2011 Season Preview – WE’RE GOING TO SHOCK THE WORLD

Dailies

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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D Lee Denies LA

Dailies

Lee opted to stay with the Cubs instead of waive his no-trade clause to be sent to the Angels. As far as I’m concerned, he’s one of the best Cubs first basemen of all-time.  If he wants to stay and finish his contract, so be it.  Happy to have him through the rest of 2010. Technically we’re not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs so who’s to say we can’t pull off something miraculous.  Granted, we are WAY further behind in the standings than I would’ve expected to be at this point.  I would have thought we’d be about 5 games back and still in the thick of things by now and only behind the Cards possibly (I really don’t think anyone saw this season coming from Cincinnati).  However, Lee’s commitment to the team is something I respect and I’m happy to have him slugging away (or let’s face…or not) for the rest of this season. I mean, not this happy:

…but happy.

Lilly on the other hand is another story and I’m not sure how much longer we have Super Ted on the squad.  Demp had his time at the top and Zambrano was supposed to be the team’s ace and he completely fell apart over the time Ted’s been here.  In the few years we’ve had Lilly he’s been the least supported, most consistent pitcher on the team.  If we had five Lilly’s and essentially in that case, no ace, we would have won more games over that time period than with the guys we’ve had.  I honestly believe that.  I think we would have three-peated in the Central from ’07-’09 and would have seen the playoffs for one more season than we did.  Which would have given us one more chance at redemption to make up for being swept in the first round of the playoffs two years in a row.
We are definitely sellers in the market though as you don’t hear any of the big names left as rumored to be coming to the Cubs.  Lee doesn’t appear to be going anywhere and Lilly is the big sideshow right now that all the other clubs are coming to see/scout and hopefully land in their own flying circus.
The team is going to look extremely different next year and I’ve accepted that.  Great chance that our first baseman, second baseman, rotation, bullpen and right field all are all occupied by different players in 2011.  If you have any favorites on this team, enjoy them now because next year, who knows whether they’ll be back or not.
On a personal note, my father-in-law has been moved from the hospital to the rehab center and it seems as if he’ll finally start the rehabilitation process after having a stroke three weeks ago.  I was up there with him over the weekend but had a chance to catch the Hall of Fame induction on MLBN.  Lots to come about that in the coming days.  Go Cubs Go!

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One List. Two Lou’s. Three Acceptable Options.

Dailies

I’ve often wondered what my Mom and Dad did to pass the time during the day at work.  My stepfather and stepmother were a plumber and teacher respectively so they never really had the 9-5 challenge of staying awake and being productive.  Nowadays you can practically coast through 2/3’s of a given day on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Youtube, Foursquare (not sure why this one exists), various blogs, websites, Hulu, and on and on.  Honestly, how many times can you go to the bathroom?  How many times can you walk over to a co-worker’s desk (notice, not email or IM) and ask them to grab some coffee or visit the water cooler?  If I had to put up with that nowadays, I don’t know how I’d survive.

With the Internet we find out things instantly and we are able to communicate to others in an instant of finding out the news of the day.  Somehow it got by me yesterday that James Gammons passed away.  Now for many of you, chances are that by name alone, you don’t know who I’m talking about.  However, what if I say “None of this OH-LAY ********” or “Forget the curve ball, Ricky.  Give him the heater”.

Now do you know who I’m talking about?

Of course you do.

The actor that played Cleveland Indians manager, Lou Brown, in the film Major League passed away yesterday at the age of 70. Here is the article in the NYTimes.  In my opinion, James Gammon is responsible for giving us the best overall performance of a baseball manager in the history of film.  I loved his dry humor and the way he’d deliver his lines.  His voice could help you pick him out of a line-up all by itself, as it probably should be credited for landing him a number of roles that he played.  His performance was impeccable and unforgettable, proven by the fact that I still quote him over and over again even after a decade’s passing since the film came out.

It got me thinking about the greatest performances of all-time when it comes to depicting baseball managers.  As soon as I posted on Twitter upon hearing the news that I feel Gammon’s performance was my favorite and the best of all time, someone tweeted “Wilford Brimley is pissed at you right now”.  I know Brimley was the oatmeal guy and had a long respectable acting career.  I know he was likable and many think his performance in The Natural is the all-time best.  However, I disagree.  I respect Brimley’s performance and in fact I think it was the third best of all time.  Who comes in second?  Well, here is my list of the top five of all time starting with number 5:

5. William Devane in “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training”

While he can’t live up to Matthau’s performance and really, who can?..(not Billy Bob Thornton, that’s for sure)…he is responsible for coming through in the end for his son, Kelly Leak, and for his Bad News team against the mighty Houston Toros.  Watching Tanner run away from the umpires is my all-time favorite Bears moment, however, it’s the moment that happens right after Tanner starts yelling “The game’s not over, we’re not finished!” that really tugs at the heart strings.  The old guy with money to burn and a ten gallon hat jumps on board, then we as the audience do as the rest of the fans in the Astrodome do when the Bears’ manager, Kelly’s dad, runs on the field to support Tanner’s efforts in giving his guys a chance to win it all with a heartfelt “LET THEM PLAY!  LET THEM PLAY!”  TRY to watch that scene and not feel the absolute yanks on the heart strings while he convinces everyone in that stadium, the Astros included (in their old ugly uni’s, although to their credit they are the inspiration for the chant) to let the game go on.  A great moment and simply for that, he gets number 5 on the list.  Here is that moment:
4. Tom Hanks in “A League of Their Own”
It goes to show you how I feel about the other performances if Mr. Oscar himself is sitting in at number 4.  Hanks’ comedic chops and timing deliver a memorable performance of a washed up, alcoholic, has-been who is stuck managing in the lady bigs.  A guy’s guy, managing a bunch of women was probably the last thing Jimmy ever thought he’d be doing.  However once he comes around and realizes the heart his players have and decides to work along side his star player in Geena Davis, his story hits it’s arc and it’s a performance worthy of number 5 on this list.  And honestly, we all remember there’s no crying in baseball.  Why?  Because Tom Hanks said so.
3. Wilford Brimley in “The Natural”
The old guy just wanted to win.  He had nothing left for BS.  He had nothing left for politics.  He certainly didn’t have anything left to battle gambling that was starting to play an effect in outcomes of games.  When he found out his ‘new’ talent was an old outfielder and that he was expected to do something with what he viewed as never-was garbage, he was irate.  Yet it was this same talent, Roy Hobbs and his Wonderboy bat that saved the day and the pennant.  Brimley’s mustache helps him get the edge over Hanks in addition to the film itself being a classic.  Movies can’t achieve that status without it’s actors providing incredible performances like Wilford’s.
2. Walter Matthau in “The Bad News Bears”
Matthau starred in one of the raciest baseball scripts of it’s time as a little league baseball manager.  Although they way these kids talked and the way Matthau’s character behaved it easily could’ve been the Majors.  This was basically South Park before there was South Park.  All we needed was Lupus running around going “Oh My God, they killed Tanner!”  Matthau hates his life but has to continue his role as manager of this sorry group of kids.  As their season goes horribly and the kids are ready to give up, he’s afraid of seeing that part of him coming through in his kids and he gets under their skin to finally get them performing.  Swiggin beers and working with his new female pitcher (another role of a movie manager having a problem with a female player, interesting) and his new star outfielder in Kelly Leak, along with building a comraderie with Engelbert, the two kids who could only speak Engl
ish and his useless in the field, great at keeping score/taking a pitch team geek made Matthau and this team a bunch of guys you loved to root for.  A drunk little league manager doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of guy you’d like to root for, but in Matthau’s hands it was a lot of fun and one of the best ever.
1.  James Gammon as Lou Brown in “Major League”
The great thing about Lou Brown as a manager was the way he used the information he had on the owner’s wish of throwing the season to move to Miami as motivation to get his guys angry and play beyond expectations.  That’s something that a big league club needs.  A common goal and common enemy at times to get your team going as a team and picking up ground in the standings.  Gammon showed absolutely no interest in joining the club at first and then in the end of course, they get it done.  The rest of my thoughts on his performance are included above.  Thanks for all the quotes, James.  You da’ man buddy. Of course, not a lot of his quotes aren’t NSFW so here is a fun behind the scenes video for the film:
That aspect of being able to rally your team for a common goal is something I feel Piniella was always missing (and still is) with the Cubs.  Division titles in 07 and 08 were great, but you could tell he couldn’t get this team over the hump in being swept in the playoffs and not returning in ’09.  Lou announced he’ll retire after the 2010 season and I’d love to see him go out a winner.  I just don’t know that a cardboard cut out of Jim Hendry with removable pieces revealing more and more of his body is going to cut it with this squad.  (Maybe the Ricketts sister?  Or what about Sarah Spain perhaps?)  I appreciate what Lou has done with this team as it’s been one of the best tenures in Cubs history.  Just would’ve been great to see him win the big one with the Cubs knowing what it’d mean to him, the city and the organization and it’s fans.
Seeing that he’s out soon, here are the three possible replacements that I would actually be OK with:  Ryne Sandberg, Bobby Valentine and Alan Trammell.  More on that in another post.  For now, here is some information on the career Lou has compiled.
Going to watch the rest of the game now without typing through the whole thing.  Cubs down 6-0 in the fourth to the Astros currently.  Dempster on the mound.
Forget the curveball Ryan, give him the heater.
Go Cubs Go!

Dawson’s Week

Dailies

Andre Dawson will finally be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  On Sunday afternoon, he will take his rightful place among the legends of the game.  The lawn in Cooperstown, I’m sure, will be absolutely packed with Cubs (and possibly some Expos) fans for as far as the eye can see (or at least until the lawn runs out).  I’ve never been to an induction ceremony and this was to be my first.  If I had the opportunity, I would’ve attended Sandberg’s.  With the announcement of Dawson going in back in January, I immediately looked around to make hotel reservations.

As you could imagine, hotel accomodations were extremely hard to come by.  Many hotels were sold out when I called and I started calling only minutes after the announcement was made.  I had my numbers ready to go and as soon as my blackberry sent through the note that Dawson was in, I kindly stepped out of the meeting I was in and started the hunt for my Cooperstown home for this upcoming weekend.  Apparently, while I wanted to be sure of Dawson getting in, many fans made their reservations ahead of time ‘just in case’.

Motels nearby: sold out.  Hotels: sold out.  Quaint country side inns and Mom and Pop bed and breakfasts: sold out.  One place was completely taken over by the media and Cooperstown employees which would make sense I suppose, at least for the media as they too would have to sleep somewhere, right?  Well after widdling my way through sold out venues and those that require a 3 night stay (the induction is only on Sunday and the museum probably only really needs one day so 3 would be a little excessive….and expensive, like $1200) I finally found a place about a half hour/forty minutes away in beautiful, sunny, tropical Utica, NY.  Ok, not ideally sitting on Main Street, Cooperstown with a view of the parade from my room window, but still, close enough to be a part of all the action and share in Dawson’s big day.

Then about a week or two later, my wife and I found out she was pregnant (perhaps the only new year’s resolution I’ve ever actually kept and accomplished so quickly by the way. TMI?) and we’d be having a baby come October and she’d be right in the thick of pregnancy in the hot, hot Summer days of July.  A total trooper and excited about coming home with a new baseball cap, my wife was still game and hot or not, she was ready to go check out Cooperstown for the first time in her life and share in Dawson’s big day.

I wanted to head up there with her and take in all the sights and sounds the town and the museum has to offer.  Show her some of the cooler baseball memorabilia they have on display.  Interview a ton of Cubs fans and get their take on the event and what it means to them.  Interview haters and find out perhaps why they don’t think Dawson belongs in the hall.  Make some silly videos and archive our experience in Cooperstown that weekend to share with you all.  And most importantly, just be around it and share in a historic afternoon that will bring Dawson’s baseball achievements to a close with perhaps his greatest honor yet (the highest you can obtain as a player so yes, his highest honor). 

Unfortunately, although I’ve mentioned it here in a few times and in the vlog I shot on the day of Dawson’s Hall announcement, I will not be able to make it to Cooperstown this weekend.  I do plan on finding some way of covering this event whether it is through an interview of some sort or what, I haven’t decided.  However, due to important family matters I will not be able to attend.  My father-in-law had a stroke about two weeks ago and it was very, very scary.  Driving my wife up to see him in the hospital, not knowing what was happening or what could happen was one of the most intense car rides I’ve ever experienced.  I know what her parents mean to her so I just tried to get her there as quickly as I could.  A good 5 hour drive from NYC to NH and we did it in about 4 hrs and 20 mins (don’t tell the police though). : ) 

He is doing well and is able to talk although he has a lot of recovering to do and rehabbing coming up.  A clot in his brain and some brain hemorraging was occuring and if his wife hadn’t had him to the hospital as quickly as she did, this weekend could be much different.  I just wanted to let you all know that I won’t be able to go up to Cooperstown and share photos/videos with you of the big Andre Dawson gets into the Hall weekend as I said I would.  As disappointing as that is, all things considered, I am happy to say that we will be spending the time with her father and mother at the rehab center in New Hampshire. 

As I have my own son on his way, I’m starting to further understand how important family is.  Back in January I couldn’t name you one place I’d rather be this coming weekend.  However with recent events, there’s no way I’d be anywhere else than where I’m going to be.

If anyone has any photos, videos, etc after this weekend they’d like to share, or if you are attending and would be up for me interviewing you afterwards, please don’t hestitate to email me at proseandivy@cubsmvp.com.  Thrilled for The Hawk and I look forward to hearing his speech and seeing all of the coverage on MLBN.  It’ll be cool too to hear Sandberg’s speech or from anyone that is there to speak on behalf of Dawson as they knew him in his playing years and beyond. 

This coming Sunday, Andre Dawson and I will having something in common.  We will both be exactly where we should be and all things considered, for both of us it could be A LOT worse.  (A more uplifting post about two Lou’s and the greatsest movie managers of all time is to follow this evening.  Go Cubs Go!)

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Blessing in Disguise

Dailies

When it comes to Chicago Cubs baseball, if recent events have taught us anything, it’s never say always.  One of my favorite things to say here at Prose and Ivy is, “We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh”.  Given our performance in the past against the lowly Pirates, it always appeared on the year’s schedule as a gift-wrapped blessing.  A small three day break if you will where wonderful things happen like Cubs home runs flying out of the park, pitchers dominating on the mound, Cubs ending up on the right end of a blow out and W flags are hooked to the flag pole rope at the top of the first for it’s inevitable rising after the top of the ninth.  Plan to head home early folks because the Pirates are coming to town.  There won’t be any Cubs batting in the bottow of the ninth because there won’t be one.  These games are given.  The Pirates can’t handle the talent and the skill level the Cubs bring to their games.  Regardless of how the Cubs were going, if you see Pittsburgh coming up on the schedule, get ready for at least a three game turnaround and find your brooms.  The Cubs were about to seem the Pirates and all will feel right again in Wrigleyville.

That was then.  This…is now.

All of a sudden, the Cubs can’t be counted on to beat one of the worst teams in all of baseball and the cellar dweller or the NL Central.  See that .342 winning percentage and the 17 games that they currently sit behind the division leading Reds?  Don’t let that fool you!  When the Pirates have had the all-of-a-sudden priviledge of playing the Cubs, they are a surreal .800 ballclub!  In ten games against the Cubs this year, they’ve won 8 and lost 2.  What?!?  WHAT!?!  There are certain things that this blog feels it can count on:  baseball magazines and websites and blogs will have the Cubs listed as contenders in the Central, talk whether this is the year and then the Cubs will let you down come October (some seasons even earlier); Dempster will predict the Cubs will win it all; Carlos Marmol will be responsible for at least six heart attacks across the midwest throughout the course of a season; Sox fans will hate on Cubs fans and vice versa; and if nothing else is going our way, hey hey…at least ‘We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh’.  Well, that last one apparently no longer applies.  And it just may be a blessing in disguise.

Think about how this season is going.  The Reds lead the NL Central and the Cubs currently sit in fourth place looking up at the unfortunate view of Brewers behinds, hardly even keeping the Cardinals in sight, while the Reds are a ******** 10 games out in front of them.  The offense thinks it’s still the off-season.  Carlos Zambrano is seeing a shrink.  Piniella seems to be snoozing through the first half of the season.  All of our ‘all-stars’ suddenly look too old, too injured, or too apathetic.  Castro started out hot and then cooled off to an average pace.  Wells can’t seem to find the form that kept him one of the club’s most dominant pitchers in ’09.  And for some reason, we CAN’T beat the Pirates.  Fine.  If that’s the way it is…if that’s the way it’s going to be, then perhaps the rest of the things we’ve come to expect can start to make a change as well.

Perhaps the head shrink can get Zambrano under control and he can perform out of the bullpen upon possibly returning after the All-Star break.  Perhaps Wells can find his form and start to lead this club through a charge to possibly make up 10 games to the top of the division.  Our crosstown rivals just made a huge push to put themselves in the club of relevant baseball teams for this year, and if they can do it I KNOW we can do it.  Perhaps we will find a way to win one run ballgames in the 2nd half of the season.  Those eighteen losses in one run games might just be the single most frustrating aspect of 2010.  Perhaps since what has become the norm against Pittsburgh has been turned on it’s head, maybe all of these other things we’ve come to expect from this team this year can take a change of course as well.  Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise.

Of course, if it does happen there is a very good chance that we may have a few different guys wearing that same disguise as there are rumors that everyone from Zambrano to Marmol to Fukudome to Lilly are on the trading block.  I’m not sure how far behind we need to be for Ricketts to consider himself a seller as opposed to a buyer.  He’s a good business man it seems, but he’s also a fan.  I wonder how hard it must be for him to make rationale decisions when analyzing at point this particular team is no longer going to make the push it needs to contend.  I wonder if Ricketts thinks Pittsburgh is just another symptom of an extremely frustrating and disappointing Cubs season.  I wonder if he can find a way out of this mess and find the blessings in all of this turmoil.  So many fans on-line if you read around the Cubsblogosphere have already said ‘please, no more’ or are very close to taking that flag and throwing it in like a towel.  I don’t like our odds against the rest of the league if we can’t even handle Pittsburgh.  However, I didn’t expect Pittsburgh to put the beating on us the way they have.  Hopefully an unexpected 180 on this season’s trajectory is around the corner as well.  If not Pittsburgh, we’ll always have fool’s hope, right? 

(Any thoughts you’d like to share can be done in the comments section, or if you’d like, you can call into tonight’s Baseball Bloggers Alliance podcast.  I’m guest hosting tonight at 11pm EST and you can find the show’s site and information here!  And since I’m hosting with WebSoulSurfer who runs a Padres blog, I’ve included a clip of the Derrek Lee/Chris Young fight.  Why not?  Enjoy.  Go Cubs Go!)


Now We’re in a MUST Win Sitch

Dailies

Screw it.

The MLB championship is out of our Cub reach for 2010.  Time to accept that…but who cares.  That trophy is overrated.  Let’s be honest with ourselves…the Crosstown Cup is our coveted ark.  If this season were an action film it’d be Lou Piniella Jonesin’ with the Cubbies After the Lost BP Ark.  Now is the time to step up and make all of our Cub dreams come true…win the next two games in an epic fashion and tie the Chicago White Sox for the BP Crosstown Cup.

The BP Crosstown Cup awaits and we are now in a must win situation.  Dave Roberts and the Red Sox in 2004?  That’s nothing compared to Lou Piniella and the Chicago Cubs of 2010.  Time to make history.  Time to go get the greatest prize in all of sports.  Get the ticker tape and the police horses ready.  There’s going to be a whole lot of thrilled Cubs fans crowding the city of Chicago come Sunday night when the whole town rejoices the Cubs claiming the BP Crosstown Cup over the Chicago White Sox in a historic comeback of epic proportions.

Never in the history of baseball has any team ever come back from being in a 3-1 deficit in a Cup clinching series with two games to play and the opportunity to tie for the Cup.  Never.  The Cubs can be the first.  Starting this weekend’s series already down 2-1, the Cubs rolled into Sox territory on Friday and lost it….and then lost it.  Zambrano gave up some hits that he thought should’ve been stopped by Cub fielders.  It resulted in him serving the team with all that he had for an entire 1 inning.  After closing out the first and giving up four earned runs including one three-run bomb, he got to the Cubs dugout and immediately let loose on his teammates.  Holding nothing back in what was probably a mixture of Spanish and English, Carlos Zambrano let his battlemates know how unhappy he was with their performance and followed up his 2009 signature game with another strong outing in the dugout destroying another Gatorade machine.

This was the type of performance that will be mentioned along side some of the greatest pitching performances of all time.  Schilling’s bloody sock game?  Mariano Rivera’s overall career in the post-season as an absolute shut-the-door-kinda-closer?  Good luck measuring up and reaching the number one spot when the greatest moments to ever take place in the game of baseball are discussed.  Carlos Zambrano went out and put forth an effort that left manager Lou Piniella nearly speechless in the post-game press conference.  The team, mind-blown from their ace’s outing, have no idea what to do next with their Opening Day Ace-turned bullpen stop plug-turned best option to fill a void in the rotation.  What else does he have left to achieve?  What else does Carlos Zambrano have to do to prove to people his place in the game of baseball?

Soto escorted Zambrano out of the dugout after the amazing course of events took place clearly wanting to take the great one away from the mere mortals around them.  Lee was so taken by the great pitcher’s display of effort, ability, passion and love of the game that he too started to yell along with Zambrano hoping to fire up his teammates and share in this historic moment with one of the greatest characters in the game.  Galarraga not flipping out after a perfect game was stolen from him?  Give me a break.  Carlos Zambrano knows what it takes to gain respect from his teammates, manager, coaches, GM, fans and opponents.  This is exactly the kind of attitude and effort the Cubs need this weekend to stake a shared claim to the sport’s biggest prize. They all need to look at how Zambrano presents himself as a winner, follow his lead, and dig out of this 3-1 hole to a victorious 3-3 games a piece in the Crosstown Cup series for 2010.

With two games to play the Cubs can tie and share the parade with the team on the South side of town. Piniella said repeatedly after the game that he is embarassed.  Of course he is.  It’s embarassing how good we are right now and the opportunity that’s been presented to us to tie for baseball’s prized joy, the reason players play this great game.  It’s embarassing how fortunate this franchise is and has been for the past century.

Down 3-1, the Cubs are in a must win situation over the next two games in order to tie for the BP Crosstown Cup.  You probably never thought the day would come.  You think the Lakers’ victory in the NBA Finals brought commotion and disorder to the streets?  Wait until Chicago has their Cubs at the top of the BP Crosstown Cup world, tied with the White Sox.  No taxi will be safe my friends.  The Cubs win the next two and history will have been made, dreams finally realized.

Go Cubs Go!

Hey Sammy, how much should Chicago care about the Crosstown Cup?

Dailies
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Yeah….I don’t even know if we should care about it even that much.  Let’s get the W’s for sure.  But keep our eyes focused on the only trophy that matters.  This other thing is just a ridiculous knick-knack for the mantle that eventually will end up somewhere in the attic or basement while everyone forgets about it.  Of course where the Cup’s sponsor is concerned, BP…this Crosstown Cup thing isn’t going to be enough to make anyone forget their latest giant disaster.  (Can’t see BP being allowed as the key sponsor nowadays…timing is everything, huh?)
Beat Peavy and the Sox today and then sweep the weekend and it’ll be great.  But I still think it’s sad the city has invented it’s own trophy to be won.  I guess that’s what happens when one of your clubs goes over a century without winning the real one.
Go Cubs Go!

Then What?

Dailies

So we may have found a way to improve our record in one-run ballgames!  Easy!  Just wait to win until the 13th inning!

Lilly was great yesterday and it’s a good thing the Mariners were even worse at cleaning up the basepaths than the Cubs were.  Tons of men left on base resulted in a marathon of a game for the Cubs in Seattle and Piniella enjoyed getting the best of his former ballclub.  Of course one-run ballgames happen often in baseball so we’re going to find a new way to come out victorious. It’s not even July and we’ve already played in 27 one run ballgames out of the nearly 80 games played.  Do that say 30 more times this season in the second half and the time leading up to the break and then add 4 innings to each of those games and you’re looking at playing 120 extra innings!  While those wins would certainly come in handy, adding about 11 games to your schedule with this group of old fragile Cubs is not exactly a recipe for success.  Clearly that won’t happen, but you get my point.  Grateful for the win, nervous about us finding a way to keep it up in one run ballgames.

Today Zambrano, Mr. Opening Day starter to the bullpen, back to the rotation, takes the mound against the White Sox.  Now, I dislike the White Sox just like you.  What do I dislike even more?  The Crosstown Cup.  That’s right.  I dislike the Crosstown Çup even more than I dislike the White Sox.  This Cup is ridiculous.  The Blackhawks won the only Cup that should be in Chicago right now.  And at least they had a plan for how to get the damn thing if they ended up in a tie…because they’d play until there wasn’t one!

What happens if the Cubs take two out of three this weekend?  The series will be tied at 3.  The first year of the city’s beloved Crosstown Cup…and no plan for a series tie?  Does it simply end with no one winning the cup? Do they go to runs scored?  Whose team had the bigger idiots in the stands?  Number of gatorade coolers smashed?  Best insults thrown from fans of the opposite team?

Zambrano v. Peavy tonight to kick it off.  Cubs look to either sweep or win two out of three to tie the crosstown series up.  They better sweep with regards to the Cup, because of they don’t and only manage two out of three…..then what?

Go Cubs Go!


Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

Dailies
  1. Carlos Silva with the best start a Cubs pitcher has had since the beginning of time.
  2. The Braves are one of the hottest teams in baseball.
  3. The Mets are 22-9 at home.
  4. Galarraga came one out away from a perfect game and still recorded what would’ve been 28 outs in a perfect world.
  5. It would’ve been the third perfect game thrown this season.
  6. The Baltimore Orioles were the first team to fire their manager this season.
  7. Carlos Silva is 8-0!
  8. Zambrano starts a record of consecutive Cubs Opening Days, moved to pen, then back to rotation all BEFORE June.
  9. Schilling has hardly said anything controversial this season.
  10. Griffey Jr. retires during the season instead of waiting until the off-season.
  11. Jimenez of the Rockies leads the majors in wins (11) and ERA (0.93)
  12. Robinson Cano is hitting .363
  13. The Rays own the best winning percentage in the majors at .649
  14. The Reds holding strong in the NL Central at 33-25, .5 games behind the Cards and 6.5 games up on the third place Cubs.
  15. The PIRATES are 12-6 in one-run games.  The PIRATES.
  16. Dontrelle Willis is a D’back.  How is he not the Tigers’ own long time dominator he was supposed to be?
  17. I actually watched about 10 minutes worth of the MLB draft.  I guess that’s something.
  18. Ted Lilly is 1-5.  Leading the club at 8-0?  Flipping CARLOS SILVA!!!
  19. The Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup finals.  WHAT?!?
  20. Seriously.  That Carlos.  Unreal.
This season has been full of surprises. Some more unfortunate than others. Most unfortunate: Griffey. Next: Lilly. Least unfortunate: Silva leading the club in wins and being the man. Someone tell the Reds that’ll be enough out of them please. I mean, really. Go Cubs Go! Let’s start surprising some folks and move our way on up the NL Central standings!

I’ll Take Some Blame for This Streak

Dailies

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!

Tro-Lou-Lou!

Dailies

Since Piniella made the well-spun ‘voluntary/good of the team’ Zambrano move to the bullpen last week, the Cubs’ bats woke up in the third game of the series against the Mets, swept the NL Central rival Milwaukee Brewers and are riding a four game winning streak.  I was at the game against the Mets at Citi Field when the club finally managed to win a game against the also struggling Mets (who have since also seemed to figure some of their issues out).  It felt good to finally sit amongst Cubs fans after a game at Citi with the Cubs on top in the final score, providing the opportunity to sing Go Cubs Go on the way out of the stadium! 

Here are some photos from that Cubs victory at Citi Field:

When I showed up to Citi Field it was raining pretty hard.  The rest of the day was beautiful and then of course one hour before game time…POURING!

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Which gave the baseball fans coming off the subway nothing better to do than hang out under cover and get into a yelling match…Let’s Go Cubbies…Let’s Go Mets…(repeat)

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Eventually the cops came and show was over.  Mets fan got in, Cubs fan didn’t.  After I got inside I was greeted by a giant tarp mocking the fans hoping for a quick start time.  The game eventually started at 7:45pm (not bad)

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So I waited it out in the upper level, under cover in a seat that wasn’t mine (self photography sometimes comes out blurry, what can I say)

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And after sneaking by a security guard, I eventually enjoyed watching the game from the FIELD LEVEL (another seat that wasn’t mine) and had a great view to see the Cubs blow out the Mets!  Good times had by almost all..just not the Mets fans.  

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And now back to our regularly scheduled blog about how please Lou must be with himself regarding all the quality decisions he’s made recently:

Ted Lilly returned from the DL to the starting rotation prompting the Z move and the team went on a tear against the BrewCrew.  The Cubs team we all had the opportunity to watch decimate Milwaukee over the weekend very well may be the result of Lou’s decision to mix things up a bit.  To shake up the entire clubhouse by making ONE major decision.  Take your opening day ace and put him in the bullpen.  Strengthen the bullpen, make room for what was arguably last year’s ace in the starting rotation, keep Silva’s dynamic 2010 rolling and meanwhile, mix young talent in with vets to light a fire under the overpaid ‘stars’ and push the whole ‘let’s just have fun’ mentality on the team in a pep talk that seems to have had an impact for about a week already!  I don’t think any rational Cubs fan actually thought the season was over a week ago, but MAN…we certainly didn’t look good, that’s for sure!

Soriano seems to have found his swing and his legs.  Ramirez seems to have decided the best thing for him is to not swing at all, leading to last night’s game winning walk-off walk.  Derrek Lee is still blasting the ball so hard only mother nature can keep him in the park.  Marlon Byrd shows that even husky centerfielders who look like they would be better fitted to lead block for the Bears offense can man the outfield and produce at the plate, with new lineups even featuring his hot bat in the clean up spot!  Marmol has been placing his pitches extremely well, shaping up to be one of the game’s great closers and proving that the job should have been his two years ago (when I said it should have)!  All the while, it seems like the right guy are getting playing time despite the way their paycheck reads and the appropriate selections are being made when deciding who to send down to the farm teams. 

Lou Piniella has had a hand in all of it.  The pep talks, the decisions, the private meetings, the line ups.  He’s pulling the strings and manning the man behind the curtain position extremely well right now and I hope he continues to do so.  He has a reputation of one of the great managerial minds in baseball, even if every now and then he throws a three year old style tantrum and should lay off the ballpark snacks more than he usually does.  Does his belly look like a profile causing some children to wonder if that guy is the manager or the mascot?  Perhaps.  Is he perfect?  NO!  But is he doing a great job right now?  Yes.  Do I think his moves are enough to win us the most pathetic prize in professional sports: the BP Crosstown Cup?  Sure.  Do I think he’s giving us a shot at the big prize of the World Series trophy if he keeps this kind of performance up?  Absolutely. 

Tune into a Cubs game and find them up five or six runs half way through the game with the starter reeling away at opposing batters and our late inning duo of Zambrano and Marmol waiting to squash any thoughts of late game rallies and zoom in real close to Lou Piniella’s head.  Is he still thinking strategies to win the game he’s in with the big picture on his mind?  I’m sure he is.  Is he probably feeling pretty good about the way these decisions he’s made of late have been turning out?  More than likely, if we could see inside his head, it may look a little something like this:

Keep it up guys and keep it up Lou!  Gotta give you credit while we pile up the W’s because you know how the fingers are pointed at you when the other flag gets hung up as well!  Go Cubs Go!

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It IS a Way of Life. Couldn’t Agree More.

Dailies

So game 2 at Citi Field tonight went JUST about as well as game 1.  Arguably, you could say the Cubs performed even worse tonight than they did last night.  Less hits, less runs and on the plus side, less errors.  All of it amounted to a decent start by our ace Zambrano (as usual the starter suffers) wasted by an inept offense incapable of stringing hits together to produce runs.  And let me tell you something, tonight was not Soriano’s fault so let’s give him a pass on this one.

Zambrano pitched an uneven game but maneuvered out of most jams he got himself into.  A few pitches he lost his handle on coupled with some of the LUCKIEST bloop singles you’ve ever seen in your life resulted in Zambrano giving up 2 runs, although he wasn’t completely dominated by the Mets, striking out nine.  Here is the box score for the game:
box score apr 20 cubs mets.png
When is Ramirez going to start hitting?  When is Lou going to find a line up that produces?  When are people going to stop blaming the pitching (outside of blown saves/bullpen weaknesses)?  YES…our bullpen IS an issue…BUT…it’s tough for a starter to earn a W when the offense doesn’t put any runs on the board and it’s tough for even the best relief man in baseball to hold the opposing team when given little to no room for error.  And lately when they’ve come in this season, maybe we’re up one run leaving NO room for error.  That’s no position to have your offense keep your pitchers in throughout an entire season.  Pelfrey dominated the Mets throwing no-hit baseball through four innings and the Cubs only had three hits in total for the game.  I like to think my request of folks to RT my tweet about jinxing Pelf’s no-hitter is the reason it fell apart after a few people did and Fontenot answered with the Cubs’ first hit of the game.  Regardless of the reason, the offense stunk up the place again tonight, for the second night in a row at Citi Field and going on over half a dozen times now in a row in total.  Something needs to be done.
It’s my tweet campaign to break up the no-hitter though that I’d like to focus on.  Cubs baseball, even on the road outside of Wrigley is a way of life.  Players come, players go.  Managers come, managers go.  Wins come, losses come, winning seasons come and go…highs and low throughout the years and new faces in the crowd to share all of this with come and go as well, just like in life and it’s all about how you deal with it and who you have to share it all with.  Tonight there were many Cubs fans in the crowd to share the agony with and also a couple of moments when it looked like the Cubs may break through and make a game of it.  I had the privilege of meeting up with three Cubs fans I tweet with on Twitter along with their friend at the game for the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth innings.
When you’re in another team’s stadium, it’s not like at Wrigley where it’s incredibly easy to make a new Cub friend.  It makes those few that are around you sporting Cubbie blue among the heckling masses all the more important in experiencing Cubs baseball for that evening.  You’re all in it together and it’s fun to have some allies in the crowd on your side when the creepy looks and heckling starts.  And for the most part Cubs fans are great people!  Hanging out with Megan @MOgulnick, Dana @dwags29, Angeline @ataccini and Mary @mew5h was a blast tonight!  Great people to share the highs and lows with.  The agony of defeat and that late game hope of possibly turning it around and coming back in the clutch.
If you’re on Twitter, follow them, they are cool people and loyal Cubs fans.  I believe Dana said what I was trying to say above best (and in only 140 characters or less mind you):
“@dwag29 

@MOgulnick @proseandivy @ataccini awesome to experience it with you guys. A loss doesn’t feel nearly as awful when among fellow masochists!”

Anyway, my point is, Cubs baseball like life has a ton of ups and downs.  Best to be shared with fellow Cubs fans as often as possible, even in hostile territory like Citi Field, New York City.  Here are photos from tonight’s game at Citi Field:
Me on the subway on the way to the game, dreaming of a Cubs win and delicious Citi Field chicken fingers:
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The view of the stadium as you approach it from the seven train in Queens, NY:
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Lots of Cubs fans at the game that I didn’t know too!:
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The reason I believe Ron Santo always has an excuse to not make the trip to Shea/Citi:
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This sign is in the subway halls.  It’s an ad for Budweiser.  It should be prefaced with “Beat the Cubs….”
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For those that have been to Shea Stadium and remember it, here are some of the pieces still around from it…the old Shea apple, the old NYC skyline lights that were on the giant scoreboard, and today’s Shea Bridge dedicated to the old stadium:
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Aside from not being very good right now, here are a couple of other things the Cubs and Mets have in common:
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This guy set the tone for the evening.  Fun with a chance of humiliation:
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When I first met up with Megan, Dana and Angeline (L to R), Dana and Angeline blissfully in denial of the bleak situation the Cubs were in going into the bottom of the eighth.  Megan, not so much.  (Right after this photo a home run was blasted into the stands two rows in front of us…I think Megan may have known it was coming)
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Top of the ninth, last chance…rally caps on everyone!  If we’re going down, we’re going down having fun!
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Unfortunately, the late game rally gods weren’t on our side and our first tweetup resulted in a loss for the Cubs.  The four of us sulk as Mets fans all around heckle joyfully:
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And yet the beautiful thing about baseball?  It’s only 1 of 162 and tomorrow’s another game!
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Final score: Mets 4, Cubs 0.  More of the same.  Would love to see a change of pace and get out of my week at Citi Field with one win.  Tomorrow’s my last chance to see the Cubs win in person this year in NY.  Silva, it’s all you buddy.  Bring your A game and tell your offense to play like it’s 2008 (I’ll take 2007 for that matter, as well). (1am in NY now…rest of pics to be added in the AM)  Go Cubs Go!
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First Game in Big Apple, Rotten to the Core

Dailies

Always a blast to see the Cubs play in my hometown of New York City.  We only get four games at Citi Field this year with Chicago only making one trip to NY in 2010.  Monday night was the first game of this week’s four game series at Citi and man…it’s great to see the Cubs in person, but it would be a lot more fun if you can see them get the win.

Two teams struggling is what you have with the Cubs and Mets playing each other.  Hard to really tell what to expect although with Wells on the mound facing Not Santana for the Mets and our roster of guys against a not-so-healthy Mets team, on paper I expected the win.  Screw paper.  Paper don’t know jack.  And whatever paper Lou wrote his new line up down on can be thrown away as well.  Tonight’s line up was the first time Lou has toyed with the new order which is supposed to generate runs and get our otherwise unproductive offense going against lefties.  Considering we see three lefty pitchers in this series alone, it’s a great time to rearrange guys to hopefully get results.  Only problem, it didn’t work.
Did we hit?  Sure, nine hits in the game.  How many did the Mets have?  Nine.  We both had nine hits and one error.  The difference maker?  The fact that the Mets timed their hits to come while runners were on base, and at times in scoring position.  Pagan’s two run shot was the game winner and the five run seventh inning did us in tonight.  Wells was strong through six innings…I would’ve left him in for a seventh.  Instead, in came James Russell and he was all over the place as was Mr. Notre Dame WR/P.  Unfortunately the timely hits weren’t there again tonight and our bullpen’s weakness proved to be too much for our measly one run to overcome.  
Byrd looked good in the field and at the plate, even pressing on to first base as if nothing happened after getting beaned in the helmet by what was thankfully a change-up.  Even Soriano had a couple of hits.  Here is the box score for the Cubs from tonight’s game:
cubs box apr 19 2010.png
Even Randy Wells got on base twice to try and help himself out.  But guys like Lee, Rami, Soto and Baker just struggled too much.  It was a pretty ugly game all around.  One team’s bullpen was going to ruin it for that team and it just happened to be the Cubs’ night tonight to do so.  
I expect Lou to go to this lineup again against the next lefty they face.  I don’t figure he’ll completely toss the option aside after one poor outing.  But this team has to generate offense. Especially in a park the size of Citi Field.  Soriano’s first blast would have been out of most parks but ended up being a double after reaching 415 feet.  We have to take advantage of the giant outfield and get extra base hits, not keep trying to hit one out and end up all or nothing.  That doesn’t bode well for us the majority of the time.
Here are some photos from my trip to Citi Field tonight:
The inside of Citi Field before the game started and the Cubs were taking BP:
citi field inside.JPG
The scoreboard announcing the night’s starting pitchers:
starters on scoreboard.JPG
Mets fans were extremely excited about Ike Davis, 1B, being called up for his MLB debut:
they like Ike.JPG
The kid did real well in his debut getting his first MLB hit and RBI.  Believe he had some help:
choir.JPG
I may have been sitting by myself, but I wasn’t there alone of course as plenty of other Cubs fans were present taking in the sights, sounds and tastes of Citi Field:
ryan at citi apr 19.JPG
other cubs fans.JPG
more cubs fans.JPG
In the end though, Mets fans had the last laugh and had a blast wherever this guy was:
PIC_0042.JPG
While Cubs fans were left wondering why no O, hops on D and a shotty bullpen seem to be the theme this year, while looking aro
und trying to find this guy:
PIC_0037.JPG
So now both clubs are holding tight at 5-8, trying to figure things out quickly while the season is still young.  Four game series so lots of baseball left to play, but we need to win the game we are supposed to win.  In order to do so, we’re going to need Lou to possibly allow our starters to go seven occasionally, timely hitting, consistency in the bullpen and continued quality from our starting rotation.  Zambrano pitching tomorrow night.  I can’t remember the last time I saw Z have a quality start in New York unfortunately, however, he’s the supposed ace of this staff.  Aces serve as stoppers and step up with W’s when the team needs it.  Well, Arizona just lost to St. Louis on the West coast which means we just lost another full game to the Cards.  Zambrano…get your best stuff ready because even though it’s early…we definitely need it.
Looking forward to going to tomorrow night’s game (and this time carrying one more layer with me…it was COLD).  April baseball in New York and the Cubs are in town.  Time for this team to make some noise and set the tone in a positive manner for the rest of 2010.  Go Cubs Go!
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New York, New York….It’s a Helluva Town!

Dailies

The Cubs (5-7) roll into the big apple today, looking to kick off a four game series against the Mets (4-8).  Both clubs have struggled to provide run support to their starting pitchers, however, the Mets have had it slightly tougher in that their starters aren’t exactly providing quality starts either.  Tonight’s matchup at Citi Field:

Cubs at Mets

 

 

R. Wells
Wells ERA 2.92 REC 1-0
Last appearances:
4/14 vs MIL 6.1 IP, 4 ER ND, 7-6
4/08 at ATL 6.0 IP, 0 ER W, 2-0

 

 

J. Niese
Niese ERA 6.55 REC 0-1
Last appearances:
4/14 at COL 5.0 IP, 5 ER ND, 6-5
4/08 vs FLA 6.0 IP, 3 ER L, 3-1

Wells takes the mound tonight for the Cubs.  Last year, the rookie sensation caught fire and didn’t slow down, becoming the Cubs second most reliable pitcher behind Ted Lilly.  This year, with Lilly starting the season on the DL, Wells is expected to continue his success and not suffer a sophomore slump.  Once Lilly returns to the rotation (Saturday) there will be key decisions to be made regarding the 25-man roster and the starting rotation.  Until then, there are a week’s worth a games to be played and the current five man must keep the ship together until Ted is back to help right it.

Both the Mets and the Cubs are looking up at division leaders with 8-4 records.  As expected, those teams are the Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Phillies are always a thorn in the Mets side and New York is going to have to figure things out quickly to stay in the race, even though the baseball season hasn’t even flipped the calendar page to May yet.  They will look to start figuring things out against the Cubs tonight.

The Cubs will hopefully face a tired and frustrated Mets team after their brutal series with the Cardinals this weekend which included a 20 inning marathon (the only game the Mets won over the weekend against St.L).  The Cardinals are still the team to beat in the Central so it would do us well to win the series against the same teams the Cards win series against.  I wouldn’t sweat Pittsburgh sitting above us in the standings just yet.  Like I like to say here at Prose and Ivy, “We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh”.  I believe that will again ring true in 2010.  A great start is bound to fall apart for the Pirates.

So tonight the Cubs must win a game they are expected to win once again.  They let us down over the weekend dropping a series to the lowly Houston Astros.  We can’t scoreboard watch this week and be disappointed time and again.  These are games we need to win so the offense needs to be there against a Mets rotation that is struggling to figure things out thus far.  And in order to do so, Lou has devised a brand new line up for three of the games this week where the Cubs face lefties.  A test drive if you will of a line up against opposing left handed pitchers that Lou thinks may result in greater production.  If that holds true, then tonight I could potentially be watching, firsthand, this Cubs line up take on New York at Citi Field:

Byrd CF

Baker 2B

Lee 1B

Nady RF

Ramirez 3B

Soriano LF

Soto C

Theriot SS

Wells P

So far this season, Theriot is 1-for-11 against lefties which forces Lou to move Theriot to the eighth spot in the lineup.  Although is production is down against lefties at the top of the lineup, considering he’s a guy who can get on base and is counted on to set the table for the bigs, for a number 8 hitter, even one who is struggling, we could do a lot worse.  Nady hitting clean up isn’t something I’m thrilled with.  I much prefer Ramirez in the clean up spot considering he’s a stronger power numbers guy and is healthier than Nady right now.  Nady can’t do this every time they play lefties since he is still recovering from elbow surgery.  However, considering they face a lefty pitcher three times this week against the Mets, you can figure I’ll see Nady in the line up in the 4 hold at least once.

I don’t know much about Byrd’s record in the leadoff spot.  He’s a level headed guy with a lot of potential and a quick start to the season so you don’t lose much productivity by replacing Theriot with Byrd there.  If you have Nady hitting clean up, you don’t have Fukudome playing so he’s not an option there.  Soriano is out and no one else makes sense.  That might be more the reason why Byrd hits lead off in this line up.  More of a process of elimination than anything really.  When Sori’s not playing and Colvin is in the line up I’m not sure that he fits in the no. 6 hole quite as easily.  He has shown great patience at the plate though and an ability to go deep so perhaps all Lou would have to do is write in Colvin’s name that day as opposed to Soriano and his line up is still good to go.  I have a feeling I may see the answer to that scenario at some point this week too with the Cubs playing the Mets here in New York for what should shape up to be an evenly matched, intense, equally important to both teams, four game series.

Likely pitching matchups for the next few games are as follows: Wells v. Niese tonight, Zambrano v. Pelfrey tomorrow and then Silva v. Perez on Wednesday evening.  On paper, I like our odds and I can’t wait to see Silva in person.  I’m surprised by his quick start to 2010.

citi-field-hot-water-new-york[1].jpgLooking forward to seeing the Cubs this week at Citi Field…I feel like the circus has come to town.  Go Cubs Go!

The First ‘Prosecard from Cubs Nation’ for 2010 Is Here!

Dailies

To celebrate the start of a brand new Cubs campaign, here is the first “Prosecard from Cubs Nation” for 2010!  

Also, in honor of the Chicago Cubs coming to a town near me this week (New York City) to play the Mets at Citi Field, this week’s Prosecard is an interview with another New York based Cubs fan, and fellow Cubs tweeter, Dana Wagner!  After a painful series loss to the Astros this weekend, I figure it’s time to look ahead and think about taking advantage of a Mets team that had to go TWENTY innings to defeat the Cardinals (Cubs fans everywhere loved that one) and should be rather tired.  Take into account the fact that the Mets play again tonight on Sunday Night Baseball and tomorrow’s 7:00 game at Citi Field should feature a completely drained New York team, sitting back on fastballs by Wells a little too long, hopefully resulting in a great day for Cubs fans (a ‘W’) at Citi.  If the offense shows up and supports him, Wells always gives us a great opportunity to win.

Without further delay, as the Cubs get ready for a FOUR game series against the Mets this week (which I’ll be reporting from, you can count on it), I give you today’s “Prosecard from Cubs Nation”!
Name: Dana Wagner


dwag.jpeg

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Why are the Chicago Cubs your favorite baseball team?
I get asked this question a lot because I’ve never lived in or near Chicago.
Last year I wrote a blog post about it – http://bit.ly/do17Tq. The short
answer is that when I was 7 years old I joined a tee ball league and decided
I wanted to be on the team named the Cubs. That season (1986) I started
following the Chicago Cubs and fell in love with Sandberg because I wanted
to play 2B. From then on I was sucked in. And oh yeah, my Cubs team won the
tee ball World Series. I had no idea what I was in for.

Favorite memory watching the Cubs play in New York City:

Unfortunately, most of the Cubs games I’ve been to at Shea or Citi Field,
the Cubs have lost, so I don’t have great memories of them. Hoping to change
that this week when the Cubs visit Citi. Watching Jason Marquis hit a grand
slam against the Mets two years ago was pretty awesome, though.

Favorite current Cub:

Derrek Lee

All-time Favorite Cub:

Ryne Sandberg

Your dream starting Chicago Cub line up for 2010 would be?

Do you mean of current Cubs or fantasy players? I guess I’ll go with
current. It’s not too different but I do like Fukudome batting #1 and
Theriot #2. Fukudome is a little more patient at the plate and has a higher OBP. I wouldn’t even mind maybe switching Fontenot & Theriot. If Sori and Soto regain their power this year and can be consistent, can you imagine how
dangerous that 3-7 could be?

Fukudome
Theriot
Lee
Ramirez
Byrd
Soriano
Soto
Fontenot
pitcher

How would you celebrate a Cubs championship?

I would have to be at Wrigley with my fiance and all the amazing Cubs fans
I’ve met through Twitter. I’d love to spend the whole week after in Chicago,
celebrating at bars in Wrigleyville every night and just soaking up the
scene of so many Cubs fans so happy in one place.

Most feared opposing batter?

Hate to say it, but Pujols.

Most feared opposing pitcher?

Mariano Rivera. I wouldn’t want the Cubs to be facing him down 1 with three
outs left in Game 6 of the World Series. Then again, I’d love for the Cubs
to be facing him down 1 with three outs left in Game 6 of the World Series.

You can either sing “Take me out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning
stretch or call a half inning on WGN.  Which would you rather do and why?

Call a half inning. I’d love to hear Santo say “Gee whiz” in person. And I
think I can yell louder than Judd Sirrott.

The Cubs cease to exist tomorrow.  Do you still follow baseball and if so,
who do you root for?

Oh geez. Hasn’t my life in baseball been hard enough? Of course I would
still follow baseball. I love the sport. I would probably root for the
Dodgers. I grew up in LA, but never wanted to be a Dodgers fan. I’ve always
had the need to go against the grain – never root for the hometown teams.
But now that I live in Brooklyn, I feel more connected to the Dodgers. I
always root for them, except when they play the Cubs.

One thing you would change about Wrigley Field?

I’ve only been to Wrigley twice, so I don’t have a lot of complaints. Maybe
Goose Island Honkers Ale available from the beer vendors in the stands?

What is your impression of NY baseball fans and what is it like to be a Cubs
fan living in Brooklyn, NY?

New York is a baseball town. Sure, we have basketball and football fans but
this city lives and breathes baseball and its fans are just as passionate as
Cubs fans. I’m not a Yankees fan, but I do have great respect for Yankees
fans because they are so passionate about the team. I also love that there’s
such a large representation of fans of other teams here. I frequently see
and meet people who are fans of teams from outside NY.

As a Cubs fan here, the only thing that’s hard is that I don’t get to watch
most games on TV and that I can’t really share the experience of Cubs highs
and lows with many other people. That’s why I love tweeting during games
with Cubs fans on Twitter – even if I’m just watching on Gameday or
listening on MLB At Bat’s Audio of WGN, I get to experience the game with
other fans.

One thing you would change about the game of baseball?

I have two things I would change:
1) I hate the rule of being able to take first on a strikeout when the ball
gets away from the catcher. A K is a K. I don’t care if it favors the Cubs
or anyone else. I hate the rule.

2) I’d like to see managers be able to have one challenge per game on close
calls — whether a tag at a base or a ball/strike call — as coaches in
football have. I find it frustrating when a manager runs out on the field to
challenge a call but it’s meaningless. They’re not going to change the call,
and the manager is likely to get tossed. It’s just to support the player.
Let’s make it meaningful and use instant replay. And if the manager has only
one challenge then he’ll be sure to use it on something that could be
potentially game-changing.

The NBA logo is said to be based on Jerry West.  Which former Chicago Cub
silhouette do you think the team would base a similar logo for the franchise
on if they were to to do so?  (Aside from Mr. Cub that is).

C’mon, it HAS to be Mr. Cub. No excuses.

Fine, fine. Well, since this interview is about MY experience of the Cubs
I’d say Ryno – he represents The Cub of all Cubs to me since I’ve been a
Cubs fan.

You’re having dinner in the Cubs clubhouse and can invite any four Cubs,
living or dead.  Who would you invite and why?

Lee – favorite current Cub
Sandberg – favorite all-time Cub
Dawson – second favorite all-time Cub
Mark DeRosa – I know you’re laughing, especially since he’s no longer on the
Cubs. But I just absolutely loved him when he was with the Cubs. He just
plays the game the right way and I thought he was such a great addition to
the team. Always did what he needed to to help the team. Also, we went to
the same college — he graduated just before I did — and I think I could
just chat with him easily.

Do you believe the Cubs are cursed?  Yes or no and why?

No, of course not. But I do believe that there is a psychology of losing
that affects the organization, players and fans that is very real and
contributes to their collapses when they are on the cusp. I think for any
other team, a 2003 Game 6 would be upsetting but not crippling. For the Cubs
and their fans, because of our history, it was crippling.

You are the head of programming at a major network and you are casting six
different, existing reality shows.  Which shows do you cast Fukudome,
Dempster, Zambrano, Piniella, Hendry and Tom Ricketts in, individually and
why?

Fukudome – American Idol. For the irony?

Dempster – Dancing with the Stars. I have no idea if Demp can dance but I
t
hink he’d be hilarious on it.

Z – Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List. For the pure hilarity. But being a
fan of Kathy’s I know that she’s someone who got where she is because she
never passed up any opportunity and clawed her way through everything. I
feel like sometimes Zambrano thinks he doesn’t have to work as hard because
he’s already at the top. He could learn a few lessons from Kathy.

Lou – Survivor. If he can survive a Cubs season, he can survive anything.

Have to get back to you on Hendry and Ricketts. Drawing a blank.

The Cubs have just won the World Series and you have been given the
assignment of writing the lead story, covering this moment in baseball
history.  Come up with 5 of the most creative headlines you can to kick off
your article.

Curse Reversed! CUBS WIN IT ALL!

Take THAT, Billy Goat! Cubs Beat White Sox to Win 2010 Pennant!

No, it’s Not April Fools Day: The Chicago Cubs are World Series Champs!

Cubs Win World Series Behind MVP Lee’s Four Grand Slams.

Cubs Win! Lou Tweets: “Look, We Did It.”

You have a blog of your own, EdgeofBrooklyn.com…what
is it that you find most rewarding about blogging?

I don’t have a single focus for my blog, but try to write about topics that
excite me. I like being able to share my ideas and opinions about media,
technology, sports, marketing, beer — whatever it is that is the driving
force behind my energy at a given moment.

You are hired to run the social media/marketing department for the Chicago
Cubs.  You are asked to create a cool application that Cubs fans can use to
enhance their experience as Cubs fans.  What would your application be and
why?

As someone who currently works in social media marketing, this would be
truly a dream come true for me. I would have to put a lot of thought into a
new app, but something that I’ve been talking about lately which I think
could really enhance the fan experience is the current application
Foursquare. I would partner with Foursquare to develop custom badges and
other rewards for check-ins at Wrigley and Cubs fan events. I joked on
Twitter recently with a tweet: “Chicago Cubs partner with Foursquare to
offer It’s Gonna Happen badge for check-ins at Wrigley Field”. It was a joke
but I could actually see it working. I see Foursquare not just as an app for
saying where you are just to earn random badges, but actually to enhance
experiences that bring people together and foster their common passions. The
possibilities are endless for sports teams. It would also allow the Cubs
organization to get more involved with fans in other cities – not just those
who go to Wrigley Field. There could be badges for Tweetups, road games,
Wrigleyville bars, etc.

You are living a real life version of the Cameron Diaz film “The Box”.  If
you push the button inside the box, two things will happen.  One, the Cubs
will win the World Series in your lifetime.  Two, someone you don’t know
will die.  Do you push the button?

No. The Cubs winning the World Series isn’t worth the guilt of knowing that
I would cause someone’s death. And as superstitious as I am about feeling
that if I don’t wear a certain shirt or hat during a game, the Cubs won’t
win, I know in the back of my mind that the Cubs should be able to win
without my help.

You’re hired to run the Cubs 2010 public relations campaign.  You can use
any slogan, player, etc that you want to.  What is your advertising
campaign/slogan for the 2010 season?

2009 Was Aaron Miles’ Fault.

To be honest, though, I actually really love the idea behind this year’s
“It’s a Way of Life” campaign. If I were working on that campaign this year
I wouldn’t just do a single contest for fans to say what makes them devout
Cubs fans. I would make it a season-long highlight of the true fan
experience where the Cubs featured fan perspectives, tweets, blogs,
podcasts, videos and photos on cubs.com and on live broadcasts. Carrie
Muskat could interview Cubs fans for her blog once a week or allow Cubs fans
to guest-write a blog. Just from knowing all the Cubs fans on Twitter and
the amazing group of bloggers and live-game tweeters, I feel that the
possibilities are endless for the Cubs to truly connect with Cubs fans and
use that in their marketing.

Finally, what are your expectations of the Cubs for the 2010 baseball
season?

Like every season, I expect them to work their ***** off with the goal of
winning it all. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t want to hear Big Z say
he’s been lazy with his workouts or Soriano say he took his eye off the ball
because he was thinking of the wall behind him. I just want them to do
everything they can to win each and every game.


Thank you Dana for my first “Prosecard from Cubs Nation” for 2010! Always great to meet another loyal Cubs fan, especially in the New York area!  Can wait to see the Cubs play up close and personal at Citi Field this week!  Wells on the mound tomorrow night to kick it off!  Go Cubs Go!

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If Only Hendry Could Be Scared Out of Making Poor Decisions

Dailies

Imagine if we were able to put a contract with the costs of signing the likes of Milton Bradley, outside of the cash aspect in front of Hendry?  Or even a giant contract like the one that was offered to Soriano?  Scare tactics for better investments by baseball GM’s.  Might be a good idea to apply the same strategy used here to stop people from driving home drunk, to our trusted execs in the front office.  Brilliant….and for what it’s worth, a good message for those leaving Wrigley and ballparks across the country, as well. 

 Go Cubs Go!

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Opening at Home With a W

Dailies

Incredible game today as we defeated the Brewers 9-5.  Great start to our home schedule and the home crowd was loving the turn around the team showed at home as opposed to the flop our  opening road trip turned into thanks to an ineffective bullpen and non-existent run production.  Starting pitching proved to be a strength today with Dempster’s performance, masterfully handling the Brew Crew, fully taking advantage of the power surge the Cubs offense displayed in  hitting three home runs today at Wrigley.

Good thing we didn’t stop hitting them while they looked like they were going to go down.  We had them on the ropes and kept going after strong with the head shots and body blows.  Good thing.  The Brewers managed to come back into the game, scoring five runs over all and if we hadn’t kept pushing and getting as many runs as we did, this one could’ve easily gone the other way and there would be no singing in Cubville this afternoon.

Mighty Casey…a small word of advice to our Cubs.  Stop waiting for and relying on Might Casey.  The home run is not always going to be there.  Games of multiple home runs certainly won’t always be there.  A large majority of our runs so far this year has come from the long ball and today was the only time we had such an outburst of hits.  This outburst of men on base needs to happen far more often.  How often is Soriano going to have a multi-hit game after all?  He’s so afraid of running into the brick wall (all of a sudden) it seems to be effecting his whole game.  Lou has to find away to put a lineup together that not only features power capability, but also the skill to manufacture runs.  Right now, we look more like the pep squad firing off t-shirts to the masses at an NBA basketball game the way we’re scoring runs with the ball jumping off the bat, as opposed to a team of skilled, strategic baseball players who can be patient at the plate, get their pitches and work their way on base.  Now, of course I’m not complaining about home runs.  It’s just, we need to get on-base more often like we did today, work the bases wisely and rack up the hits working our guys on base around to home.  Jeff Baker, Xavier Nady and Aramis Ramirez all went deep today and we won.  Great.  No complaints.  Since there were guys on base, those home runs counted for more than just solo shots.  But it’s not always going to be that way just as no other game this year has been that way.  Most of the time we are simply going to need well-placed, timely hitting to get the job done.  We have a couple guys that tend to be all or nothing style hitters.  We can’t have our guys 1-8, game in and game out playing that same way as one cohesive offensive unit.  Lou needs to fix this and fix it fast.  Today was a nice change, sure, but we need this more often than not.

Love beating the Brewers and love a win on Opening Day at home.  Hang your ugly pictures on the building for the week.  Discuss putting up a horrendous Toyota sign in left field.  As long as we keep winning, those things are going to get a lot less attention and all anyone will really be talking about is how good it feels to watch our Cubs win game after game and prove to be true contenders in 2010.
Dempster was really good today.  Let’s hope that continues with his next outing.  You fans with tickets to tomorrow’s game, get your singing voices ready.  I’m hoping you’ll have a chance to showcase them like today’s crowd did after a great Opening Day performance by the Cubs.
Go Cubs Go!
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Today’s a Good Day

Dailies

Who needs a Cubs win when you open your email and receive great news like this?!?  

Good Day,
Be informed that my previous mail was not responded and I am not sure
if it did get to you since I have not heard from you.
I wish to notify you again that you were listed as a beneficiary to
the total sum of 6,000,000.00 GBP (Six Million British Pounds) in the
codicil and last testament of the deceased. (Name now withheld since
this is our second letter to you).

I contacted you because you bear the surname identity and therefore
can present you as the beneficiary to the inheritance. I therefore reckoned that you could receive these funds as you are qualified by your name identity. All the legal papers will be processed upon your acceptance.


Upon your acceptance of this deal, we request that you kindly forward
to us your letter of acceptance, your current telephone and fax numbers
and a forwarding address to enable us file necessary LEGAL documents in
your name at our high court probate division for the release of the
fund in question.

Contact me immediately so that we can get this done.
Kind regards
Go Cubs Go!  I’m heading out to look at things that bling.  I’m in the money.
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A Fair Warning To All Cub Fans’ Attics and Basements! Time To Get Out Those Packed Up W Flags!

Dailies

Thanks to an outstanding pitching performance by Randy Wells and two timely home runs by Tyler Colvin and Marlon Byrd (and by timely I mean even thought it’s only game three, it was about time a HR led to a victory) the Cubs finally put up a 1 in the W column for 2010!!!

It’s a shame Colvin is buried behind Soriano and Fukudome’s giant sacks of cash in the Cubs dugout.  The kid has a ton of potential that could help the team win now and only bad contracts keeping him from playing on a regular basis.  I’m happy Lou thought to put him out there though last night and here’s to hoping he’s not shy about it in the future.  You want to talk about a gut to trust?  Lou’s your guy.

Thing is I think a lot of Cubs fans forgot with all the excitement of the new season starting is that, the Braves are a tougher team than most give them credit for and now that they have this new kid Heyward lighting fires under the vets and their fan base, Atlanta isn’t exactly an easy place to play.  At least we got out without being swept and now will go into a less challenging opponent setting in Cincinnati. 

I like the club they’ve put together.  I think they are headed in the right direction.  But now is not their time.  They aren’t quite at the caliber of competitiveness or talent that the Cubs or Cards are for that matter.  We honestly should sweep this series, although it will be interesting to see how Zambrano reacts to being moved up in the rotation to pitch on Saturday.  This was done in order to lineup our righties against the Brewers next week.  I guess the quicker we can get him out there to forget the horrible outing on Monday, the better.  Then again, after watching him stink up the joint, who is really in any rush to seehim on the mound again?  We’ll see how this plan works out.

Tonight, we’ll also get to see what we ended up getting back for good ‘ol Milty in the Seattle trade when “Other Carlos” takes the mound.  Hopefully Silva delivers and we even up the record at 2-2 instead of ending our opening week with two sad carLosses.

And I wouldn’t have any problem seeing Colvin in left field again tonight either.  Just saying.

Go Cubs Go!

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Ugly, On the Field and On the Stadium

Dailies

I’m all for the organization taking pride in both its history and its current line up, as well as it’s devoted fans.  However, this is simply a good idea, terribly executed.  Have a look at the new additions to Wrigley for Opening Day.  Happy to say, they won’t be staying: check it out.

Go Cubs Go!

 

2010: New Beginnings and Opening Day with carLos

Dailies

The Cubs kicked off the 2010 regular season today and Atlanta brought out the big guns right away.  Out came Atlanta baseball legend, Bobby Cox.  Introduced was MLB Hall of Famer and home run king (just like the same way you still call former Presidents, Mr. President even after their term/s are over) Henry Aaron.  And then after the Cubs looked like they may set the table for Zambrano and friends to jump out to a quick start, Atlanta introduced baseball fans to the newest addition to the highlight reel, Jason Heyward with a three run blast to tie the game in his first major league at-bat, as a result of his first Major League swing.

Zambrano was clearly off his game surrendering 8 runs in 1 1/3 innings, the Cubs recorded two errors, used seven pitchers in total and were dominated by a tough Atlanta team, 16-5.  Today’s Opening Day was simply a case of the Braves being the better team in all areas, all day long.  (Although, Z doesn’t fare too well on Opening Day.  Might be time to hand the ball to someone else??)

A bright start to the game was the three runs right away in the first inning.  Nice to see us jump on an opponent quick and not wait until late in the game to make up ground for a change.  Also, nice to see Byrd, the Cubs’ newest addition, put up three runs on a huge blast scoring his first home run in a Cubs uniform.  Welcome to Chicago Mr. Marlon Byrd.

We’re going to enjoy an off-day tomorrow, hopefully put this one out of our mind and come back strong in game two against Atlanta on Wednesday.  Cards, Pirates both won and the Brewers suffered a notch in the loss column in their opener as well.  I expect 2010 is going to be a thrill ride and we are just getting started.  To new beginnings, a new season and new possibilities.  Let’s get a W in game two!

Also related to new beginnings, I moved into a new apartment a few days ago hence the slight slowdown in posts (I HATE PACKING AND MOVING).  The new place is a great find and the extra space is going to be needed big time.  Why?

(this part of the post was written nearly three months ago, only I was waiting to include the news on my blog):

I think I know what video game characters feel like when they stand there waiting for you to make a move and tell them what to do next.  You know that look when the character you control through an alternate universe just stands there tapping their foot, or just simply breathing with no mind of their own as to whether they run, walk, shoot, jump, etc.  I feel like I am just living a blank stare waiting for someone to snap me out of it and tell me what to do next.

Why?

Because of this:

OH.  MY.  GOD.  My wife is preggers.

According to the first test she took this morning:

It was kind of like, “wellllll, I guess you’re KIND OF pregnant….maybe?”  The one solid line you see is the control line.  That line is apparently always there.  Then, after you take the test, if you’re pregnant, the second line shows up.  Well, as you can see there, it is so faint it was hard to tell if it knew what it was talking about.  I couldn’t take it.  We had to get a second opinion.  I’m going to freak out over a device that can’t tell me for sure whether there is a player to be added to this team to be named later?!?!?!?  No.  So, we went out and got another.  The pregnancy test for dummies as my wife puts it.  Much like a contestant on a Bravo clothing line competition, it’s either yes or no from the expert panel.  Pregnant or Not Pregnant.  Our only choices.  No kind of’s.  No maybe’s.  No, ‘ask again later’ (I’m kidding, my wife didn’t pee on a magic eight ball).

And now here I am totally out of my head.  If this test is correct and the doctors confirm it as such this week when my wife, Sasha, goes in for a blood test, then we’re looking at a due date of sometime in October.  Right smack in the middle of the World Series.  Talk about overwhelming.  What if the Cubs are in the World Series and all of this is taking place?  Isn’t having the Cubs in the World Series enough to worry about?!?  And now potentially the Cubs in the Series PLUS our first kid!??!

And, oh man.  What if my book idea actually becomes reality.  What if I’ve put potential financial income on the line that could benefit not only my wife, but my kid too!?!?  The stakes just got a lot higher for sure.  The first test was totally nonchalant about it and the second was a glaring YES, YOU ARE PREGNANT!   If this season puts that much at stake with every ball, strike, walk, out, win, loss, injury, trade, W and L flag raised at Wrigley…my goodness.  An intense season of Cubs baseball like never before.

(Regular readers of this blog know exactly what I’m talking about regarding the book.  If you’re a first timer, here is the book pitch I put out there about five weeks ago.  An absolute passion project that I believe would be an amazing account of one Cubs fan’s take on experiencing the ultimate season of lovable-loser Chicago Cubs baseball with more at stake for me than for any of the players, managers, coaches, owners, etc.

Regular readers of Prose and Ivy know I’ve been emotionally invested in the ups and downs of Chicago Cubs baseball for years.  I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of years now and writing about sports in general since I would cut out pictures from the sports section and tape it to construction paper which I would type up imaginary sports articles on when I was little.

I’ve written reviews and articles for MLB.com/Entertainment and the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  I’ve written and produced television shows for Fox Reality, A&E, Travel Channel and Showtime.  I’ve performed stand up for over 12 years, shot pilots for shows I’ve created and written comedy for Comedy Central.  It’s all been a blast and I look forward to doing more when the opportunities present themselves.  Unfortunately, today’s economy has made these opportunities few and far between lately and like many, I am displaced working day jobs needed to pay the bills but not necessarily in situations classified as ‘ideal’.  When it comes right down to it, all in all, I love writing and I love baseball.  The ultimate dream for me would be writing an entertaining, timeless classic account of being a fan of the Chicago Cubs.

But how do you write about the Cubs and take it in a direction that hasn’t been covered before?  There are countless books about Wrigley Field. (Not literally countless).  There are endless books about the best Cubs players by the numbers (not literally endless) and a ton of books about individual Cub personalities or listing interesting factoids about your favorite Cubs players/organization of all time (not literally a ton, I don’t believe).

The question: How do you write an engaging, entertaining, timeless book about being a Cubs fan and the greatest organization in baseball without blending in and reiterating everything that’s been said in Cubs based books previously published?  What could I write that is unlike any book sitting on the baseball shelf at your local bookstore today?

Today, I believe I’ve figured it out.

I had a thought today about raising the stakes for myself as a fan and having the outcome of the 2010 Chicago Cubs baseball season actually effect my life, win or lose.  That thought?

“What would happen if I bet it all on the Cubs?”

Here is the pitch:  I write a book about my experience as a fan of the Chicago Cubs during the 2010 season.  The twist, I am the one fan in the world with more at stake than the players themselves.  While the athletes may have incentive based contracts, those incentives are simply bonuses on top of their salaries.  Come the end of the day, they get paid something (a very large something at that) no matter whether they win, or lose.

The deal: my entire advance and residuals for the book are at stake.  If the Cubs win it all in 2010, I get paid.  If they don’t…I don’t.  Simple as that.

Aside from your actual ‘life’ itself, there are no higher stakes one could gamble than the quality of your life itself.  I’ll have more riding on the 2010 Chicago Cubs season than any other fan out there.  More than any player, coach or manager.  Players, coaches and managers get paid, do or die.  I won’t have that luxury.

Every decision Hendry makes behind the scenes will directly effect my life come the end of the season.  I will share my thoughts on every move he makes throughout the year. I’ll follow the team during Spring Training, recap each game and keep an eye on the players that will determine my fate including a visit to Spring Training to see the team perform in person.

During the regular season I will travel to Chicago from New York to see the Cubs play in person.  When the team visits the East Coast, I will get tickets and check out the team’s performance at each Northeast stadium they visit.  It will be the Cubs roster that decides whether I get paid for a passion project and make my dream come true. Wouldn’t you want to evaluate and see them for yourself as much as you possibly could?  Me too!

Also, if Andre Dawson is voted into the Hall of Fame this year, a trip to Cooperstown would definitely be included!  Interviews with other fans regarding the Hawk and being a Cubs fan in general as well as their thoughts on my venture along the way would be hilarious no matter how the team is doing.  What an exciting detail that would be to add to the experience, an honor for the Hawk well earned and much deserved, without a doubt!

Now, I have a wife.  I live in New York City, arguably the most expensive city in the world.  Committing a ton of time to a passion project with no guaranteed financial benefit is not something every wife would be supportive of and I have no idea how she’d react.  Would she get angry?  Would she become as addicted to knowing the in’s and out’s of Cubs baseball as I am?  What would her reaction throughout the season be?  How would I react?  What would it feel like to see the W flag raised with so much at stake?  How would it feel come the All-Star break with the Cubs sitting pretty in first place in this situation?  And what if they’re losing?  What if Bradley wasn’t the problem and the chemistry still isn’t there in 2010?  What if injuries are a problem once again and all of our stars, one year older, are spending even more time on the DL?  What if Hendry makes a bonehead move (in addition to Silva, that is)?  How would it feel to see an error in the field cost me more than just the once in a lifetime opportunity (potentially) to see the Cubs win a title?  What if I had this deal going at the time of ‘The Bartman Game’?  What would that excerpt have been like?

As a social experiment, I will write about my day in and day out experiences rooting for the Cubs, putting complete faith in them to change my life by winning the World Series.  Something the team hasn’t accomplished in over 100 years.

I imagine the stress will be immense.  I picture the frustration with poor play and cold streaks at the plate to be unmatched.  I predict the heartbreak over an injury to be unbearable.  Box scores will be reviewed closer than a Biggest Loser trainer breaks down ingredients and calories for completely invested contestants.  The 2010 season will play out like a fantasy baseball team with results that are unparalleled.

For years people have wondered why, when I refer to my favorite sports teams, I use words like ‘we’ and ‘us’.  ‘How do you benefit if they win?’ they ask.  ‘Don’t say we.  It implies you win as well’, they say.  Well, this would make that comment completely irrelevant and obsolete throughout the 2010 Cubs baseball campaign.  Imagine letting it all ride on arguably professional sports’ least lucky, most cursed team.  If you ask me, that story and experience would be absolutely fascinating.

If there is anyone reading this with the power to make it happen and is at all interested, please email me: proseandivy@cubsmvp.com.  And readers should feel free to leave their thoughts here as well.  I expect some of you to think it’s cool and some of you to think it’s the dumbest proposal they’ve ever heard.  No matter which side is right…I think it would be amazing to be so invested in one season of Chicago Cubs baseball.

2010.  The Chicago Cubs.  World Series Champions.  It could happen.  I mean, someone will win it all next year.  Why not the Cubs?  What would that be like with the ultimate dream at stake?  And that my friends is why I’m willing to bet it all on the Cubs in 2010.)

I thought the stakes were high five weeks ago.

“Pregnant”.  Yikes.  Go Cubs Go! 

And as an update, of course, yes, it was all confirmed and we are just out of the first trimester.  Expected due date is in October.  Wouldn’t a Cubs World Series appearance be the perfect way to kick off your first few weeks in life?  Hard to argue with.  Looks like the Cubs may need some convincing.  Let’s hope Z comes back strong and we move forward with a W against the Braves in game two on Wednesday!

Go Cubs Go!

Rami Looks Good In a Tie & Sometimes Championships Are Simply Child’s Play

Dailies

Cubs tied the Royals today in Spring competition and it was great to see Rami step up to the plate, look healthy and chalk up an RBI to contribute to a 5-5 final score after nine innings. I think the Royals are going to surprise some people so it would’ve been interesting if this game counted and they had gone on until someone finally won. However, in order for the Cubs to surprise anyone this year and return to NL Central dominance, they are going to need an effective, healthy Aramis Ramirez.

In a completely unrelated thought I just had after finishing watching the Bird/Magic documentary on HBO…there is something to be said about a team that knows and owns their roles. There is a large sum of value, completely intangible of course, when every member of your team puts on their uniform in the exactly appropriate mind frame. When all of your teammates are getting ready for competition focused on solely what is expected from them and why they are on the team to begin with, you will experience many more W’s than you will L’s in the long run. And often, as is the case when you compile a great number of W’s, it can often lead to a championship.

I speak from experience in the most amateur level of team sport competition. Now again, this is right after watching the Bird/Magic doc so it is inevitably directly related to basketball, however indirectly related to all team sports, including baseball and for this blog’s purpose, indirectly related to Hendry and Lou’s efforts in making the right decisions in assigning the right guys to the active roster for the start of the season coming just short of two weeks from now.

The experience level from which I speak is what I like to call organized-recreational-pick-up-campground-league basketball. Basically because that is exactly what it was.

One Summer day, in the early to mid 90’s, my younger brother approached me with an idea for a march madness style campground basketball tournament. My family was always camping and were seasonal for years. Every weekend would be spent camping at Moose Meadow campground in CT, playing basketball, playing softball, playing pickup football and then for the guys: trying to meet as many girls as possible. My brother and I were friends with a real tight group of guys who were also mostly seasonal. We would hang out every weekend with basically the exact same agenda each and everyday. And it was a schedule that is responsible for some of my all time favorite moments from childhood.

Around 9am everyday at the campground, we would be awoken by the sound of someone dribbling a basketball. The campground had just put in a full court basketball court…the greatest thing to happen to Summer since S’mores.

The dribbling was always by the same kid.  One of my best friends, Kyle. Kyle and I grew up together, participating in the same activities and often on the same teams from the age of six. Kyle’s family was out at the campground seven days a week during the Summer where as my family came out only on weekends. Kyle was and is a Red Sox fan and also a die hard Celtics and overall basketball fan. If Kyle was awake, he was either shooting hoops or walking around to see who was awake to shoot hoops with him. That often didn’t prove necessary as his dribbling woke most of us as our sites were by the court.

9am, awoken by the sound of Kyle’s dribbling. 9:30am wrap up breakfast and head to the basketball court. Meet up with everyone by 10am (some were slower in getting out than others). 10am-12:00pm, three on three basketball. 12noon lunch. 1:00pm Adult Softball.

Oh man, the adult softball game.

This was supposed to basically be a softball pickup game of campers 18 and over for a serious game of softball without including and letting kids get in the way. It was a simple game, for nothing on the line but bragging rights, yet was always treated like Game 7 of the World Series by those who played in it. The simple fact that you got to participate in the adult softball game was an honor bestowed upon very few people still in their teens. With the frequency that we were at the campground and the close relationships we formed with the regulars who played at the game, we were usually allowed to play as well.

It was a thrill to be a part of and we saw some amazing, dramatic pick up softball games on that field. An old school campground baseball diamond with the dirt entrance/exit road lining the first base line, a giant 45 degree hill lining the third baseline, and forget ivy lining the outfield. From left to right the outfield quickly turned into the outfield wall comprised of forest…trees that felt like brick if you were one of the unfortunate ones to chase a flyball into it like smacking the wall at Wrigley. And if you were in charge of manning right field, your outfield wall mark was made up of a few very thick, very solid, very unsafe waist high giant tree logs. Another obstacle I’m sure if Sam Fuld had been a camper at Moose Meadow, would’ve run head first into time and time again.

Now, come about 3:30/4pm the softball game is over and it’s back to the basketball courts. 4-6pm basketball, 6-6:30pm dinner 6:30-8:30 basketball. We played A LOT of basketball. Anyway, all that time spent on the basketball courts, playing with and against each other proved to be very valuable. The same type of value hopefully this Cubs team is getting out of Spring Training…the knowledge, acceptance and possession of your own and each other’s strengths and ability you bring to the table that is most needed for the overall betterment of the team.

After my brother asked me to help him organize a tournament style basketball competition across the state against other kids at other campgrounds, we had an amazing time. Three years running, four teams participating in round robin style each year. Sometimes the kids and teams playing were repeat competitors, sometimes they were brand new teams and faces. Every year, however, we had basically 90% return rate of the players on our team. Moose Meadow had skills much at the same level as the other teams, but the one thing we had the others didn’t have was an unspoken knowledge of each other’s talents, personality and intangibles brought to the table.

We had Dan, our campground league equivalent to Michael Jordan. He was always the best player on the court and always the go-to guy in crunch time. Tall and athletic, the only one of us who could dunk and the same kind of quiet, confident likability that Jordan possessed. We knew that no matter who was on the floor with Dan, he was the offensive leader. He was to be deferred to in crunch time and the offense ran through him. Knowing his talent was a key ingredient to our team’s success and that it was our’s and not the other team’s was a reason to show up ready to win every game in and of itself. The games were always close for the most part. But when push came to shove, Dan gave us the advantage on paper almost every time.

We had Kyle. The Kevin McHale of our squad. Possibly our second best offensive player, best rebounder and a solid leader by example. A great guy to have in team meetings, timeouts, half times, etc to keep spirits up and the one with the strongest basketball IQ.  He was a student of the game.  Tireless energy and incredible sportsmanship. When the competition got too heated, Kyle was always the one to keep things level headed and appropriate. You respected Kyle as a leader of the team and looked to him to lead by example on the court and off.

We had my brother, Sean. The only guy in competition with Kyle as our second best offensive player. Sean was the best at running his mouth and getting into an opponent’s head. He had good offensive skills and the outgoing personality to keep things fun. One year he shaved his entire head except for the letter M on top for Moose Meadow. A complete showman, he was all about winning, got upset when others made mistakes but never was harder on anyone than he was on himself. People knew they’d get a lot of effort and production out of Sean because you knew underneath the showman shell, you knew he expected only the highest performance out of himself in each and every game. It made you want to play harder and deliver as well.

We had the Corbin boys, Jerry and Heath. Two of the nicest tough guys you’ll ever meet. They were total role players who knew their place in the offense and on defense. Especially defense. They contributed a level of commitment to the team matched only by their love for the game and the team itself. The passion they brought to the court and desire they shared with the rest of us to not be the guy that let’s the rest of the team down made them solid in their role as solid role players…not expected to perform like campground league all-stars, but to contribute consistently as best as they possibly could. They were also the first two people to get in a teammates face if one of their own was getting out of line, which let you know they’d be the first to get in an opponent’s face if they were out of line in the way they were acting when it came to someone on their team. Quality people, with a heart for their teammates and desire to win like only brothers could share.

And then, we had me.  It feels weird to really try to describe myself as a player except to say that I was proud to wear the Moose Meadow jersey (Kyle would go on to tell me, after reading this, that he saw me as the Bruce Bowen of the squad). I understood everyone’s role on the team, even the bench players that I haven’t mentioned here. Even at that young age, I could tell that having everyone proud of what they bring to the table was the one intangible that separated us from the rest. We weren’t ball hogs.  We weren’t all trying to be the star of the afternoon. It made us special and it deliver three straight campground league tournament championships with an overall record of 14-1 for the three years we participated. People knew their roles, the chemistry was great and everyone kept the energy, positivity and level of performance high in every game for not ourselves, but for each other because no one wanted to let any of our teammates down.

And BELIEVE ME, I realize this all sounds ridiculous because it was only a bunch of individual five on five pickup games, organized into a tournament of kids from different campgrounds played in the woods in front of crowds of tens (ok, maybe 10). I realize that completely. But I don’t care what level of organized sports one may talk about. A complete team of teammates understanding their roles, respecting the breakdown of every single player’s role on the team and carrying an understanding, devotion and level of commitment to not let down the guy standing next to you is an equation that equals winning.

Hopefully this is something this year’s Cubs team takes away from their experience in Arizona in this year’s Spring Training. If it is, it could make all the difference come October as to what kind of story they’re able to tell when their run with the organization has finally come to an end.

UPDATED 6/8/11: This link started getting a bunch of views again today. Dan and Kyle came across it and started sharing it on Facebook. Since it was brought to my attention again after writing it a year ago, I have read it about five times now today. Always fun to look back, whether it’s in this blog or in life in general. Give me a time machine and I’d go back and spend another summer with those guys in a heartbeat. Good times. (Also, this idea might be necessary if any of us are to actually live long enough to see the Cubs win a championship).

Go Cubs Go!

That’s the Ticket x3!

Dailies

Game On!  Let’s make these games count already!

I got my tickets for when the Cubs come to NY and I can’t wait!  Have a ticket to three out of four games as I have to see as much as I can in person this year with the Cubs’ only trip to NY coming first thing in April, only a month away!

Not expecting a lot of long ball seeing that Citi Field’s dimensions are horrendous when it comes to home runs.  So hopefully Lou’s line up table setters in Theriot and Fukudome find their way on base a bunch and Lee and Rami are able to find holes in the outfield to knock them in.  It’s not too hard to find holes in the Mets outfield.  For one, especially without Beltran, they aren’t very good.  Francoeur is a joke.  Bay hasn’t played at Citi Field so getting used to the park and its dimensions will take some time.  As for Pagan, I liked him as a Cub and was sad to see young potential get away.  All in the same, he’s no Carlos Beltran.  All that, plus the fact that the outfield is ginormous (another flaw in the designing of Citi Field) if Theriot and Fukudome can find their way on, we should be starting off those ballgames up a run or two and ready to roll.

Little concerned about Rami’s soreness and the time he is missing this Spring.  I’m watching the replay of today’s Cubs/Indians Spring game right now.  Interesting to see Baker at third.  I figure if he’s making the ballclub, it’s more so for his ability to play second base.  Having a guy who can play third and second wouldn’t hurt as it looks like Lou has wanted to see if Fontenot and Baker both are capable of playing either the left or right side of the infield.  That makes me wonder if perhaps Lou is concerned about Rami as well.

Byrd’s looked pretty solid so far this Spring which is good to see.  We need a guy that can patrol centerfield with authority but also get the job done at the plate.  Rangers fans I communicated with on Twitter were especially disappointed to see Marlon come to the Cubs. I’m starting to see why in watching him perform this Spring and hopefully it continues on into the regular season.

Got my 2010 Cubs club card, my Cubs jacket for early April games, my Cubs jersey and my Fukudome t-shirt ready to hit Citi Field with abandon no matter how warm or cold it may end up being.  Opening Day across the country is always a crapshoot when it comes to the weather and more often than not you end up freezing for at least 2/3’s of the game.  I remember catching one opening day in New York and 50% of the fans in the upper level was standing in the aisles at the corners of the stadium trying to get into the sunny spots and avoid the shade.  Hopefully my dates with the Cubs coming to town in April avoid the usual early season chill factor.

I don’t foresee Samardzija making the club as a starter this year.  We’ll need him to perform well out of the bullpen though with a huge blow to the squad with Guzman’s injury.  Guzman was a guy that made me feel real comfortable with our bullpen and now without him, not sure how this is going to play out.  And Silva?  How do you guys feel about Silva?  I’m not so sure he’s the guy we need to get us through the early part of the season either until Lilly is closer to 100% and ready to step into his usual spot in the starting rotation.

Whatever Lou decides to do, I can’t wait to find out and I can’t wait to see it perform in games that count!

I received a copy of the Maple Street Press’ 2010 Cubs Annual and it’s amazing.  Great coverage of last year with an insightful look into the 2010 season.  All of the photos are in beautiful color and the stat breakdown of each player on the roster is detailed down to the finest percentage of performance.  It’s great to read a high quality observation and analysis of what the Cubs have been lately, what they could truly potentially be in 2010 and what the future holds with a breakdown of the hottest prospects in the Cubs organization.  Two things that really jump out at me right away is that it is as up to date as you can possibly get (the rosters are up to date and accurate…nothing bothers me more than a company that tries to get an annual out to early and for instance, still has Bradley as a Cub and no mention of Marlon Byrd)….the other thing that stands out is that it is 100% Cubs.  That may sound like an obvious observation, but take a trip to Borders or Barnes and Noble or browse on line for a while.  Try to find a preview to the upcoming season that doesn’t simply feed about five pages of Cubs info (that might not be up to date) in a program that runs about 150 pages long.  Hardly worth your money as a Cubs fan.  If you are looking for a truly efficient breakdown of what to expect going into this regular season, pick up a copy of the Maple Street Press’ Cubs Annual for 2010.  You certainly won’t be disappointed.

Hopefully we can say the same thing about our Cubs’ season come Fall and the games hit a point where they could REALLY mean something!  Go Cubs Go!  

2010 Cub Concerns: Head, Shoulders, Knees and ‘Tos

Dailies

Head

Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Marmol.  A couple of Carloses (Carlosi?)  that we need to worry about in the head category, the mental game.  Zambrano had an awful ’09 by Big Z standards.  Every from Hendry down to Ronnie Woo Woo thinks this year is going to be potentially the biggest of his career. Piniella’s gone as far as saying that Z could hit the 20 win mark in 2010.  Zambrano’s going to have to keep his head straight and lay off the meltdowns if 20 wins is going to be anywhere near Z’s future this season.  He’s projected to once again start Opening Day for the Cubs, a position he’s been horribly unsuccesful in when it comes to which flag ends up flying for the Cubs at Wrigley after doing so.  From Opening Day right on through September, if we’re going to have a chance of picking up the games necessary to catch the Cards and make the postseason, Zambrano has to keep his head on straight and lead the way.  Be the ace we pay you to be Z.  Lead the way.
 
And set the example for another guy in the head/mental concern category for 2010.  This is finally what Marmol has been waiting for.  After spending years proving himself out of the bullpen as the set up guy, this year, he’s the man.  The owner of the job of Cubs’ closer.  After losing out two years ago in an audition and then only being given the chance to take over for an ineffective, season poisoning pitcher in Kevin Gregg he has now been given the role he’s coveted.  Let’s hope his head stays where we need it to be.  Focused on the task at hand day in and day out and not overwhelmed by achieving a goal he’s had his sights on for years.  Sometimes when we get where we want to be, it’s hard to maintain that momentum and it isn’t always what we thought it would be.  I have no doubt being the Cubs closer will be all Marmol feels it’s cracked up to be…I just hope he kicks off the season right in roughly a month from now and keeps up that momentum through all of 2010.
 
Shoulders
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I’m a Lil’ worried about Ted Lilly.  He’s saying all the right things as is the organization.  He’s taking his time in getting back and no one expects him to be available come Opening Day.  Not only am I concerned about what we get in Ted when he does return, I’m concerned about what his absence does to our rotation.  Without Lilly as part of the Cubs’ five, we’re looking at Zambrano, Dempster, Wells and then two guys currently sharing the same name on the back of their jersey: TBD.  That doesn’t exactly bode well no matter how much Muskat wants to report that this is Samardzija’s year or that Gorzellany or Marshall or Silva may have enough to do their fair share while we wait for our most consistent pitcher to get back in pinstripes.  Ted Lilly’s shoulder needs to show up in 2010 at 100% because without Ted healthy, we have no shot at the playoffs this year.
 
Angel Guzman is another guy who has seen some down time recently due to soreness in his shoulder and the Cubs are going to look to him as potentially a strong part of the bullpen this year.  With Nady’s elbow working it’s way back through possibly new throwing mechanics from the outfield, you have to acknowledge that once you start throwing different than your body is used to, it could have a negative effect on other parts.  IE: his shoulder.  These three shoulders need to get healthy and be ready come Opening Day.
 
Knees
Really, the only knees I am extremely concerned about are those of our left fielder, Alfonso Soriano.  One day he is saying that he doesn’t feel his knee is where it needs to be considering how much time has passed since his surgery late last year.  Then the next day, suddenly, it’s not feeling so bad.  Well, which is it Sori?  Good?  Not so good?  Hopefully Piniella and the team doctors keep a real close eye on Alfonso this Spring.  The appropriate number of plate appearances to shake off that Winter dust is one thing.  Let’s not push him beyond that though.  He needs to be as healthy as possible to hold his own in the six hole this year and getting to any fly balls he can’t hop too or anything too far left of Byrd’s range in center.  Soriano’s contract is already putting a damper on financial flexibility.  His knees can’t suffer from any sort of damper in the flexibility category as well.
 
Tos
Our man Geo behind plate represents the ‘Tos for this rundown of concerns for ’10 heading into Spring Training.  If the Cubs were the cast of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, Soto’s off-season efforts would’ve taken home the grand prize.  40 pounds lighter and the desire to prove his sophomore slump was nothing but a fluke could spell an amazing 2010 for Soto!  A more serious attitude towards winning and staying in shape, less weed and perhaps less snacks led to Soto’s weight loss.  We need him in shape and turning that bat around on opposing pitchers’ fastballs quick like an athletic catcher and not our fat friend who we like so much we can’t tell him he can’t play, we just stick him behind the plate to play catcher so he doesn’t have to move too much.  From the time Soto saw folks at the Cubs Convention right through reports coming in from Spring Training, the word has been that Soto looks amazing and is going to bring it this year.  With the first games of Spring around the corner, I can’t wait to see what he looks like in action.
 
Lots of competition on the ball club this year in rounding out the bench and guys coming back from injuries and off years should make for a thrilling Spring Training.  Can’t wait to see Sori, Millar, Zambrano, Nady, Soto and what happens in the battle for second base.  
 
Spring Training is here as guys have started to report even earlier than necessary.  You have to love the ambition and commitment.  Add some health to the mix this year, and we could be talking Cubs baseball right into October in the present tense, not looking back like last year.
 
Wells to start the Cubs opener this Thursday against the A’s…Go Cubs Go!
 

Does Kevin Millar read ‘Prose and Ivy’?

Dailies

Yesterday, I wrote the post included below this one about how there may be some magic in Kevin Millar.  About how, he may have some magic left in him seeing that he was part of the 2004 Red Sox team that broke the long-standing curse in miraculous fashion.  I focused on how if that stands to be true, it may be the key intangible Millar brings to the table that shouldn’t be overlooked this Spring when it comes to deciding whether Millar makes it to the big league stage as a Cub.

Today, ESPN posted this interview with Kevin Millar.  Sounds a little familiar, no?  
Anyway, as cool as it would be for Millar to be a loyal reader of Prose and Ivy, it would be even cooler if he turns out to be right!  

Go Cubs Go!
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Is There Magic In Millar?

Dailies

In 2004, it had been 86 years since the last time the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. A near collapse, a stolen base, a miracle comeback and a defeated curse later and the Boston Red Sox were World Champions for the first time since 1918.  

The baseball world was turned upside down.

Fans across the country couldn’t believe what they had just witnessed.  Red Sox fans celebrated in a mixture of absolute euphoria and a foggy haze of this world around them they no longer recognized.  The Boston Red Sox had finally won the World Series.
There were few Red Sox fans alive in 2004 who were around to see the team win in 1918 (the year they defeated, guess who?  The Chicago Cubs). That’s how long it had been since the club had won it all. Yet, there their team was on the field. The team’s closer running a cleanly fielded, lively ground ball to the first base side of the infield and gently tossing the baseball through the air like it were a water balloon toss competition on Field Day.  You’ve never seen a grown man toss a baseball with more grace and more caution than in that moment.  The first baseman corralled it in his glove and held on for dear life, to the point where the organization had to fight in order to get the ball back long afterwards.  The Red Sox were on top of the baseball world.  Something no one in February of 2004 could have ever guessed would turn out to be that particular team’s ultimate destiny.  
And right in the center of it all?  The first baseman the Chicago Cubs signed to a minor league contract today, Kevin Millar.
Every piece of that 2004 Red Sox team was a small piece of the puzzle in what resulted in one of the most memorable baseball seasons of all time.  Imagine if a little bit of magic existing in Kevin Millar’s piece were to carry over to this Cubs team in 2010.  How amazing would that be?  As crazy at that may sound, some people just have that thing.  That thing that makes believers out of their teammates and fans.  That thing that makes a group guys believe they can be, and ultimately turn themselves into winners.  What if Millar is that kind of guy?
Now, Xavier Nady has also been added to the Cubs roster.  With his second Tommy John surgery occuring last year, I hardly expect a very memorable season from him although he serves as a decent option as a fourth outfielder.  A low-risk platoon member for starting right fielder Kosuke Fukudome.  Xavier Nady, however, has never truly contributed to a winning ball club.  His Yankees of ’09 won the World Series but Nady went down and out with no real production to help take home the trophy by going down in mid-April.  He might bring a great attitude to the clubhouse (so says his ex-teammates, managers, etc) however he hasn’t proven to be a winner in his time with the Pirates, Mets or Padres.  I believe the Cubs will get exactly what they expect out of Nady and nowhere near what they hope.
With Millar, however, I plead to the front office, not to overlook the intangibles.  Here is a guy who was part of one of the most historic years/teams in the history of the game.  A season that featured a Boston team so blessed with charisma, character and chemistry, they loved referring to themselves as Idiots and it spread throughout the media like wildfire.  It drove them to be great.  To ‘Cowboy Up’.  To believe. 
What if Millar turns out to be one of those necessary intangibles you need to, as Eddie Vedder so eloquently puts it in his tribute song to the Cubs, go ‘all the way’?  What if one of the most important pieces of the puzzle for 2010 is merely signed to a minor league contract and no one even realizes what he could truly be worth to this squad.  Here’s to hoping that if that’s the case that it only lasts for the next couple of months ending with Millar serving up a magical Spring Training (as magical as a successful Spring Training can be, that is) finding himself on the big league roster come April 5th against the Braves in Atlanta. 
Don’t laugh.  It may not be as much of a long shot as it sounds.
When you take a look at his twelve year career you’ll see some very Cub appropriate milestones and magical moments.  Dave Roberts stole the base that kept the Red Sox alive in the 2004 ALCS allowing the Sox to come back from down three games to none against the Yankees.  Who did he come in to pinch run for?  Kevin Millar.  Along with the efforts of some of the best players in the game, he helped a storied franchise break a curse and win a long awaited championship.  That curse part sound familiar?  In his second season playing in the major leagues he hit the first home run of his career.  Where, you ask?  Wrigley Field.  How, you ask?  An inside-the-park home run.  Rare.  Special.  Some may say…magical. Cubs baseball is in his blood.  His uncle, Wayne Nordhagen, played for the team in 1983.   Also, without even suiting up in Cubs pinstripes the front office has shown a long time belief in his abilities considering Gary Hughes, the Cubs special assistant to the general manager signed Millar to his first contract with Florida back in 1998.  
Starting out on the right foot, Millar considers Dempster to be a great friend and has stated that he has a lot of friends on the team. I believe that counts for a lot in keeping things loose and fun through a challenging and tumultuous season.  It could turn out to be a key ‘intangible’ that Millar could bring to the Cubs in 2010, helping push this team over the proverbial hump.  
I realize that there are only so many spots on a major league roster and there may not be room for Millar right away.  But the rate this team has seen itself hitting the DL in recent years proves that an opportunity may arise and Millar may find himself with the Cubs at Wrigley.  Depending on how things go from there will determine whether he gets to stay and how much of that intangible magic he actually ends up bringing to the team.  I also realize this may sound crazy, it’s not like we signed Pujols here.  However, crazy seems to be what people call unbelievable turns of events that no one ever saw coming.  
Piniella, Hendry…please be the guys that say “What do you mean crazy?  I knew it all along”, when the calendar flips to November this year.  Keep an eye on Millar this off-season and really give him a shot despite having Lee, Tracy and Hoffpauir already lined up to contribute at first.  
You may just have more than meets the eye in Kevin Millar.  And I’m going to say it again here, too.  In addition to Millar’s potential in contributing a second long standing curse/streak, it wouldn’t hurt to give Pedro Martinez a shot at helping bring that curse breaking magic to Wrigley in 2010 either.  What’s the worst that happens?  We don’t become World Champions in 2010?  I think we’ve proven we’ll get over that and show up again ‘next year’.  But, why not try something new?  The game has seen some strange things happen.  And one of the most amazing resulted in a championship with great contributions from Kevin Millar…and of course, Pedro.  (I’m just saying).  
Go Cubs Go!
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July 25th -Cooperstown, NY- The Andre Dawson Expo

Dailies

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

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

Dailies

Anyone else concerned about Ted Lilly?

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

Dailies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday MLB Network

Dailies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll bet it ALL on the Cubs. The book.

Dailies

Regular readers of Prose and Ivy know I’ve been emotionally invested in the ups and downs of Chicago Cubs baseball for years.  I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of years now and writing about sports in general since I would cut out pictures from the sports section and tape it to construction paper which I would type up imaginary sports articles on when I was little.  I’ve written reviews and articles for MLB.com/Entertainment and the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  I’ve written and produced television shows for Fox Reality, A&E, Travel Channel and Showtime.  I’ve performed stand up for over 12 years, shot pilots for shows I’ve created and written comedy for Comedy Central.  It’s all been a blast and I look forward to doing more when the opportunities present themselves.  Unfortunately, today’s economy has made these opportunities few and far between lately and like many, I am displaced working day jobs needed to pay the bills but not necessarily in situations classified as ‘ideal’.  When it comes right down to it, all in all, I love writing and I love baseball. The ultimate dream for me would be writing an entertaining, timeless classic account of being a fan of the Chicago Cubs.

But how do you write about the Cubs and take it in a direction that hasn’t been covered before?  There are countless books about Wrigley Field. (Not literally countless).  There are endless books about the best Cubs players by the numbers (not literally endless) and a ton of books about individual Cub personalities or listing interesting factoids about your favorite Cubs players/organization of all time (not literally a ton, I don’t believe).

The question: How do you write an engaging, entertaining, timeless book about being a Cubs fan and the greatest organization in baseball without blending in and reiterating everything that’s been said in Cubs based books previously published?  What could I write that is unlike any book sitting on the baseball shelf at your local bookstore today?

Today, I believe I’ve figured it out.

I had a thought today about raising the stakes for myself as a fan and having the outcome of the 2010 Chicago Cubs baseball season actually effect my life, win or lose.  That thought?

“What would happen if I bet it all on the Cubs?”

Here is the pitch:  I write a book about my experience as a fan of the Chicago Cubs during the 2010 season.  The twist, I am the one fan in the world with more at stake than the players themselves.  While the athletes may have incentive based contracts, those incentives are simply bonuses on top of their salaries.  Come the end of the day, they get paid something (a very large something at that) no matter whether they win, or lose.

The deal: my entire advance and residuals for the book are at stake.  If the Cubs win it all in 2010, I get paid.  If they don’t…I don’t.  Simple as that.

Aside from your actual ‘life’ itself, there are no higher stakes one could gamble than the quality of your life itself.  I’ll have more riding on the 2010 Chicago Cubs season than any other fan out there.  More than any player, coach or manager.  Players, coaches and managers get paid, do or die.  I won’t have that luxury.

Every decision Hendry makes behind the scenes will directly effect my life come the end of the season.  I will share my thoughts on every move he makes throughout the year.  I’ll follow the team during Spring Training, recap each game and keep an eye on the players that will determine my fate including a visit to Spring Training to see the team perform in person.

During the regular season I will travel to Chicago from New York to see the Cubs play in person.  When the team visits the East Coast, I will get tickets and check out the team’s performance at each Northeast stadium they visit.  It will be the Cubs roster that decides whether I get paid for a passion project and make my dream come true. Wouldn’t you want to evaluate and see them for yourself as much as you possibly could?  Me too!

Also, if Andre Dawson is voted into the Hall of Fame this year, a trip to Cooperstown would definitely be included!  Interviews with other fans regarding the Hawk and being a Cubs fan in general as well as their thoughts on my venture along the way would be hilarious no matter how the team is doing.  What an exciting detail that would be to add to the experience, an honor for the Hawk well earned and much deserved, without a doubt!

Now, I have a wife.  I live in New York City, arguably the most expensive city in the world.  Committing a ton of time to a passion project with no guaranteed financial benefit is not something every wife would be supportive of and I have no idea how she’d react.  Would she get angry?  Would she become as addicted to knowing the in’s and out’s of Cubs baseball as I am?  What would her reaction throughout the season be?  How would I react?  What would it feel like to see the W flag raised with so much at stake?  How would it feel come the All-Star break with the Cubs sitting pretty in first place in this situation?  And what if they’re losing?  What if Bradley wasn’t the problem and the chemistry still isn’t there in 2010?  What if injuries are a problem once again and all of our stars, one year older, are spending even more time on the DL?  What if Hendry makes a bonehead move (in addition to Silva, that is)?  How would it feel to see an error in the field cost me more than just the once in a lifetime opportunity (potentially) to see the Cubs win a title?  What if I had this deal going at the time of ‘The Bartman Game’?  What would that excerpt have been like?

As a social experiment, I will write about my day in and day out experiences rooting for the Cubs, putting complete faith in them to change my life by winning the World Series.  Something the team hasn’t accomplished in over 100 years.

I imagine the stress will be immense.  I picture the frustration with poor play and cold streaks at the plate to be unmatched.  I predict the heartbreak over an injury to be unbearable.  Box scores will be reviewed closer than a Biggest Loser trainer breaks down ingredients and calories for completely invested contestants.  The 2010 season will play out like a fantasy baseball team with results that are unparalleled.

For years people have wondered why, when I refer to my favorite sports teams, I use words like ‘we’ and ‘us’.  ‘How do you benefit if they win?’ they ask.  ‘Don’t say we.  It implies you win as well’, they say.  Well, this would make that comment completely irrelevant and obsolete throughout the 2010 Cubs baseball campaign.  Imagine letting it all ride on arguably professional sports’ least lucky, most cursed team.  If you ask me, that story and experience would be absolutely fascinating.

If there is anyone reading this with the power to make it happen and is at all interested, please email me: proseandivy@cubsmvp.com.  And readers should feel free to leave their thoughts here as well.  I expect some of you to think it’s cool and some of you to think it’s the dumbest proposal they’ve ever heard.  No matter which side is right…I think it would be amazing to be so invested in one season of Chicago Cubs baseball.

2010.  The Chicago Cubs.  World Series Champions.  It could happen.  I mean, someone will win it all next year.  Why not the Cubs?  What would that be like with the ultimate dream at stake?  And that my friends is why I’m willing to bet it all on the Cubs in 2010.

Go Cubs Go!  A safe and happy new year to you all!

The Trade That Ruined Christmas

Dailies

“Whoa….no way!  You ACTUALLY got me an…an iPud?”

“Oh wow, I can’t believe you got me an…HBox?”
“Oh my God, how did you know!?!  I was hoping you’d get me a…a Dwindle?”
That was pretty much what it was like hearing about Hendry’s latest ear behind your ear, lame off-season trick in dealing Milton Bradley….clubhouse morale disaster and overall unproductive knucklehead…for the one and only, difference making, crown jewel, diamond in the rough, what we’ve all been hoping since our final out of ’09…the one name tossed around we’d hoped we’d get in a trade for Bradley….ladies and gentleman…ooh, look under the tree….this one says “To Cubs Fans…Love, Hendry”….open it!  Open it!
“Oh my God, you shouldn’t have!   I can’t believe you got us…you got us Carlos Silva?!?”
You shouldn’t have.
Don’t get me wrong.  I appreciate you not giving me coal or an ugly reindeer sweater, but seriously Hendry.  Seriously, you shouldn’t have.  Carlos Silva?!?!??!!?  Are you kidding me?!  This is the best you can do?  You go all the way to the American League.  All the way to Seattle to find us the perfect gift.  Something that would blow my mind, something I would love and treasure always…and you bring back Carlos Silva?  Are you trying to ruin Christmas?  Because you’ve succeeded.  Way to go.  Why not just trip Grandpa and break his new hip or bring up the one thing that will get everyone riled up and arguing at the dinner table while you’re at it?  Come on Hendry!  THINK!
I understand the Bradley you had wrapped and ready to give us, wasn’t going to make anyone very happy, but you don’t talk about possibly giving a Bradley and then go out and get a Silva in exchange.  That’s just cruel.  Thanks a lot Hendry.  Thanks for nothing.  Thanks for delivering something we already have.  No really, this is perfect.  I’ll just put it over here with the others.  You didn’t happen to get a gift receipt did ya?  I’m sure there’s something else Seattle has that I’d like in exchange.  Oh, no?  No gift receipt huh?  Done deal?  Great.  No, great, GREAT!  I love it.  I don’t hate it at all.  I don’t completely hate the gift that you thought would be so great.  I don’t think you wasted your time completely or given Cubs fans the worst gift ever.  Thanks for taking very little and turning it into nothing.  
Carlos Silva?  CARLOS flippin’ SILVA?!?  It’s like you didn’t even try.  
You know what….go.  Just go.  Put down the nog.  And go.  Merry Christmas.  Hope you enjoy all the money and merchandise profits we all gave you this year while you come in here with your fancy wrapping paper wasted on a used Carlos Silva.  Unbelievable.  
God help us….everyone.  Go Cubs Go!

Baseball Bloggers Alliance Interview

Dailies

About six months or so ago (?) I joined up with a group of other baseball bloggers in an association known as the BBA (Baseball Bloggers Alliance).  It’s a great group of passionate, talented writers who blog about their favorite team and baseball in general.  There are a few members of the group who have blogs dedicated to baseball in general and at least one representative of every team in MLB.  You can check out their website here.

One the features they’ve added to the mix for this off-season is an interview with each of the members of the BBA.  It’s very much like what I do here with Prosecards from Cubs Nation.  Daniel is a guy that runs the group and he conducted an interview with me yesterday…thought I’d share it with you here.  Prose and Ivy as it turns out is blog #14 in order of people joining the BBA (appropriate considering it’s a Cubs blog, don’t you think?).  Check out the site and visit the blogs listed in the roster.  Some really entertaining, informative writing included for everyone to enjoy.  Here is the interview courtesy of the BBA:

 

Ryan
Website: Prose and Ivy
BBA #14

Question 1: How and why did you get into blogging?

My two main interests are comedy and sports. I’ve been writing and performing comedy for over 12 years. I stopped ‘performing’ when it came to organized sports after my senior year of high school (not including intramurals or club sports in college, I suppose). So basically, I never had a real outlet for my ideas/opinions/thoughts on sports.

I love baseball and when I saw the opportunity to have a blog on MLB.com, I jumped at the chance. Thought it would be a fun opportunity to joke, vent, rant, etc when it came to one of my favorite things in life. And then, when they made the site free, even better. : )

Question 2: Do you have any blogging projects planned for the off-season?

Over the off-season I plan on continuing to write and follow the trade rumors and signings as they happen. The moves that effect the Cubs directly, as well as some of the bigger signings that effect the team indirectly. In addition to that, I will continue a key feature on Prose and Ivy where I interview Cubs fans, much in the same nature as you are doing here for BBA members. The feature is called “Prosecards from Cubs Nation” and it’s been a blast getting to know Cubs fans from all over and here about their thoughts and experiences rooting for the Cubs. Will definitely continue that feature right up until Spring Training starts and into the 2010 regular season.

I also have a blog talk radio show where I discuss Cubs baseball and post the shows to Prose and Ivy. I haven’t recorded a show since the season ended, but that is something I’m looking to jump into again and post to the site just after the new year.

Question 3: What’s been your most enjoyable experience as a blogger (particularly well-received post, a high-profile link, a connection you wouldn’t have had otherwise, etc.)?

My most enjoyable experience as a blogger was when I was given the opportunity by MLB.com to review an X-Box game for MLB.com/Entertainment. They were looking for people to review MLB 2K8 and the write-ups would be featured on the site with an official MLB byline. That was all I needed to hear. I let them know I’d like to review the X-Box version of the game if possible and after they said it was a go, I went right out and bought an X-Box. Had the system for about a week, long enough to review the game, but short enough so that Best Buy would believe I had purchased it as a duplicate gift and take it back. Well worth the two trips to Best Buy and the opportunity to be prominently showcased on MLB.com.

Question 4: How did you find out about the BBA and what attracted you to the group?

I can’t remember how I heard about the BBA, however I think I heard about on another blog or was approached by Daniel himself, I can’t remember. The most attractive part of the group is the alliance the blogs share, in that, if you are a fan of a blog on the list, and looking for more quality baseball information…if you look at the list of blogs the BBA members recommend, you will be forwarded on to another blog in the group. It’s great for referring readers along to other BBA blogs and a great place to get quality bloggers together to share ideas regarding how to improve their sites.

Question 5: What do you want to see out of the BBA in the coming year?

BBA representatives on sports talk shows. TV and radio, both. I think that would be an amazing jump for the BBA on networks like ESPN, MLB Network, as well as local sports news shows around the country. Might be a bit far fetched, but we’ve already received recognition on ESPN with one of the Yankees blogs being selected to represent NY (AL) in the covering the playoffs this year from the fans’ perspective. Seemed to me like a great step in the right direction to achieve what I mentioned above.

That and maybe keychains. Yeah, strike that. Definitely keychains.

Question 6: How would you describe the Wrigley Field experience?

I would describe the Wrigley Field experience as incomparable when you see it in person for the first time. If my friend Justin is reading this, that means you can’t compare it to anything. It’s like no other stadium in the big leagues and only Wrigley and Fenway can actually say that, both for unique, distinct reasons. No jumbo-trons showing you the same blooper reels from 1982. An energy of a fan base just chomping at the bit for a championship banner to raise on Opening Day the following season.

Being at Wrigley feels like attending a reunion filled with family members you’ve never met before. People you look forward to spending time with as you know you have a ton in common, whether you know their names or not. Before you know it, you’re having a beer together laughing about shared family stories and happy you had a chance to share that time together at the world’s greatest ballpark. Like favorite cousins by the end of the day related not by blood, but bleeding Cubbie blue (cheesy, but accurate).

The Wrigley Field experience is also kind of like a weird montage from a High School Musical film where when you see it for the first time you wonder, how on Earth do all of these people know the words to that song and why are they all singing it simultaneously? I mean, that doesn’t happen in real life. Does it?

Wrigley’s basically amazing. You see the names on the jerseys like family members you share the same memories about. Sandberg, Banks, Smith, Grace, Lee, Davis, Dawson. A feeling that you’ve shared the ups and downs and simply can’t wait to get to your seat, have something to eat and enjoy watching your favorite baseball club compete day in and day out. It’s possibly the greatest way to spend three hours on any given day, bar none*. (*pun intended. the bars are a bonus. it’s the team and the stadium that makes the day great.)

Question 7: Is it tough not to be fatalistic as a Cub fan, to not just expect something to go wrong?

Yes, but that’s all part of it. At this point, it’s part of being a Cubs fan. You expect the worst which is what will make the day the Cubs win the title that much sweeter. It would mean, finally, something didn’t go wrong. (Then of course, I believe you may cue the action sequences of the film 2012 to follow very closely behind. Pretty much right after ‘Cubs win! Cubs win!’. Consider yourself warned.)

Question 8: How did you become a Cub fan?

I think a lot of people either become a fan of team because their parents rooted for them, their friends rooted for them, or they end up with a favorite player and then the team follows suit. For me, it was Ryne Sandberg. I grew up in Connecticut with no professional baseball team to be found among the up-turned collars and Eastland knots. Most of the games I attended growing up were at Shea Stadium down the turnpike and into Queens so I saw a lot of National League ball. Ryne Sandberg was my favorite player. The Cubs attachment followed soon after and it’s been an interesting ride (to say the least) since it did. As always…Go Cubs Go.

Question 9: Do you enjoy having a MLBlog?

I definitely enjoy having an MLBlog. MLB.com is the go-to place for all things baseball (obviously) and MLBlogs is a great opportunity the league has given the fans. The system gives you the opportunity to add a lot of cool features to personalize it so it really feels like you’ve made it your own. I would highly recommend it. (That and chocolate frosties at Wendys. Those things are awesome.)

Question 10: What’s up with that blog address?

I probably should have just gone with the words prose and ivy in the url, would probably be easier for people to find. But…I didn’t. The url is www.onedayatwrigleyac000000.mlblogs.com. The w’s I had nothing to do with and in a way, I feel they’re a little redundant. We’ve seen what one ‘W’ can do, let alone three. The mlblogs part comes with the territory. The onedayatwrigleyac000000 part was all me. It basically refers to the sign at Wrigley that refers to the Year of our Cubs (the AC “Anno Catuli”) and keeps track of the number of years it’s been since the Cubs won their division, league and the Series. The day the Cubs win it all (including their division that is), the sign would read AC000000 as in Anno Catuli and then zero years since the last division title, league pennant and Series title. Lofty goals for sure, but then again, it’s not all about the seventh inning stretch and Lou throwing a fit now is it. Ask me again when we have more time and I’ll tell you how I came up with the .com.

 

Thanks for reading the interview….how would you have answered some of those questions regarding the Cubs and/or Wrigley Field?  Hope everyone is having a nice holiday season despite the fact that as of now come Christmas morning, Milton Bradley will still be under the tree (and not in a good way).

 

Go Cubs Go! 

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Happy Thanksgiving

Dailies

All around the country people will be celebrating by preparing food for their family and loved ones on the same thing baseball fans are talking about all over the country.  The Hot Stove.  Let’s hope that our holiday weekend is filled with hot stove results that warm us on the inside and don’t spoil the season.

The Cubs aren’t expected to be big buyers this off-season, although they are expected to have an impact and a serious presence on the trading block.  Would love to see them re-gift Milton Bradley to someone this holiday season.  It was a nice idea coming in from Texas, but you know what, it just doesn’t fit.  I’m sure someone has a headcase right fielder that can potentially deliver numbers but is more likely to get the out count wrong on their wish list.  Perfect candidate for the Cubs to re-gift Bradley.

Bradley is kind of that relative that no one really wants to have at the table but feels like they have to invite because technically, they are legally related.  Like Thanksgiving dinner is Spring Training 2010 and you walk into it hoping ‘you know who’ isn’t there.  Chances are he could be there….but man…how much better would it be if he weren’t there.  Then again, if he’s not there, what will everyone talk about?  Who is everyone supposed to gossip about and blame all of the families problems on?

And what about the hot head you love when they’re there because they are so funny but then again when they get upset they end up trashing the place and making it really awkward to be around.  Let’s call that guy Uncle Carlos.  Fun guy to be around until he loses it over nothing.  Loveable hot-headed Uncle Carlos.

And then there’s that sibling you enjoy being around but the family spoils.  They spend a little too much money on that one person in the family, a little more than they probably should and because of it, everyone else has to sacrifice.  They don’t always show up and contribute to the family the same way others do and yet they are given a lot more than the rest of the group.  You kind of always expect more from them and the family goes nuts when they actually produce. Everyone’s favorite cousin, when he does actually hop to it and do something for others, it’s generally out of left field. Can’t wait until cousin Soriano shows up.

Nothing like the holiday season and something to potentially be excited about on the Hot Stove to celebrate all that we’re thankful for.  If you’d like to add another family stereotype to the hypothetical Cubs Thanksgiving table, please feel free to choose the type of relative and the Cubs player you believe fits the Jell-O mold and include it in the comments section!

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and that the Cubs’ turkey hangover doesn’t last until the Spring.  Happy Thanksgiving!  Go Cubs Go!

This week’s “Prosecard from Cubs Nation”!

Dailies

One of my favorite new features of 2009 on Prose and Ivy is “Prosecard from Cubs Nation”.  I started doing it late in the season and I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing three die-hard Cubs fans so far and am always interested to hear from more of you Cubs fans interested in being interviewed for the site.  Basically I send you fun questions about the Cubs and you get to tell the world where you’re coming from in Cubs Nation and lay it out the way you see it, from your point of view!

This week’s Prosecard from Cubs Nation is with Chad from Indy.  Chad’s a huge Cubs fan and a loyal reader of Prose and Ivy.  Here is the result of my interview with Chad!
PROSE AND IVY’S “PROSECARDS FROM CUBS NATION”
Prose and Ivy read and Cubs fan featured: Chad Tinsley Tudor

Name:  Chad Tinsley Tudor

Why are the Chicago Cubs your favorite baseball team?
 

I grew up watching the Cubs with my dad in Indianapolis because that was the team he watched. My first memories of the team were when I was seven years old, the 1990 Chicago Cubs. I love everything the team stands for, the history, Wrigley Field, the players, Harry Caray, the Wrigleyville area, the logo, our colors. To me the Cubs = baseball. 

Favorite Cubs memory:

 

So many… Sammy Sosa’s homerun chase in 1998. The 2003 team and the ride they took us on. The 2007 team was so fun to watch (minus the playoffs of course) Watching Ryne Sandberg, Grace, Dunston, Maddux, and The Hawk with Harry calling the games with Stone. The biggest of all would be attending my first game in 2001 at Wrigley. I sat eight rows behind home plate and my all time favorite Cubbie was sitting directly behind me. Ryne Sandberg. It was like a dream. I couldn’t talk for about three innings until he asked me to pass a message to a scout sitting in front of me. He was the nicest guy, and probably the craziest thing to ever happen to me. He signed a ball for me; it’s something I’ll never forget. 

Favorite current Cub:

 

Carlos Zambrano, Derrek Lee & Aramis Ramirez

All-time Favorite Cub:

 

Ryne Sandberg


Your dream starting Chicago Cub line up for 2010 would be?

 

BJ Upton, Hanley Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Geo Soto, Alfonso Soriano, Chase Utley, Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Zambrano 

That’s a far, far, far, fetched dream. I know. 

How would you celebrate a Cubs championship?


Cry like a baby. Hopefully I’ll be at The Cubby Bear Bar partying all night. 

Most feared opposing batter?

 

Albert Pujols & Adam Dunn

Most feared opposing pitcher?

Carpenter, Wainwright, Lincecum

You can either sing “Take me out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch or call a half inning on WGN.  Which would you rather do and why?


I’d want to sing “Take me out to the Ballgame.” I don’t know what Cubs fan wouldn’t. Lots of pressure though (i.e. Jeff Gordon)

One thing you would change about Wrigley Field?


Nothing. I love everything about it, including the bathrooms nobody seems to like. 

One thing you would change about the game of baseball?


Earlier start times for the playoffs. Lots of kids are not being able to stay up and watch these games. 

You are the Cubs’ dugout Gatorade cooler.  You are able to hand out one restraining order against the Cub of your choice.  Which Cub do you choose and why?

Obviously Carlos Zambrano would be my pick with his anger management history.

The NBA logo is said to be based on Jerry West.  What Chicago Cub silhouette do you think the team would base a similar logo for the team on to represent the franchise?  (Aside from Mr. Cub that is).


I feel like the Harry Caray logo above the pressbox is a good one already even though it’s not much of a silhouette. Maybe a silhouette of a Derrek Lee follow through swing. 

You’re having dinner in the Cubs clubhouse and can invite any four Cubs, living or dead.  Who would you invite and why?


Ryne Sandberg because he’s my all-time favorite. Mark Grace because I heard he was a great guy to sit and have a beer with. Carlos Zambrano because I like his personality, he seems like he would be real fun to hang out with.

 

Last I would pick Ron Santo just to hear the stories he has, I always like listening to him on the radio, even when he’s yelling like a mad man. 

Do you believe the Cubs are cursed?  Yes or no and why?


No. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles. The Red Sox broke their “curse.” It’s not easy to win the whole thing, that’s why it’s so special when teams especially your team does. 

More vital to the Cubs’ success…Getting Soriano back on track?  Getting Soto back on track?  Trading Bradley?  Landing a new leadoff man?

 

More vital is Soriano and Soto back on track, that’s why I kept them on my dream 2010 Cubs roster. Soriano can carry the team for weeks when he gets going and we all know how great Soto was his full rookie year. 

In your opinion, who’s crazier?  Carlos Zambrano or The Real Housewives of Atlanta?


I’ve seen commercials of those housewives and they seem pretty crazy, but based off Carlos’ meltdown in 09, throwing the ball out to the bleachers and assaulting the Gatorade machine… I’m going with El Toro. 

The Cubs have just won the World Series and you have been given the

assignment of writing the lead story, covering this moment in baseball history.  Come up with 5 of the most creative headlines you can to kick off your article:


“FINALLY!!!”

“CUBS WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS!”

“THE CUBS DID IT!!”

“CUBS ARE THE CHAMPS!”

“WE CAN DIE IN PEACE!”

You have 30 seconds to convince Piniella to stay on past 2010, OR to convince Hendry to make Sandberg the manager come 2011. They will listen to you if your argument is convincing enough.  Which one can you make a stronger argument for?


That’s up to Jim… If Lou still has the fire in his belly I’d welcome him back. Ryno is a Hall of Famer taking bus trips with young ball players all over the country. He is paying his dues and doing an excellent job developing the young talent while winning. I’d love to have either; I think it’s a win-win situation for Cubs fans to be in. 

You are the hopeful new owner of the Chicago Cubs.  The last thing standing in the way of the deal getting done is you must decide one thing to change at Wrigley Field.  Have to.  Would you either take away the ivy on the wall, update the scoreboard to an giant HD screen, or change the outer marquee? And…why?

I just couldn’t do it. If I had to like you said, I would somehow attach an HD screen to the old scoreboard. Honestly though… I just couldn’t change this landmark. 

Hypothetically speaking, four Cubs players have career years in 2010.  Which four Cubs players do you think have the most potential to do so next year?

Carlos Zambrano bounces back. I think Kosuke Fukudome has a great year at the plate. Aramis Ramirez is going to have a strong, healthy season. I really think the breakout guy is going to be Carlos Marmol, he’s ready to step up and be the leader in the bullpen.  

You’re hired to run the Cubs 2010 public relations campaign.  You can use any slogan, player, etc that you want to.  What is your advertising campaign/slogan for the 2010 season?

JUST WIN.


#

Thanks to Chad Tinsley Tudor for taking the time to be interviewed for Prose and Ivy.  Love the answer about the dream line up…looks good to me.  And so far not one fan believes the Cubs are cursed.  Interesting.  I think the JUST WIN slogan would resonate with Cubs fans of all generations.  Simple and to the point.  W’s baby.  Need to get those W’s.

Keep an eye out for a potential second installment later this week as I look to pack as much in here this week as I can going into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  Any Cubs fans interested in being interviewed for a future installment of Prosecards from Cubs Nation, please email me at proseandivy@cubsmvp.com and I will send you a list of questions!  Grabow signed to a 2 year deal. New billboards put up behind the left field bleachers. Heilman dealt to the Diamondbacks. Ricketts attending their first owners meetings.  Lots to talk about, email me and let’s talk Cubs baseball!

Go Cubs Go!

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Come on, that’s funny

Dailies

This blog has been featured on the MLB.com home page and on the MLB.com Entertainment page, but never on MLBlogs’ home page.  

That is, until now.  And what is the headline on the post below this one, previously greeting countless potential new readers while I’m featured center stage?
“Not A Whole Lot Going On”.
Catchy, huh?  Makes you want to read more doesn’t it?  Gee, let me click on this new Cubs blog I’ve never read.  It’s featured on the MLBlogs home page, must be fascinating.  Let’s check out the top post here…oh…not a whole lot going on.  Alright then, guess I’ll read something else.
Anyway, thought it was hilarious the timing of my last headline with the being featured and all.  That, plus when I told my dad to pull up MLBlogs.com and check out who is on the front page he said “Cool…Tim Lincecum”.  I said “Below him”.  He misheard me.  Hilarity ensued.  Good times.  
Thanks for featuring Prose and Ivy on the MLBlogs home page MLB and welcome new readers.  Any Cubs fans interested in being interviewed for one of the fan segments, email me at proseandivy@cubsmvp.com
Go Cubs Go!  
(And if we sign Grabow, cool.  If not, cool, but I prefer we keep him.  If we lose Harden, cool, but I know a few female Cubs bloggers that will be very disappointed.  As for Reed….hope there’s a way to keep him in the mix.  Any outfielder not afraid to run smack into a brick wall to record an out for the Cubs is alright by me.  One signing that would be particularly interesting if for nothing other than the secrets of Wrigley Field that could be revealed….Curtis Granderson.  He comes with a bit of baggage and it’s filled with production equipment for a potential new reality show.  At least it wouldn’t involve him decorating cakes in the Cubs dugout).
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Not a Whole Lot Going On

Dailies

Since I last posted, the Ricketts family took over ownership of our beloved Chicago Cubs.  Love their stance on looking at the Cubs from their owner seats the same way they would have if they still owned bleacher seats.  Someone like that will hopefully help convince them to put a little more money into a deal here and there than they may have done otherwise if they didn’t have an emotional attachment to the team.  On the flip side, hopefully they have plenty of people helping them deal with their heads when necessary and not always their hearts.  Need to make sure the deals they make are strategically sound business wise and baseball wise.

I mean think about how fans treat fantasy baseball drafts.  Most of us go after the big names and load our team the best way we can.  Often we take guys we enjoy rooting for and do so on the field in real life and in the fantasy fields.  We can’t have owners wanting the best for our Cubs but not thinking soundly the way we need those running the show to do.  People with a passion for the ball club and dreams of the team finally winning again is a plus and I’m happy we don’t have folks who are only in it for the dollars they can make in the long run.  And if you don’t know much about them, check out this interview with them here conducted by the Chicago Tribune:

 http://chicagotribune.vid.trb.com/player/PaperVideoTest.swf

That said, I think Wells got ripped off and should be the NL ROY.  (See what I mean about making decisions with your heart and not your head?)  Still, Wells had a great year, kept the Cubs in the thick of the NL Central and wild card berth races, longer than they could’ve hoped for without him.  No one expected to need such a contribution from Wells this year but we did.  With his help, we hung in there through the middle of September and kept things interesting.  Interesting doesn’t win you hardware though.  Numbers and results do.  That right there is the problem.  

Zambrano won the Silver Slugger award once again, but really, who is his competition?  Any other pitchers out there looking to go deep during BP?  I think not.  Zambrano can enjoy making more room on a mantle for all of his silver bats.  We need him to start a new wing for some pitching awards if we’re going to end up on top any time soon.
Bradley is still a Cub and I’m not sure how much longer that will remain as such.  If we can’t move him, I think he’ll be a sore spot on a team with a lot of potential once again and we can’t have that.  I think his numbers would be better but his head and mouth would remain the same.  My guess anyway.  And we can’t have that.  Have to trade him and see what we can get.  And Granderson?  I guess that’s cool, but I don’t know, it doesn’t really get my blogging juices flowing.  
Anyone else excited or upset about anything going on with the Cubs since the World Series ended?  Excited about any free-agent filings?  Have a Cubs holiday shopping list you’d like to share?  Does it involve Holliday?  Please feel free to share.  With Halloween over, Thanksgiving on it’s way….winter meetings will be here before you know it.  ‘Tis the season.
(Oh yeah…and ex-Cub Sammy Sosa’s getting lighter.  Ok.  I guess there have been some things going on).
Go Cubs Go!
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Another Installment of “Prosecards from Cubs Nation”

Dailies

Cubs fans all over are counting down the days until Spring Training kicks off in 2010.  Until then, I’m going to try and interview as many as I can and post the interviews here, on Prose and Ivy.

Today’s Prosecard comes from Dave M. in Chicago, IL.  Dave is a huge Cubs fan and can be found on Twitter at @dat_cubfan_dave.  Dat Cub Fan Dave took some time out of his busy Friday afternoon and answered the following questions.  And really, what says I’m a Cubs fan more than taking the afternoon off and enjoying yourself some Cubs baseball?  
Here now is @dat_cubfan_dave’s “Prosecard from Cubs Nation” on Prose and Ivy:
PROSE AND IVY’S “PROSECARDS FROM CUBS NATION”
Prose and Ivy reader and Cubs fan showcased: Dave M.

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Name:  Dave M. (Note: Dave M.’s lawn gnome pictured above, not Dave M.)


Why are the Cubs your favorite team?

Well, like many Cubs fans, it’s genetic. My Mom told me once that she used
to listen to Cubs games on the radio with her grandfather (that would be my
great-grandfather for those of you keeping score at home). So I like to
refer to myself as a fourth generation Cubs fan. And, growing up, my Mom
always had Cubs games on TV during the summer so, again, like many others,
WGN played a huge role in my Cubs fandom. I used to get so excited watching
the games that I couldn’t even finish watching them – I’d have to run out to
the garage, grab my glove and a tennis ball, and spend the remainder of the
game bouncing the ball off our garage, pretending I was a Cubs player (or
actually the whole team, come to think of it). Seeing as how this was the
mid- to late-70s, I wasn’t exactly missing out on too many
championship-level teams.

Favorite Cubs memory:

It’s hard to pick just one. Maybe walking into Wrigley Field for the first
time as a kid. Seeing the brilliantly green grass and legendary ivy explode
before my eyes as I reached that top step…wow…there’s nothing like it.
More recently, it might be watching Jim Edmonds catch the final out in the
division-clinching game last year. I really felt like that team was the One.
They had it all: Something old (Lou), something new (Kosuke), something
borrowed (Edmonds), something blue (er, well, I guess everything was blue).
Fukudome’s Wrigley debut is another favorite. Oh, and Kerry Wood homering in
the ’03 NLCS. For a brief moment, it felt like the magic was back. Sadly, it
was not. As you can see, I could go on.


Favorite current Cub:

Again, it’s hard to choose. I suppose the obvious answer is Derrek Lee.
He’s a player I have enormous respect for, both on and off the field. I was
really, really happy to see him prove all the naysayers wrong this season.
Among the pitchers, I’d probably pick Ryan Dempster. I’ve happened to attend
one of his starts in each of the last two years and he’s won both games. He
may not be the best pitcher in terms of stuff or results, but I appreciate
all he’s done for the Cubs since he arrived here. (And, yeah, I know he’s
getting paid handsomely for it.) He also seems like a really smart and,
obviously, funny guy – and I admire that. I’ve also always been a big Sean
Marshall fan, too. Not sure why – maybe it’s because I watched his debut in
’06 vs. the Cards on TV and was really rooting for him. Like Demp, he’s a
guy who’s gone out and done whatever the team has asked in a really gutsy
way. I’d also like to give a shout-out to Randy Wells, who was among the
brightest of bright spots in a very frustrating ’09 season. Ted Lilly is a
total badass. He scares me – in a good way. Big Z is the man…I actually
had a dream I was hanging out with him the other night. Seriously. Once
again, as you can see, I’m not very good at picking only one favorite.

Favorite all-time Cub:

Well, growing up, my favorite Cub was Bill Madlock. So maybe I’ll just
stick with that. I suppose I won’t truly know my all-time favorite Cub until
I’m about to take my seat in those Great Bleachers in the Sky.

Your dream starting Chicago Cub line up would be? 


Wow, this answer could take some time. I don’t quite have the energy to take a historical approach. And I tend to break out in hives when people put together their “fantasy” lineups of what the Cubs could look like next season. TRADE FOR ADAM LIND!!! GET HALLADAY!!! How ’bout dreaming somewhat realistically regarding next season: 

1. Kosuke Fukudome RF 
2. Jeff Baker 2B 
3. Derrek Lee 1B 
4. Aramis Ramirez 3B 
5. Alfonso Soriano LF 
6. Geovany Soto C 
7. Mike Cameron CF 
8. Ryan Theriot SS 
9. Pitcher. 

Dang, that’s really right-handed but, hey, it’s all I’ve got at the moment. I think Cameron, signed to a one- or two-year deal, would be a good stopgap centerfielder for the time being. This Milton Bradley thing could really go any number of ways and it’s hard to know what the team will end up looking like until it’s resolved. For the time being, I’m focusing on centerfielders, because I think Kosuke’s defense is a big plus in right field.

How would you celebrate a Cubs championship?

Ha, any way I could. I don’t get to watch too many of the games socially,
so I’d probably be alone when it happened – jumping up and down, screaming
silently (to not wake up my wife and daughter) and scaring the hell out of
our cats.


Most feared opposing batter?

Well, the obvious answer is Albert Pujols, isn’t it? But there’s a really
easy way to lessen that fear: Don’t pitch to him! It drove me crazy how
often the Cubs did that with an open base this season. Joe Torre had the
right idea in the NLDS. Let’s see, who else? The Diamondbacks’ Chris Young
is an awful hitter who always seems to put one in the seats vs. the Cubs. I
have a feeling the Reds’ Joey Votto is going to be a thorn in our side for
some time. On the bright side, I have to believe the Astros’ Carlos Lee is
nearing retirement. Let’s see, what other egregious Cubs killers can I throw
in here? Prince Fielder: Monster. I wish the Brewers would trade him to the
AL for some pitching and get it over with. I’m not exactly thrilled when
googly-eyed Ryan Braun comes to the plate either. I think that about covers
the division. Oh, wait…I forgot the Pirates. Um, yeah, Andrew McCutchen -
toolsy!


Most feared opposing pitcher?

Oh, that’s easy. Doug freakin’ Davis. Basically, any pitcher that throws in
slow motion is going to shut us down. Dan Haren, check. Jamie Moyer, check.
On a more serious note, Tim Lincecum is probably my favorite non-Cubs
pitcher. He’s a lot of fun to watch – not against the Cubs, of course,
though I feel like they handled him pretty well this year. If I recall
correctly, we almost won the game he pitched at Wrigley and then Big Z
outpitched him in San Fran at season’s end. That was a great game. And then
naturally you have the two-headed monster at the top of the Cardinals
rotation now. On the bright side, I do think Jim Hendry deserves some credit
for putting together some decent starting staffs since the Great Rotation
Collapse of ’06. (Where have you gone, Juan Mateo?)


You can either sing “Take me out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning
stretch or call a half inning on WGN.  Which would you rather do and why?

I’ll take the singing gig, thanks. I’ll leave the game-calling to the pros,
though I wouldn’t mind tossing in the odd Santo-esque “Geez!” and “Yes,
sir!” if I could.

One thing you would change about Wrigley Field?

Hm, I dunno…move it closer to where I live? I do know it needs upgrades.
I’m going to say they need to get that Triangle Building thing done. As a
fan attending a game for three or four hours, I can live with some of the
antiquated aspects of Wrigley. I’d rather the  players have decent batting
cages and the front office have the facilities they need to work
effectively, expand the scouting department, and put together well-rounded,
consistently competitive baseball teams.


One thing you would change about the game of baseball?

Well, to make a topical reference, I think I’m in favor of expanding
instant replay to some limited extent. I understand the concerns about
drawing out the games, but I think there’s got to be some middle ground
between reviewing every strike call and dribbler down the line and the
current “home runs only” policy. One interesting idea I read was giving each
team a limited number of “replay calls” a game and then letting managers
factor it into their game strategy. Honestly, even if expanded, I don’t
think instant replay would come up all that often. But when I see some of
these calls being made in the playoffs…sheesh…something needs to be
done.


You’re having dinner in the Cubs clubhouse and can invite any four Cubs,
living or dead.  Who would you invite and why?

Well, the site of Rogers Hornsby’s shambling corpse sidling up to the
dinner table might put me off my salad, but I’ll play along. Um, how ’bout
two of each: Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano on the breathing side and
Orval Overall (because I like his name) and Ken Hubbs (because his is such a
tragic story- in a rock star kinda way).

Do you believe the Cubs are cursed?  Yes or no and why?

No, I do not think the Cubs are cursed. And let me just go on record as
saying we Cubs fans could do ourselves a big favor by ignoring this topic to
fullest extent possible. A curse is a shallow, superstitious excuse for
what’s gone wrong with this team over the decades. If this team marshalls
its considerable financial resources; puts savvy, 21st century management
and scouting in place; and starts fielding competitve teams on a regular
basis, a championship will come. I believe that.


More vital to the Cubs’ success…Getting Soriano back on track?  Getting
Soto back on track?  Trading Bradley?  Landing a new leadoff man?

Well, I’ll take the easiest question first: The Cubs don’t need a leadoff
man – especially an overpaid one in his 30s. (Hi, Chone Figgins!) There’s
too much emphasis on speed when looking at leadoff guys. I look at OBP and
PPA (pitches per plate appearance), and Kosuke Fukudome fulfills both those
categories quite nicely. Trading Bradley is probably the first step toward
putting the 2010 team in a position to succeed, if only because he’ll be a
huge distraction if he’s not gone by the time spring training rolls around.
I’m not a Bradley hater – I actually think he’s an immesely talented
baseball player. But his situation has become more of an employment issu
e
than a baseball one. Both sides need to part ways and move on. It’s a shame
because the team could really use his OBP at the top of the lineup (at the
very least). It’s also a shame because he’s worsened the Cubs
already-precarious financial situation. In any case, to answer your
question, getting Soriano back on track is probably the most vital thing. A
team can’t lose that much production from its starting left fielder without
suffering mightily. Geo is important, too, but he’s a catcher – and still a
relatively young player – so it’s a little more reasonable to expect a
little less from him than his glorious rookie season gave us. He still
obviously needs to hit better and stay healthy.

The Cubs have just won the World Series and you have been given the
assignment of writing the lead story, covering this moment in baseball
history.  Come up with 5 of the most creative headlines you can to kick off
your article:

1) CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN! 2) Cubs quench century-plus drought 3) HEY
HEY HOLY MACKERAL NO DOUBT ABOUT IT 4) Cubs crush Royals, win World
Series (hey, it could happen), 5) Dewey defeats Truman!

You have 30 seconds to convince Hendry to either keep or trade Milton
Bradley.  He will listen to you if your argument is convincing enough.  What
do you say to him…and if it’s trade…who would you trade him for?

Jimbo, buddy, dude…can we build one of those “Men in Black” laser things
that makes everyone completely forget what they just saw? If so, let’s do it
and obliterate the memories of every Cubs player, coach, fan and media
member and give Milton another shot. What? You never saw “Men in Black”?
Well, that’s a shame…it’s pretty entertaining. Holds up rather well.
Anyway, how’s about blowing in a call to Dombrowski in Detroit and see
whether we can con him into giving us Curtis Granderson. Maybe we could take
Dontrelle Willis contract as well and turn him into a set-up guy. And if
that doesn’t work…hell, I don’t know…just get Rowand from the Giants. He
was a pretty good hitter when he wasn’t playing in a pitcher’s park. And
we’ll probably get a lot of free publicity when he explodes like a
cantaloupe running into the centerfield wall at Wrigley.


You are the hopeful new owner of the Chicago Cubs.  The last thing standing
in the way of the deal getting done is you must decide one thing to change
at Wrigley Field.  Have to.  Would you either take away the ivy on the wall,
update the scoreboard to an giant HD screen, or change the outer marquee?
And…why?

Those are my options? Geez. Um…I guess I’d change the marquee – put it in
a museum somewhere maybe. Or, better yet, my garage. You can’t touch the ivy
and you’d be putting guys out of work by replacing the scoreboard.


You are Steve Bartman.  It is 2003 and you have the opportunity to see the
Cubs play in the postseason at Wrigley Field and potentially close out the
NLCS making your way to the World Series.  However, you are warned that it
is guaranteed that either you will become one of the most hated Cubs fans in
history, OR you will see them make it to their first World Series in
forever. 50-50 shot.  Do you attend the game?

I stay home and listen to Pat and Ron seeing as how I’m going to wear those
stupid-looking headphones anyway.


You’re hired to run the Cubs 2010 public relations campaign.  You can use
any slogan, player, etc that you want to.  What is your advertising
campaign/slogan for the 2010 season?

Your 2010 Chicago Cubs: We’re SO much better than that.


Thanks to Dave M. (@dat_cubfan_dave) for answering the questions and taking a few minutes (blowing off work) to talk Cubs baseball with Prose and Ivy.  If you’d like to be featured in the next Prosecard from Cubs Nation, please email me at proseandivy@cubsmvp.com and I will send you a bunch of questions to answer and feature right here on the site!  GO CUBS GO!

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Hmmm…interesting

Dailies

Cubs sign Rudy Jaramillo as their hitting coach for 2010.

His time in Texas was littered with experience guiding Soriano and Bradley through productive years at the plate.  You have to wonder if his time with them, plus the fact that Bradley trusts him so much, is a sign that regardless of whether a team out there is interested in Bradley, that perhaps Hendry is thinking of giving this Bradley experiment one more shot.

Jaramillo is known as being a guru.  Hendry says he’s the best hitting instructor in the game.  Really Jim?  You think so?  It’s a good thing he’s received such high praise from his peers as well, because really, what else is the guy that hired him supposed to say?  “Who, Jaramillo?  Yeah, he’s alright I guess”.  Not happening.  Of course Hendry is going to say he’s the best.

Jaramillo is known for being a great communicator in getting players to work hard and after seeing results, earn his trust.  The Cubs website has a story where Jaramillo speaks of a time where Sosa was in the batting cage with four other hitters.  Over 100 balls were hit and after the session, the four hitters picked up the balls and Sosa didn’t touch one.  Next round, same result.  Only this time when the hitters went to pick up the balls, Jaramillo told them to stop and let Sammy do it all.  Sammy, the diva, did just that.  Considering Sosa has selective bi-lingual ability communication resulting in Sammy Sosa doing a ball boy’s job that most major league hitters do without a second thought is definitely a great example of Jaramillo being a great communicator.  But he’s still a batting coach, not a shrink.  So, not sure how he helps in Bradley’s case.  If he’s even still around in 2010 that is.

Love the work ethic already though.  Jaramillo is planning on viewing tape of Cubs’ hitters from ’09 and then meeting with some of the younger talent in Arizona in November.  Taking this team from potential to reality is going to take someone willing to go the extra distance.  I love Piniella and think he’s a great baseball mind.  However, people think he’s sleeping a bit lately and not quite the fire plug he’s been in the past in motivating and getting results.  Maybe that’s where Jaramillo comes in to reinforce that fire and add a level of urgency and desire on the coaches’ level that’s been missing.  Jaramillo could help from his place on up in the organizational in that way potentially, as well as from 1 down to 8 in the Cubs’ order.  Wouldn’t that be nice.

And not for nothing, but in 2006, Cub fan fave Mark DeRosa hit nearly .300 with Jaramillo on the Rangers as well.  As far as working with former players goes…well, I’m just saying.  That would be a great reason to welcome Jaramillo as well.

Off-season has begun already for the Cubs regardless of the fact that game one of this year’s World Series hasn’t even kicked off yet.  And their first move comes on the coaching level.  Interesting first tweak in getting this team to the next level in 2010. 

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy!  (Great movie)  Go Cubs Go!

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Uno!

Dailies

And not in a good “family game night” kind of way either.

Cubs lost to the Giants today and the Rockies defeated the St. Louis Cardinals.  At the start of the day our elimination number was holding strong at three.  After these two events, our elimination number is down to one.  And unless a miracle happens, this will be the last day of the season that I post while we’re still in contention for a playoff spot.
Wells was unsuccessful in his bid for win number 12 as San Francisco proved to be too much for him and held strong at five games out of the wild card spot.  Here now is what the American League and National League wild card standings look like:
wild card as of 9:27.pngUnbelievably the American League is down to only two teams left vying for the final playoff spot.  The rest of the league is out.  National League proved to be a little more competitive this year as five teams are still left competing.  Surprisingly, Atlanta has jumped up to second place, only two and a half games behind the Rockies after their recent six game win streak.  Their elimination number is five so the rest of this week should prove to be interesting for both the Braves and Rockies.  It’s only a matter of time (barring miracles of course) for the rest of the teams listed that are still in contention.
This is why it’s important to kick the season off fast, stay strong and finish strong.  Every game counts when you tally it all up and look at the big picture.  Those one run losses early on may not have seemed like a big deal then.  Now, you’d love to have those turn around into one run wins.  Would make a huge difference.  Play the episode of today’s Prose and Ivy Cubs Blog Talk Radio show I recorded earlier today, listed in the side bar on the right.  My take on Bradley, next year’s line up and rotation, use of the young talent, Fukudome’s worth and what it all means looking at 2010 is discussed on the show.  
Enjoy the talk now and leave a comment or two while we’re technically still in it.  One loss or one Rockies win and our ’09 will officially wrap come the final regular season game.  The rest of the way we play at Wrigley where we are much better than we are on the road.  Maybe that will matter and maybe it won’t.  Unfortunately that’s the stressful and depressing part of losing control of your own destiny.  One to go.  Will it come Tuesday?  Will it come at all?  Hope not.  We’ll see.  On top of playing at home, we’ve got Pittsburgh coming to town.  We know how I feel about Pittsburgh…wish we could play them all 162 games.  The Rockies on the other hand have Monday off as well and then face the Brewers.  Can’t imagine the Brewers would like to do us any favors.  Doesn’t look good.  But again, we’ll see.
Dempster at home against the Pirates on Tuesday.  All we can do is our part and hope for the best.  Go Cubs Go!
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Prose and Ivy on-line Talk Show today 11am CST

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Call in and share your thoughts on all things Cubs.  Here’s the description for today’s show!

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Wells goes for win number 12 today in San Fran.  Keep those W’s coming!  Go Cubs Go!

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Straight out of Central Casting

Dailies

’07.

’08.
Oh no.  Two years of division titles in the Central for the Cubs and that is where it stops.  Cubs are hot lately but it’s too little, too late if you were hoping for a three-peat.  Cardinals beat the Rockies tonight in the ‘I really don’t want to root for either of these teams Bowl’ and clinched the NL Central.  They had the better season.  Their superstars had the better year.  Their pitchers stepped up and outperformed us.  Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals for taking the Central.
Now we’re looking at the Wild Card.  Granted, we’re looking at it with horrible seats but at least we got tickets.  A few teams are standing in our way of claiming the Wild Card and our down in front chants aren’t doing much in making a difference.  It hasn’t seemed to work in our favor this last month of the season no matter what we do.  It seems any time we pick up a game on the Rockies, so does everyone else.  And if we lose a game, well, they do too.  And the Rockies have pulled a ton of comeback wins out making our late season heroics attempts moot.  We’re not out of it yet and it’s becoming quite the final couple weeks of the season.  Don’t know that I’d use the word ‘wild’ to describe it, but at least the games still mean something anyway.  For three more games that is anyway, possibly less.
Our elimination number is down to 3.  Any combination of Rockies wins and Cub losses that add up to three and we’re done.  These few games against the Giants have been a blast.  I must admit, when I saw Zambrano v. Lincecum as the opposing pitchers the other night, I thought we were toast.  Figures that’s when Z steps up and delivers his best pitching performance since his no-hitter a year ago.  Also figures that while Lee has been on a tear, he just happens to be the guy on base in front of Baker, who just happens to hit a 2 run shot to win a ballgame in the ninth, who just happens to drive in Lee, who just happens to be the victim of an overzealous Guzman celebration, who just happens to hit Lee (not Baker, who actually hit the home run) and who just so happens to injure Lee’s neck while doing so causing him to miss a couple games.  And that my friends is what we call the Chicago Cubs.
I wish this team would continue to play all out while we aren’t mathematically eliminated but it has been nice seeing the young talent shine.  I understand being careful with guys for next year, but since we’re still in it…I guess since we’re still in it, it does bother me a little shutting down guys like Harden and being so careful with Lilly who’s been our star all year on the mound.  And in total contrast, if you’re giving up on the season and looking to next year and giving guys a bit of lighter workload, why are we allowing Dempster to push to try and reach 200 innings?  Who cares if Demp wants to hit 200?  You want to save him and make sure his arm doesn’t throw any unnecessary pitches in 2009 we could use in 2010…then allowing this push to 200 is something I just don’t get.  Gorzellany has been great and the lineups and results have been working in our favor, but really who would’ve thought that’d be the case.  I kind of feel like the organization gave up on the season too soon and have simply been lucky that the make shift line ups have come through the way they have.  
So here we are three games away from elimination.  Let’s just keep playing hard and see where the chips fall.  Central is no longer a possibility…but let’s keep pushing and see if we can somehow make our way down front and capture the wild card.  Never know.  Right Yogi?  
Wells up again tomorrow.  Do your thing Wells and get that W.  Go Cubs Go!

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25 years later

Dailies
One of the most exciting seasons in Cubs history happened 25 years ago and the pinnacle moment of that season happened exactly 25 years ago today.  Happy 25th anniversary ’84 Cubs.  A few videos to celebrate the memory of that exciting Cubs season.  Both are interview clips with Rick Sutcliffe…this first one, man.  Talk about a tough act to follow.

http://espn.go.com/videohub/player/embed.swf

These videos come off of ESPN.com and its great to hear thoughts of that amazing Cubs year from someone smack in the middle of the whirlwind of reasons as to why it all happened the way it did. Something that would be great for Bradley to hear now too…maybe if he hears enough former and current Cubs talk about how lucky he is to be a Cub, maybe it will help him realize what he has if ends up staying or what he had if Hendry finds a taker this off-season.

The domino effect of events that had to happen in 1984, to end the way it did and claim the title that they did is a pretty amazing story. One that almost lets Hendry completely off the hook when it comes to the Bradley signing. I have taken him off the hook completely and feel confident in Hendry making the deals in the off-season to see if it makes the difference in 2010. No one thought the moves the Cubs made would put them over the top and back into the playoffs. But they did. And trades and signings that the organization and fans get excited over, ones that they have high hopes for can just as easily surprise and disappoint. The 1984 Cubs had a young, all-star caliber talent in Ryne Sandberg and a bunch of guys that no one saw coming. It all just kind of fit just right and put the Cubs in the playoffs.

http://espn.go.com/videohub/player/embed.swf

Sure, we all want the Series title…aiming to make the playoffs is never the ultimate goal, simply the first necessary step to get there. But imagine if we were celebrating and enjoying a team like this today. I don’t think any one of us would complain about that. Happy 25th anniversary 1984 Cubs. May you be one highlighted season among those that eventually, hopefully shortly, get us to the ultimate prize. Go Cubs Go!

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Fuld, Colvin, Fukudome Left to Right in 2010

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Hey, wait a second…that doesn’t sound half bad.  Fuld, Colvin, Fukudome with Reed Johnson as our fourth and heavily relied upon outfielder.  Three guys who aren’t afraid to hustle after a ball and own the glove where would be bloop singles go to die.  Three guys who aren’t afraid to get a face full of ivy in exchange for a much needed out.  Three guys who aren’t injury prone and beyond their prime.  Three guys who don’t have handicapping attitudes that effect themselves, their teammates and the entire organization.  Three guys Cubs fans could really get behind.

So then what do we do with Soriano and Bradley?  Well come on.  Bradley?  I don’t care what his mother says.  “My son is willing to come back to the Cubs if they are willing to have him back”. Or however she put it….give me a break.  If the Cubs DON’T trade him, of COURSE you’re coming back to the Cubs.  And you better hope that 24 other guys in Cubs uniforms, your manager, your general manager, the general public and Cubs fans (especially those who sit in the bleachers) have a really short memory.  Anyway, bottom line….Bradley?  You trade Bradley.  Get rid of him.  Apology or no apology.  I read a blog from an Orioles blogger suggesting perhaps the O’s would be willing to take a chance on Bradley.  Really?!?  Great!  How about Roberts for Bradley?  How about that?  No scratch that.  Give us a quality reliever to throw into the seventh or eighth inning to set up Marmol.  That would be a huge help and a great answer to ‘then what do we do with Bradley’.
As for Soriano, make him our 2B.  Seriously.  Trade Fontenot and see what other bullpen help we can get or package him in a deal that may land us more depth on the bench or a quality 2 or 3 starter.  Let Baker and Soriano platoon at 2B with Blanco as the key reserve off the bench.  You put Sori at 2B and we keep his bat in the line up while returning him to his defensive roots.  
If we did that, our opening day lineup 1-8 could look like:
Fukudome RF
Theriot SS
Lee 1B
Ramirez 3B
Soriano 2B
Colvin CF
Fuld LF
Soto C
It honestly doesn’t look as intimidating without Bradley’s name on paper.  But hey, we’re three and zero in games without him since his suspension.  The beginning of these few games have been filled with hit parades and tons of runs.  Maybe having something that looks good on paper shouldn’t be the goal.  Maybe it’s going to take the old faithfuls (Lee, Rami, Sori) with a good mix of reliable (Theriot, Fukudome, Soto) and a healthy mix of talented, hungry youngsters (Colvin, Fuld).  That may be what we need after all.  Maybe keeping up with the Joneses doesn’t necessarily require spending like the Joneses at all, even though we’re in a major market.  Forget spending like the Joneses and try scoring W’s and making the playoffs like them.  That’s what’s important and maybe a little mix up of the line up with some new blood is just what we need.  And what’s easier to root for than homegrown talent?  Straight out of the farm system?  Very cool and very exciting for fans regarding the organization as a whole.
So in 2010, if I were Piniella (who I believe will be given one more shot at this thing, along with Hendry) I would heavily consider an outfield of Fuld, Colvin and Fukudome left to right.  No fear and an extreme desire to succeed.  Sounds like a brilliant recipe to me.  What do you think?  Go Cubs Go!

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Silk City Flick Fest – Ironically, my Cubs film will wait ’til next year

Dailies

Tyler Colvin’s debut last night was pretty smooth, impressive and the future looks bright.  Watching the game right now and working on my film festival.  Don’t generally put things in here outside of Cubs baseball unless I’m really excited about it….this is one of those things.

I am organizing a film festival in my hometown of Manchester, CT for Columbus Day Weekend, Oct 8-11.  A film I’m in is screening and about 75 other films that were submitted are screening as well.  Here is the website for more information here.  The festival is called the Silk City Flick Fest after the silk mills the town is famous for and it’s going to be an amazing feat to pull off. Four days of filmmaker panels, screenings, galas and awards.  Living in New York it’s been tough to contribute as much as I’d like but the people working on it back home have put together quite a lineup.  The schedule is listed on-line and more information is being listed every day.  I’m doing a film on the Cubs for next year’s festival and working out the exact angle I’ll take.  Would want to do something different than what’s been done before.
Here are a couple of trailers to a films that will screen.  The first is A New Wave starring John Krasinski from NBC’s The Office and Lacey Chabert from Mean Girls.  The second is a horror film called Kids Get in Woods…Kids Get Dead.  Brilliant title.  Check out the trailers and if you happen to live in the New England/CT area and are looking for something to do Columbus Day Weekend this year, come check out the festival.  And when you find me, let’s have a beer and put the Cubs ’09 season to bed!  More to come later this evening or tomorrow on the most recent Cub headlines.  Here are the trailers:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=2500872&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Kids Get Dead – Trailer from Darkstar on Vimeo.

Go Cubs Go!

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Got any change?

Dailies

Hey buddy, got any change?

If you’re a Cubs fan, that’s pretty much what you’re thinking about, hoping for and expecting come this off-season.  And the Cubs have no choice.  Staying put is a recipe for disaster.  Last year they won back to back division titles and made significant moves.  This year their go to guys couldn’t get a hit in the clutch when it mattered most, the starting pitchers had no run support and many turned in sub-par seasons when the organization and fans had hopes and dreams of so much more.  This off-season therefore, should show significant action above and beyond what we saw last winter.

Zambrano has a no-trade clause and apparently he’s not budging.  Ok, fine.  You know what then?  My feeling is that it’s not time to give up on Zambrano, simply time to expect less.  He’s no longer the ace of this staff.  Well, let me rephrase that.  He is the ace of this staff, however not deservingly so.  He’s seen his last consecutive Opening Day start, his last year as the number one guy.  We had guys on this roster this year who performed more like the ace of the staff than Zambrano did, never mind the possibilities of what we may come up with in a trade or a free agent signing elsewhere across the league.  So that’s what needs to be done with Z.  Knock him down a peg.  Bring in a true ace.  The Cards are deep in the ace category which is why they are destroying us this year.  It seems like their entire staff dominated this season, two of their starters vying for the Cy Young award in the NL.  We need a guy with the right stuff literally up his sleeve, and in his head.  A leader.  A true ace.  Move Z down and find that guy.  A rotation where Z is your number 2 or 3 guy instead of your 1 is a huge upgrade right there.

So Z needs a change of spot in the rotation and change of expectations to carry on his shoulders.  Others need a change of location in the lineup.  Soriano isn’t capable of leading off any longer and Piniella has already announced those days are done.  Good.  Move him to the sixth hole where power is more of a commodity.  Where you’re practically a DH expected to field your position only slightly above average.  Come to think of it…why not experiment moving Soriano back to 2B in the Spring?  His knee is clearly a problem.  Covering the hole at second calls for a lot less hustle and grind over the course of 162 than covering a large amount of room in left.  His knee can’t take it and the final games showed that he may not be our guy out there defensively.  Sure he was in pain, but who’s to say that won’t happen again after another long season in left?  Perhaps moving Soriano to the sixth hole to take advantage of his power and to 2B to take advantage of other options in the outfield is the way to go.  Love Sori’s bat potential…his detriment to our defense is too much to have him as our regular LF though.  Sori to the 6 hole and 2B.  Something to consider.

Other guys simply need a change of scenery.  Enter, Milton Bradley.  Or should I say, Exit.  Bradley has been suspended by the Cubs organization for the remainder of the season.  Comments he’s made were determined detrimental to the team and organization and I believe we’ve seen the last of Milton Bradley in a Cubs uniform.  You can’t simply come in with a history of being a problem child, sign a three year deal which pays you 10million a year to play a game for a living, be expected to bring the power left-handed bat the team needs to put them (at least) out of the realm of being swept in the first round of the playoffs…then only produce a .257 AVG, 12 HR and put up 40 RBI.  And then on top of it all, blame everyone but yourself for your poor performance while trashing the organization that gave you a great opportunity in the first place.  Why doesn’t he get what he could potentially be a part of?  Imagine if this team won it all?  He’d get to be a part of the largest celebrated, most talked about sports championship in the history of sports.  And he’d be marked as a huge reason why.  Instead, he limps out of a game, refuses to bat and disgraces his time here in every which way.  I don’t believe Milton Bradley deserves any racist comments that may have been thrown his way by fans.  And I’m not equating taking that kind of abuse to having to read poor stats in the box scores every day…however, I believe Bradley and the fans deserve better.  As far as I can tell, it looks like both may very well get just that.

Mathematically, we’re still in (blah, blah).  However, with reality comes the expectation that our season will end come the final game of the regular season.  The thing that makes these remaining games fun to watch is simply Cubs baseball, rivalries, playing spoiler and watching the young guys get their shot.  Think about how you feel just weeks after the final out is recorded in a Cubs game.  Think about how much you can’t wait for Spring to come around again so that the Cubs are back.  That feeling is right around the corner, so enjoy watching the remaining games while you can.  Sure, it’s not always pretty, but at least it’s there.  And the rivalries…good times.  Who doesn’t love watching Cubs/Brewers, Cubs/Cardinals no matter the time of year?  Those are always entertaining.  I don’t care if all are eliminated, simply fun to root for the Cubs to beat those teams and we got a week of the Brewers coming up.  Let’s go out strong and make a statement to take with us into the winter and into the Spring that we don’t just lay down and die.  The players, management, or the fans.  And let’s enjoy watching the young guns get their shot at the grand stage.  I’m excited about Tyler Colvin coming up.  I can’t wait to see what he may have to contribute as a potential future Cub great.  He’s a coveted Cub prospect, his season is over and now is his time to shine.  Shining in Spring training only means so much.  Shining against division rivals when the games still matter is something else.  Our outfield is depleted.  Our team is hurting and so are our chances of making the playoffs.  So let’s get out there, change our outlook on the ending of this season starting today and enjoy the remaining games and the FEW positive things we have left to root for in ’09 Cubs fans.

I mean really, what’s the alternative?  Cry about it?  Not this year.  Besides…if you cry about the Cubs into the Fall and Winter this year, when will you have time to do so about the ’09 Bears?  Pace yourself.  Expect change.  Enjoy this ’09 team while you can.  Gorzelanny on the mound tonight (see that, change already).  Colvin on the grand stage up from AA ball.  Let’s beat Milwaukee…get that W Gorzelanny!  Go Cubs Go!

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If only…

Dailies

If only Lee didn’t wait so long to turn it on this season.

If only Bradley wasn’t turning out to be what we were warned about as fans.
If only Soriano had a healthy knee.
If only Ramirez spent more time on the field and less time on the DL.
If only Soto hadn’t had the munchies this year.
If only Z was performing like a real ace.
If only Lilly and Wells had more run support.
If only Dempster wasn’t screwed over by a lame offense as well.
If only Reed Johnson hadn’t followed it off his foot.
If only Lou had gone away from Gregg as the closer sooner.
If only we’d kept DeRosa.
If only we had room on the roster for Hoffpauir and/or Fox.
If only Miles wasn’t occupying a spot.
If only the Rockies hadn’t found that hot streak.
If only Pujols didn’t have another killer year (and by killer I mean Cub killer).
If only it wasn’t 11:40pm on the East Coast.  I’d go on and on.  But it is.  And overall, it is, what it is.  All of these things have happened this year and we are where we are.  Incredible win over the Brewers tonight only by far a perfect or strong outing overall.  Zambrano nearly gave up way too much before he left.  Milwaukee couldn’t throw a strike if their life depended on it walking in and hitting people to give up more runs than the Cubs actually earned.  We’ll take it, sure…especially with the Cards losing tonight and the Giants (also fighting for their Wild Card life) on top of the Rockies as I write this…which means…the Cubs could gain ground in the Central and the WC race.  Nothing to complain about there, but still, it is what it is.
Fourteen games left.  Need to keep winning.  St. Louis and Colorado are very strong and are not going down without a fight.  We need to keep winning and let the chips fall where they may.  Soriano had successful surgery today which is great to hear.  We need him ready for the Spring so sooner the better with regards to the surgery.  And of course, Lee needs to keep his hot streak up.  He hit the 100 RBI mark tonight which is incredible that he could have a .300 30+HR and 100RBI season this year considering the way the season started for him.  Love seeing him do well…just need to continue for another 14 games and then we’ll see.
Continues tomorrow against the crew….Harden vs. Looper.  No one has the obvious nod between the two of them as far as I’m concerned.  Do your thing Harden and get that W!  Go Cubs Go!

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Didn’t see that coming

Dailies

Today’s broadcast of Prose and Ivy Cubs Blog Talk Radio went really well I must say for the first live broadcast.  I didn’t get word out nearly early enough for people to know about it, mark it on their calendars and call in.  But the technology is really cool and I think it’s going to be a blast to do in conjuction with the written aspect of Prose and Ivy.  I’ll be sure to let you all know when the next broadcast is going to be well in advance this next time so you can call in and share your thoughts.  Talk radio is a whole lot cooler when people call in…er, even listen for that matter.  Next time, more advanced notice for sure.

What I didn’t see coming, was the final score of Reds 7, Cubs 5.  Sonnufa….I swear.  I left my apartment and it was 5-5 going into the top of the ninth inning.  Marmol was in and I figured we were good.  I can’t believe he walked two in a row.  That’s the real surprise.  Sure, Marmol has a tendency to be a little wild.  But his stuff his undeniably nasty and I stand by it that he is the Cubs best option for closer and should have been the guy since Opening Day 2009.  Going into 2010 I also believe he should be the guy.  Unless he happens to be taking off guys’ heads like Rick Vaughn did to wooden displays of batsmen in Major League, honestly, he’s our guy.  So, I’m on the talk show boasting about Marmol being the guy…I hang up (the show is recorded from your phone)…I look at my email and there’s a message with the final Cubs score….Reds 7, Cubs 5…loser?  Marmol.  Sonnufa…well, whatever.  I don’t know…we didn’t deserve to be tied in the ninth anyway.  Unbelievably poor support of Wells today.  Unreal.  If it’s not inconsistent hitting, it’s poor fielding.  Our starters can’t catch a break.  Read an article on Cubs.com today that reinforced my comments on air regarding quality starts from our rotation this year and how our team’s bats have pretty much taken them and thrown them away, never to matter again.  It’s really unbelievable when you think that our starters have a 3.76 ERA and we’re on the cusp of being eliminated from playoff contention, whereas last year we won the division with the same group of guys basically, and they had an ERA of 3.75.  Two solid years from the rotation.  Two very different results. 
Whatever moves are made in the off-season, I hope they revolve around studying how clutch guys are and what they’re average is with guys in scoring position.  I hope that is taken into great consideration.  That, and speed.  Maybe if we can find a couple guys with high OBP’s with some speed and timely hitting, maybe THAT will put this team over the top.  Maybe it’s not a ‘left handed power hitter’ that we need now or really needed this past off-season.  Maybe it’s simply a couple of speedy small ball guys to jump start the offense and fill in the necessary grind in between the large bats we already had on the team who are paid to go yard.  
I don’t know.  I just know that as soon as I saw the email with the final game result with Marmol as the loser, I just said out loud “well, that figures”.  Left my apartment to do the radio show as they were entering the top of the ninth.  We had overcome an inning filled with three errors early on to tie it up and now our most reliable bullpen guy was on the mound.  I thought, hey, this looks good to me.  Went out and put out a passionate plea to anyone who would listen to make Marmol the guy from here on out and through 2010.  Bam. Two walks and a double.  Reds win.  Marmol loses.  Didn’t see that coming.
Also didn’t see this coming either…apparently a pretty cool sports blogger conference that happened in June in NYC.  Another one coming up in Vegas in October.  My wife was upset that I watched 5 innings of Cubs baseball on my honeymoon one afternoon (she got over it and was cool afterwards, but at first…not so much)….imagine if we’d been married in October and I snuck off to this?  Now that would have made for an interesting radio show.  Check it out, pretty cool concept.  Hope to catch the next one next time they do it in New York.

Cubs v. Reds again tomorrow at Wrigley.  Mr. All-Star Theodore Roosevelt Lilly on the mound for the Cubs.  Go get your W Teddy Mustwin (see a couple of posts below this).  Go Cubs Go!

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Prose and Ivy on-line Talk Show Today 3pm CST!

Dailies

Hey Prose and Ivy readers/Cubs fans…today features the first episode of the Prose and Ivy Cubs internet talk show and you can listen in by clicking on this link.  The show details are listed below.  Hopefully there aren’t any glitches because I haven’t used the system before…we’ll see! Feel free to call in and talk Cubs baseball!  

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The listener call in number is 347-855-8243.  Unfortunately our special MLB guest has had to reschedule so we’ll have them on as a surprise at another time.  But lots of great topics to discuss regarding the Cubs anyway….tune in, call in…Wells on the mound today against the Reds….Go Cubs Go! (UPDATE: The pilot show has been recorded and is ready for you to listen to now….click play on the Prose and Ivy Cubs blogtalkradio.com player in the link list to the right and check back for upcoming air dates SOON!  And for accuracy’s sake, when I say ‘bottom of the ninth’ I actually meant the top.  Ok, that’s it…enjoy!)

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Again

Dailies

The Rockies have surged their way to a last at-bat victory once again and matched the Cubs sweep of the Pirates with a sweep of the Reds.  

Unbelievable.  Bring on an eight game series with the Rockies right now and let us sweep.  That may be the only way we make up enough ground to take this thing over this year.  And you know how likely that is.
Unbelievable.  Cincinnati….you disgust me.  Thanks, for nothing.  Have to keep winning or else we’re definitely through.  They sweep September and we sweep September, more power to them.  Finish strong like Lou says, our only remaining option.  Day to think about it tomorrow.  Come Friday, we need to keep this Cubs W streak going.  Go Cubs Go!

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