were leading 1-0 into the 7th inning.
It was a great close game. That is until Holliday hit a two run shot in the 8th inning off Marmol to take the lead.

The guy who was sitting behind me was more than a little intoxicated at this point. He shouted "and that's the ball game!" He gave up hope. He was trying to get his girlfriend to leave but she wanted to stay till the end of the game.

I looked back at him and said "did you see the walk off win last night?"

He replied "yeah. I'm a Cubs fan too, but you know as well as I do that win was luck. We suck and we just lost the game."

Wow. Those aren't the words of a true Cubs fan. Unfortunately he convinced his girlfriend to leave before the 9th inning. The reason I say unfortunately is because in the 9th inning Bryan LaHair hit a solo shot to left field to tie up the game. I wanted to look back and say "I told you so" but he had already left.

It was a bitter sweet moment. The Cubs had tied the game up and the game was going into extra innings. I was excited. My rally cap had helped the team comeback. It was a great feeling and the atmosphere was amazing.

What was the bitter part you may ask? My car! I had to get it before the parking garage closed at midnight and if the game lasted too much longer I was going to have to make a choice. Stay and help motivate my Cubbies to their much needed victory or leave and get my car so that I could... drive home!

It was not an easy decision to make and as I watched the top of the 10th inning I was praying that the Cards didn't score. Not only so the Cubs would win, but so they could do it SOON!

Luckily for the Cubs and for my car Tony Campana, the fastest man in baseball, stole second which setup a Soriano walk off single in the bottom of the 10th. We had just enough time to sing the Go CUbs Go song and then run to the train.

We made it back in time to get the car and make it back to the hotel.

The next day we got up, grabbed some Dunk'n breakfast and drove home. It was a great trip. Eventful with the right amount of tension and intrigue. A trip to Wrigley can't be bad.

Go Cubs Go!!!


Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Word on Byrd

Sources today state that the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs are close to finishing a deal that would send Marlon Byrd to Boston.

This happens as pitcher Ryan Dempster gets put on the 15 day DL allowing the Cubs to bring up Tony Campana. Randy Wells will be pitching tomorrow but he won't be officially added to the roster until tomorrow. This makes a lot of sense for the Cubs. They have the outfielders to fill in the gap that will be left by the missing Byrd.

The Cubs are rumored to be paying the majority of the Byrds remaining contract. In return they are more than likely getting a pitcher. With Theo Epstien having an inside knowledge of the team and the players potential he's the best scout the Cubs could ask for in this position.

**Breaking News**
Bruce Levine who is in contact with Byrd just broke the news that a deal has been made and details will be announced after the game.

More than likely the Cubs are getting pitcher Michael Bowden. This will hopefully help fill in the wholes that the Cubs have shown they have in their pitching. I see this as one move with more to be made.

Whoever the Cubs get you can guarantee it will be someone that Theo believes has great potential.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Following Theo

Saying that the Cubs are off to a slow start is an understatement. The Chicago Cubs are tied with the also slow starting San Diego Padres for last place. Starting the season fighting for last place is not something that most people would call slow. Even for a team that's rebuilding, last place is a bad thing. 

Do not fear. The season has just begun. At least that's the message that Theo Epstien is trying to get Cubs fans to believe. He told reporters, "There are a lot of things we can improve upon, and we will, but you also don't want to read too much into one homestand and one road trip. Certainly, it crystallized some areas that we need to ascribe to be better." The question is, will Cubs fans follow? 

I mentioned in my last article that Cubs fans are more impatient than ever. How long will the fans stick with all these changes until the they get the formula right. Sveum didn't change the lineup that for the most part has been unproductive. He says that he's willing to change but we haven't seen much of that ability to this point. Even with pitching. It's understandable that he wants his pitchers to go deep in the late innings, but there are times when it may be putting too much pressure on the starting pitching staff. 
There have been sparks of potential from all different positions. There have been games where the hitting was amazing. Games where the pitching was amazing. The problem is that they haven't been at the same time or often enough.

It's possible for Sveum to make the best of this and find what it is that the team needs to get into their rhythm. The other possibility is trading. It would help the team to get Campana up for hitting but even more important for speed. The easiest way to do that is to trade Byrd. There are some other trade options the Cubs may be investigating. The best bet is to wait until they can see what other teams may need a veteran player like Marlon Byrd.

The best thing the Cubs need to start trading for would be pitching. They have a lot of potential with the bats and potential in the minors with players like Campana and Jackson. They need to acquire a good solid left handed starter and also at least one dominant relief pitcher.

With all of this in mind will the Cubs fans lose their patience or will they be following Theo.

Go Cubs Go!!!