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The Chicago Cubs had a big day yesterday. Despite boasting a losing record and the second-worst record in the National League Central Division, the Cubs have won three in a row. Yesterday, the backup catcher Dioner Navarro had the best hitting day of his career. Navarro hit three home runs against the White Sox. He finished the day 3-for-3, BB, 3 HR, 4 R, 6 RBI. That’s a pretty good day for a guy that doesn’t play every day. It brings even more joy that he did this against the hated White Sox.
In honor of this rivalry, I present Ron Swanson vs. Darryl Philbin:
Until later friends…
Today is the birthday of two of the top baseball players of all time: Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks. I respect both of these men for the way they played the game, but more importantly for the way they handled themselves as they were faced with the harsh racism of the mid-1900s.
Jackie Robinson would be 94 years old today.
As you know, Jackie Robinson broke the “color barrier” in Major League Baseball. Without Jackie Robinson, there would have been no Hank Aaron, no Willie Mays, or no Ernie Banks. He endured years of abuse, but he never fought back. The best resistance he could offer to the widespread racism and ignorance was to play better than anyone else. He won the Rookie of the Year and the MVP. He also won the World Series with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Jackie Robinson Stats:
Career Batting AVG: .311
1947 Rookie of the Year
1949 NL MVP
1949 NL Batting Title
2x Stolen Base Champion (1947 & 1949)
Every February in elementary school we had to do a report on someone that contributed to Civil Rights and equality. I always wrote about Jackie Robinson. I’ve probably read 5 biographies of him. He is the only player to have his number retired for the entire MLB. Happy Birthday Jackie!
Ernie Banks is 82 years old today. Happy birthday to you Mr. Banks.
Ernie Banks is a super classy man. He played for 19 years with the Cubs. He won the MVP twice, but he never made it to the World Series. When asked if he would go to another team with the chance of making the World Series he said: “I didn’t say anything. But the answer to that was, ‘No, I’m satisfied playing for the Cubs, playing day-baseball in Chicago, the middle of the United States.’ I was satisfied with that.” (source: Ernie Banks: A Beacon for Baseball). He put up great numbers throughout his career, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot (a very rare achievement). As I wrote last week, I recently got to meet Ernie Banks, and it was a joy.
Ernie Banks Stats:
512 Home Runs – #21 All-time (#15 if you don’t count the steroid users)
2x NL MVP (1958 & 1959)
14x All Star
A very hearty birthday to Mr. Jackie Robinson and Mr. Ernie Banks from For Aslan…and the Volunteer State.
Until later friends…
So, the Cubs lost their 100 game of the season yesterday. This is the third time in their history that they have lost 100 games in a season. This is the first time it has happened since 1966. It is safe to say that this is the worst I have ever seen from my beloved Cubbies.
So, this season has seemed like an exercise in futility. In spite of all of this, there are some things that I liked about this season. Here they are in bulleted format:
- Dale Sveum is going to do great things for this team
I was really disappointed when Ryne Sandberg was passed over for the manager position, but I think Dale Sveum was a great choice. Sure, he lost 100 games in his first season, but no one expected a winning season. He has led the team to better defense. He has built a team atmosphere. I expect good things
- The Cubs are committed to young talent
Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson did not put up near the numbers that I hoped for. They struck out more times combined than most the other team. OK that was a slight exaggeration. They may not have been ready to compete on a Major League level, but this season was a wash and I think it was wise to give them some meaningful Major League experience. I expect good things next year.
- Darwin Barney can play second base really well
This season Darwin Barney tied the Major League record for errorless games at second base with 141 in a row. Considering he started off as a shortstop, this is great. One of the reasons I loved Ryne Sandberg was his superior fielding (.989 career fielding percentage). Glad to see a golden glove at 2B again. (There is no reason why Darwin Barney should not get the Golden Glove btw. Brandon Phillips does not deserve it this year)
- Alfonso Soriano can still hit
If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the season that Alfonso Soriano would hit 30+ homeruns, and have a career mark for RBIs, I would’ve made fun of you. Apparently Soriano can still hit. Hopefully this means we can deal him and his bloated contract in the offseason.
- Anthony Rizzo is going to be a Cubs hero
Rizzo was called up halfway through the season. If you take his current stats and extrapolate them to a full season, you have a 30 homerun/100 RBI hitting first baseman. This excites me to no end.
So, this season was awful. We probably won’t have a winning season next year either, but we certainly won’t lose 100 games again. This may be exactly the depth the Cubs needed to sink to in order to rise to the top. I have high hopes in the next few years. With consistent young stars in Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, and Anthony Rizzo, and with the potential of guys like Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, the Cubs’ future is bright. And it sure can’t get any darker than the present.
Until later friends…
I’ve been greatly enjoying Ken Burns’s documentary Baseball. This documentary has been extremely entertaining. Here are some things I have learned through watching this film.
Buck O’Neil is One of the Classiest People to Ever Play the Game
I’ve greatly enjoyed every single minute of interviews with Buck O’Neil. He is the most interviewed person in regards to the Negro Baseball League. He was an extremely charitable and winsome person. It is worth watching the documentary just to hear this man’s stories. It is a real shame that men like him, Paige Satchel, and Josh Gibson were not allowed to post their career numbers in the MLB. Baseball would have been much richer if it were integrated from the beginning.
Shelby Foote is a Great Storyteller
Shelby Foote was an extremely well-known (and well-respected) Civil War scholar. He was also a huge baseball fan. He has an old Southern gentleman’s way of speaking. He told a great story about meeting Babe Ruth as a child, and he told it in such a way that I felt like I was sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch instead of a loveseat in a two-bedroom apartment at midnight holding a baby.
Field of Dreams was Too Kind to Shoeless Joe Jackson
Shoeless Joe Jackson wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box. He also had a very productive series batting-wise in the 1919 World Series. But he did accept money to throw the series, and it affected his fielding. He confessed to his crime, and his own wife turned him in. Sure he was underpaid and well-loved, but there was no excuse for throwing the World Series.
Christy Mathewson was a casualty of WWI
He wasn’t killed during the war, but exposure to poisonous gas during the war ended his career, and eventually led to his death.
Babe Ruth was a Terrible Person
Babe Ruth may have been the most dominant player to ever play the game, but he was so lecherously unfaithful that his wife had a nervous breakdown. The media ignored his debauchery, because he was such a beloved player. Granted, he did a lot of great things for kids, but overall, I was surprised by the level of his immorality.
Louis Armstrong Owned a Baseball Team
Carl Hubbell Developed an Arm Deformity by Throwing a Screwball
Carl Hubbell was a two-time MVP screwball pitcher.
A Japanese Pitcher Struck Out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx in an Exhibition Game in Japan
Eiji Sawamura gave up a lone home run against a collection of MLB All-Stars. He struck out Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, and others. He was killed in WWII.
I heartily recommend this documentary. It is incredibly informative and entertaining. Ken Burns masterfully combines great storytelling/storytellers with photos, videos, and music from each era. If you like baseball and you like history, you have to watch this.
Until later friends…
Last week I watched a very interesting film entitled Silly Little Game.
Silly Little Game chronicles the invention of Rotisserie Baseball, which in effect created Fantasy Sports. It is an entertaining story. I am terrible at Rotisserie Baseball. I am good at Head-to-Head Fantasy Baseball, but I have not quite got the hang of Rotisserie. I got 4th out of 9 last year, but currently I’m sitting at number 9 for this season. This film got me more excited about Fantasy sports, but I have pretty much given up on my Fantasy Baseball team this year. That is why I am super excited about football season beginning.
Fantasy Football drafts feel like you’re a floor-trader at the Stock Market. There are so many stats to look at, and your gut feelings could lead to amazing success or utter failure. Last year, I thought I put together a good team. Our league is a “keeper league,” which means each team owner gets to keep two players from the previous year. Last year, I kept Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson. Your two keepers serve as your first two picks in the draft. I badly needed a quarterback, and I was thrilled to see that Peyton Manning was available in the 3rd Round. Little did I know, that Peyton Manning had a neck injury that would keep him from playing all year.
Thanks a lot Peyton. I am going to be better prepared this year. I will be aware of the health status of all my draft picks this year. This game can border on obsession, but it is a lot of fun. It mixes my love of football and my love of problem-solving. For instance, last year when Adrian Peterson blew out his knee, I was faced with a new problem: do I keep him for future seasons, or do I let him go and secure a solid second-round pick?
I haven’t chosen what to do with AP yet. Will he return to his dominant form? I don’t know. This is all part of the excitement of fantasy football. You start following every game more closely. You take injuries and turnovers personally. As long as you can keep it in perspective (these players don’t owe you anything), it can be a ton of fun. I am really looking forward to our draft, and I will post my roster in the coming weeks. Wish me luck.
Until later friends…
Orval Overall is one of the forgotten names of a bygone era. He was a stellar pitcher back when Chicago ruled baseball. Overall played for the Chicago Cubs from 1906-1913. He won two games in the Cubs last World Series victory in 1908. His career numbers include a record of 108-71, 2.23 career ERA, and 935 strikeouts.
So, Happy Birthday Orval. If you were around today, you’d be 131. You might have a chance of making the Cubs though, if your sabremetric numbers were good enough. Ole Theo makes a lot of decisions I don’t understand.
Until later friends….
- Orval Overall (Baseball HP 1141: Orval Overall)
Can you believe it is 2012 already? Me neither. Unlike many people, I am not worried about the supposed Mayan Apocalypse that is supposed to hit this year. This doesn’t bother me for several reasons. One being:
Life is really busy right now. There are a couple of things I’d like to blog about, but I do not have sufficient time for those right now. So here are some of my random ruminations about less important things:
- I am really itching to watch Tombstone and eat a Tombstone Pizza
Tombstone is a great movie. I was reminded of it today when I came across the last name Huckleberry. It caused me to remember Val Kilmer‘s line as Doc Holliday: “I’m your huckleberry.” If you haven’t seen this film, you need to.
- I like the Carlos Zambrano trade
I always was entertained by Carlos Zambrano, but it was time for him to move on. I don’t know a whole lot about Chris Volstad. His 4.59 ERA makes me nervous. I do, however, like that he plays by the code. You might remember a little altercation he had with Nyjer Morgan, as summarized on wikipedia:
“In September 2010, Volstad was involved in a bench clearing brawl against the Washington Nationals. In the day’s previous game, the Nationals’ Nyjer Morganintentionally ran into Marlins’ catcher Brett Hayes on a play at home plate where Morgan was called out. Hayes separated his shoulder and it was determined later that night that he would miss the remainder of the season. In Morgan’s first at-bat, Volstad threw at Morgan, hitting him. Morgan proceeded to steal two bases when the Marlins had an almost double digit lead, breaking an unwritten rule of ethics in the game. Offended by Morgan once again, Volstad threw another pitch at Morgan in his next at-bat, with it going behind Morgan’s back. Morgan quickly charged the mound, despite the fact that Volstad stood nearly a foot taller than him. Morgan’s punch at Volstad missed, and Morgan was promptly clotheslined by Marlins’ first baseman Gaby Sanchez, resulting in the bench clearing brawl. Volstad was suspended for 6 games because of the incident.”
Here is a picture of the aftermath of the clothesline:
It will be refreshing to have a starting pitcher that prefers to defend his teammates instead of punching them in the face.
Nothing quite says “I’m an ardent patriot” quite like a ceramic rooster in a star-spangled jumpsuit.
That’s about all I have today. Hope all is well with you.
Until later friends…
I blogged about Ron Santo after his passing last year (Ron Santo 1940-2010). He has long been passed by in voting even though his numbers are very similar to Brooks Robinson. Carrie Muskat reported:
“Hall of Famer Billy Williams, Santo’s former teammate, was on the 16-member Golden Era Committee, and campaigned for the third baseman. Williams was joined on the committee by Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tommy Lasorda, Juan Marichal, Brooks Robinson, Don Sutton. Major League executives Paul Beeston, Bill DeWitt, Roland Hemond, Gene Michael and Al Rosen, and veteran media members Dick Kaegel, Jack O’Connell and Dave Van Dyck also were on the committee. A 75 percent vote was needed, which, in this instance, would be 12 votes.”
Congrats Ron Santo.
Until later friends…
I like Mike Quade. He is a stand-up guy. He shoots from the hip when talking with the media, and I like that. He is a great bench coach/assistant coach. He was, however, not ready to manage at the Major League level. Happy Trails Mike. I hope you find a great job elsewhere in baseball.
Ryne Sandberg is exactly what the Cubs need. He is a superb baseball player and manager. He has done exceedingly well managing in all levels of minor-league ball, and he is ready for the MLB.
Ryne Sandberg Stats:
9x Golden Glove
.989 Career Fielding Percentage (Number 1 all time of Second Basemen)
7x Silver Slugger
1984 NL MVP
2005 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee
To quote an earlier post:
Ryne Sandberg is the perfect candidate for the new Cubs manager. They should sign him for ten years and let him work his magic. Ryne Sandberg is one of the classiest guys to ever pick up a bat. This picture is when he signed a ball for me while coaching for the Tennessee Smokies. He should have been hired as the manager last year, but Jim Hendry went with the emotional decision…Mike Quade. Ryno has proven that he can manage – and manage well. He is the best second baseman of all time, and Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro would quickly stop making errors under this .989 lifetime fielding percentage player. He also has a thing or two to teach these modern players that don’t want to sign autographs and are more concerned with making money than playing ball. He is a fan favorite, and his hiring would rejuvenate the Cubs team and fan base. Mr. Ricketts, make Ryne Sandberg the manager now. Thank you.
Until later friends…
I am very glad that the Texas Rangers pulled out the victory last night over the Cardinals. As a result, I have had this stuck in my head most of the day.
The video above is when Nolan Ryan hit Robin Ventura with a pitch. The 26-year-old Robin Ventura charged the mound against the 46-year-old Nolan Ryan. Nolan Ryan promptly put him in a headlock and beat the snot out of him. This same Nolan Ryan is now the president of the Texas Rangers. Here is a picture of Nolan Ryan with president George W. Bush.
I’m fairly certain that Nolan Ryan could still hold his own in a bench-clearing brawl. I loved watching Nolan Ryan pitch as a kid. He had the best fastball ever, and he was as tough as nails.
Top Three Reasons Why I’m Cheering for the Texas Rangers
The Cubs/Cardinals rivalry is the most significant rivalry in my sports allegiances.
There is no situation in which I would cheer for the Cardinals. It is a friendly rivalry though. Unlike Yankees/Red Sox fans, I can have friendships with many Cardinals fans. There are many Cardinals fans I like, especially my in-laws. But I don’t want them to have the satisfaction of another World Series win before the Cubs get one.
2. Josh Hamilton
Classy guy. Classy player.
3. Nolan Ryan
Tough-as-nails. Knows the baseball code. Made the Texas Rangers a perennial contender.
Until later friends…