AUDIO: Guest Appearance on I-70 Baseball Radio

Monday night, I had the pleasure of making a guest appearance on Bill Ivie’s I-70 Baseball Radio podcast on blogtalkradio.com.  It is a great compilation of Cardinals and Royals fan bloggers and always a fun listen.  This particular episode, they gathered up bloggers representing every team in the NL Central.  I took part in the panel discussion and made my case for the Chicago Cubs winning the Central in 2011. Some of you may have already heard it as it was their highest rated episode since launching in July of last year.  (For a more in detail description of what I expect out of the Cubs in 2011, check out the post below this one).

It really was fun to do and I think you’ll enjoy it.  The Cardinals fans hope they lock Pujols in before Spring Training although they don’t think it’s a hard deadline, the Pirates fans seem to believe they will once again finish in the basement of the division, the Brewers folks are confident they will contend and everyone (except me) believes either the Reds or Cardinals is the best team in the Central.  Pretty sure they thought I must be delusional to think the Cubs can pull this off in 2011, although Bill Ivie was on board with the concept that it’s not impossible for things to fall into place and make 2011 the Cubs’ year.  Hey, crazier things have happened and this division is going to be one of the tightest in all of baseball.
Go Cubs Go!
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2011 Season Preview – WE’RE GOING TO SHOCK THE WORLD

We shocked the world“.

Those words are uttered in only two cases.  Absolute disasters, or sports miracles.  It’s kind of bizarre, but in no other situation do you ever hear of anyone saying that the world was shocked. Ever.  Even with Obama’s election, perhaps some of the world was surprised but no one stated that he had shocked the world, or that our country had shocked the world given our election’s result…and that was a historical Presidential election.

Many would consider the Cubs winning the World Series to be an absolute sports miracle. If the Cubs were to in fact win the World Series, become the champions of the world in the world of baseball…you can bet a LOT of money that someone will use that phrase.  Someone will flat out state that the Cubs’ victory over the Boston Red Sox (yeah, that’s right, the Boston Red Sox) surprised the entire world, our entire planet, so much that it is in shock. Chicago?  Certainly.  Boston?  Yes.  Canada?  Um, ok.  Bangladesh?  Paris?  Sydney? Helsinki???  Intrigued?  Perhaps?  Shocked?  No.

If the Cubs were to win the World Series then yes, someone will say they shocked the world. In reality?  They would have made millions of Cubs fans VERY happy and many baseball fans or people who have a heart would happily give them a pleasant smile, perhaps a teary eye and a ‘that’s cool’ sentiment considering the over a century long drought the team has suffered through and well, to not feel something towards a group of people who suffered for so long…yes, you’d have to be heartless to not.  However, I feel shocked is a bit of a stretch.

The streak itself lends itself as the only evidence you truly need to NOT be shocked by the Cubs winning the World Series.  Over ONE HUNDRED years without a championship.  Others have done it much more quickly.  The Mets.  The Marlins.  In fact, every single team that has won a championship has done it within a shorter waiting period of time than the Cubs would have with the current streak at 102 years and counting.  Give me a break ‘shocked’. The Cubs are DUE.

You know what I think would be shocking?  If the Royals win the World Series in 2011.  If the Pirates win the World Series in 2011.  If the Orioles win the World Series in 2011.  And yes, even if the Phillies win the World Series in 2011 I’d be shocked because how often do you actually meet expectations and nothing goes wrong for your team to stop you from what should have been an easily accomplished, obvious to predict feat?  In each of those scenarios, I would be SHOCKED.

If the Cubs win it?  Not so much.  Surprised?  Elated?  Thrilled?  Speechless?  Relieved? Absolutely.  But after 102 years and with the roster that we have (that’s right, the roster that we have) I believe in one of the other age-old sayings in sports when it comes to predicting how a season will turn out.  And that is: Why not us?

And really, why not us?

As far as I’m concerned, great teams need five key things to win it all and I believe the Cubs have the potential to meet every single criteria.  Pitching, youth, veteran leadership, wise management, luck.  Some are MUCH harder to come by, but I see no reason why the Cubs can’t land the money ball in every single category.

PITCHING: Our starters were great when it came to quality starts in 2010.  Dempster is about as reliable as it gets and a great guy to have in the clubhouse.  He’s the rock of the rotation for 2011 now that Lilly is gone and there is no reason to think he can’t be the leader in the starting five.  Zambrano is equal parts talent and equal parts imbalance. That’s what many believe, I don’t buy it.  Zambrano is extremely talented and capable of doing great things, proven in his overall Cub record, leading the team in the past five Opening Day starts, throwing a no-hitter, being a dominant figure on the mound and the way he finished the second half of last season.  If he can start the way he did last year and finish the way he did last year, then Zambrano might just be capable of handling just about anything.  And what are the odds that he will go from Opening Day starter, to bullpen, back to rotation with head issues in between mixed with being the center of a lot of team drama? Chances are that’s not going to happen again.  I like Z’s chances of having a real quality 2011.  Wells is working on showing people that his first year is the real Wells, not the sophomore slump guy we watched in 2010.  I like that he can admit that he grew too big for his britches last year. Talent is great but mixed with maturity, it can go a long way.

Silva/Russell/Cashner are practically interchangeable.  No matter who ends up staying with the club, they will be the Cubs’ fifth starter and usually .500 seasons out of your number five guy is about all anyone hopes for.  I know they are all capable of giving us that if not greater ALTHOUGH, if it’s not Russell, all we’re looking at are righties in the starting rotation.  (That can’t be good).

And of course, the Cubs’ new toy for 2011…the new piece on the showroom floor: Matt Garza.  I was disappointed when I heard we were bringing in another guy this off-season but his name wasn’t Carlos.  I really want to lead the league in Carloses (Carlosi?  Carli?). I’m kidding….Matt Garza is possibly the missing link the Cubs have been looking for.  15 wins last season, an ALCS MVP and an all-around solid pitcher.  Coming from an environment and culture similar to the Cubs where no one expected much, he knows what it is to help get a team from the basement to the penthouse of an incredibly competitive division.  I like the Garza signing.  I don’t think we gave up too much for him and I’m excited to have him as a key part of the Cubs starting rotation in 2011.

Marshall/Wood/Marmol. Is there a better bullpen trio in the league?  Maybe only the Yankees and that’s only because they landed Soriano to match with Rivera.  Rivera is a legend, but he’s also another year older.  Even if they make the Cubs #2 in the league, I’d take it because in the grand scheme of things, being number two in the league regarding your top three bullpen guys is pretty damn good and nothing to complain about.  I love the talent and potential we have to close games out now, starting with a lead going into the seventh and holding it throughout the rest of the game. 2010 was horrible for the Cubs when it came to one-run decisions.  This next season? Not so much.

The Cards are strong with their 1-2 punch in Wainwright and Carpenter.  The Reds are impressive with their young staff coming off a division title.  The Brewers always seem to compete and will do so with Greinke in 2011.  It’s not going to be easy, but pitching wins championships and I feel comfortable putting the Cubs staff up against any one else in the Central.

THE ROSTER:  Our starting line-up, while somewhat premature considering it’s only January 14th and pitchers and catchers don’t even report until a month from now, is pretty much figured out for the most part.  Not in any particular batting order, just a simple run-down of Cubs starters by position:

C – Geovany Soto – Talented young catcher, one of the best in the National League. Coming off an off-year last year but recently signed an extension with additional money/increased salary.  He’ll be looking to show the Ricketts and the fans that the Cubs didn’t make a mistake in signing him and avoiding arbitration, or for counting on him even after shoulder surgery (probably the key reason he was only signed to a one-year deal…again, man, this is the year of the one-year deal, isn’t it?). Also, all we have behind him is Koyie Hill really, so Soto, you have no choice.  You need to be awesome…no relying on Koyie. Thanks.

1B – Carlos Pena – Our latest Carlos addition to the Cubs.  Pena batted under .200 for the season in 2010.  He was one of many one-year contracts that were doled out in the off-season (do that many people think they have a shot at Pujols?) and he is expected to bring the power bat necessary to replace Lee’s spot in the order.  His glove is supposed to be reliable and his power numbers shouldn’t suffer at Wrigley.  I like the signing, I think it has a lot of potential to work out and I believe his BA will rebound.  God, help us if it doesn’t.  I’m tired of anyone thinking Colvin is a good option at first and Lee’s already been exiled to Baltimore.  This has a lot of potential to work and if he stays healthy, I believe it will.

2B – Blake Dewitt – I don’t expect much out of DeWitt and I believe Baker may even replace him come June or July. However, with the other guys in this line up, second base is a place that we really just need the flash and reliability of the glove on defense, not necessarily a whole lot of RBI.  Just get on base and set the table for the guys we’re paying to knock in the runs Dewitt and we’ll all be happy.

SS – Starlin Castro – The club already has ads sporting Castro against Jeter, so yeah, the organization is high on Castro.  All of the Cubs Con materials feature the youthful stars of the team and Castro, after finishing in the top 10 for the NL in hitting his rookie campaign is among the top of them.  No sophomore on the team is expected to do more than Castro is, I believe the expectations on him are even higher than Soto’s were.  Hopefully he lives up to them and continues to learn under Quade’s leadership.

3B – Aramis Ramirez – If Ramirez stays healthy (and I understand it’s a big IF) then he will be fine.  He is playing at the end of his current contract and if he truly wants to stay in Chicago as a Cub, then 2011 is the time to prove the Cubs should pick up the 2012 option. He picked up his own option for 2011.  The team has the call in 2012.  Rami can put up big numbers healthy.  I’ll be rooting for the trainers once again this year to see that it happens.

OF – Soriano, Byrd, Colvin, Fukudome – No, I don’t think we’re playing softball.  I simply believe left to right we’ll start Sori, Byrd and Colvin and Fuke will sub in where needed.  I believe we’ll be seeing Reed Johnson at Wrigley a bunch this year as well.  Chances that five outfielders stay healthy and produce are very slim, however, I like our chances with the guys we’ve got.  They all bring something different to the table and they are a talented bunch at that.  Hopefully Byrd can repeat his All-Star caliber performance of 2010 in 2011 (it wouldn’t hurt for Sori to make a return to the All-Star stage as well.  Just saying).

New manager: Mike Quade – Quade took a team playing for absolutely nothing and had them playing basically .600 ball. He proved to be a great leader in teaching the young stars on the team and the vets respect his long journey and knowledge he’s gathered throughout his life in the game.  As of Opening Day, the entire team will be behind the idea of having him as their manager.  Some more than others as some of them even went as far as publicly backing his selection before it was announced. Quade is going to get a chance to do something he’s always wanted to do and the players believe he can get them what they’ve always wanted to get.  The same thing the city has always wanted to see.  A title.  A championship.  A ring.

Given all the unknowns that happen to every single team throughout a baseball season, luck becomes a great factor, indeed. However, luck is out of our control as it is every other team in baseball so as for things we can control, I think the ingredients and potential are there. Let’s hope the execution and results show up as well.

Respect to the rest of the Central, the National League and the Red Sox (that’s right, the Red Sox…I don’t even think the Yankees are making the playoffs in 2011).  I think it’s going to be a tough road to get there, but after 102 years…come on…we don’t expect it to be easy…and we’re due.  Why not us?  A Cubs fan predicting the Cubs will win the NL Central and then go on to win the World Series.

I know.  Shocking.

Projected order of finish in the NL Central (rest of the league to follow in a post much closer to Opening Day):

1. Chicago Cubs
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. Milwaukee Brewers
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

Ok, now seriously, calendar…get moving!  Looking forward to hearing from any one that might have any news or pics from Cubs Con and of course, pitchers and catchers in a month!

Go Cubs Go!  

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Statues of Limitations

The Cubs will honor one of the greatest Cubs of all-time tonight when they unveil a statue of Hall of Famer, Billy Williams.

The statue will be revealed in a ceremony at Wrigley before their game against the Astros at the corner of Addison Street and Sheffield Avenue.  Lots of folks had a problem with the way they handled the Harry Caray statue situation in replacing his long-held location at that intersection with the new Williams statue.  While I don’t really understand the decision to move Caray for Williams (why not just leave Caray and Banks, the only other player to be honored with a statue at Wrigley, where they are and put Williams else where?), it doesn’t bother me outside of not understanding the logic in doing so.

Williams already has his number retired by the club and it’s a great honor to be immortalized outside the game’s greatest stadium.  I’m currently reading about Billy Williams and it’s a fascinating story.  I’m happy for him and can’t wait to see the statue next time I visit Wrigley.  (Banks too for that matter as I’ve only seen the Caray statue in person).

A team that is short on championships and long on failures, I’m glad the Ricketts have decided to find a way to keep moving forward while updating but not changing the old stadium and honoring greats of the past, highlighting the positives that Cubs fans can be proud of while many obsess over the losing seasons and loveable loser reputation (a little too much in my opinion).  I feel it’s hard to break out of the lovable loser/losing mentality when you are constantly embracing it and while it may be necessary in a laugh-instead of crying kind of way, it won’t ever help us win a title.  The more ways we can emphasize the positives and look to move this team forward in a way that makes a positive difference, the better.

In a way, it would be easy for the Ricketts to push the old Veeck mentality of come out and have fun at the ballpark, don’t worry so much about the winning.  This would be even easier for them than other potential owners considering they grew up with it all around them finding love in life and for their team in the bleachers of Wrigley and as die-hard fans, it would be easy to take that loveable loser mentality into the owner’s box.  Think about how horrible that would be if they took the ‘let’s have a sense of humor’ approach and commemorated some horrible moments/characters in Cubs history with statues outside of Wrigley.  My Cubs statues of limitations if you will.

A statue of Lou Piniella for instance.  Giant belly, raving lunatic face, maybe even yelling in the face of an umpire (this statue would take a while considering there’d be an ump as well).  Holding two giant stone tablets, one reading 2007, one reading 2008 and beneath him on the ground, two broken tablets: 2009 and 2010.  His left arm in the air in anger and his right arm reaching out, just short of a carved out stone version of the word “potential”.

A statue of Dusty Baker for instance.  This one would have to be practically a characature.  Big smile on his face commemorating his arrival in the Windy City.  A toothpick so large it’s nearly the size of the rest of the statue.  Carved out fans crying all around him at his feet and a little Sammy Sosa in the back of the statue doing whatever he feels like.

A statue of the Cubs batting glove Bill Buckner wore in game six of the World Series in 1986 for instance. Simply to commemorate the once a Cub, always a Cub feeling.  You may be able to take the player out of Chicago, but you can never take Chicago out of the player.

A statue of Sammy Sosa for instance. Biggest torso on a player’s statue ever created with a tiny head and two gigantic arms sitting upon two gigantic, powerful legs.  In his back pocket a syringe.  His right arm pointing up to the sky in celebration of a home run and his left hand behind his back with his fingers crossed to denote the honesty that each home run was bashed in while chasing down unattainable records.  Of course there would be no number on his back because next to him would be a very little Tyler Colvin wearing the number 21 just laughing and having a great time doing a respectable job representing Sosa’s old steroid infested number.  At Sosa’s feet, a Spanish to English dictionary ripped in two and set on fire in hopes that no one knew it ever existed in Sammy’s possession, ever.  And the bonus feature, for some reason after years and years of looking this way, the statue’s face will begin to fade until the face is so white it longer resembles anything that it used to be and fans will have to do a double take to make sure it’s who they think it is.

A statue of Todd Hundley if you will for instance.  Todd Hundley’s statue would be made of the most expensive metal and yet, would deliver the least amount of entertainment value.  If fans had their way, it would probably also receive the largest amount of bird excrement.  Hundley would simply be standing there with hands in his pocket offering absolutely nothing with a giant smile on his face.  No glove as he was horrible behind the plate.  No bat as he delivered nothing compared to what was expected of him.  Next to him on the ground?  A giant bag of cash with a cartoonish $ symbol.  Hundley’s would be the only statue with a sound effect…that being, the sound of a truck backing up which would commemorate the giant contract he was given.  When the truck doesn’t arrive, fans will realize that it is commemorating how long Cubs fans waited for results out of Hundley even though all of his money was on the way.

And last but not least, a statute of Will Ohman for instance.  Quite possibly the worst Cubs relief pitcher to ever demonstrate hilarious ineffectiveness right before my eyes.  Ohman’s statue would be of him on the mound looking in for the sign.  Behind him, a brick wall covered in ivy and the famous scoreboard.  Out of the scoreboard would be a kid just waiting to flip over the visitors’ run total on the scoreboard. When Ohman pitches, the other team scores a ton of runs and it will show.  Ohman’s statue, the only one with a cool interactive feature, will allow fans to step up to the plate, literally.  You can step on a home plate and right on cue a ball with be shot out of a small cannon, flying over the outfield wall.  The run the boy running the scoreboard was counting on, delivered.

Needless to say, this would be a horrible sight to see and I’m glad the Ricketts are knowledgable enough of the past and looking to celebrate it.  We need more focusing on the positives these days as our team is falling apart beyond what I expected.  2007, 2008 were a blast.  2009 was a let down.  However this year, has simply been sad.  No playoffs.  No title.  Not even having Lou for the whole season.  The bright spots need to continue getting us through and they need to continue to be celebrated.  Williams is a bright spot from the past and we need to keep those bright spots in mind while enjoying the current bright spots of today (Quade, Castro, Colvin….and that’s been about it).

You guys have any other ideas for Cub Statues of Limitations?  Congratulations Billy, you deserve it!  Go Cubs Go!

I’ll Take Some Blame for This Streak

You just need to keep your mouth shut in this great game.  You can’t mention anything about anything going great because as soon as you do…BOOM, gone.

My last post was about Lou loving his decision to move Z to the bullpen and all the great winning that went on afterwards.  Were we on a streak to end all streaks?  No.  We weren’t even in first place.  But the team had found it’s offense for a few games, it had a new fire lit under itself with Z gone to the bullpen and we looked to be headed in the right direction.  Then I posted all about how please Lou must be with himself and it was all down hill from there.  Now we’ve been swept by the Pirates, lost two games in a row after exchanging blow outs with the Reds and have to suffer a series against a strong NL East team in the Florida Marlins (who as I write this, we are currently losing to 4-2 in the ninth.

We are six games out of first place in the Central, five games behind the wild card leading Giants and have a miserable record of 14-18, looking up at the Cards who sit pretty at 20-12 and are only three and half games above the lowly Astros at the bottom of the division.  Castro has even been called up to the bigs and after one huge, record breaking outing of a home run and six RBI in his major league debut, our team seems to have forgotten how to string hits along for offense again and have even found more ways to struggle at home at Wrigley.

Z to the bullpen.  Castro up to the bigs.  Theriot to second.  Flip flop Ramirez and Soriano in the line up.  I’ve been watching a lot of NBA playoff basketball lately and just like in those games where every team will have it’s run if given enough time, the same has gone for Lou lately.  A hot streak, a cold streak….a cold streak, a very cold streak. Hopefully he finds the right mix and the right words to light a fire under this team soon.  If wanting to win, if being paid millions isn’t enough then something else must be wrong.  We need Lou to figure it out because Hendry can only call up so many hot hitting prospects to try and make a difference.

I think Keith Hernandez would fall into a coma if he called Cubs games.  The Mets are 17-14 and two games out of first place behind the Phillies and even with all of that, here’s a clip of Keith calling a Mets game.  Go Cubs Go…let’s turn this thing around QUICKLY!

The Talented Mr. Fukudome

Thumbnail image for fukudome and third base coach.pngAre there no limits to the talents of Kosuke Fukudome?!  People said he was fast, but he’s shown some great speed so far this season!  Today against the Brewers, Fukudome nearly became the first player in major league baseball history to get to first and third base at the exact same time.  Psyched the Cubs were successful in landing him in the offseason!  Check out these numbers:

1.  K Fukudome
OBP .667  SLG% 1.125 AVG .500

Whatever they’re whispering in Fukudome’s ear, keep it up!  Sure it’s only three games in but Prose and Ivy and Chicago are huge fans of Kosuke Fukudome!  Even if they don’t quite know how to express it.  Let’s see how Kosuke does against the Astros this weekend!  The Brewers couldn’t figure him out and I doubt the Astros will in their first series against him either!  FUKU-DOME!!  FUKU-DOME!!  Rich Hill on the mound tomorrow…let’s take this series and make it a great weekend!  Go Cubs Go!

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