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

We shocked the world“.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And really, why not us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know.  Shocking.

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

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

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

Go Cubs Go!  

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for PROSE LOGO.png

D Lee Denies LA

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!

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for PROSE LOGO.png

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

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

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!)

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for PROSE LOGO2.jpg

Blessing in Disguise

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

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?

sammy-sosa.new.jpg
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!