You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘MLB’ tag.

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.

Jackie Robinson

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!

Jackie Robinson's Number 42 is retired by every MLB team

 

Ernie Banks is 82 years old today.  Happy birthday to you Mr. Banks.

Ernie 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…

Last week my Cubs fanaticism went to an entirely new level.  Jen, baby girl, and I went to the 2013 Chicago Cubs Convention.  “What on earth is a Cubs convention?” you may ask.  Basically, imagine a whole bunch of Trekkies getting together, and then replace Vulcans, Klingons, and Picards with Banks, Williams, Santo, and Sandberg jerseys.  Thanks to the generosity of our family at Christmas, we were able to book a room and passes for the Cubs Convention this year in Chicago at the Sheraton Towers (very fancy).  Immediately upon our arrival to the hotel, I realized that getting there 2 hours early for check-in was still too late.  The entire lobby was teeming with Cubs fans, and the line encircled the entire lobby.

Sheraton Towers Chicago Lobby

This lobby was full of Cubs fans

Within half an hour of being in line, I had my first crazy-fan-paparazzi moment.  As I’m getting near the front doors in the line, in walks Mr. Cub in his suit and fedora.  I get super-excited, because Ernie Banks is one of the main reasons I wanted to come to the convention.  He seems to be in the midst of conversation, and no one is interrupting him for autographs.  So, I surreptitiously took a very-fuzzy cell phone picture.

Ernie Banks Phone Pic

He’s the one with the fedora/halo.  I decided that this might be my only shot at meeting him.  So, I dug out a baseball and a sharpie from my backpack, but when I looked up, he was gone.  I guess for an 81-year-old man, he still has some of that youthful speed.  Oh well, I still have a few days.

So, I get up to the front desk and meet a really nice associate who hooks us up with a King-size upgrade and a free refrigerator for my baby’s formula/meds.  Great day thus far.

This is the view from the hotel.

This is the view from the hotel.

Shortly thereafter I discover that I parked in a parking garage that the bellhops do not travel to.  So, I had the pleasure of making three trips to the parking garage.  On our first trip up, Jen and I each have about 3-5 bags and baby girl in her stroller (BTW…when you have a baby, your luggage needs do not increase 33%, more like 300%).  As we negotiated our way through a labyrinth of hallways, I bump into another Sheraton employee and ask for directions to the elevator.  We must have looked exhausted from our 5 hour drive and long hike with sundry luggage items, because he ushered us into the staff elevator.  So here we are, Jen, me, a ton of luggage, a bay in a stroller, and a whole heap of staff people on a staff elevator.  On the next floor, the doors open up and in walks Dioner Navarro and his wife.  He and I had a moment of me thinking “Dude, you play for the Cubs” and him thinking “Oh crap, I’m stuck on the elevator with a fan,” but then we just exchanged head nods and our wives talked about how cute Lily is.

After we got settled into our room, we rested/recovered from our long drive.  Then, we made our way down to the Opening Ceremonies of the convention.  It was a lot of fun.  There was an insane amount of people in Cubs jerseys and a little brass band entertaining the crowd.  The Opening Ceremonies began with a video (narrated by Cubs fan Gary Sinise) about the history of the Cubs and where the Cubs are headed under the ownership of the Ricketts family (classy folk).  Then, all of the former players, minor-league prospects, and current players present at the convention were announced.

Cubs Convention - Current and Former Players

Each player was cheered loudly, but the place practically exploded for Kerry Wood, Ernie Banks, Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, and Anthony Rizzo.  Each player was announced with a short list of their career highlights, which for some guys was a bit of a stretch.

Immediately after the Opening Ceremonies, there was an Autograph Hunt.  Each fan was given a map of the first four floors of the hotel, and there were little Cubs logos marked for where a player would be signing.  There was no indication as to what player would be where, so it was quite a gamble/adventure. We left a little early, picked a line, and waited.  Shortly thereafter we realized that we had picked the line of a bench player, and we decided to seek a line with one of the hall-of-famers.  Turns out the only Hall-of-Famer signing that night was Fergie Jenkins at his booth. (FYI – if you go to a convention in the future, Fergie Jenkins has a booth supporting his charitable organization, and he – and other former stars including Lee Smith, Gaylord Perry, and Rollie Fingers – sign stuff for a donation to the charity. So, don’t spend Autograph hunt time at his booth, because you can meet any of them all weekend).  We didn’t know how this all worked, but he was handing out free signed 8x10s for the autograph hunt.  I was very excited to meet Fergie Jenkins and Lee Smith (and so was our baby girl).

Lee Smith - 7x All Star and 3rd All-time in Saves with 478Fergie Jenkins - Hall of Famer and Cy Young Award Recipient

Lee Smith – 7x All Star and 3rd All-time in Saves with 478
Fergie Jenkins – Hall of Famer and Cy Young Award Recipient

After meeting these two insanely good pitchers, we wandered around checking out the other lines.  Most all the other lines had prospects or former players that I didn’t know much about.  We happened to wander back past our original line only to discover that Kerry Wood was signing beside that bench player.  We had jumped out of line and missed an opportunity to meet Kerry Wood! ARGH! We got back in line and waited.  Kerry signed for an extra 30 minutes, but he had to leave for his charity event that night….when we were about 20 people away.  Sadly, Kerry didn’t sign any the rest of the weekend.  This is my one regret of the weekend.

Following the autograph hunt, we returned to our room to discover that 8:30pm felt like 11:30 pm.   We ordered an authentic Chicago pizza from Lou Minalti’s (excellent), and we relaxed in the room the rest of the night – as I schemed about how I could meet Ernie Banks on Saturday.

Saturday of the Chicago Cubs Convention consists largely of two things: Autograph lines and Q&A Sessions.  Up until this year, there was a lottery system in which you would have a scratch off thing on your pass with the opportunity to get a voucher for a line featuring the best players (e.g., Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Starlin Castro, etc.).  This year, the tried a new system that was supposed to be more efficient and give people a better chance to get autographs.  Each person would sign for 1 hour.  10 minutes before he began signing, 125 vouchers would be handed out with those people guaranteed an autograph, but the player would also sign for anyone else after that that would fit in the hour slot.  Supposedly, once the vouchers were handed out, the line for the next hour would form and so on and so forth.  Thankfully, for me, what this turned out meaning was that if you camped out early enough, you could could be first in line for a later signing.

Ernie Banks was supposed to sign from 10:00am-11:00am.  Gary Matthews, Sr. was before him form 9:00-10:00.  I got in line at 6:45am, and I waited.  At about 9:15am I got my voucher to meet Ernie.  It was going to happen! I was so excited!

Ernie Banks Autograph Voucher

In case you don’t know why I was so excited about Ernie Banks, let me tell you a little bit about him.  If you take away the guys that did steroids, Ernie Banks is number 15 all-time in home runs (512).  He won the NL MVP twice.  He was an All-star 14 times, and he was a first ballot Hall of Famer.  Ernie Banks is the best player to have ever played for the Cubs.  He is also 81 years old, and I was not sure how much longer her would be coming to Cubs Conventions.  Here is a picture of the line I waited in to meet Ernie:

Cubs Convention Line for Ernie Banks

Ernie was supposed to sign from 10:00am-11:00am.  I did not get to his table, however, until 11:10am – and there were still several voucher holders behind me. He was very kind to everyone he met.  He talked with a boy in front of me for a few minutes about golf and showed genuine interest in the boy.  As someone who used to be a little boy, I’m sure this will be one of his coolest memories as a young Cubs fan.  When I got up to the table, Mr. Cub commented on my beautiful baby that had fallen asleep in her mother’s arms about 15 feet away.  He was a true gentleman, who showed kindness and grace to every fan.

Ernie Banks and Me

Needless to say, meeting Mr. Cub really made my weekend. Afterwards, we sat in on a Q&A session for a bit with some Cubs draft picks talking about making their way through the minors.  Then, we decided to hit the town for lunch/coffee. That night we checked out the various exhibitions in the hotel and spent some time playing with our baby.

After waiting 4.5 hours in line for Ernie Banks, I decided to get an earlier start on Sunday to meet Billy Williams.  Who is Billy Williams?  His nickname was “Sweet Swinging Billy Williams,” because he had one of the best swings the sport has ever seen. He was the NL rookie of the year. He won the NL batting title in 1972, and he was an All Star 6 times.  I went down to get in line at 5:45am for his 10:00am signing. Ernie Banks was also signing again at 10:00 in the same exhibition hall.  I was number 65 in line (apparently some people got there at 2:30am!).

People get a little crazy when they are in line for hours on end. At one point someone from the end of the line came over and told the people in the front (that had been there since 2:30am) that they were lined up at the wrong door, and that two sets of doors would be opened at once.  I feared a riot would start.  People got really agitated, and they hounded every Cubs Convention worker that came near them. Finally, a supervisor came down and gave us the common sense answer: “Of course we’re only going to open the doors where the line starts.”  Crisis averted. Thank you dude with the walkie-talkie.  The doors opened at 8:00am, and the vast majority of people headed for Ernie.  I hurriedly made my way to Billy Williams’s line, and found that I was now number 11 in line. Booyah.  By 10:05am, I was talking with Billy Williams.

Billy Williams and me

While I was waiting in line for Billy, Jen was able to sleep in a bit.  After the girls were rested up, they made their way down to the ballroom and got in the kids-only autograph line to meet Anthony Rizzo.  Jen got him to sign a ball for baby girl (and daddy), and we met up after I met Billy.  We got to spend some more time walking around the exhibits and talking with people.  Then, we got packed up and headed back to the Commonwealth.

We had a great time at the Cubs Convention, and I would love to go again.  If you are planning on going in the future, here are some pointers.

How to Attend the Chicago Cubs Convention

  • If there is someone you really want to meet (e.g., Ernie Banks, Starlin Castro, Billy Williams), camp out hours in advance.  You can bring a book or your iPod.  I brought both, but just ended up talking to people the whole time.  (This advice is assuming that they don’t reinstate the lottery system).
  • Friday Night Autograph HuntPick a line and stick with it, then jump from line to line (or else you might miss Kerry Wood like me). Also, don’t go for Fergie Jenkins during the autograph hunt.  You can get him at his booth almost anytime during the convention.
  • Don’t be that guy. Don’t stand outside the bathroom or the hotel restaurant just waiting on players.  Definitely DO NOT follow around any of the players’ wives. That is just weird and creepy, and I saw it a lot.  Don’t corner players (or their wives) in elevators and interrogate them.  Don’t try to get convention workers to cheat the system for you.
  • Research ahead of time. Know what people look like without their uniforms.  You just might run into them in the lobby, but remember – don’t be that guy
  • Be respectful. The players are people just like you. Show them respect and don’t be creepy.  Once again don’t be that guy.  Don’t be like the middle school girl that asked me loudly in front of a minor league player: “Who is this?” and then responded with a disgusted “Oohhhhh” when I said he wasn’t Brett Jackson.

 

Until later friends…

Chicago Cubs fan have faced a lot of disappointment over the years.  If you want to help assuage some of that disappointment, here are some gift ideas for your beloved Cubs fans.  They are ordered by price lowest-highest.  For simplicity’s sake, I have divided these into four categories: $0-$25, $25-$50, $50+, and $You’re Insane$
CUBS GIFTS $0-$25

Chicago Cubs Cups$11.99

Cubs Cups

(http://www.fansedge.com/Chicago-Cubs-Plastic-Tumbler-4-Pack-_-349271733_PD.html?utm_content=pla)

I received these as a gift, and I use them regularly.  I especially like serving drinks to my Cardinals fan friends in them.

Banks to Sandberg to Grace: Five Decades of Love and Frustration with the Chicago Cubs by Carrie Muskat (Cubs beat reporter) – $14.95

Banks to Sandberg to Grace

(http://www.amazon.com/Banks-Sandberg-Grace-Decades-Frustration/dp/0071385568/ref=wl_it_dp_v_S_nC?ie=UTF8&colid=2EHF2WXVULFV8&coliid=I3IE50JNAAJ4LR)

Carrie Muskat is the Cubs beat reporter, and she does a great job.  This book follows her experience with the Cubs.

Cubs Sippy Cups$14.98

Cubs Sippy Cups

(http://www.shopmyteam.com/store/index.php/mlb/chicago-cubs-sippy-cup-2-pack.html)

Start ’em young.

Chicago Cubs T-Shirt$20.00

Cubs T-Shirt

(http://www.one10threads.com/cubs-t-shirt.html)

This is a sweet, classy T-shirt.

MLB Infant Chicago Cubs 3 Piece Bodysuit Set$24.99

Cubs Onesies

(http://www.amazon.com/Newborn-Chicago-Piece-Bodysuit-6-9mos/dp/B007DOURBI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1353506233&sr=8-2&keywords=chicago+cubs+baby)

Start ’em even younger.

CUBS GIFTS $25-$50

Cubs Batting Practice Style Hat$27.99

Cubs BP Hat

(http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3875080&cp=3637327)

Pricey for a hat, but it does look nice.

1908 Cubs Personalized Shirt$36.95

1908 Cubs Shirt

(http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_0000000000000000515500000000000000000V8JP?sid=IDx20110310x00001i&srccode=cii_184425893&cpncode=31-52300169-2)

Let them relive the last Cubs World Series Championship with their name on the jersey.

Chicago Cubs Elite Polo$49.99

Blue Cubs Polo

(http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=13114532&cp=1452693.704257)

Help them support their Cubs on casual Friday at the office.

Kerry Wood eGraph$50

Kerry Wood eGraph

(https://www.egraphs.com/Kerry-Wood/photos)

I personally would not want one of these. I prefer meeting a player and getting an actual autograph. That being said, Egraphs are interesting.  You pay money, a digital autographed picture is sent to your friend with a recorded message from the player.  Other Cubs players include: Andre Dawson, Jeff Samardzija, and Brian Lahair.

CUBS GIFTS $50+

Framed 1908 Chicago Cubs Roster$55.26

1908 Cubs World Series Champions Frame(http://www.sportsmemorabilia.com/sports-products/11×14-framed-matted-1908-chicago-cubs-world-series-champions.html?gclid=CPKz1IKe4LMCFQ4EnQodFGIAtw)

Once again, all we Cubs fans have is the past. Help them relive the glory days with this.

1908 World Series Champions Panoramic Canvas Print$65.00

1908 World Series Champions Panoramic Canvas Print

(http://www.etsy.com/listing/112121596/chicago-cubs-1908-world-series-champions?utm_source=googleproduct&utm_medium=syndication&utm_campaign=GPS&gclid=CPXK-YGe4LMCFQ45nAodqBgAmw)

I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but this is cool.

CUBS GIFTS FOR $You’re Insane$

Chicago Cubs Game-used Ball Cuff Links$169.99

Cubs Cufflinks

(http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=4254549)

If I were an incredibly rich day-trader, I might consider these. However, this is pretty insane. Cool…but insane.

1969 Chicago Cubs Team Autographed Ball$640

Cubs 1969 Team Autograph Ball

(http://www.legendsofthefield.com/1969-Chicago-Cubs-Team-Autographed-Official-MLB-Baseball-Santo-Sweet-Spot-12-Signatures/Baseball/Baseballs/-p9816023.html?gclid=CNmr17if4LMCFQu0nQodM1IAzQ#.UKzht4eunHY)

Oh the 1969 Cubs.  The Cubs fans’ greatest disappointment post-1908 and pre-Bartman.  What a treasure for any Cubs fan, but if you have this kind of money to spend on a ball I don’t know what you’re doing reading my blog.

Or there’s always a MLB Gift Card, which your Cubs fan can use for most of this stuff or and MLB.tv account so they  can watch every single Cubs win and loss.

MLB Gift Card – $$$

MLB Gift Card(http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=4254549)
Until later friends…

It became obvious in June that my Cubs would not be playing in the playoffs this year.  While the Cubs are my favorite team by far, there are several teams I regularly cheer for unless their games negatively effect the Cubs:  Braves, Red Sox, Rangers.  This dumb new Wild Card playoff knocked out the remaining two of my top 4 teams.  So, here are my thoughts on the current state of the MLB Playoffs.

Braves and Rangers Lose 2012 Wild Card Games

Billy Beane is still not going to win the World Series anytime soon

Billy Beane Moneyball

Billy Beane’s Moneyball tactics are now being used by all the teams with more money than the A’s.  The A’s are currently two games behind the Tigers.  I don’t see his boys making a comeback against Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince Fielder.  Although, it would make for a good sequel.

I Really Do Not Like the Reds

Brandon Phillips Jerk

Both Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto have no class.  Dusty Baker ruined Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.  I have no love for the Cincinnati Reds. It looks like they’re going to beat the Giants, but I hope the Nationals mop the floor with them in the NLCS.

I’m Pulling for an Orioles vs Nationals World Series

Orioles vs Nationals World Series

As a Cubs fan, I typically cheer for the underdogs/historically bad teams in the playoffs.  I think this would be an amazing series.  These are regional rivals, and they both have been terrible in recent years.

How I want the Playoffs to Go

What I want to happen in the MLB Playoffs 2012

How I think the Playoffs will Actually Go

2012 MLB Playoffs Prediction

What do y’all think?  Who do you think will win the World Series?

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.

The Chicago Cubs have lost 100 games for the third time in franchise history

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

Dale Sveum is a good managerI 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

Josh Vitters (3B) and Brett Jackson (CF)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 Sets Errorless Streak 141This 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 is actually doing quite wellIf 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.

Cubs First Baseman Anthony Rizzo

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…

 

 

 

 

Ken Burns Baseball

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 was Guilty

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

Christy Mathewson

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

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

Louis Armstrong owned a negro league team

Louis Armstrong owned a negro league team called the Secret 9.

Carl Hubbell Developed an Arm Deformity by Throwing a Screwball

Carl Hubbell had a Deformed Arm from 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 Struck Out Ruth Gehrig Foxx

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…

My Cubbies are doing pretty awful this season. Currently they are sporting a record of 43-64, and they are sitting 22 Games Back of 1st Place.  Yet, for all of the bad this season, there have been some exciting developments.  The Cubs have debuted a lot of young talent this year.  Chief among these is our future-star First Baseman – Anthony Rizzo.

Cubs First Baseman Anthony Rizzo

“Since making his debut June 26, Rizzo was second among NL rookies with a .314 average behind the Rockies’ Jordan Pacheco (.327), but led in home runs (eight) and RBIs (20)” (source).  Rizzo has been a blast to watch.  I haven’t been this excited about the promotion of one of the Cubs’ prospects since this kid named Starlin Castro got called up.

Starlin Castro 2x All Star

Starlin has been to the All Star Game twice already.  I predict Anthony Rizzo will join him there next year.  While they are no Tinker, Evers, and Chance, I expect great things from Castro, Barney, and Rizzo.

All of us (Cubs fans) knew this season was not going to be great.  It was pretty obvious it was going to be a rebuilding year.  This was confirmed by our abysmal first half of the season, and left no room for doubt at the trade deadline.  Thus far this season, we have traded away Marlon Byrd, Reed Johnson, Paul Maholm, Geovany Soto, Jeff Baker, and Ryan Dempster for a heap of minor league players.  It was hard to see most of those guys go (even though Marlon Byrd has subsequently fallen from my graces for testing positive for PEDs).  I was a huge fan of Reed Johnson, Paul Maholm, and Ryan Dempster.  All three of those guys were super classy.  I am thankful that the Cubs traded them to the Braves and Rangers respectively.  The Braves are my second-favorite National League team, and the Rangers may be my favorite American League team (close contest with the Red Sox).  I’ll admit…it’s a little difficult to see a bunch of quality players traded for players you’ve never heard of.  But then, I remind myself that players like Ryne Sandberg and Fergie Jenkins came to the Cubs via trades.  Maybe one of these anonymous minor leaguers could be the next Cub legend.

As a result of all of this trading (and an unfortunate injury to Ian Stewart – a very classy player in his own right), the Cubs made a big move on Sunday.  They called up two of their prospects that Cubs fans have been begging to see in the MLB for years: Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters.

Josh Vitters (3B) and Brett Jackson (CF)

I am excited about these guys.  I am especially excited that they get to play 50+ games this season without any pressure of a playoff run.  I personally don’t think they’re ready to shine at the MLB level yet, which was evidenced by Jackson’s 4 strikeouts yesterday.  People are worried about Jackson’s strikeouts and Vitters’s defensive play.  I think calling them up now is great.  Let them work on those things at the MLB level, and then they can produce like crazy next season.

Overall, in spite of the fact that the Cubs are terrible this year (and will only get worse since we traded our best pitchers and Matt Garza is hurt), I am enjoying the developments of this season.  An infield of Vitters, Castro, Barney (who just broke Sandberg’s single-season errorless game streak), and Rizzo is very exciting to me.  The influx of young talent (14 rookies debuted this season) on this Cubs team has me hopeful for the future.  It makes me feel like we are getting back to our winning roots, because the Cubs earned their name for having so many young players back in the day when they dominated the National League.  Here’s hoping

 

Until later friends…

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

Doc Holliday I'm Your Huckleberry

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.

  • Whatever happened to Val Kilmer?Val Kilmer

 

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:

Chris Volstad Gaby Sanchez ClotheslineIt will be refreshing to have a starting pitcher that prefers to defend his teammates instead of punching them in the face.

  • Here is one of many exciting items I found photo-worthy at a recent trip to a flea market:Flea Market Patriotic Rooster

Nothing quite says “I’m an ardent patriot” quite like a ceramic rooster in a star-spangled jumpsuit.

  • Excited about a quality, automatic coffee brewer:Bonavita Automatic Coffee Brewer

The Bonavita coffee maker is only the second automatic coffee brewer to be certified by the SCAA, and we have one at work! It is wonderful.

That’s about all I have today. Hope all is well with you.

Until later friends…

 

Ron is in the Hall.  About stinkin’ time! Ron Santo was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.

Ron Santo Hall of Fame Third Baseman for the Chicago Cubs

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.”

Ron Santo joins his teammates Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, and Billy Williams in the Hall of Fame.  I am thrilled for him.

1969 Cubs Banks Jenkins Santo WilliamsI’m pretty sure this would have been Santo’s reaction were he alive to hear the news.

Ron Santo Clicking His Heels

Congrats Ron Santo.

Until later friends…

News just in: the Cubs have announced that Mike Quade will not be the manager next year.

Mike Quade

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.

It is now time for Ryno-Watch.  Dear Theo and Jed, please hire Ryne Sandberg now.

Ryne Sandberg Signing an Autograph for me

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 HOF

Ryne Sandberg Stats:

10x All-Star

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…