New Beginnings

Recent post on my Twitter page:

Good thing about the Giants win last night? The Cubs are once again in the running to win the World Series.
Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants on winning the 2010 World Series.  Not many paid attention to the Series in comparison to other years but it does nothing to dampen the thrill of victory for the Giants or their fans, I’m sure.  A series, filled with pitchers with excellent resumes and two teams who would be providing a first if they were to take home the trophy, this one was something more fans should have enjoyed despite the lack of usual headliners.  Seeing as the All-Star game proves to be a very difficult thing for the NL to win year in and year out, it’s nice to have the championship trophy reside with a National League team.  Hopefully, next time it finds it’s way to the North Side.
And isn’t that the best part of the season ending?  YOUR team has a shot yet again at winning it all.  As soon as the ‘E’ is posted next to your team’s city in the standings, the rest of the season is for every reason OTHER than winning the World Series.  All valuable in their own way, however none worth as much as winning it all.  Once the season ends, the playoffs run their course and the final out of the Series is recorded with players dressed in laundry other than that of your favorite players spraying each other in champagne (or ginger ale as it were this season in the Texas locker room) all of a sudden, we’re looking at next year and what moves are necessary to elevate your team to the promised land.  The promised land of course is a bit much as nothing is promised, especially that of a World Championship.  Anyway, it’s a saying, so I said it…the point is, the beauty of the Giants finishing their parade route is that door has closed and a window of opportunity has opened for the Cubs.  Let’s hope the right moves are made so we’re thrilled it’s open.  The wrong ones could make us want to jump out of it.
Mike Quade will be our manager in 2011 and I’m excited at the prospect of what that means in a 162 game sample of what he’s capable of achieving.  There is something to be said about the way he handled young talent like Castro in his benching early on in Quade’s interim tenure and the way the veterans got behind him as a candidate for the one of the most coveted job in all of sports.  Coveted in that, the man the manages the Cubs to the World Series victory the city has been waiting for, for over a century, will be appreciated in a way no other coach or manager would ever be or has ever been in all of sports.
There is also something to be said for the way the organization kept on nearly the entire coaching staff, something I’m sure Quade had a say in.  To me it says that this team believes that with Quade and this particular supporting coaching staff, they have the leadership that can take the Cubs all the way.  At least the best that their money can buy right now and are willing to let ride on the small sample we were privy to at the end of 2010.  As a side question, what happens to Eddie Vedder’s Cub anthem if we do go all the way?  An ‘I Told You So’ remix perhaps?
The belief Hendry and the Ricketts have in this compilation of leadership in the dugout/bullpen and the loyalty the players and organization have displayed towards Quade in the early moments of this off-season makes me proud to be a Cubs fan.  I believe it’s setting a strong tone of all focused on one goal as it needs to be, as early on as possible.  Hopefully the small sample of success demonstrated in the last few days of 2010 translates into greater success with the opportunity to do so in a complete 2011 campaign.
The length of the Quade contract is also wise.  Enough to give Quade a shot but not enough to eliminate other options if it doesn’t work out.  Including I’m sure, giving Ryno a little more time getting experience under his belt in case he were interested in the position once again a few years from now and the Cubs thought he was ready.  Remember, Quade was passed over for the Cubs job once before.  Never say never and nothing is ever impossible when it comes to hires and fires and coming and going in major league baseball.  Makes me want to keep an eye on the length of contracts guys like Girardi sign with the mindset of perhaps the length of the deal they sign may show whether they’re still keeping the Cubs job prospect alive in the back of their minds.
The key lineup devisers and skill coaches are in place.  Now we have holes to fill and hopefully we land players looking to start anew with the Cubs and give themselves and us as fans, lots to cheer for and be excited about.  A starting pitcher, bullpen help, a power hitting first baseman and perhaps a strong utility infielder are all positions the club should be looking to fill this winter (a lot will be said for how the club feels about Hoffpauir and Vitters with their off-season moves).  As per usual, all eyes will be watching the news and reading the sports sites for updates on who may or may not be a Cub in 2011 and those resource outlets won’t disappoint when it comes to rumors and predictions.
The Cubs Convention tickets are on sale now, a great sign that 2010 is over and everyone is looking forward to 2011.  Especially the fans as we’re all ready for the club to land that elusive championship.  Time to start the clock over as winners when it comes to Chicago Cubs baseball.  It’s time to move the AC clock to read AC000000.
Speaking of ‘new beginnings’, on a personal note, my wife gave birth to our first born on Oct 23rd.  Below are a few pictures of our son, Rhys Lewis Maloney, all 9 lbs 6.5 ounces of him.  I’ve already started reading the sports section to him and telling him every story I can think of to assist in his love of baseball.  I can’t wait to enjoy games with him and am already planning our first trip to the ballpark.  Parenthood has already been a trip with a ton of diapers, multiple sentences uttered including the words ‘butt paste’ that I never thought I’d say and even a few occasions where I was unable to beat the clock and was as a result…peed on.  Good times.  Rhys has been a great baby though and it’s been awesome to have some time off to spend with him and my wife for a couple weeks after bringing him home from the hospital.
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To new beginnings.  Go Cubs Go!

The Qualm After The Storm

Oct 15th. That is my son’s due date.

About a week ago my wife and I finished up cleaning the entire apartment.  They call it ‘the nesting period’ according to our very expensive and nearly as informative child care/lamaze classes.  Talk about thorough, it wasn’t short of a visit to the ER to make sure my thumb was ok after cutting it while, none other than…scrubbing the tub.  After an hour in the ER, some hospital glue and a ‘have a nice day’, we were on our way home to finish up and situate the nest to a level classified: Ready For Baby. (I’m fine, thanks for asking).

Things were cleaned, arranged just so.  Nightlights were placed, sheets were laid down and curtains were put up.  All that needed to happen was the baby’s actual arrival.

AND THEN….the storm came.

It rained extremely hard last Thursday night here in NYC and apparently a drain on our terrace area was blocked.  By about six leaves mind you.  This was just enough to cause a flood in our bedroom and living room.  Classification now: Nowhere Near Ready for Baby.  All of a sudden there is a ton of work to do as all of the floors in our apartment need to be ripped up, gutted and replaced.   Joy.

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My employer was nice enough to allow me to work from home to supervise the activity.  This is more for my wife to feel OK about everything as I think she feels better with me here.  So, here I sit waiting for emails or calls from my boss, blogging about the Cubs, sitting in the middle of a flooring ripping whirlwind party all around me.  You know those construction sounds you can ‘kinda’ hear from across the avenue, on the building next door and it just ruins your day?  Now take that noise and put it fifteen feet away from you.  Nice, right?  Clink, clank, scrub, clink, clink, clink, hammer, clank, clink, clink, scrub, scrub, clink….all, day, long.
It did get me thinking though.  A) I can’t believe this is happening so close to when the baby’s due date is.  And I realize Oct 15th is still 11 days away, however, you know how babies can be.  It’s all up to them.  So, we can mark the 15th on the calendar all we want. Circle it, underline it, put stars all around it…it makes no difference.  He is coming whenever he wants to and we have no idea what to expect.  and B) If I think about the horrible timing of this all, I will go crazy so let’s compare the repairs going on here to the Cubs repairs necessary this off-season.
Considering the season ended just yesterday in disappointing fashion (losing to Houston resulting in a fifth place finish this year for the Cubs) I can only pinpoint so many needs.  A power-bat, preferably at first to replace Lee.  A stud in the starting rotation.  Another couple arms in the bullpen.  A quality second baseman (maybe not this guy as rumored in recent years) and maybe a young third baseman with some upside in the scouting to have around to compete for the third base job after Rami’s gone whether it be figuratively or literally.
Oh yeah….and a MANAGER.
Or a decision re: the manager anyway.  Quade has shown incredible skill with the youngsters (benching Starlin to make a point re: hustle/effort) and with the veterans (keeping them playing hard throughout the last 40 games of the season even though they were on the brink of or officially eliminated from post-season play).  Lou Piniella is not the easiest act to follow and even though his tenure ended poorly, he did deliver two divisional championships while he was with the Cubs.  Quade has one of the best records of a manager filling in as manager of the Cubs mid-season ever.  I have a lot of confidence in him and wouldn’t mind seeing if he could do the same thing in 2011 that he has in his final quarter of the season in 2010.
Then again, Sandberg is a guy learning and having some success in the minors and is a fan favorite.  A guy like Sandberg along with old successful vets like Torre, Girardi and LaRussa are the only other guys I think have a shot at this spot.  I don’t foresee Wedge being the guy (and I really don’t see LaRussa here either).  Who know if Torre wants to manage really.  We don’t want another Piniella situation, aside from his ailing mother.  And Girardi may stay with New York so it may be down to Sandberg and Quade.  Between the two, I take Quade yet I’d be happy to root for Sandberg (again).  Just not sure he has the experience it will take to be successful just yet (look how long it took Mattingly to learn under Torre before he got a shot) and Quade keeps saying ‘nothing replaces experience’ (and I don’t think that’s by accident either by the way).
I don’t think the Reds are going away anytime soon and I don’t think this season was a fluke. Their young pitching is a huge part of their success and if healthy they will be competing among the top teams in the Central for a while.  The Cardinals are of course going to be competitive.  Personnel wise, Hendry and Ricketts have a ton of decisions to make.  A ton of work to do to make this Cubs team successful.
Notice I didn’t say competitive.  We are competitive.  Think about how many one-run games we lost this year.  Think about how many games we lost to Houston and Pittsburgh.  We have to win the close games and we have to beat the teams we are expected to beat.  Where is it toughest to win, in theory?  On the road.  Quade’s road record was 17-5.  Just saying.
A lot of decisions to make.  A lot of work to be done.  Let’s just hope it’s quick and painless. Unlike the way this last minute, unexpected floor construction in my apartment feels right now.
Clink, clank, clink, clink, clink, scrub, scrub, hammer, bang, clink, clink, clank, clink, clink…
Go Cubs Go!

(Don’t) Passonmikequade!

With the recent success of the Cubs interim manager, Mike Quade, many Cubs fans are torn as to who should get the gig next year.  Lots of fans, while Lou was still here, thought it was a no brainer: get Sandberg up here and let’s roll!  Lots of other fans also thought trying to get Torre, LaRussa, Girardi, Bobby Valentine and the long list of others were no-brainers too.

However, now that the Cubs have posted a 9-5 record under Quade (an over .600 winning percentage) fans are wondering if perhaps Mike Quade shouldn’t be passed over and maybe he is the guy that should land the job for 2011.  Those that believe Quade should be given a shot if he finishes the season as strong as he’s started his shot as Cubs skipper are quite adamant about it and hope he does so and carries this success over to next year.  (Then again Cubs fans are always passionate in their beliefs of their Cubs no matter what those feelings are now aren’t they?)

The idea of Hendry’s buffoonery and Ricketts’ newness to the post and the fans’ new feeling of giving Quade a shot inspired this post.  Please enjoy this new development in the world that is known as The Chicago Cubs through the eyes of Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon”.

In this video and the parody script listed below it which you can use to read along in Cubs translation…Tom Ricketts will be played by Dr. Terminus and Jim Hendry is played by his shorter, older con-artist minion.  Ladies and gentleman, I give you “(Don’t) Passonmikequade!” (I suggest clicking the video window to open it in a second window and scrolling this page for parody lyrics)

Ricketts: Quick, who will they want to manage the team in 2011?

Hendry: Just pass on Mike Quade.

Ricketts: Just pass on my whatty?

Hendry: Pass on Mike Quade!

Ricketts: Got it. How wonderful to see your smiling faces again I…I’ve never known such warmth, such welcome, such loving hospitality

Man: Get out ya hack!

Man: And don’t bring those Milton Bradleys here again!

Woman: Go on back where you belong…Ameritrade!

Ricketts:
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.
I sense enthusiasm I sense loving response
And that’s why I feel Wrigley is my home away from home
I’ve been making millions in my time at ‘Meritrade
Went to U of C and that’s right down the road
You’re gonna like us, No use in fightin’ us
Caray, Ernie, Billy Williams, let’s have statues surround the stadium!

Little Jeff Samardzija was so nice to visit
He comes and goes from Triple A when recalled

Man: Why doesn’t he stay there?

Ricketts: But through all the tips
You know who could manage this place
Make the call now, one name on my list
Why…..it’s…Get Joe Girardi, uh, Call up Joe Torre, no, no… Bring back ‘ol Dusty, uh, Try Alan Trammy, p…p…Persuade Bob Brenly Uh, Quick sign Jim Tracy, uh, Pass me a hottie? Oh, I know! I’ll Hire my daddy!

Cubs fans: No, don’t Pass on Mike Quade!

Ricketts: Of course, that’s what I meant to say

Woman: I thought we’d win, 2008 And then we got robbed!

Ricketts: Remember we’re losers who do thrive on your love!
I know Silva looks like he only drinks Buttermilk
Leads aren’t under firm control given to Marmol
Santo’s emotions, “Unreal” he does notion
New statues for Cub alliance
Forget we make losing a science

With L.A. we trade away
We couldn’t keep Ted here
Don’t know what to do with Sean Marshall

Cubs fans: You’ll probably ship him out

Ricketts: Ha, ha, yes we probably will…

Man: The issue is, no thanks to Jim our Cubs always stink!

Ricketts: But WE’RE here – the wins are coming!

Cubs fans: We’re gonna flush your BS down the troffs near the sinks!

Ricketts: Wait, listen, my specialties are Hand-shaking, public speaking, statue unveiling, beer guzzling Bleacher-bumming, sibling-having, spin-doctoring! And every other ‘whatever-ing’ you can think of! My friends, you are not giving me a chance!  We brought all of these free agents in from Tokyo! Japan.

Cubs fans: oooh…

Old Cub fan: Oh Ricketts, oh Ricketts, Ricketts, Ricketts, help me.

Ricketts: I hear someone. I hear someone calling me. A Cubs fan in need. A Cubs fans calling out to another great cubs fan. A service only I can provide. Madam, Tommy Ricketts is here to appease you.

Old Cubs fan: Ayye?

Ricketts: What’s your problem lady?

Old Cubs fan: Ayye?

Ricketts: How can I turn my back on such a dear woman? It’s the bleacher bum in me.

Old Cubs fan: I hear…Santo…yelling.
I hear…opponents…giggling.
I hear…fans…singing.

Ricketts: That’ll be exactly $150 madam. $75 a seat!

Old Cubs Fan: Oh, bless you Ricketts! Wait ’til next year! Wait ’til next year!

Ricketts: My decision can cure her! Did you hear her bless me while I blessed her too? How wonder I feel right here in my heart! And that’s what the baseball business is all about folks! People helping people. You should all get help!

(Hendry jumps up on Convention stage in disguise)

Ricketts: Gadzooks! What have we here?

Hendry: Oh, Tommy, Tommy, Tommy. All I’m asking for is a miracle.

Ricketts: All he wants is a miracle! How can I deny him folks….IF he’s willing to pay for it, he’s gonna get it!

Hendry: 8 years for $136 million!

Ricketts: 8 years for $136 million!

(Ricketts pours Old Style into Hendry’s mouth out of a flask, Hendry begins to dance to Go Cubs Go!)

Woman: I trust him!

Woman: I believe he’ll hire the right guy!

Man: I’ll put my hard earned money for season tickets with no guarantees in his hands!

Ricketts: My friends you’ve seen a miracle!
And you’ll see many more, People will come pouring in to, see Wrigley!

Sosa failed testing?
Surely you’re jesting!
Keep those dimes and dollars mounting

Hendry: I’ll collect!

Ricketts: I’ll do the counting! Everyone who roots for us will strong and happy We’ll be getting more wins by the day!

Cubs fans: Yay!

Ricketts: Get them off waivers!
Need the right man to lead us
All of Cubs Nation’s gonna say…
To…
Buhh..Bring us Bobby V, no,
Raise up Frank Selee,
no, no, Dig up McCarthy,
Uh, Call Atlanta ’bout Bobby?,
p…p…Player/Coach Rami,
q…q…q…Call up Bill Dancy
… Hire Barbaro Garbey,
Go with Bud Bailey,
Sandberg’s the must be,
Help me Girardi,
Just get Joe Torre, I want my mommy…ha ha ha ha!

Hendry (whispers): Pass on Mike Quade

Cubs fans: Don’t Pass on Mike Quade!

Ricketts: I know.

Guess we’ll see how it plays out!  For now, yes…if Mike Quade finishes this season the way he’s started, I agree.  The guy should be given a shot and someone should suggest the Cubs (Don’t) Passonmikequade.  Go Cubs Go!

I’ll Take Some Blame for This Streak

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

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

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

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

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

If Only Hendry Could Be Scared Out of Making Poor Decisions

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

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!
 

Is There Magic In Millar?

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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