The BBA Chicago Cubs chapter votes: The Walter Johnson Award

Today’s post is serving as the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, Chicago Cubs chapter vote for the best pitcher in the National League. The BBA created the award to honor the top pitching talent in the game and named it after one of the greatest ever to take the mound.

Here are the BBA Chicago Cubs chapter votes for the Walter Johnson Award (our votes count towards the best pitcher in the National League seeing that our chapter is a National League chapter):

1. Clayton Kershaw, LAD: Made 33 starts, 233.1 IP, 2.28 ERA and won 21 games for a Dodgers team that struggled to score runs. Kershaw led the NL in strikeouts with 248 and notched 2 shut outs.

2. Cliff Lee, PHI: Allowed just 62 earned runs over 232.2 IP, struck out 238 batters and easily led all of baseball with 6 shutouts.

3. Ian Kennedy, ARZ: Quietly won 21 games with a 2.88 ERA to help lead Arizona to the NL West title. There is something to be said about the starting pitcher that performs the best on a team that outperforms expectations.

4. Roy Halladay, PHI: Virtually identical stats to Lee but sported a better ERA at 2.35. Halladay led the NL East winning Phillies with 19 wins. Hamels and Oswalt served Philly well, however it was Halladay that formed the second head of the Phillies dominant two-headed beast along with Lee.

5. Dillon Gee, NYM: Gee finished the season at 13-6 and 114 strikeouts in his rookie campaign. Without Santana and dealing with injuries all season, the Mets were desperate for someone to step up and perform well this season. Gee’s 6-0 start put him among the greatest rookie starts by Mets pitchers of all-time, tied for fourth in the franchise.

While the entire chapter generally submits for each award, this time around, these votes represent input from both myself and Brian at Bullpen Brian. More information about the BBA can be found here. Go Cubs Go!

The BBA Chicago Cubs chapter votes: The Goose Gossage Award

This is the time of year that a handful of posts will reflect on the season that has past and reward those who deserve acknowledgment. As the Cubs’ chapter president of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, you’ll find our chapter votes posted here for numerous awards. The BBA award listed below this post was for the manager of the year. Today, it is for the best relief pitcher in the National League, the Goose Gossage Award.

After much deliberation, our chapter is voting for the following three relievers. From first place through third we vote for:

First place: Craig Kimbrel who set the rookie saves record with 46 and held opposing teams’ batters to a .178 AVG.

Second place: John Axford who went 46/48 in save opportunities. His mustache scores some intangible points here as well.

Third place: Joel Hanrahan due to the fact that he put in 70 appearances and allowed only one home run while only blowing four save opps. After the second half the Pirates had, we felt they should have something to smile about. (The Cubs were lacking a long list of things to smile about in 2011 we realize as well. Thing is, looks like we’re getting Theo Epstein, so we can give this to Pirates. It’s the least we can do.)

More votes to come as well as a Prose and Ivy post about our new pal, Theo. Looking forward to the Cubs and Red Sox making his deal OFFICIAL. Go Cubs Go!

BBA Chicago Cubs Chapter votes: The Connie Mack Award

In representing the Cubs chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance as president of the chapter, our votes for the BBA’s Connie Mack award which has been created for the alliance to acknowledge the best manager in the NL, here are our first second and third votes for the award. More re: this award and the upcoming awards to come! Go Cubs Go!

Best NL Manager of 2011 votes:

1st place: Kirk Gibson

2nd place: Tony LaRussa

3rd place: Terry Collins

(These votes represent the votes by Bullpen Brian, Prose and Ivy and Cubs Billy Goat Blog).

VIDEO: A Child’s Choice in Cooperstown

This past weekend, my wife and I took our 10 month old son (ok, 11 months old tomorrow) to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

I hadn’t been to The Hall since I was little, probably younger than 12 at my best guess. No matter which exhibits had been added since I was there, they all felt brand new to me over 20 years later. I knew I would be impressed by the presence of greatness and great achievements that The Hall would present in walking around the treasured hallways. What I didn’t expect was how many times I found myself saying out loud ‘Whoa’ or ‘Wow’ after reading a particular stat or summary of a record performance.

There were so many amazing items that I could have easily spent two days reading everything and taking it all in. I highly recommend going to Cooperstown in the fall considering the summer months are when it is at its busiest. The place was lightly populated for a Sunday afternoon, however, those fans that were there were consumed with the sheer giddiness a place like The Hall provides a fan of any age. Most of us fell in love with the game as kids and when you are around the greatest to ever play the game, that same kid can’t help but come back again and be mesmerized by your childhood heroes once again.

My son has now attended The Hall for the first of many visits. I plan on taking him to a baseball game every single year. The Cubs have basically adopted him as one of their own just as I have set a positive example (I like to think) of what it is to be a Cubs fan. The opportunity to present him, even at this young age, with all of his options in MLB-land of teams to choose to dedicate his life’s loyalty, was to tempting to pass up. While I can tell that even at this young age, he’s leaning towards following through on the path that seems to be his destiny- rooting for the Cubs – I was curious to see what fans of other teams would say to him when presented two questions.

1) Why should my son dedicate his entire life to rooting for your favorite team? Your best reasons.

2) Why shouldn’t he root for the Cubs?

I believe in tradition and families rooting for the same team all together, however I also realize that it means more for the decision to be made after having all the information. Now granted, he isn’t even a year old yet…but it’s never too early to introduce the game of baseball and get him going on backing a team.

With the way the Cubs have treated him in his short time as a baby Cubs fan (a Cubs cub?), there’s no chance he won’t return the loyalty and sentiment once he can talk and understand what it is exactly that he is rooting for and what it is that he’s a part of.

Still, I couldn’t help but be curious as to what fans of other teams would say when given the platform to convince him to choose otherwise.

The results are here for you to enjoy…I’d love to hear your thoughts! (Especially those from Cubs fans interested in putting further reason out there to convince him he is on the right path with our team on the North Side!!) Go Cubs Go!

http://twitter.com/#!/trmb1d/status/116965556095160321

Back, back, back, back, back…

…gone.

I’ve been working on a number of projects lately, some of them you may be familiar with and others you may not (covering Big 12 football, high school football across the Northeast, writing about the PGA for BensGolf and continuing to write for Baseball Digest for instance). One project I’m really excited about will be posted here on Prose and Ivy in the coming days and I really think you’re going to enjoy it. (Stay tuned!)

Regardless, I’m back.

But like LL Cool J said to his brother Bean, don’t call it a comeback. (Back for two seconds and already a bad joke. Perfect.)

So, this season didn’t go exactly as planned. I think that’s safe to say. No one expected to see our 4 and 5 guys in the rotation hit the DL list after one start a piece. No one expected that September would be littered with call-ups. No one expected the Cubs to let Hendry steer the ship after being let go. However, all of that is exactly what happened.

With Hendry out as Cubs GM, the organization, the players and the fans are looking for a new direction. A new face to put on the team, responsible for making Wrigley Field the greatest magnet school in all the land for the most talented ballplayers in the world. Ricketts may own the team. His brother may go on Undercover Boss and his sister and others may do a great job with the community and representing the team as whole in various public appearances. I believe they do all of those things. Thing is, the most important thing this team needs to do in order to get us back in the win column over and over again in 2012 and beyond is figure out which mixture of players it is going to take to make this team feeling like Leonardo on the Titanic.

Enough with the deck chair shuffling. Let’s actually right this ship.

In order to do that, some huge decisions need to be made. Leave Pena at first or chase after Prince Fielder or King Albert. All of them have their positives and negatives. To try and decipher which of the three will have  a better 2012 or a greater impact on the overall success of the franchise in the coming years is about as guaranteed as playing a scratch off or purchasing a LOTTO ticket. More than likely, what is actually going to happen, is the Cubs will do their due diligence in analyzing the numbers (both the stat lines and the potential salary requests) and then hope for the best. More than likely, for any of three to succeed, the process is going to be less like putting together a strategy to win at Keno and more like simply finding joy in the fact that you found a twenty dollar bill in a jacket pocket that you had no idea you had coming in the first place.

Sometimes, you can do all you can and really, while the effort matters, it’s that little bit of luck that makes the difference in the end. Pena. Fielder. Pujols. Is there a wrong answer in the bunch? No. Is there a right one? Perhaps.

Across the diamond at third base presents another issue for the future GM to solve. Our-Ramis may be someone else’s ‘Ramis’ next season. Is there a better option at third base in the organization or across the league when looking at the vast majority of hot corner handlers in the bigs, than Ramirez? Not really. He is currently hitting .306 with 25 HRs, 92 RBI and 79 runs scored. Still, does he do anything for himself in selling the point to keep him a Cub for 2012 and not buy him out for $2million dollars by possibly exiting his final game as a Cub at Wrigley with a quadricep injury? It doesn’t exactly spell out c-o-n-f-i-d-e-n-c-e.

And it’s not just Rami. This team is old.

We’ve been old for a couple of years now and we are getting older. In fact, I would go as far as saying we were old in 2007. Thing is, when you are winning the Central division in back to back seasons (with a follow up in 2008), you look around the vending concession stations at Wrigley and you hardly notice the beer nozzles any longer. When you are atop the Central, they feel less like Old Style spouts and more like fountains of youth.

Cut to 2011. We didn’t win the division. Not even close. Despite the emergence of Castro, Barney and Campana we are still very, very old. While the rest of the team is giving it their all, as best as they possible can muster up, sometimes it feels a lot like a bunch old, fun ballplayers playing a game they either love, or used to love more than they do now, trying to keep up with a few whipper-snappers looking to play endlessly despite the fact that their older playmates simply can’t keep up.

One of our oldest and most favorite Cubs is also probably no longer going to be on the field next year. With a season ending torn meniscus injury in his left knee, I believe it is time to finally cut ties with Kerry Wood. Do I like Kerry Wood? Of course. What Cubs fan doesn’t? Do I wish his wife’s name was Holly? A little. Do I feel his time with the team has run it’s course? Unfortunately, yes. I understand Kerry is willing to give up some wealth in order to play for his beloved team, however, the team can no longer save the wealth and in return lose on health. Wood is simply too risky to rely on in the bullpen role we need him in going forward. Did I think a 7-8-9 setup of Marshall, Wood and Marmol was the strongest potential combo back in April? I sure did. Do I now? No.

Unfortunately, it is time to move Kerry off the field and into some role with the team if Ricketts sees fit to do so. Their special assistant to the GM announced his retirement yesterday. Perhaps that’s a role fit for Kerry. Of course, it’s a lot easier to assist a GM, even in a special capacity when you actually have a GM to assist.

The names of folks that may take over the GM role are at times inspiring, at times hilarious and at times down right horrifying. I would love to see someone with a winning track record come in and embrace the ambiance and environment and intangibles that comes along with being a part of the Cubs. However, I want them to take that, compartmentalize it and then use a winning season….no….many winning seasons to enhance why those things are so great. Because, those things are great, however, even those intangibles aren’t enough of a foundation to make this team what it can be. What we want it to be.

The Cubs are a special organization. In a recent trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was fun to see the plaques of Dawson, Sandberg, Fergie and Ernie. It was even more fascinating to see the plaques and exhibits regarding winners such as Tinker, Evers and Chance. Those Cubs teams are from another time. Another millenium even. I understand that. I mean, you want to talk about being old, those guys are dead. Thing is, that level of success, their level of success with this ballclub is what the current owners, future GM and fanbase need to recognize, expect and aim for.

We have the greatest team in baseball to call our own. They need to do all they can so that we not only call them our own, but also be able to call them the ultimate title in the game: World Champions.

Go Cubs Go!

Hendry out, Irene in.

Obviously there is a lot to talk about. Thing is, I’m putting the computer on higher ground to protect it among other things from Hurricane Irene. We’re evacuating the city for a couple of days and I’ll be back to talk about all things Cubs once I do. Wish us luck. We get water in our place with a small thunderstorm. This one is going to be a disaster.

Go Cubs Go! And Irene, simply Go Away.

Prosecard from Cubs Nation – Chris Jelinek

The Cubs have won four straight series and 11 of their last 14 games. On the other hand, Zambrano has quit on the team and Casey Coleman is on his way back to the majors. Never a dull moment with this team and quite frankly, we’re all in this together.

It’s fun to meet other Cubs fans and hear what they think of the season and why they root for the Cubs. In this interview series, I get to do just that. Today’s installment of Prosecard from Cubs Nation is with Chris Jelinek. A Cubs fan since the he was born, he like the rest of us, is still waiting to see the Cubs win it all. You both have so much in common, why not check it out?! Enjoy…Chris Jelinek and his Prosecard from Cubs Nation:

1. Name: Chris Jelinek

2. How long have you been a Cubs fan? Why do you root for the Cubs?:   I have been a Cubs fan since the day I was born (17 years ago). I became a Cubs fan because my dad was and always had the game on. Whenever I came home from school, I would be watching or waiting for the Cubs games to come on. I had the Cubs starting lineup memorized when I was about 7 years old. Always have been and always will be a Cubs fan.

3.  Have you ever seen the Cubs play on the road? What was that experience like? If not, which stadium would you want to see them play in on the road? What do you love about Wrigley?  Yes, I have been to a Cubs game at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati and I just recently went to the Crosstown Classic at US Cellular Field. I love Wrigley Field but sometimes it’s cool to see a road game. Fortunately, both road games I went to the Cubs won. I really enjoyed the game at US cellular field because of the rivalry. Cubs won 6-2 so that made the experience a lot better and I got to have bragging rights for the night.

4. At the trade deadline, what moves do you want to see Hendry make? (interview took place before the trade deadline):  Right now I would like to see Hendry possibly clear up some cap space to make a strong push for Pujols or Fielder. Personally, I really like Ramirez, but if possibly I would like to see Soriano and Fukudome get traded. But with Soriano’s contract that will obviously be a tough task. I think Hendry needs to find some good pitching prospects, which are almost ready for the big leagues. So basically, prepare a team that appeals to free agents.

5. What was your impression of the team based on the first half of the season? What are your expectations for the second half?   I didn’t have really high expectations for the Cubs this year, but the first half was terrible. Unfortunately, there were a lot of injuries but that is no excuse. The first half was definitely one to forget, but I was impressed with Castro and Barney. For the second half I’m expecting a close to .500 team. I would like to see top prospect, Brett Jackson, get some playing time and big league experience.

6. You are the Cubs’ GM for a day. What is your first order of business?   If I was the Cubs GM for the day, I would fire Mike Quade and try to hire a manager who has a good playoff record or just experience (Maybe Joe Torre or Joe Girardi). Then after that I would focus on making roster moves. But I believe an experienced manager is what the Cubs really need next year.

7. You are in charge of the Miller Lite ad in right field. Against NL Central opponents, what would you have the sign say?
Astros- “ Houston landed, we have no problem. Cubs will win a series”
Brewers- “Enjoy a victory drink as the Cubs finish the Brew”
Cardinals- “Come watch the Cubs sweep the Cardinals. It will be a like a “Holliday” in the city.
Pirates- “If the Cubs beat the Pirates it will be a safe sail to the division title”
Reds- “Come watch the Cubs keep on “Rolen” as they attempt to beat division rival Cincinnati Reds”

8.  Which Cubs team since 2000 has been your favorite and why?  My favorite Cubs team since 2000 would have to be the 2008 team. Even though they failed in the playoffs, it was a fun team to watch all year. I loved Mark Derosa and his love for the game and willingness to do whatever it took to win a ballgame. And I loved Rich Harden, so when the Cubs made a move for him I was really excited but unfortunately that club didn’t do anything in October.

9. Are there any former Cubs you kept an eye on and followed their career after they left the Cubs?   Definitely. Sammy Sosa was my favorite player growing up, so when he went to Baltimore and Texas I always checked up on him and his HR count. And it may sound strange but I have kept an eye on Mark Prior. I always have wanted to see if he could come back. I also check up on D Lee and Ted Lilly.

10.  You get to write the headline for the Tribune the day after the Cubs win the Series. Give a few examples of headlines you would run:  First headline would be, “The Curse is Reversed! Cubs are World Series Champs!” Second would be, “The Drought is finally over, after 103 years the Cubs have won the pennant!” Third would be, “Do You Believe in Miracles? Yes! Cubs Win the World Series!” The fourth would be, “Cubs Fans, It’s not a dream, The Cubs have won the World Series!” And the last one would be, “Hey, Hey, Hey! Cubs have won the World Series!”

11.  You need to choose a current Cubs player to do one of the following things: attend a bachelor’s party, babysit your kid, handle a business transaction, run the team next season. Who would you select for each and why? I would probably take Matt Garza to the bachelor party because he is always on the edge of the dugout, cheering for the team. So he would probably be a funny guy to have at a party. I would have Ryan Dempster babysit my kids because he is always good with fans at the ballpark and he would probably be a responsible guy to babysit kids. I would have Kerry Wood help with a business transaction because he seems to run a lot of charity events and he would probably be the best Cub to help run a business. And finally, I would have Marlon Byrd run the team. Very enthusiastic player who would be good with motivating players and helping them with mistakes. He has also been around the game for a while now so I would trust that he would have an idea of how the run a ball club.

12. You are selected to write an article about what it was like to be a Cubs fan in 2011. It will be placed in a time capsule and opened in 2111. What would you want to tell those baseball fans of the future? I would tell them our suffering has continued this year. It has been 103 years without a World Series but hopefully one will come soon. We have a young superstar coming up, Starlin Castro. Hopefully you think of Castro they way we think of Cubs great Ernie Banks. And most of all, hopefully the Cubs win multiple World Series titles before 2111.

13. How would you celebrate a Cubs World Series victory?  My Celebration would start inside Wrigley Field because I would be at the game. I would stay at the ballpark celebrating with thousands of fans until the stadium closes. After that, I would party in Wrigleyville all night. I would get a hotel room for about a week and just stay and party in the city for days. I would get the parade and rally site at about 2 or 3 A.M to make sure I’m close to the stage. The parade would be key to the celebration because it will be the most insane thing Chicago has ever seen.

14.  You have to make a choice. Either change the exterior of Wrigley incuding the marquee, or make changes to the scoreboard. One or the other. Which would you change? I would change the scoreboard. I love the scoreboard but I wish there was an opportunity for fans the see replays. I don’t’ want them to change the scoreboard but if came down between the two I would choose the scoreboard. Maybe they can sell the scoreboard and that can help pay Prince Fielder (joking).

Thank you to Chris for playing along and agreeing to be interviewed for this installment of Prosecard from Cubs Nation. If you are interested in being the next Cubs fan to be interviewed, email me at maloney_ryan@yahoo.com or send me a DM on Twitter, @proseandivy and I’ll send you some questions! Go Cubs Go!