We Don’t Need To Be Buyers or Sellers. We Need To Be Keyzer Soze.

I had an amazing trip to Chicago this week. Flew in to O’Hare Airport on Sunday afternoon, caught the make-up game against the Rockies on Monday, doubleheader against the Giants on Tuesday (day game was another PPD make-up) and then flew back to New York on Wednesday. One win, two losses, a ton of robot unicorn attack plays and a pink, pink sunburn to show for it. Incredible way to spend your days indeed.

Is there a place where apple juice and peanuts taste better than in a coach class seat on a Delta Shuttle plane? I venture to guess no. No, there is not. Sitting there, next to my Delta neighbor on our way to the Windy City, she ordered cookies and a Coke. I had the peanuts and apple juice. Cookies and coke? This is a flight. You’re 40,000 feet in the air. Have the apple juice and peanuts and ride like a king, or queen in this case. Some people just don’t know what they’re missing.

On the flight there and back I was reading a book I picked up recently, ‘Veeck, As In Wreck’. Fascinating tale of Bill Veeck, Jr’s time as a true baseball man working his way up the ranks from selling programs at Comiskey, to owning his own baseball team. The things he would do to draw a crowd to the park and the promotions he would run to add entertainment value to the paying customers’ experience were at times hilarious and usually brilliant. Reading the stories brings you behind the curtain and into the mind of Veeck where anything is possible and not everything is what it seems. Home field advantage was taken to a new level, raffles were rigged for the highest entertainment possible and one time he even made it appear as if it had rained hard enough to postpone a game by three hours even though only a couple drops had fallen. As long as he was doing all he could to keep his team/business running, the team winning and the people paying, he was happy. Baseball minds of that time didn’t always appreciate Veeck’s strategies however these same people that were against some of his practices were also the folks that would be included on a long list of people who either took a long time to see past the surface or never quite got there in ending up ‘getting it’.

Monday’s game against the Rockies was a make up game for a contest that had been postponed back in April. I like it when people call baseball games a ‘contest’. It’s certainly a contest where your odds are pretty good of winning. Think of all the contests you’ve entered in your lifetime. I bet you would have taken 50-50 odds every time. I enjoy it because it seems out of place and it never ceases to amuse me. It is a game. You play the game. You win the game. You lose the game. You don’t have a contest. Sure there are many contests within the game. Who can get the other team to 27 outs first? Who can score the most runs? Who can tally the most hits? Who can keep their starting pitcher in the game the longest? Who will win the battle of the stolen base, the runner or the catcher? There are lots of contests going on within the game. However, baseball is a game. Not, a contest.

The game was incredible. It was threatened by rain once again in the early morning however the skies cleared up in time to hit up the local bagel shop and down a quick cinnamon raisin bagel and coffee before heading to Wrigley. It was not necessary that the rain stop in time for me to have breakfast mind you. It was simply a nice thing to have happen, not having to worry about the weather on my way to the game.

My friend, Michael, and I headed to the stadium and picked up his ticket from will call. Will Call. Another term I’m not so crazy about. Why not ‘Will Pick Up’? ‘Will Call’ sounds like they will call you. I am pretty sure that baseball teams don’t have people on stand by to call you up if your ticket is left in the Will Call booth a few innings into the game to see if you’re on your way, need a ride, or want to arrange for someone to bring the ticket to them somewhere. I mean, those ticket fees and service fees are high enough where I could see justifying such a service being in included, I simply don’t believe that is the case.

We immediately hit the snacks before heading to our seats. Michael hit up the peanut guy. I went straight for the nachos. Now, if Michael was on a plane at the time, I would have commended him for making such an outstanding decision. The fact that he was at a baseball game, I could also appreciate the choice given that it’s such a traditional game-viewing snack companion. Only Cracker Jack could have earned the same response. However, while I enjoy the occasional bag of peanuts and cracker jack at a baseball game when at Wrigley, you always start your day off with one thing. The nachos.

I’m not talking about the helmet nachos. I saw a woman walking around with what was an official MLB helmet size nacho order. It was covered in cheese and jalapeno and looked like it was about to kill someone, namely the woman carrying it back to her seat. No, not those nachos. I’m not suggesting you bring tofu, but come on people. Let’s not try to kill ourselves at one game, in one inning. Let’s let the unhealthy food get us over time. Take in a few years of Cubs baseball before you completely jam shut your arteries. No, I’m talking about the regular nacho. The most delicious treat in all of baseball. The Wrigley Nachos. Not sure why they yell out ‘I need a cold nacho’ when I order them because while the nachos are cold and the jalapenos aren’t included…the cheese is HOT. For about 10 minutes that is. In that 10 minutes though? Find your seat at Wrigley Field (especially where I was, section 110…best seats in baseball) and experience the best 10 minutes of your life. Delicious.

The woman that sat us in our seats was named Lenore (above) and she was very friendly. She fit the Confines perfectly. She was amped to find out I was sitting in her section as her son’s name is Ryan as well. He also lives in New York. It was like a paying customer/section valet match made in heaven. Lenore was awesome and the Cubs should be proud to have her on board. Mr. Ricketts, if you are reading this, Lenore is the best. She said she loves working for the Cubs and it showed. Good people. Just saying.

The Cubs then went off on the Rockies pitching like in no other game I have seen all year. An amazing welcome and kickoff to the three games in two days trip I was on. Ten hits, including four home runs later (two a piece by Ramirez and Pena) and I was proudly singing ‘Go Cubs Go’ louder than Michael would have cared to hear. Here is a picture of my victorious pose after the game, transformed into what it would have looked like had someone commemorated the event with a collector’s coin:

Campana was in center. DeWitt was at second base. Otherwise, the line up was what the Cubs and Cubs fans thought we’d be getting this year all along. And the results were just as ideal as well. Without all the injuries, this team could have been firing at this level of cylinder all year and who knows where we’d be in the standings now. Once this team stops limping, they will be exposed for the team they truly have been behind the DL lists all along. I believe that. It’s coming and it’s going to be fun to watch.

We need to stop limping around and start competing. Byrd is on his way back, slowly but surely. Barney is back. Zambrano went out with lower back pain today so who knows where that is headed and Cashner is still working his way back. If this team is able to stop limping around and show the world their true self, much like Kevin Spacey did as Keyzer Soze at the end of The Usual Suspects, I like our chances in making a true run of it very much.

While we are limping around though, Tuesday was more of what the team has presented as of late and it was more of the usual suspect play.

The World Champion San Francisco Giants were in town. These weren’t the Colorado Rockies. It was the Freak, the Panda and the Beard. Before the trip I figured Garza was our best bet at a win. Other than Garza, we were going to see Doug Davis against the Giants and then Rodrigo Lopez as well. Unfortunately I was right. The first game was beautiful with seats in the shade and more amazing nachos. After that it was downhill from there as the Giants destroyed the Cubs. The night cap didn’t go much better and I walked out of Wrigley with a trip record of 1-2. Forget trying to win three in a row (which is what I wanted – would have been the team’s first time this season). I would have been lucky to see either Davis or Lopez walk away with the W. In both the Tuesday afternoon game and the night cap, a five-run inning would prove to be too much to handle. A controversial call at the plate helped blow one of the games, but overall, we just weren’t as good on Tuesday as we were on Monday.

I thoroughly enjoyed singing Go, Cubs Go and belted out the seventh inning stretch at all three games like nobody’s business. You have to though, right? You’re at Wrigley Field. The greatest stadium in all of baseball (sit down Mr. Gammons, you’ve had your say). You’re there watching the Cubs on a beautiful weekday afternoon and as was the case on Monday, the Cubs just put on a power display to excite the masses. How do you simply sing any song in that situation? You don’t. You belt it. I did. And it was awesome.

While I was in town on Tuesday, I had a chance to meet with Kevin Saghy, the Cubs’ public relations and marketing specialist. Like Lenore, you can tell he loves working for the Cubs. It was great to thank him in person for what he and the Cubs did for my son Rhys when he had his surgery this past December. If you haven’t already read the story about it on Cubs.com, you can check it out here. I encourage you to check out the link as it’s a great example of the Cubs going out of their way for a fan in a way that is certainly not required, but very much appreciated.

As I write this, the Cubs are tied with the Giants 1-1 in the top of the 12th inning. Rami came through huge with a solo shot to tie the game in the ninth and change the momentum of the game after the crowd saw Zambrano leave in the second. Kerry Wood is due back off the DL tomorrow. The team I watched Monday is the team I believe this team can be on a regular basis. The fact that Zambrano went out with pain so early and yet the team hung in to shut out the Giants the rest of the way and then tied it to go to extra innings shows that we’re not giving up today and shows well as far as the rest of the season is concerned, too.

The team is slowly getting a few key guys back and I’m happy to hear Hendry isn’t planning a ‘fire sale’ just yet.  The trade deadline isn’t for another month. Stranger things have happened than a ballclub coming back from being down 11 games on June 30th.

We don’t need a fire sale. We need the team to stop scrambling to find the missing pieces on the depth chart that are going to keep this thing together. We need this team to stop limping and show it’s true colors. We need this team stop messing around, get on a run and show what it’s truly capable of. We need it to show that we have one more good run in these veterans and that we’re not really the limping team the fans, league and media have followed so far in 2011. We need it to prove that the team is much, much more than that.

We see that happen…and the rest of the league won’t know what hit ‘em.  Go Cubs Go!

(And ‘Robot Unicorn Attack’? If you’re not familiar with it, click here. I’m addicted.)

See You On Monday, Section 110!

Looking forward to catching the make up game against the Rockies at Wrigley on Monday! Looks like we’re getting Garza on Monday in the make-up match-up. Tuesday will be loaded with Cubs baseball as well. Doug Davis will get one of the two games and possibly Lopez or someone up from the minors to get the other. I’ll be at the stadium for both games of the doubleheader. Three games, two days. Can’t wait! (You’d think the best shot to win is Garza against the Rockies on Monday and not Davis and Pitcher X against the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants. However, as we saw in Boston at Fenway, it doesn’t always work out that way! Seriously, can’t wait!!) Go Cubs Go!

http://twitter.com/croquet037/status/82196088148332544

Baseball’s Never Been, Never Will Be ‘Just a Game’.

Now that I got the stupidity of the day out of my system (see the “article” that follows this one…they can’t all be gold), I thought I’d take this space to write something much less ridiculous.

The game of baseball is something I hear people complain about way too often. Not so much from those who are fans of the game, although those people have their complaints as well (strike zones, realignment, All-Star Game intricacies, instant replays, the DH, asterisks, Series throwing conspiracy theories, etc). I’m talking more so about the people who only take the game for what it is on the surface. Nine innings. Twenty seven outs. Nine players. A ball, a glove and a bat. Some dirt, some grass and unpredictable weather.

“It’s boring”.

“It takes too long”.

“Nothing ever happens”.

And on, and on.

What these people fail to recognize is what the sport is aside from the score sheets. Aside from the box scores. Aside from the record books. Beyond the greatest ballplayers of all-time, their stats and their plaques. More than Cracker Jack, peanuts, hot dogs and beer. The cold April games, the cool Fall nights and the scorching Summer afternoons.

Beyond all of that. If you look beyond all of that, you will find a game that provides great opportunity. Not only in fame and fortune to those who play it. Not only to the parents who share the joy of the game with their children. Not only the fact that the game has been there as a distraction during times of war and as a sense of normalcy after national tragic events. The game is all of that and more. The beautiful thing about the game is that you don’t know when something amazing is going to happen and the fact that the possibility exists for something incredible to happen is there all of the time. And I don’t mean simply home runs, no-hitters, walk-off victories and perfect games.

I’m talking about the game as a venue to do some good. It serves as an amazing platform to raise awareness on a number of social issues and to raise funds for organizations looking to find cures for a long list of illnesses.

I recently featured a Youtube video with Brian Wilson and Cody Ross of the San Francisco Giants teaming up with Keenan Cahill. Cahill is a favorite on Youtube and has accrued millions of views for his lip-synching videos. The Giants teamed up with him to help raise awareness for Maroteaux-Lamy disorder (the disease Cahill suffers from) and to help raise funds for Cahill’s family who face medical bills for Cahill for prescriptions that are often extremely expensive.

Another article I recently posted described what the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) accomplishes with it’s hard work year in and year out. This past May, they honored the Ricketts family and the Cubs at Wrigley Field with their highest honor, the Best of Illinois award. With Ron Santo a huge part of the Cubs’ family for decades and having suffered from diabetes his entire life, the organization and the Ricketts family have been huge proponents in raising awareness and helping raise funds to find a cure.

When people show up to the ballpark all year long, often between 2-3 million people per season per team, those fans are capable of doing much more than simply voting their favorite players into an All-Star game, willing a game-ending strike out, or singing Sweet Caroline. If given the right opportunity, they make a difference in areas that matter way more than what happens on a baseball field. They can in fact help fund organizations that are working day and night to find cures. You think seeing the Cubs win the World Series would change your life? Think about if their mere existence helped build an opportunity for complete strangers to unite and fund a cure for a disease you or a loved one has suffered from or passed away because of. Now, that would really affect your life. And you’d have more to show for it than just a commemorative SI issue and a sweatshirt to show for it.

Vice President Joe Biden was in town yesterday at a CURE (Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy) event reassuring folks in Chicago who support the organization that a cure is possible. Obama advisor, David Axelrod, introduced Biden to the crowd and the Vice President went on to acknowledge Axelrod’s wife for her commitment and thanked her for starting the organization. Axelrod and his wife, Susan, have worked hard to help find a cure since their daughter started suffering from seizures at the age of seven months. The city of Chicago showed up in droves. 900 people were in attendance and over $800,000 was raised. Axelrod supports Chicago baseball following both the Cubs and the White Sox. Obama is 100% a White Sox fan although has admitted to checking all scores of the day during late night episodes of Sportscenter. You know the two of them set aside their North side/South side differences when it comes to something much more important than who wins the BP Cup this season.

The baseball community is a powerful thing. When fans work with other fans, millions of people can be focused on finding a cure for one thing and that is an incredible opportunity. A friend of mine, Alison, lost her brother, Christopher, to what is known as Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) in 2002.

Christopher Donalty/DonaltyCure.com

Christopher was a talented pitcher from Utica, NY, a star player for both the Proctor High Raiders and Utica Post’s American Legion team. I can’t imagine what it was like for them to lose him so unexpectedly and suddenly. You can read more about Christopher here and find details about the upcoming CURE fundraiser the Donalty family is arranging for this September 17th.

I know how large Cubs Nation is. It’s pretty obvious…’nation’…it’s in the name. Cubs fans are everywhere. If you happen to be a Cubs fan and read this blog and are in the Utica area, I encourage you to attend and donate if you can. Even if you’re not in Utica area, this little gadget called the Internet is like throwing us all in the same backyard anyway. You may have missed the Biden and Axelrod CURE event last night in Chicago and you may only find ballot boxes at your local ballpark for All-Star voting. However, often, MLB gets involved in making a difference outside of the scorecards and I encourage you to get involved as well. If you don’t see the opportunity to get involved with CURE at Wrigley and you or someone you know has had their life affected by the disease, take advantage of the link provided above.

Baseball fans are capable of accomplishing all sorts of feats together. Yes, much, much greater than ‘the wave’.

The next time you hear someone complain about the game of baseball, feel free to kick off your argument of how great the sport is with mentions of ‘hardest thing to do in sports is hit a 95 MPH fastball’, or ‘there is no clock, someone HAS to win’ or ‘how can you not like America’s favorite pastime’. Once those arguments fail, as they usually do, throw in the fact that baseball is another great opportunity for millions of people to have some fun, unite resources and truly do some good.

I’d like to see them argue with that.

The Crosstown Classic continues tonight. Cubs/Sox at US Cellular. Davis on the mound for the Cubs. More Cubs-specific content to come. Until then, as always, Go Cubs Go! And seriously, why not root for your team to do well, while the fans step up and do some good?

Cubs Rap!

And now, a ridiculous musical interlude. Gimme a beat…

I like the Cubs cuz they are great.

I root for them when they’re at home plate.

Rooting for Cubs is good clean fun.

I always clap when they hit home runs.

One time I went and then they lost.

I then had dinner. A salad. Tossed.

I watched the News recap the game.

I hoped they won. Still lost. So lame.

I like Wrigley and Ernie’s statue.

Stay alert. Foul balls come at you.

I like nachos. I like cheese.

I don’t like ticket service fees.

Right now the standings make me sad.

I felt that way about ‘My Two Dads’.

Whatever happened to Paul Reiser.

I drink Corona not Budweiser.

This rap is just off my head.

Had to do work. Wrote this instead.

Sorry if you didn’t like it.

Baseball’s not football. They don’t hike it.

I think Starlin Castro’s awesome.

Retire 8 for Andre Dawson.

I like the Cubs cuz they are great.

I root for Cubs when they’re at home plate.

One day I hope they win it all.

Result: twelve day Wrigleyville pub crawl.

People will be so damn happy.

Like they are when I’m done rapping.

Go Cubs.

Go.

Go Cubs.

Go.

Like getting tagged at the plate….we out!  Byrd to your mother.

I need to get more sleep.

Carlos. Cool, Calm, Collected.

It had been about  a year prior that Zambrano displayed more rage than the machine had ever season. Like a cross between Yosemite Sam, the Tasmanian Devil and a Real Housewife from New Jersey. If there had been a dining room table next to that Gatorade water cooler, it too would have ended up in some other location than it initially started. It was a scene that put into a very loud visual, the thoughts that probably the rest of the team and fan base were feeling at the time. It didn’t turn out exactly the way Z imagined as it was a long road through anger management and bullpen sessions until he could find his way back to the starting line up.

The one-time ace found himself outside the lines of the organization after choosing to cross one. He may have spot on in his disgust and anger, however it clearly wasn’t the time, place or way to handle it.

Cut to yesterday against the crosstown rival Chicago White Sox.

Zambrano on the mound and fuming after giving up a two run bomb to make the score 3-0 in favor of the Sox. You could see it unfolding in front of your eyes. The wick was in one hand. The match was in the other. The fuse was ready to be lit and soon to follow could be another huge explosion.

Only, something different happened this time. The fuse was left untouched. The match was blown out. Zambrano kept his composure. Last year it was his teammates’ sloppy play that put him in a tough spot. This year it was his own pitching and poor location. Perhaps that was why we didn’t see Carlos explode into another lowlight for Sportscenter. Perhaps it is easier for him to forgive himself as opposed to forgiving his teammates. I mean, just recently he said in an outburst to the media that the team was playing like a AAA club and directed comments at Marmol as well. More likely? Those anger management sessions may have paid off and he is learning from his mistakes.

It was a display of Carlos slowly crawling back to the respected member of this team that he once was not too long ago. And it was good to see.

By keeping his cool, he was able to stay in the game and put forth one of his best pitching performances of the season. How many times do you recall a Cubs starting pitcher going eight innings this season? Forget Russell, Davis and Coleman. Those guys had a chance, but never really had a shot. Dempster and Garza? I can’t remember the last time I saw them end a game with a stat line that included 8IP. Zambrano could have easily put the nail in his Cubs coffin and likely the season with another meltdown like last year. We lose Zambrano and we can forget about 2011.

Yes, many of you have already started looking ahead to 2012. I don’t blame you. 9.5 games out on June 20th and still a large contingent of the team is in healing mode as opposed to reeling mode. We haven’t been able to reel off three wins in a row this year and although the rest of the Central has struggled as of late, we’ve only been able to pick up 2.5 games in the past couple weeks. Don’t be so quick to leave though. We have picked up 2.5 games in the past couple weeks.

Pujols just went down with an injury and will be out for six weeks. That should put a crimp in the Cardinals chances for sure. We lost some ground to the Pirates lately but they are coming back down to Earth. The Brewers and Reds refuse to kick it into a gear that will leave the rest of the Central in their proverbial dust. It’s still a possibility for 2011. I have no percentage regarding how likely. Just simply a fact that it’s still a possibility for 2011…only…we’ll need Zambrano to make it happen.

If the Cubs were to trade Zambrano, I would have to see it as them giving up on the season. Dempster got the starting nod for Opening Day this year thus giving him the role essentially as the team’s ace. Skill wise though, Zambrano is still the most talented guy on the squad. He hasn’t been on the DL as of yet this season, leads the team in wins and isn’t looking to ask for a trade. He has mentioned he’d waive his no-trade clause if asked, but he doesn’t want to go. Is that just political rhetoric? Is that just Z being PC? PC Z? Maybe. I believe he wants to win here. No one gets that upset about something that they don’t care about. No one gets that heated over something time and again unless it matters to them.

We’ve seen Zambrano lose it on a few occasions. He obviously cares. The good thing to take away from yesterday though, aside from the win over the Sox, is that he clearly not only cares about the Cubs winning, but he now also cares about how he directs that passion. Even if he had no one else to point a finger at, he could have easily had a mental meltdown and thrown in the towel on the day after giving up that home run early on. He could have seen the game as Apollo Creed getting the crap beat out of him by Drago…a lost cause. D.O.A after that home run.

He did not.

Instead, he saw it as an opportunity to stay in the game, keep fighting, and show people he has changed. Like Rocky said, he if they can change and he can change then the whole world can change. I would have liked to have seen Zambrano make this speech at US Cellular after the game:

That would be nice. But I’ll take us starting with Big Z first and then going from there. Big Z. Cool. Calm. Collected.

Well done, Carlos. That anger management stuff appears to be working out. Keep it up. This one’s for you.

Go Cubs Go!

Two Teams, One Cup

It’s June 20th and you know what that means! THE CROSSTOWN CLASSIC!

Two teams, one cup.

Oh, Chicago baseball fans, how our BP Cup do runneth over.

The BP Cup is perfectly named as it means about as much as the home runs count that are hit in batting practice. Last year the Cup went to the South side. It has resided in the hands of folks like Adam Dunn, Ozzie Guillen and A.J. Pierzynski. The players, I’m sure because it is a ‘Cup’ after all, took it home with them. Took it on trips with them. Took it places some of them may even be too embarassed to share. They took it their loved ones who had never seen the Sox win the Cup since it’s inception all they way back in 2010. Every single White Sox player plus Ozzie had their hands on it for a whole year. 

Do we really want it after who knows what those guys have done with it? I mean, it was reported that on Sunday, Ozzie passed a kidney stone. I’m just saying.

If the White Sox think as highly of the Cup as many Cubs fans do, there is a possibility that the kidney stone saw the inside of the BP Cup. If there were a series they probably wouldn’t mind winning, it’s this one. Keep the Cup, White Sox. It’s all you.

You can have it. Proudly display it in your trophy case. Build a statue outside US Cellular Field to commemorate it’s greatness. Years from now, chant at Cubs fans “Two-thousand-ten!” “Two thousand-ten!” and make us feel awful about the drought.

One year since the last time a Chicago team won the BP Cup and it wasn’t the Cubs. When oh WHEN, will a Cubs fan in my family get to see the Cubs win the Cup!?! How unfair. How can the baseball gods do this to us. Why should the Sox fans get all the fun? Why should they get to raise the Cup year in and year out?

What about us Cubs fans? What about Blackhawks fans? Why must we make them be so specific in their chants of ‘We want the Cup!”. Now they have to say “We want the Stanley Cup! The hockey one! Not that crappy promotional good for nothing baseball meaningless trophy Cup!” That chant is SOOO long. But so be it. Whatever White Sox. You feel the need to have a trophy that makes you feel good about yourself? So be it. Keep it. We don’t even want a ribbon for participation.

Let’s rename the Cup in fact. No more BP Cup. Let’s just call it US Cellular Cup. Forget engraving the names of every ballplayer that wins the Cup on to it’s illustrious sides. Let’s just engrave, PROPERTY OF THE CHICAGO WHITE SOX on to it. We’ll show up for six games every season and make sure you have your little trophy so you can have some meaningless piece of metal to make you feel good about yourself.

Better yet, we’ll win the series and STILL give you the cup. Like a little kid hoping for a foul ball, standing by the dugout with our glove on next to clumsy adult-sized you. We will catch the ball and then hand it to you because in our life, the prize, as cool as it is to you, will never mean that much to us.

How’s that sound? We’ll win the series, you keep the cup. We know how much it means to you.

You’re welcome.

Go Cubs Go!

For Father’s Day: My Cubs Family Video

Go Cubs Go! (Give us Dads out there a W to cap off Father’s Day tonight!)