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

We shocked the world“.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And really, why not us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know.  Shocking.

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

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

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

Go Cubs Go!  

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Sometimes The Photo Inspires The Entry

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This post was 100% inspired by the above photo.  Quite possibly my all-time favorite movie character and Chicago fan, Clark W. Griswold, Jr.

In “Christmas Vacation”, Clark is seen wearing a Bears hat and a Blackhawks jersey.  I have to believe the man is a Cubs fan.  I just don’t see White Sox in him.  Ever the optimist, Clark looks above and beyond the challenges ahead and often times doesn’t even know they exist.  Completely oblivious or completely blinded by his optimism, this is what many would believe to be a great way to go through life.

You know the man must have had season tickets to the Cubs for him and his entire family.  He may have won them on another game show with Ellen and the kids dressed as pigs or some other farm animal.  Or maybe one year, instead of putting in a swimming pool, he got everyone seats along the first base line.  Cousin Eddie: “But I don’t like baseball, Clark”.  Clark: “I know that Eddie”.

Clark has to be a Cubs fan because he just has that excited look in his eyes even when his strained smile tells you things aren’t going his way.  He won’t take no for an answer when it comes to having a good time and providing those around him with one as well.  Sounds like Cubs fan to me!  102 years and counting?  I’d say that’s not taking no for answer if nothing else is!  And you know Clark would be THRILLED the Cubs pulled off the Matt Garza trade.  Clark: “Surprised, Eddie?  If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am right now.”  You know he’d go out and buy the new Garza jersey to wear to next season’s opener if he didn’t already have an old one with the last name GRISWOLD already sewn across the back ready to go.

Clark W. Griswold, Jr. would be the type of fan with season tickets who wins the drawing for a season ticket holder to sing the seventh inning stretch. Only when they decided that they’d have to cancel his opportunity to do so when Jeremy Piven showed up, he’d pretend to have a gun and force them to let him sing.  Is there a fan jail cell at Wrigley?  Probably, would Clark end up in it?  Of course not!  He’d talk his way out of trouble with the Ricketts by introducing his family and getting them to admit that they never should’ve done those crappy Way of Life radio ads to save a buck.  He’d then pack up the family and travel across the country to catch the Cubs play a road game on the kids’ holiday break.  (It would have to be a road game of course…the song ‘Holiday Home’ doesn’t have the same ring to it).

Spring Training Vacation is a movie I would love to see.  Clark and the family drive from their modest home on a ***-de-sac in Illinois, across the plains to Arizona.  Kick off the trip with a round of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in which Rusty refuses to sing along.  Have them check into the motel and send Clark out for a night swim where he runs into Cubs fan Marisa Miller at the motel pool.  Marisa Miller: “I am a big fan of Fukudome.  Do you like Fukudome?”. Clark: “This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy”. 

Of course things don’t go well when they arrive at HoHoKam Park and hilarity ensues. Cousin Eddie’s boy has been signed by the Cubs as a Spring Training invite and Rusty ends up going off and getting into trouble with the local radicals.  It all ends with Clark as the hero giving his family a great family vacation at Cubs Spring Training and of course this film features all new kids playing the Griswold children once again!

Anyway, kind of got away from me at the end, but you get the point.  Love the photo and yes, I believe Clark W. Griswold, Jr. HAD to be a Cubs fan.  He’s just too likable to be a White Sox fan.  Go Cubs Go!  Let’s win one for the Grizzer!

First Soriano. Then Fukudome. Now…Garza. I’ll Never Learn.

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There he is.  Matt Garza.  The Cubs new starting pitcher.  Potentially our new ace in the hole.  And when it comes to the Cubs making moves in the off-season, it causes me to spend an entire Winter displaying the worst poker face in all of baseball.

It has to be based on the fact that it’s been forever since the Cubs won a Series, couple with the fact that the two chances we’ve had to get the shot most recently resulted in an 0-for-6 showing against the Dodgers and D’backs combined respectively.

The Cubs make one move and I already think next year is going to be the year.  It’s pathetic really.  When will I ever learn? Probably never. I guess that’s part of the fun though in being a baseball fan, right?  Especially in being a Cubs fan.  No one utters This is the Year or Wait Until Next Year like a Cubs fan.  As if Pena wasn’t enough (and really, he wasn’t….merely replacing Lee’s bat in the line-up wasn’t exactly what I thought was the move necessary to put us over the hump), then the Cubs go and bet the farm on Garza.
About that. People saying the Cubs bet the farm?  I think it’s overblown.  We gave up a couple of top prospects and talented, hard-nosed outfielder we have no plans on ever really using again.  Other wise, we kept top pitching in addition to Vitters and a number of other young top prospects in the organization, safe and sound.  Enough about the Cubs betting the farm on Garza….although if we did, I might be ok with that.  I’m just glad we didn’t have to.
Pitching wins championships.  By trading for Garza our starting rotation is now one of the best in the National League, arguably the best in the Central although I believe we lose that argument to the Cardinals.  It definitely helps us hang in there for the NL Pennant though if we can make our way to the playoffs, even with power house Philadelphia bringing in Lee to team up with the rest of their Fab Five.  Garza, Dempster, Zambrano, Wells, Gorzy?  With the quality starts our rotation posted last season plus Garza’s potential coming off a 15-10 pitching in the uber-competitive AL East I think this is one of the best Cubs rotations I’ve seen.
I know…this is how I get when a big name becomes a Cub.  I can’t help it.
The Cards have great pitching.  The Reds came into their own with their young pitching staff. The Brewers landed Greinke. And now the Cubs snatched up Garza.
I’d rather have Garza than Greinke. How about you?  How does this trade make you feel about 2011? The 2008 team was probably the team I’ve been most excited about in recent years.  With the addition of Garza, right or wrong…I think I’m even more excited about 2011.  Please Cubbies…don’t prove me wrong.
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Go Cubs Go!

Happy Holidays!

If you haven’t already seen the Cubs’ holiday e-card, you can view it here.  On behalf of myself, my wife Sasha and our son, Rhys, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  (Maybe we’ll find Brandon Webb tied to the train tracks under the tree this year?  Ok, that wouldn’t bode well for keeping him healthy in 2011.  How about NEXT to the holiday train tracks?)  Happy Holidays!

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(Funny story before we go to the holiday break….we were in the waiting room for one of Rhys’ doctor’s appointments.  It’s a pediatric surgeon so of course other kids were there. This one couple and their 2 year-old were sitting next to us.  The 2 year-old sees Rhys and says, “Mommy look!  It’s baby Jesus!”)
Good times.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a great 2011 Cubs season! Go Cubs Go!

Welcoming Back Kerry Wood: Set-Up for Success

There have been some rather large events this off-season, signings that really jump off the screen at you, no?

Look familiar?

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Cliff Lee’s signing with the Phillies has significantly changed the landscape of the National League.  I don’t care how many heavy hitters you have in your line-up.  If they can’t drive through the ball on the sweet spot of the bat, or at least make contact and muscle one out of the stadium or deep to the wall for extra base hits, it doesn’t really matter.  Pitching wins championships and now with that rotation in place, Philadelphia has positioned themselves as the team to beat.  In not only the NL East, but in the National League as a whole.
In the year of the one-year contract, the Cubs managed to land Carlos Pena to man first base.  He’ll be expected to perform significantly better in the average department (.196 in 2010) and at the very least find a way to also stay on par in the power numbers department (28 HR, 84 RBI in 2010). In his time with the Cubs, Derrek Lee not only led by example in the clubhouse and delivered game changing presence at the plate, but his glove saved many errors from occurring over the years and in effect cancelled out a lot of would be runs.  The Cubs are going to need Pena to step up and play that same role.  A match of his .196 AVG in 2011 isn’t going to cut it.  The fans will have patience with the newest Cub but I can’t imagine the leeway lasting more than the first few weeks of the season.  If Pena follows ‘The Lee Way’ however, he will get off to a very slow start.  If we were able to give Lee time to get his season in gear year in and year out, we should at least afford Pena the month of April to do the same.
Think about how many one-run ballgames we lost last year.  Give us enough of those games back and we would have been playing meaningful games in a role other than spoiler, well past the middle of August.  Injuries and our record in one-run games in 2010 were two keys to the Cubs not living up to hopes/expectations.  Hopefully a new line-up featuring more Colvin in right with Fukudome as the fourth outfielder, a repeat All-Star performance by Byrd, a return to form by Soriano, sophomore success by Castro, a healthy Ramirez, another year full of quality starts by the rotation and an overall positive effect by inserting Pena into the lineup to help generate another run or two per game and we may be back, looking at the top of the standings in 2011.  I don’t expect Cincinnati go away, the Cards are always tough and Milwaukee is shoring up it’s pitching staff so it might take every single one of those things listed above happening in order for the Cubs to land on top next season in the Central.
Of course, this post was kicked off by talking about pitching making the difference.  We can add another couple runs per game (which would be great since we scored more than 80 runs less than our opponents did last year) however, if we can’t hold onto that lead late in the game, it won’t even matter.
And that…is where Kerry Wood comes in…by coming back.
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The return of Wood is the biggest headline of the Cubs off-season dealings and he’s going to be welcome with open arms, expected to carry the load late in the game.  Wood may just be the bridge we need to fill the gap from Marshall to Marmol.  Wood absolutely helps the Cubs form a powerful 7-8-9 inning tandem in Marshall, Wood and Marmol.  It will make the Cubs a scarier opponent going beyond the fifth inning with a lead.  Definitely, a lot scarier than the team was last year when we pitched so many youngsters in late inning, hold situations.
Wood’s return showcases the portion of heart that was lost on the team when Wood went to the Yankees.  He represents what could have been and now what could still possibly be. Kerry Wood isn’t the answer to all the Cubs’ problems.  I mean, just look at the list I put together three paragraphs back.  However, with two disappointing seasons behind them, the loss of their voice in Santo (whose funeral provided the opportunity for Wood and his wife to meet up with Hendry and kick off the dominoes it took to make this deal happen – and wouldn’t that be cool if while Santo can’t see the Cubs win the Series during his lifetime, his passing may be the thing that helps make the deal happen that pushes the Cubs over the hump to victory in 2011? – What a story that would be) and the great unknown ahead in what Quade can accomplish with a whole season, it will be nice to have a familiar face on the team again.  The face of a guy that never should have left in the first place, in my opinion.
The thing about Wood’s return is I can’t think of another pitcher that once served as a full-time starter, set-up man and closer for the same organization.  Can you?  Wood won Rookie of the Year and nearly led the Cubs to the World Series as a starter and tallied 34 saves in his one year as the Cubs’ closer, the same number he’ll wear back with the team as a set-up man.
Philadelphia may have landed Lee.  The second best pitcher dealt out there, Grienke, may have landed with the division rival Brewers.  However, when it comes to the Cubs making a difference with a pitching signing, it wasn’t about the big name or the big bucks.  The Cubs have a competitive, quality start-churning out five in Z, Demp, Wells, Gorzy and Silva if in fact those are the guys we go with come April.  So, it’s more so about a great pitcher with a lot left in the tank in short relieft, coming back to his home team, his home field, his home organization to carry the load, this time as the set-up man.
Hopefully this stint with the team will result in him setting up the team for ultimate success instead of let down.  Either way, it will be good to have him back and Chicago will be thrilled to once again be rooting for one of their own.  Go Cubs Go!

I’m Not Only A President, I’m Also A Member

(Note: Those of you looking for the Santo dedicated post titled “The Cubs Have Lost Their Voice”, it is listed right below this entry.  RIP #10.  You will be missed.)

Depending on where you live in the world, if asked right now, “What’s today?” some of you may answer “Friday”. Some of you may say “Saturday”.  Some of you may say something that makes no sense because you are wasted.  And for those of you who write a baseball blog and are a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, today you may answer “Why it’s Baseball Bloggers Alliance Day, of course!”

Of course.

I have been writing Prose and Ivy for three years now and one of the highlights for me has been my relationship as President of the Cubs Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA).  The idea of uniting baseball bloggers across the web and opening up opportunities to work on projects together seemed intriguing to me and it’s been an experience I’m happy I committed to.  From working contributing to others’ columns, to hosting podcasts, to voting on end of year awards and worth inductees for the HOF, the BBA has a great group of writers who are passionate about their team and the sport in general.  I have a list of all the blogs listed in my sidebar down on the right side of the blog. You should check it out if you haven’t.  If you have a blog and are interested in joining (no fee, just a few guidelines for membership is all), I urge you to contact the BBA and jump aboard!  The website for the alliance can be found here.

The logo for the group looks like this:

bba.jpgAnd in commemoration of my time as a member of the BBA, I wanted to post an interview I did around the intial time I joined the group.  That interview can be found here:

At the end of the award voting, I decided that since the Baseball Bloggers Alliance had come along so quickly, it might be nice to get an idea of who was actually in the group. To that end, I’m working through the roster and asking ten questions of each member. The first five are standard, while the last five are a little more personalized. Hopefully this will help us get a feel for our fellow members. So, here’s entry nine in a recurring series.

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.

Take some time to check out the group’s site and don’t forget to wolf down some peanuts and cracker jack.  BBA Day holiday tradition…of course.

Go Cubs Go!

The Cubs Have Lost Their Voice – RIP Ron Santo

What an unbelievably sad day.  I normally sign on to Twitter as an escape.  As a place to be slightly more sarcastic or obnoxious than society allows me to be in real life.  To hang out with my Cub friends who I would never have met or talked to if it weren’t for the site considering I live in New York City and most of them, in Chicago.  It’s usually a rip-roaring good time. 

This morning, however, was very different.

I have about a 40-minute walk to work.  It flies by generally because of the hustle and bustle that is New York City.  Lots to look at and take in to distract me from the journey and nowadays, the cold.  Twitter is the perfect walking companion.  When I signed on today as I headed downtown and checked my @ replies, the first thing I saw was RIP Ron Santo complete with birth and death dates.  At first I wasn’t sure it was even real as it came from FakeLouPiniella.  However, considering the date was just yesterday’s date, Dec 2nd, and not even FakeLouPiniella would make such an awful, unfunny joke…something told me that it was actually true.  I checked my Twitter feed and unfortunately, it is true.  My Twitter timeline was almost nothing but messages about Ron Santo’s passing.  I couldn’t believe it.

The Cubs lost their voice and most likely their biggest fan.

There is always that moment when you receive horrible news that you are in fact speechless.  You have absolutely nothing to say, mixed with the fact that you have no idea what to say at all.  That moment usually passes when you utter the phrase “I’m speechless”.  Technically you are speaking, yet still, you are speechless.  Cubs fans all over Twitter could say nothing but tweet kind words about Santo, condolences to the Santo family and gratitude for the years he served as one of their favorite Cubs. 

The Hall of Fame hadn’t come around to inducting Ron Santo and it’s unfortunate.  If he gets in now, we won’t know if it was for sheer performance or because he’s passed before enjoying the moment.  It’s unfortunate because no one deserved to represent the Cubs as a hall of famer the way Ron did and no one would have enjoyed seeing his Cubs win it all like Santo would have.  People admire Dawson because of the way he played through injuries and they should.  Santo was injured for a great portion of his career with a disease no one even knew he had.  It says something about his performance that people consider him Hall-worthy and his play at that time as one of the best in the game that they couldn’t even tell he was dealing with a disease.  Santo was a great Cub, a great ballplayer, a great person and a great listen on the radio.

Many Cubs fans I know watch the game on TV and listen to Santo on the radio.  To a lot of Cubs fans, Santo’s calling of a game is the Cubs.  There are also a lot of young fans who only know Ron as the radio voice of the Cubs.  A Cubs broadcast will never be the same, not without one of the great Cubs in front of the mic.  His passion from his playing days and his desire to win while in a Cubs uniform never waivered once he was away from the base and in the booth.  This Old Cub is probably many fans’ favorite documentary as it chronicled his battle with disease in becoming one of greatest to represent the North Side.  His number 10 hangs proudly at Wrigley, something he held dearly in his heart, perhaps even more so than a potential HOF induction.  His love for the game and the joy he brought to Cubs fans after a victory was demonstrated in heel clicking delight.  It became as much a part of a Cubs win as the W flag itself.  Many little leaguers across the country who loved the Cubs I’m sure performed the same heel click a thousand times.

Ron Santo has passed away.  Suddenly many things that normally bother Cubs fans about the Cubs don’t matter as much as they usually do.  Today, all that matters is that we lost one of our own.  A member of our family.  And if it’s left everyone speechless, including the Cubs, it makes sense.  The Cubs have lost their voice.

RIP Ron Santo.