July 25th -Cooperstown, NY- The Andre Dawson Expo

When Hall of Fame induction weekend in July rolls around and I find myself standing in the middle of thousands of Cubs fans (and perhaps a few Nationals fans sprinkled throughout) in Cooperstown, NY to listen to Andre Dawson give his Hall of Fame induction speech, he MIGHT be wearing a Cubs cap. This has yet to be decided.

The cap on his Hall of Fame plaque however, this has been decided.  Andre Dawson will enter the Hall of Fame, forever enshrined as a Montreal Expo.  
I’m disappointed if only for Andre.  Otherwise, I’m still thrilled for the guy.
He didn’t want to say the wrong thing or look like a bad guy, or offend an entire group of fans that may still hold their time rooting for the Expos dear to their hearts.  That’s why he never came flat out and requested to go in as a Chicago Cub.  However, he didn’t have any problem hinting that he’d prefer to go in as a Cub and once the announcement was official, went as far as basically saying that he’s disappointed his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame will not be a home for which he may hang a Cubs cap.  It will forever be etched in bronze that he was a Montreal Expo first and foremost…and then, oh yeah, he also played for the Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins.
I of course would love for Andre to go in as a Cub.  Why wouldn’t I?  However, I’m not that upset about it.  It is what it is.  He’s a hall of famer, he made it and I’m happy for The Hawk.  However, what it is…is…a flawed system.  The hall decides which cap a hall of famer will have applied to their plaque as we know.  The player’s feeling is taken into account however they believe if those that run the hall crunch the numbers and decide which city will represent the time where the player was his most valuable and dominant, then historically speaking the dignity of the hall and the honor will be preserved.  Seeing that it’s an opinion, there will always be those who disagree.  Even in this case, Dawson himself isn’t thrilled.  Apparently this system got real fire under itself when Wade Boggs wanted to go in as a Tampa Bay Devil Ray. 
My question…so what?  Why not let him?
Think about what the player has to do to earn this honor.  The day in day out hustle and grind of the major leagues for many of them stretches nearly two decades.  To keep your performance at a hall of fame level takes an amazing amount of desire, dedication, hard work, commitment, consistency and character.  With all that this person must dedicate to earning a place among the greats, haven’t they earned the right to say which cap is on their plaque?  And what do we have to lose by doing so?  Historically speaking nothing.   The numbers are all the same and all the teams are listed on the plaque regardless.  If anything, by letting the player decide, we would actually end up gaining something.  
Imagine if Wade Boggs had been allowed to go in as a Devil Ray.  Imagine, historically speaking, what that would say about Wade Boggs.  Imagine the conversations that would generate…the reasons why he would do that.  The feelings he must have had towards the Red Sox to choose a Tampa Bay cap.  By allowing the player to choose, we actually find out about them as people, beyond the numbers, which if you ask me…would actually be fascinating.  Completely hypothetically speaking of course, but you’ll understand where I’m going…which cap would Dennis Eckersley choose, or Yogi Berra, or Reggie Jackson, or Rickey Henderson, or any other member of the hall that played significant time with multiple teams?  It would be fascinating to hear their reasons for choosing the caps they chose and it would be a real tell-tale sign of what their careers meant to them along the way beyond the numbers.
Many things are taken into consideration when the BBWAA votes on the candidates each year.  Some of those factors have nothing to do with numbers.  We know how loudly the numbers speak and they are loud at that, numbers speak very well by themselves.  But imagine how much more we’d know about the greats of the game if they were allowed to step up to the plate and make one more move in solidifying their place in the game.
That would be something I think a lot of people would get behind.  Except perhaps the Baseball Hall of Fame, that is.  
It is what it is.  And Andre Dawson’s HOF plaque cap is that of the Montreal Expo.  Whether he wears a Cubs cap at any time during his induction speech is completely up to him.  And if you ask me…that is exactly the way it should be all-around when you reach that day, that milestone in your professional baseball career.
Go Cubs Go!
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‘Lil’ Worried

Anyone else concerned about Ted Lilly?

Our most consistent pitcher over the past few years has only begun throwing lightly after having arthroscopic surgery on his pitching shoulder two months ago.  Hendry mentioned at the Cubs Convention today that Lilly is expected to be back by the third week of the regular season putting him on the mound end of April/first week of May.  Now, he’d only miss about four or five starts in that case, but I don’t know.  
I already don’t feel super confident in our starting rotation.  Not the way I did in ’07 and ’08.  Zambrano, Lilly, Dempster, Harden and Hill.  All healthy, on paper that just sounds solid.  Even when we were going into the first season of Dempster as a starter and Wood as our closer, it just felt like a decent experiment that would lead to a positive outcome.  Cut to ’10…Big Z, Dempster, Wells…Lilly after surgery and a number five guy that is completely up in the air.  
The organization is apparently interested in Contreras and going to take a look at Sheets.  I think Sheets will have an average season but his asking price is going to be too high for the Cubs budget and honestly, too high for what teams will get out of Sheets.  This isn’t Ben Sheets a couple of years ago.  This is Ben Sheets now.  And Contreras?  Can we rely on him to be a decent stop gap until Lilly is back?  Maybe?  And what about when Lilly comes back?  How will he perform?  Will he give us the kind of season we need out of Lilly in order to compete in the NL Central?  Without Lilly’s all-star worthy campaign and Lee’s unbelievable (out of nowhere) turn around in 2009, we would have finished in third or fourth place in the Central easily.  And now we have Lilly, arguably best as our number two pitcher, coming back from surgery on his pitching shoulder?  Yikes.  I don’t know.  Honestly, I’m a little worried.
One name I haven’t really heard thrown around a whole lot as an option in 2010 as a number four or five guy is Pedro Martinez.  He was phenomenal in the couple months that he gave the Phillies at the end of last season, including the playoffs.  I think he’s healthier and less risky than Sheets, has done more than Contreras and is a known warrior.  He comes to play every game he’s listed as the starting pitcher for the day and is amazing in the clubhouse.  He’s respected all over baseball and would add a lot to the chemistry and atmosphere among the ball club at Wrigley if brought over to the Cubs.  I was at Opening Day at Shea in 2005, Pedro’s first year with the Mets.  The place went insane when he was introduced.  I know this is five years later and he has a few seasons behind him on his downside, heading towards the end of his career.  However, there is just something about the fight in Pedro Martinez and what he brings that I believe is an option Hendry should be seriously considering.  Not sure where the Phillies stand regarding bringing Pedro back, but if they don’t want him, Hendry should make a call and an offer.  I just feel like Z, Demp, Lilly, Wells and Pedro would be a solid 1-5 and if any of them were to go down to injury or end up unable to perform for an expected stretch of time we still have significant five spot options already signed to wear Cub pinstripes in 2010.  
Something to think about.  I don’t know Contreras is the answer.  Not expecting Sheets.  Would be thrilled at the roll of the dice with Pedro.  Just a little worried about the rotation is all.  And by little, I mean very.  Anyone else?
Go Cubs Go!
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I Typed All of the Words You See Here But That Didn’t Have Any Impact On Whether I Posted Or Not. Right, Mr. McGwire?

Mark McGwire has admitted to using steroids on the same day Greg Maddux returns to the Cubs as the assistant to GM Jim Hendry.

Once again, the Cardinals get the best of the Cubs.  They couldn’t even let us enjoy Maddux being back in the fold.  Next thing you know, McGwire this, McGwire that.  Yet the part I believe will be focused on most with regards to McGwire’s statement, is his opinion that taking steroids had no impact on his actual performance on the ball field.  
Wait.  What???
Performance.  Enhancing.  Drugs.  Steroids.  Things that enhance your performance…drugs that enhance your performance.  How ridiculous is this statement?  So, they simply allowed you to stay healthy, not blast home runs out of St. Louis and make them land in McCovey Cove?  Huh.  
How do you feel about toothpaste Mark?  You used it this morning but it had nothing to do with your fresh breath and plaque removal?  How about money?  You made and spent money but all it did was keep you wealthy and had nothing to do with how you got all the stuff you own?  
What’s your definition of ‘is’ Mark?  I don’t know about the BBWAA but I have a feeling Bill Clinton is extremely impressed.  And I’m not saying you’re still using steroids, but I thought snapping Bob Costas over your knee at the end of the interview was a bit odd.*
I know it must have been tough for McGwire to make a statement at all and I respect his willingness to finally do so.  However, to say that you took steroids, yet you don’t believe it impacted your stat line year in and year out…how do you say a pill, an injection can’t make you skilled at hitting a baseball?  Maybe not, but it sure does help turn on the ball fast and strong enough to send it into a major league stadium parking lot!  I don’t know about the rest of you, but to me my immediate reaction is a blank stare.  A stare that simply says “Did he just say that?”  It makes me cringe even further with regards to his cheating.  
And now Peter Gammons is on and as a man respected as one of the elite baseball reporters out there, how is he not laughing out loud at this?!?  Doesn’t a McGwire fan of even Gammons’ magnitude have to simply step back and say, “I’m a fan, but this guy is nuts”.  He did just mention that he’s delusional in a round about way by comparing him to Clemens (couldn’t agree more here).  Will it result in HOF votes for McGwire because he ‘came clean’? I hope not.  I don’t care what your opinion is Mark.  You admitted to using steroids.  You cheated.  Gammons says his admittance eliminates McGwire for him regarding the HOF which is nice to hear.  All of the panelists on MLB Network are in agreement.  And I’m right there with them.  Not only are you a cheat Mark, now to me, you’re a moron.  
Amazing how much good and harm one person can do to the game of baseball with one decision.  People loved watching the record chase in ’98 and some people say he and Sosa saved baseball (I don’t agree with this, baseball wasn’t going anywhere).  However now that they know they were duped while the players were doped, it’s hard to look back at that time fondly…especially not in the way people thought they’d be able to one day.
I’m glad you came forward Mark.  I’m glad you admitted it.  Everything else you had to say didn’t matter which is good because it didn’t make any sense, although you may actually believe your own BS.**  Enjoy your place with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Going forward, this is the only way you’ll ever wear a cap of any kind in the game of baseball again.  A’s or Cardinals cap on a HOF plaque is not something you’ll ever have to concern yourself with, I’m guessing.
And one day I believe we will be in the same position the Cardinals fans are in today when it’s Sosa’s turn.  That is if he ever has the guts to admit it.  He gave Cubs fans great thrills, including that race in ’98.  But an honest Cubs fan knows something wasn’t right with Sosa’s stats either.  Here’s to hoping when Sosa does come out, he doesn’t try to beat around the bush.  Admit you used and it enhanced your stats.  You may not be elected into the HOF, but I for one will respect you much more for being honest now as opposed to continuing your ways of dishonesty going forward.
Makes me appreciate true talents and truly good people in the game like Dawson who was elected into the Hall last week.  You think character doesn’t weigh in at all when BBWAA voters cast their votes?  Listen to what these guys are saying about McGwire today.  It absolutely does and it absolutely should.
*No Bob Costas was injured in the writing of this post.  
**Believing that taking steroids didn’t impact his performance what-so-ever and that all of those home runs were simply God given may be just what Big Mac needs to hold on to in order to get through this.  That said, Mark….this one goes out to you:

http://www.collegehumor.com/moogaloop/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=1927390&fullscreen=1

Anyway…good to have you back Mr. Maddux.  And as always, Go Cubs Go!
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Andre Dawson – Hall of Fame Class of 2010

“And at the end of seven, it’s Dawson 5, Phillies 3.”

As for today, at the end of nine years, it’s Dawson 1, Everyone else 0.

The quote listed above is from Harry Caray in calling Andre Dawson’s classic three run home run game against Philadelphia on August 1, 1987.  Hawk had five RBI on the three home runs and nearly single handedly defeated the Phillies.  At the top of the ninth the graphic on the screen actually read: Top of the 9th, Dawson 5, Phillies 3.  An unbelievable performance from what is now, an official hall of famer.

Like that day in 1987, today was all about Andre Dawson.  If Andre Dawson’s living room were complete with a right field bleacher section, I’m sure it would’ve been filled with shirtless, thrilled Cubs fans bowing to the great outfielder as he heard the news that he was the only person to receive enough votes today from the BBWAA to be elected into Cooperstown.

What that moment must have been like for Dawson after an amazing career and 14 years after he last played in an MLB game.  Nine years of will he or won’t he, with the most recent years having him come within even 44 votes of being elected.  Dawson recently mentioned that while many HOFers were telling him it was only a matter of time before the player they respected so much got the call, 44 votes was a large jump for where he was and perhaps this wouldn’t be the year.  After all, he was a Cub and they are used to looking forward to next year.

In 2010, there is no more waiting until next year for this Cub.  Andre Dawson is the sole player to be voted into the baseball Hall of Fame.

Sandberg mentioned Hawk in his induction speech.  It will be interesting to hear what Andre has to say in his. Immediately after I heard the news today I started calling around to hotels in the Cooperstown area.  I wanted to make sure that I had a room reserved so that I don’t miss the induction ceremony come July 25th.  You know Cubs fans.  We show up everywhere!  Forget sell outs at Wrigley game in and game out…Cubs fans show up on the road, at conventions and anywhere else we can to support the team.  I spoke to a women working for the BBHOF today and she mentioned that some years, they’ve had as many as 80,000 show up for the induction speeches.  Granted, I’m sure those were years when more than one player was voted in.  Still, Cubs fans are Cubs fans and I know that tiny town in upstate NY will be loaded with them come July.  I know I’ll be there and I can’t wait to capture and remember every moment of the weekend.

When I got home today I had to write again how amazing it is for Andre and say congratulations once more.  I immediately threw on his three home run game from the Cubs legends DVD collection and just got finished watching it. So cool to be able to relive that incredible performance.  In addition to writing this post, I also shot my first Prose and Ivy vlog for the site which is posted below and on my new youtube channel to partner up with this blog.  You can check out the site and leave comments on my blog here (obviously) and leave comments on my videos on youtube…the channel is called ProseAndIvyTV…by clicking here.

Here is the video I shot today about Dawson getting into the Hall of Fame:

Congratulations again to Andre “The Hawk” Dawson!  Baseball Hall of Fame – Class of 2010.  You deserve it and I’m thrilled for you.  Go Cubs Go!

DAWSON IS IN!

Need to get back to this tonight when I have more time to write, but I had to jump on quick and celebrate with a tiny post at least….2010!  Hall of Famer Andre Dawson!!!!  The Hawk is in!!!  So cool…way to go Andre!  See you in Cooperstown!

Byrd and Hawk Making Headlines

One of the major upsides I’ve heard so far to the Cubs signing Marlon Byrd as their new center fielder is that he’s a guy who comes with great character. Quality as a person through and through, the kind of guy the Cubs should be welcoming into a clubhouse that has seen it’s share of in fighting, finger pointing and broken Gatorade coolers in recent years.  I reached out to Texas fans on Twitter the other day to find out their POV of what we’re getting in Byrd and one of the responses I received read, “[Byrd is] an awesome team player who never quits!  He’s a player that will run out everything even if it’s a routine groundball.  He will make plays that will astound you in the outfield! I am sad to see him go.  He will be a player that I will watch and root for wherever he goes.”  Sounds like the kind of person we should be thrilled to have as a Cub in 2010.  Let’s hope he’s the kind of player we’d like as well.

Cubs hitting coach Jamarillo had Byrd for a few years and thinks very highly of him.  He has Byrd pencilled in as solid five hole guy in the Cubs batting lineup to start the season and mentioned he’s a great leader in the clubhouse and a great teacher.  Seeing that Byrd averaged .295 over the three years he worked with Jamarillo in Texas, it would appear that he understands the tools Jamarillo uses to teach so another solid leader improving our lineup from 1-9 couldn’t hurt.  We lost too many games last year due to an ineffective offense, run production way down from the year before.  Time to get back in form and match the success of ’07 and ’08 with division crowns.  Only this time, match that success with positive results in the playoffs (aka: don’t get swept by LA).

Sure Marlon’s last name obviously helps recall a guy like Andre Dawson whose nickname is the Hawk, but it’s the quality people see in his character that I’d like to focus on here.  Even Ryne Sandberg mentioned in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech that Dawson was once of the classiest teammates he ever had and that Dawson played the game the way the game was supposed to be played.  Sandberg said, “Andre Dawson, the Hawk.  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 MVP for a last place team in 1987 and it was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen in baseball.”  The intangibles should be focused on when it comes to voting players into the Hall of Fame in addition to their career stats.  Andre Dawson should be a no-brainer to be voted in this year seeing that he has been on the ballot for nine years now and is long overdue.  He brought speed, power, defense and character to the ballpark year in and year out…starting with his first year as a Cub where he agreed to a blank contract and let the Cubs decide how much they wanted to pay him after he’d already agreed.  He loved the game of baseball and loved being a Cub.  Time for the BBWAA to show some love back.

After doing some research I came across a copy of the Hall Of Fame ballot sent to voting members of the BBWAA:

2010 hof ballot.png 
And here is a copy of the information the voters were sent regarding Dawson’s career:
 2010 hof ballot player info.png
Nothing mentioned anywhere about the character of any of the players listed above.  I believe Dawson’s numbers speak for themselves.  If the voters aren’t sure and are on the fence about  the Hawk, they should listen to some of the greats that are already in the Hall of Fame.  They are speaking for Dawson as well and providing even more reasons the Hawk should be in the Hall.  Byrd should not be held to the standard of the Hawk in all fairness.  Then again, if he were to hold himself to the Hawk’s standard and Jaramillo’s theory of Byrd being a great teacher is accurate, that could have an amazing effect on the 2010 Cubs.  We won’t know how Byrd turns out for the Cubs for quite some time.  The Hawk on the other hand will hear his fate in a few days from now.  (You can keep an eye on how long he has to wait to hear the news with the countdown listed in the right hand column).  Hope to see you making your speech in Cooperstown this summer Andre.  Go Cubs Go!

Happy Birthday MLB Network

The MLB Network turns one today and much like my nephew who turned one in November, really only the people that created it understand it’s being celebrated.

New talent will make for an even greater 2010 on the network with Peter Gammons of ESPN fame joining the gang. Hopefully, the new talent the Cubs add this off-season will provide a positive boost as well.  Marlon Byrd may be the biggest acquisition thus far for GM Hendry and the team on the North Side, however the off-season is long from being over.

Hendry is keeping within the budget the owners have asked to stick to and considering so far we’ve rid ourselves of an ineffective bullpen stat line eye sore in Gregg, a second rate dud at second base in Miles and an outfielder who couldn’t stand Cubs fans who resorted to giving out free baseballs to fans in right as souvenirs (unfortunately on fly balls he caught while there were still less than three outs and men on base) and upgraded our outfielder situation by moving Fukudome to right (where he’ll be more of an asset) and mixing in the talented and if nothing else, available, Byrd in centerfield…I’d say so far, so ‘pretty good’ by Hendry this off-season.  Would I count on Byrd to put my chances of a thrilling October with a happy ending for a book deal all by himself?  NO WAY and I’ll have more on Byrd later.  (Regarding the book deal, see the post listed below this one).

There are still more moves to be made and deals to be done.  By GM Hendry for sure and hopefully with an interested publishing company as well.  Time will tell.

For today though, happy birthday to the MLB Network!  Mark Newman, the enterprise editor of MLB.com wrote an article commemorating the network’s first anniversary.  He asked for people to send him their thoughts regarding what it has been like having the network available 24/7 over the past year.  I submitted and am quoted at the end of the piece!  It reads:

Ryan Maloney, a Cubs fan in New York, said it changed his baseball world and he cannot wait to see what is next.

“Having MLB Network 24/7 has been an amazing resource, as it practically puts the viewer in the Commissioner’s Office with their timeliness in breaking news and updates surrounding the game,” Maloney said. “Having MLB Network on 24/7 has provided younger viewers with an opportunity to allow historic-game footage to serve as the face of the biggest names of baseball past.

“[It’s] a great way to allow fans of all ages to truly appreciate what makes the game of baseball the great game it has developed into today and the people that have contributed to our country’s favorite pastime along the way. The days of getting your baseball news from boutique sports news stations ended a year ago, the day MLB opened its specialty shop in the MLB Network.”

If you’d like to read the entire article, you can do so here.  Happy New Year to you, Happy Birthday to MLB Network and as always….Go Cubs Go!