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!

25 years later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Hall of Fame Look at Ryne Sandberg. Is Dawson next?

Monday is the day we find out whether Andre Dawson joins fellow Cub great Ryne Sandberg in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  While I believe this IS the year of the Hawk, many consider him to be on the fence in terms of qualifications.  I generally use Prose and Ivy for strictly observation and evaluation.  Tonight, however, in honor of The Hawk and what Monday could mean for him, I’ll use the space for celebration.  Celebration of my favorite Cub of all-time, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.

Though he made his Major League debut with the Phillies in ’81, Sandberg was traded to the Cubs for his rookie year the following season.  After spending ’82 at third base, he shifted to second, where he stayed for the remainder of his career.
Sandberg first gained national attention on June 23, 1984, when he went 5 for 6 with game tying home runs off the Cards’ Bruce Sutter in the ninth AND tenth innings on national television.  Talk about great timing.  The Cubs won it in the 11th and the contest thereafter became known as “The Sandberg Game”.  Good times.
Sandberg won the ’84 NL MVP Award hitting .314 with 200 hits, 36 doubles, 19 triples, 19 home runs, 84 RBI’s and 32 stolen bases to lead the Cubs to their first postseason appearance since 1945.  Ah, ’84.  Good year.
Sandberg was masterful in the field winning nine straight Gold Gloves at second base (’83-’91) and retiring with an all-time best .989 fielding percentage at the position.  He also set a then ML record with a 123 game errorless streak from 1989-90.  In my opinion, the best second baseman of all-time.
Sandberg led Chicago back to the playoffs in 1989, when the Cubs fell to the Giants in the NLCS. During his two trips to the playoffs, he batted .385 with a .457 OBP and a .641 slugging percentage in 10 games.  If only there were wild card series back then.
Sandberg’s best power year came in 1990 when he slugged 40 home runs, the first time a second baseman had led the league in that category since Hornsby in ’25.  He also plated 100 runs, a feat repeated in 1991 by Ryne.  Check out those old Expos uni’s.  Remember those Hawk?
Known to fans as “Ryno” or “Kid Natural”, Sandberg was also adept on the basepaths.  He stole 30 or more bases every year from 1982 to 1986, led the NL in runs scored three times and placed in the top five and additional five times.  Whether he was defending the basepaths or running on them, Ryne was a huge threat.  Speed.  Another tool Hawk had at his disposal throughout his career.  Hall of famer?  We’ll see.
After a slow start to the 1994 season (which was shortened by the strike), Sandberg abruptly announced his retirement on June 13 at age 34, citing “loss of desire”.  Sixteen months later he announced he was coming back and “Ryno” returned with two productive years in ’96 and ’97.  The more Ryno the better as far as I was concerned…still am.
Ryno was selected to 10 straight All-Star games from 1984 to 1993 and started nine of those contests.  He also took home seven Silver Slugger awards for his prowess at the plate.  Best of his time.  Best of all time.
Sandberg retired for good after the 1997 season and had his number 23 retired by the Cubs in 2005.  His 277 home runs as a second baseman were the most all-time until Jeff Kent broke the mark in 2004.  Overall, Ryno finished with a .285 BA, 403 doubles, 76 triples, 282 homers, 1,061 RBI, and 344 stolen bases in a 16 year career.  Wow.
That same year, Sandberg was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame (where all these pictures and information is from, by the way) alongside Wade Boggs on Jan 4, 2005.  In his third year on the ballot, he received 76.2 percent of the votes cast to gain entry.  Enshrined for all to honor and appreciate for years and years to come.
Later that year, he was inducted into the Hall on July 31, 2005.  Ryne is quoted in his acceptance speech as having said: “I dreamed of this as a child, but I had too much respect for baseball to think this was ever possible.  I believe it is because I had so much respect for the game and respect for getting the most out of my ability that I stand here today.”  Class all the way.
Will Monday prove 2009 to be the class that Dawson belongs to?  Only a couple days left before we find out.  I can’t wait.  Go Hawk Go!