In a world where the Cubs are awesome…

TOP: Searles, Jay Johnstone, Henry Cotto, Keith Moreland, Jody Davis, Gary Woods, Steve Trout, Steve Lake, Tom Veryzer, Ron Hassey, Zarris

MIDDLE: Palmer, Gary Matthews, Nimitz, Thad Bosley, Lee Smith, Rich Bordi, Scott Sanderson, Rick Sutcliffe, Tim Stoddard, Rick Reuschel, George Fraizer, Dick Ruthven, Dennis Eckersley, Yosh Kawano, Tony Gorofalo (trainer), Warren Brusstar

FRONT: Davey Lopes, Dan Rohn, Larry Bowa, Billy Connors, Ruben Amaro, Johnny Oates, Jim Frey, Don Zimmer, John Vukovich, Richie Hebner, Ron Cey, Bob Dernier, Ryne Sandberg

A team complete with the Manager of the Year, NL MVP and Cy Young award winner for the 1984 season, this team was awesome. We’ve had glimpses of hope between then and now (essentially four years to be exact) but to look back at this squad today and then peer reluctantly at today’s Cubs team is a painful realization at how far we have to go to reach these heights yet again.

No longer vying for the NL East title, current residents of the NL Central, the stage is basically the same with a few small frills and design changes added and the big picture goal remains the same. This Cubs team won 96 games and the NL East title before going on to face the Padres in a disappointing five game NLCS. On May 24th, the 1984 Cubs were 26-15 and dominating opponents riding high on a six-game winning streak.

On May 24, 2012, our Cubs are in last place, in sole possession of the division cellar at 15-29. The Cubs of today are riding a streak of their own, only not the kind that draws attention for any positive reasons. Nine games up and nine games down, the offense is unable to deliver and the starters’ quality starts are being tossed aside like last year’s promotion schedule. All nine games have resulted in losses. The line-up has put up the kind of fight you would see in overmatched WWF matches growing up in the ’80s where someone like Hulk Hogan would take on someone by the name of ‘Bob Smith’. Bob Smith would try with the few moves he had to offer but in the end, Hogan was too much and you would feel bad for the unknown. Try as he might, this one was over before it started and you knew it wasn’t going to end well for the little guy. His offense was no match for that of the more powerful, more skilled opponent and no matter how brilliant certain aspects of his game were, you wasn’t enough in the end.

In 1984, these Cubs were the Hulk Hogans of their division. Anyone else that rolled into Wrigley for some afternoon baseball or welcomed this club into their house and said make yourself at home, found the Cubs doing just that. A month from this point in the season, the 1984 team took their momentum and threw it into the next gear off the boost they received from the Ryne Sandberg Game. The team rode the momentum of Sandberg’s performance against the Cardinals to a 15-6 record over their next 21 games. Already in a great position, they used this leverage to pull away from the group and ultimately clinch the division on September 24th in Pittsburgh with a 4-1 win over the Pirates, provided by a brilliant performance by Cy Young award winner Rick Sutcliffe (who at that point was 16-1).

The 2012 team has no one like Sandberg to propel them forward. They are already 10 games out on May 24th and it does not look as if this group will find a way to help themselves help their pitchers. The starting pitching has been good enough so that the Cubs should find themselves in the thick of things in the Central, however with no run support it has been a wasted effort. The closest thing this team has to anyone standing out and delivering a performance worthy of a game like that of Sandberg’s would be Castro. However, despite his recent success and ton of potential, Castro has struggled this season to put together hits when they count and without the power capabilities that Sandberg had, Castro’s getting on base alone is not going to be enough. While hitting over .300 so far this season, it is hard to make any of those hits count for runs or even be considered timely when  they are coming at inopportune RBI situations as the rest of the line up struggles to get on base or find their own timely hitting and once they do get on-base, they can’t manage to clear the bases leaving runners on base way too often.

The 1984 team was simply light years away from where we are today. That squad in the picture above is nearly the ideal. They were arguably the best team the Cubs have had in the past three or four decades. The ideal is a title and they were unable to attain that. However, considering the success of the team and the honors that were bestowed upon members of the team at that time, it is still a great level for our 2012 Cubs and for this organization to aim for while looking to the future. To attain 1984 success – and then some – is clearly the goal of Theo & Company. It is going to take some time to get there, I know, I just don’t think I expected the team to be doing this poorly so early on in the year.

Ten games out on May 24th? Wow. I didn’t expect much out of first year heading in a new direction but I did expect to punch out at the end of the season with a respectable showing. So far, this club has been interesting to watch and just as frustrating. To see one side of the team deliver (starting pitching) and yet the other two important aspects fall to the way side (offense and bullpen performance) is just about as disappointing as it gets.  The only thing worse would be for us to simply be blown out night after night.

I can appreciate where we are as an organization right now. I can respect the process and keep expectations low for the present and hopes high for the future. However, I also find myself unable to resist looking back when it comes to the great teams of the past and wondering how long until we become great again. How long before we compete and the chances of next year not being ‘next year’ once again.

The 1984 team was the first trip to the postseason for the Cubs since 1945 so clearly these things can take some time. It’s cool. It’s one of the things that makes it all worth while when it does happen. The 1984 team came out of the Sandberg game and used it to propel itself to the postseason where it delivered two of the most hope inspiring playoff victories a fan could ask for behind a Sutcliffe shutout/blow out victory and a strong showing in game two. The Padres had three chances to survive, three chances to win and ruin the run this Cubs team was trying to make to achieve the ultimate prize. They had three chances and they used all three successfully ending the 1984 season and putting a stop to any thoughts these players, coaches, managers and fans had about seeing the team win a World Series title.

Even the 1984 team was unable to win the World Series and they had an NL Manager of the Year, the NL Cy Young winner and the NL MVP. The Cubs were awesome in 1984 and life was good for Cubs fans. The 2012 Cubs (and by that I mean the team, front office, manager, etc) has a long way to go to even think about competing the way the 1984 team did. The scary part isn’t the wait or wondering how long it will before they do.

The scary part is that, even when they do reach the level of success and potential the 1984 team showed – while that would be a great place to be – it still wouldn’t be enough. More than ’84 will be required to win it all but man, wouldn’t it still be great to be that awesome at least again right now? 

May 24, 2012. The Cubs are 15-29, 10 games out in the NL Central. No longer competing for the NL East and unfortunately, we can say the same about their year in the Central and it’s not even Memorial Day weekend yet.

(sigh) Go Cubs Go.

Much to respect when it comes to Kerry Wood.

Great job, Kerry. A fantastic ending to a brilliant career. World Series title or not, one of the best to wear the uniform.

I think of all the videos of Kerry Wood I have watched in the past few days after Kerry announced his retirement, these three sum it up best.


 

The 20 strikeout game is likely the first thing baseball fans in general would mention when hearing the name Kerry Wood. His desire to stay loyal and committed to the Cubs throughout his career and to be here as one of those select few men who get to not only play the game of baseball for a living but also claim the privilege of the right to say that they helped bring a title to the starved fans of Chicago after all these years is another commendable part of Kerry’s time as a professional baseball player. There will of course also be those who will dismiss all of these things – his character and stats – and only take a look at his fingers. No rings. Those people will classify Kerry as a loser. Just another lovable loser on the North side of Chicago who came into the league with enormous potential and gave the fans unbelievable hope yet when it came down to it, in the end he failed to deliver. Looking forward to hearing what’s next for Wood and the Cubs as I’m sure the Ricketts will find an appropriate place for Kerry to continue to be a part of the Cubs push to end the drought and win their next World Series title.

As a Cubs fan, would I have loved to have seen Kerry help bring a title to Chicago in his time with the team? Yes. Of course. Not only would seeing the team win a championship be the number one sports request of all Cubs fans, 1a would have been to have Kerry Wood as a member of the club that made it happen. Too many years have gone by where our teams have been the perfect example of unrealized potential. Sometimes, they have been the ideal to point to as samples of misdiagnosed talent as well. Talent that wasn’t necessarily unrealized, simply built up as able to more than was truly with their ability.

Some of these players were only easy to root for when they cleared the bases with a home run over the ivy covered walls of Wrigley. Otherwise, they weren’t exactly the type of person you would want to hang out with or want your children to idolize with t-shirts with their names on it or posters of said player in their bedroom.

However, some of the men that have worn the Cubs uniform have been downright upstanding people. We’ve had a few to root for as of late in guys like Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood. Wood ended his time with the Cubs a man who can be respected for the way he carried himself while representing himself, his family and the team. He entered the league in a Cubs uniform a boy with great potential and even greater expectations. He never did anything to dishonor himself, his family or the opportunity he had as a big league baseball player. For that reason, while the baseball contributions can always be appreciated, it is the person that Kerry Wood is that I respect the most. While he can no longer throw the way he used to and is no longer the reliable arm to put in the starting rotation or bullpen, he is still the type of guy you want around this organization. To help move the team forward in years to come and to set the example in a face to face scenario for future young Cubs that come up through the system who will also have high expectations and may need some assistance in learning how best to handle such demands from the front office, the fans and their family.

The last video, featuring Kerry as the Father of the Year honoree is my favorite of the three. Kerry came up through the ranks and burst on to the scene as the guy that could make the difference for the franchise. Along with Mark Prior, their two arms were to carry this club to the promised land. It was an amazing amount of pressure to deal with and he only made it tougher on himself with the 20 strikeout performance and winning Rookie of the Year honors. Yet, Kerry handled it like a pro and while he just missed getting the Cubs into a World Series, he was spot on with keeping the respect of the organization, the fanbase and most importantly, his family.

The traveling and the schedule has to be brutal on a ballplayer and his family. For his wife and children to look at Kerry the way that they do still to this day is an honorable thing. I enjoyed seeing how excited his kids were talking about what it was like to see their Dad play and I understand completely what Kerry meant in his concerned statement worried that his son will never see him pitch in the major leagues. I understand that feeling. I want my son to be a part of all that I do in life and I want him to respect me and the choices I’ve made and look up to me the way Kerry’s son does. You can tell his son thought it was cool to have a Dad who plays baseball for a living but more importantly, you don’t get the impression that he felt neglected at all. That must be a super hard balance to find as a father and professional with a crazy schedule. I hope that I can find professional success in the years to come that not only satisfy me creatively in this industry, however also allow for my family to understand how much they mean to me and for my son to know how much he is loved. That balance is something I’m sure Kerry didn’t always have come easy. Of all his achievements over his time as a professional ballplayer, it would appear as though he managed to find it with his family and it is the achievement I admire the most.

Watching his son give him a giant hug after coming off the mound at Wrigley, following a strike out of the final batter he would ever face, in front of the home crowd puts it all into perspective. As much as the fans’ standing ovation says how much he meant to the city of Chicago and Cubs fans all over, that hug symbolizes how much Kerry meant off the field to his family. It was a touching moment and quite possibly will end up being the best moment of this Cubs season. A hug that seemed to be saying, I love you, congratulations and I’m so glad you’ll have even more time for us all with the drama of a great career ending in front of fans who love Kerry for all he has done for them will actually likely end up being one of the best moments of this MLB season overall.

Congratulations on a brilliant career, Kerry Wood. Enjoy your family, thanks for the effort and if you choose to stick around in some type of role with the Cubs off the field going forward, I’m sure they’d love to have you. Kerry Wood. All class. The more guys we can have around the team like this, the better. Looking forward to seeing what’s next for Wood and the Cubs.

Go Cubs Go!

Wrigley gets Soccer while Citi Field gets the 2013 All-Star Game.

I despise Bud Selig a little more each day and most of it is based on his loyalty to the disgusting ownership group of the New York Mets.

I am at Dodd Stadium today for another great day of work with the Detroit Tigers’ A-ball team, the Connecticut Tigers and I took a few minutes out to watch Mayor Bloomberg, Selig, Mr. Met and Ponzi scum and Ponzi scum Jr. announce that New York City – specifically, the New York Mets – have been awarded the opportunity to host the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field.

Are you kidding me, Bud?

The Wilpons are disgusting, dishonest, crooked thieves of human beings/baseball owners who should have been kicked out of the game long ago for the way they have handled their business, what it does to the game and their ties to Bernie Madoff. For some reason, you continue to get their back. You gave them a loan to stay afloat while lawsuits were flung their way, attendance dropped and fans lost faith in their ability to keep their organization competitive. The fact that they currently sit 2.5 games out of first place in the bizarro 2012 season of the NL East is not lost on this writer. It is simply a by-product of a small fluke of a sample size for this season and while I respect what the players and manager have been able to accomplish so far this year (I would love to be able to say the Cubs are just 2.5 games out of first place at this point in the season) it is simply one more gift these criminals seem to step in with every smug, criminal, unethical step they take in handling their MLB and outside MLB business affairs.

Not that being 2.5 games out has done a whole lot for attendance or fan turnout. In New York, the talk continues to be one of two things depending on which type of fan is speaking. Either complete boycott is called for to show disdain for their actions and the way they feel about/treat this team from the way they speak of their star players to working with criminals such as Madoff to building a shrine to a team that never set foot in Flushing/Queens and selling jerseys of players that have no historical ties to the franchise (go to the Mets gift shop sometime if you catch a Cubs game there. What’s that? A Koufax jersey? When was he a Met? Exactly.) Or on the other hand, you get the ‘hey, I root for the team of players on the field, not the schlubs in the rich guy-owner box seats’.

It is this second type of fan I have a problem with.

I believe we are lucky as Cubs fans to have an ownership group that genuinely cares about the franchise. They don’t take us for fools and while their public statements regarding the team are likely tempered by public relations watchdogs, as fans of the ballclub, they are coming from the same place we are. They have suffered through the disasterous moments Cubs fans have suffered just like the fan base. They are able to relate to the plight of a Cub fan because they are Cubs fans. The are baseball fans. They love the team they own and it shows. They have put smart people in the role where we need them. They have not restricted these new hires but instead, allowed them to take the plan the Ricketts believed in when they hired them and allowed them to stay that course and watch the results unfold.

Is a rebuiling effort around young talent, a strong farm system, avoiding bad contracts and dealing veterans in return for hot prospects with giant upsides as much of a get rich quick scheme as partnering up with a ponzi artist and stealing millions and millions of dollars for unknowing victims and using that cash to benefit your ballclub for years? Do the results come by as quickly?

No. But whatever the results will be, they will come honestly. They will come without an asterisk, without a shadow or stain of all that is accomplished.

The Wilpons were able to run the Mets for years on money they didn’t deserve to be raking in due to the nature in which they were receiving it. The Wilponzis played dumb for long enough to get through without a trial and pay a giant settlement so that they not only are no longer legally even suspects of knowingly participating in the Madoff scheme, but they may even profit. So in business, they had a wise criminal in their pocket getting his hands dirty so they didn’t have to, in law they have escaped by paying a fine as opposed to actually taking on punishment that is deserved and would likely have sent them out of the game altogether and it would have been rightfully so and in baseball, they have the man with all of the power in their corner protecting them with all of his might. Bud Selig has done a lot of things that fans disagreed with in his time running The Show, however giving the All-Star Game to the New York Mets – to the Wilpons – is quite possibly the worst one yet.

The Wilpons are criminals. I know it. You know it. They know it. Bud knows it. Technically perhaps settling out of court has allowed them to prevent that tag officially however, despite the Mets fans that decide to turn a blind eye to the way the organization treats them and their franchise, the rest of baseball fans know how quite likely it is that they knew and in fact are just that – criminals. The fact that Mets fans still show up at all surprises me. Wilpon does not deserve their allegiance. He does not deserve their money and he does not deserve to be in baseball. So what does Selig do? He gives him the All-Star Game in 2013 where his rebound plan will now include not only potentially STILL profiting from the Madoff scheme, but profiting from the tens of thousands of fans who will show up and pay the gates at Citi Field (through on-line ticketing, etc but you know what I mean) to see the greatest in the game play an exhibition game on July 16th next year as well as participate in four other days filled with events that will honor the game’s best.

The Wilpons are among the game’s worst owners if not the worst. They should be last on the list of people awarded anything, let alone a game that honors the sport when they have no honor and have already profited by stealing from the masses. Bud Selig had 29 other teams to choose from, Ok, 28 if you discount last year’s host a few others if you then eliminate further the other hosts of recent years. It has been nearly 50 years since the Mets had an All-Star Game and the way the Wilpons carry themselves throughout the game, they should have to wait at least another 50 years to get one more.

Meanwhile, owners like the Ricketts – a family with resources, good will and good intentions who actually care and own one of the games most valuable and large market franchises – do not get an All-Star Game. Instead, today, we hear that Wrigley Field will get a soccer game. A SOCCER game? What? The simple fact that we are hearing about soccer coming to Wrigley is not enough for outrage. The stadium is a great place to host a sporting event and if it happens to be soccer, so be it. The outrage should be raised however that it was the New York Mets’ criminal ownership that was awarded next year’s opportunity to stage the game’s greatest before the Cubs or any other worthy organization.

The fact that Minneapolis is being discussed for 2014 is also outrageous considering Wrigley field will be 100 years old (as Wrigley Field) in 2014. How could you not give Wrigley the All-Star Game in 2014? Minneapolis? I’ve never been…but how do you not give the Ricketts, the Cubs, Cubs fans and Wrigley the All-Star Game in 2014. Nothing is official yet and the way Selig botched 2013’s game by giving it to the one group that should have been eliminated from contention makes me not surprised in the least that it is likely to not happen on Selig’s watch next year.

Selig, for the good of the game, stop taking care of your friends. Put the game first, not your criminal buddies. The players, coaches and managers that are at next year’s All-Star game will have worked hard to play in the game and represent MLB in front of the world. The team that hosts it should at least be in contention to do so because they have not dishonored the game with such disgraceful, illegal activity as the Wilpons have.

This outrage is not even truly about the Cubs or Cubs fans or soccer, etc. It’s about doing the right thing. It’s about taking the opportunity to do the right thing in honoring the game on it’s greatest stage and by giving next year’s cash cow of a game to his best friends who could definitely use it to avoid a fire sale on their disgusting bullet-dodging path that they’ve been on for the past couple years with the Madoff mess, Selig dropped the ball.

Citi Field – host field of the 2013 All-Star Game.

Seriously, Bud?

Ridiculous.

Go Cubs Go.