Archive for March, 2012

In a dingy 7-Eleven in Schiller Park, a guy wearing a Harley-Davidson T-shirt was talking up late night customers who were still trying to buy a lottery ticket for the big draw in the evening on March 30.

He didn’t look like the regular type of biker. He wasn’t dirty or had a beard or a 1 percent badge on his jacket. Shit he didn’t even have a jacket. He wasn’t Charlie Sheen in “Beyond the Law.” Some regular fuck who probably never owned a Harley. I didn’t see one parked out front. But who am I to judge?

“Man, someone’s life is going to change, man,” he said. “What is the cash payout? Close to $300 million? I’d be fine with that.” And he kept talking to everyone who was buying a ticket, to anyone who was still hoping for  the American Dream. The big payout. “Good luck man, we all need it. I’m hoping to win big.”

And the more I listened as I was trying to get smokes, condoms, whips, chains and French nail clippers (That’s a Carlin joke), the more I realized that the last guy on Earth who deserves to win the lottery is this guy. Fuck this guy.  “I’ll buy you all a Harley if I win.” Yeah right. I don’t even want to know what kind of nonsense you would spend that shit on. A motorcycle that runs on beer? A tattoo of the winning lottery ticket? A baseball bat that says “Hi asshole, smile!” A subscription to Boat and Motor magazine?

"Look I'm trying to help, but these white motherfuckers in Congress don't want to do shit."

The reason I got so worked up over this is that  the very idea of “hope” gets thrown around so loosely in this country. In 2008 the only hope that we stood behind in throes involved a contested presidential race that actually mattered. In 2012, the hope that we came out in throes for involved buying lottery tickets.

So this is it folks?

In 2008 we rallied in force behind a charismatic leader and led him to the presidency and four years later the only “hope” we got left is playing the fucking lottery? If that’s not a statement about the state of things in this country, then I don’t know what else is.  What a Debbie Downer, man.

But sure, like an asshole, I bought a ticket for last night’s $640 Mega Millions lottery drawing. Outcome was liked I predicted. Not even close. But what really pissed me off was the way this was done this week and that it was such a big story. Sure, it was the biggest payout in this country’s history. But the amount of people who actually thought that this time it would be their time was almost laughable.

It’s kind of sad that we put so much more faith in winning the lottery these days than we put in our elected officials who can actually do something that can make the life in this country easier. Instead, we’ve gotten so jaded over those four years that we might as well play the lottery for our lives to change because the situation on Capitol Hill is fucking hopeless. I blame Republicans. I hope they get a rash that doesn’t go away.

But you heard it all before I’m sure. And I’m just ranting here. Don’t get me started on the gas prices.

I don’t know. I got too worked up over this, mainly because of the way most people, even the news media, tackled this story. What was different about this lottery drawing compared to the OTHER big drawings? Nothing. Odds were impossible. People coughed up more than they should have, which was something like more than a billion dollars in sales. That’s a LOT of delusional people out there. And sure a lot of losers. I haven’t seen this much delusion since Lindsay Lohan became a legal adult.

I would have just used stock footage in the media from the other BIG draw stories from years past. Like those stories about the terrorist cells and them on the monkey bars. Or the stories about obesity with some random fat guy without a face eating an ice cream cone.

“I’ma gonna buy a house for my momma!” “I’m going to go to Disney Land.” “I’m going to pay off my college loans.” “I’m going to go TO college.”

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Nothing. I would hoard it like one of those rich cocksuckers and not spend a dime. Hey if they can do it, I would do it do too. Maybe that’s a very anti-philanthropist position. But what are you going to do? Give it away to charity? Help stabilize the gas prices? Pay off debt for some state so we can put people back to work? No, that just might be something Christ would do (Again, thanks Mr. Carlin).

But I’m not bitter in the least about losing. No no. Buy the ticket and take the ride. Sometimes your bust, in fact a lot of the time you’re bust.

Who the hell looks at odds like 1 in 167 million and  goes “Those are good odds. I’ll take those odds. I have a special feeling, this time.”

Yeah, I have a feeling we all need to get to our math textbooks. Or better yet, back to the store where you bought your ticket and this time buy something with an actual payout. Like beer or whiskey. At least when you’re hung over tomorrow you can actually feel that you got fucked instead of being taken for a ride in this giant collective jerk down known as the lottery. And only three people had orgasms, the ones who actually won. I wonder what they will buy?

But back to your regularly scheduled programming.

I stopped hoping I could sleep with this chick a long time ago.

Now, onto real hope. Root root for the Cubies.

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by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

This week, the Hawks have dropped the two games they’ve played so far. They got their asses waxed at home by a damn good Nashville team on Sunday, then salvaged a road point in New Jersey on Tuesday in a shootout loss. With 5 games to go, including the game against St Louis that I’ll be doing the ol’ running diary thing tonight, we are within striking distance of clinching a playoff spot. A win tonight would not only help immensely, but it would certainly show the rest of the league we’re a legit threat come playoff time. Jonathan Toews has been skating with the team and says he’s close to being ready for some contact. Let’s hope he continues to improve like he has in the past 10 days.

Puck Drop, 20:00 left in the first period… I’ll never like Jim Cornelison’s version of the National Anthem as much as Wayne Messmer’s, but I bet Jim isn’t half the greedy dick Wayne turned out to be. At a Cubs Convention once, Wayne wasn’t interested in hearing me express how much his version had moved me over the years. He only cared about trying to sucker me out of $20 for a CD of his version. Blow me, pal.

18:26…Tremendous save by Jaroslav Halak in close. That would have gotten the crowd in a tizzy right away. The quick-strikes we’ve gotten lately really get the team off on the right foot. Too bad we didn’t cash that in.

17:52….Hawks going to the power play. I’ll never get the following empty two minutes of my life back. Over/Under on shots we get on net here….0.5. Yeah, it’s been that bad. I wish they could figure this out sometime this century, but you simply can’t polish a turd.

17:08…The Blues penalty kill isn’t what we need to see here. They’ve killed more penalties than neighborhood watch guys have killed kids with hoodies lately. Send the indignant hate mail about that comment to my buddy Lou. He’ll appreciate the chance to spread his wings and answer you in kind….

15:52…The over came in there…one shot on that power play. Pay the winners!!

15:08….Great save by Crawford. That’s what he needed to keep his confidence level up. Brandon “One Punch” Bollig planted Kent Huskins like a springtime daisy after the shot. Pluswhise, Huskins caught a stick from Crawford in his face right before he got hammered. It’s double-dutch action at the UC!!

12:08….So far, both teams look pretty physical. We expect that from St. Louis, and it’s nice to see the Hawks respond in kind. Shaw and Bollig both seem to relish this aspect of the game. Tracey Myers, the CSN in-game microphone jockey, must be good at her job because she is one tough lady to get an eyeful of. Eeeesshh.

9:55…How about a goal by the 4th line tonight? It seems like forever since they’ve potted one.

9:22….HAWKS SCORE!! Bryan Bickell buries his bitchin’ wrister from above the dot to make it 1-0!! When this guy is motivated, he’s deadly. Nick Leddy and Dave Bolland get the assists. Nice to see Leddy continuing to play well. With his wheels, he can be a real weapon.

9:13….Blues score 9 seconds later to tie it up at 1. Jesus, that was unacceptable. Losing the ensuing faceoff after our goal set the whole thing up. No letdowns like that, asspipes!! Leddy played the rush well and turned Steen wide there, but he still got that shot away with some steam on it. Sphincter tightness….returning.

5:30…Hawks have responded to the Blues goal with some nice energy. You hate to see a letdown like that, but when the team responds with even more energy and speed, it’s a good sign. They need to keep this up and sustain some pressure.

3:53
…Wicked glove save by Crawford on Jason Arnott. Sphincter tightness…relaxing.

3:38
…Patrick Sharp with a sick wrister on goal and a better save by Halak. What a luxury for the Blues to have two killer netminders like Halak and Brian Elliott to choose from each game. Quite the nice problem to have….it’s like wondering which sports car to drive over to your supermodel girlfriend’s house…the Porsche or the Ferrari.

2:33….Scrum in front of the Hawks net. Vlad Sobotka of St. Louis touched it off with a post-whistle hack on Crawford. Nice to see Crawford reach up and take a swipe at him in response. Don’t take any shit from a guy with a last name like a bargain-bin vodka.

0:25….Dumb penalty by Shaw. You gotta be smarter than hitting a guy from behind like that. Go after the puck, kid. Even though St Louis isn’t the best team out there on the power play, giving a team this good a freebie isn’t how you win hockey games. I’m sure Q will let him hear about it at the break.

End of the first period
…Hawks outshoot the Blues 14-8 and both teams had some nice chances….I think I’ll get a slice of my wife’s birthday cake from yesterday…it’s chocolate frosted with peanut butter filling inside…..off-topic a bit, but I can’t wait for baseball to start next week; I don’t count the two games played in Japan….

Second Period

18:25…Hawks kill the bad Shaw penalty. Way to pick up the kid.

17:48.
..Pat Foley gives best wishes to Daily Herald hockey writer Tim Sassone. He’s had some sort of health issue and hasn’t been working in the past month or so. I didn’t get a call from those pricks to fill in, either. Their loss.

15:42…Beautiful 3-way passing play results in a great chance for Sharp. Halak was better there, making the save, but Stalberg really has been great so far tonight. He has some elite gifts, for sure, but consistency isn’t among them. Oh, for 82 games of how he’s playing tonight.

14:04….The CBOE seat auction is funny. You bid an outrageous sum to sit in some of the worst seats for a hockey game…right on the glass. I’ve sat right on the glass before and if you don’t mind not seeing the entire ice surface, they’re fantastic. Personally, I like being able to see the corners and stuff. Must be nice to be rich enough that you don’t care where you sit.

12:36….Stalberg AGAIN with some serious wheels and another excellent chance.

10:10
…Hawks are noticeably faster than the Blues. The Blues seem to be having trouble getting anything going thru the neutral zone and when we break out of our zone, we are getting some nice chances. Speed kills.

8:30
…Hawks can clinch a playoff spot with a win and a Phoenix loss in regulation against San Jose. I wasn’t sure before the game on what the exact circumstances were to clinch. Nice to see it’s close enough to touch.

7:40
….Blues head to the power play as we get caught with too many men on the ice. If there’s one penalty that pisses a coach off every time, it’s this one.

5:40
….Hawks kill their second penalty of the night. It’s little things like not giving up power play goals that bring a smile to my face.

4:41
….Sharp robbed by Halak. That’s been a rarity this period…a great scoring chance. Both teams have really tightened up defensively and are as watertight as a frog’s butthole. I’m assuming they’re watertight, or those frogs would fill up and sink. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

3:28
….Great sustained pressure by the Hawks there. The Kruger/Sharp/Stalberg line has been fantastic so far tonight. I hope Kruger puts 10-15 lbs of muscle this summer and takes his game up a level or two next fall.

3:07
…Dylan Olson with a bomb from the point. I’d love to see him unleash that beast on the power play. God knows we need something on that unit.

2:52
…GOALPOST!! Kane bulls-eyed the iron there. So close and yet so far…..

2:15
….Hawks head back to the power play (ugh) as Kane got taken down. He also got robbed by Halak on the delayed penalty. Christ, let’s cash one on guys….

1:03
…How hard is it to dump the puck in, then chase it and gain possession? YOU HAVE THE EXTRA MAN!! UTILIZE HIM!!

0:19….Text from Lou at the UC….the shitty in-house band has been named Taint Nugget. I think it’s perfection. Well done, section 333!!

End of the second period
…Hawks outshoot the Blues 10-3 in the second and are outshooting them 24-11 for the game….we seem to be clogging the lanes quite well tonight and breaking up plenty of rushes at the blue line….apparently, Mrs Illinois is doing the Shoot the Puck contest in the next few minutes!!….gotta love a promo where a hot chick is integral to the entire function…the hottie buries one!!…..hard to believe Mrs Illinois is gorgeous, right?….as much as I love Tony Esposito, he looks AWFUL in those Binny’s commercials

Third Period

18:45…GREAT early save by Crawford!! Alex Steen couldn’t believe that didn’t go in. Either could I, as that looked like money.

17:52…Kruger/Sharp/Stalberg start the period the way they’ve been playing all night. Just terrific.

15:45…HAWKS SCORE TO MAKE IT 2-1!!!! Another great rush by the Hawks and some hard work pays off as Andrew Brunette buries the loose change!!! About time we were rewarded for our hustle and hard work. Now, let’s hold this lead longer than 9 seconds.

15:35…Woo hoo!! More than 9 seconds!!

13:46….Jesus, Sharp AGAIN with a fantastic chance! And it was set up by our superior speed. This is becoming a clinic on how to skate.

11:43….Hawks have held the Blues to a meager 2 shots on goal so far here in the 3rd. They obviously can’t deal with our speed and are having a tough time getting any sort of sustained pressure. We need to stay out of the box and not give them any chances for momentum. We need to score again and keep all the pressure on them.

11:20…THERE IT IS!!! 3-1 HAWKS!!! AND IT’S SHARP AND STALBERG ON A TWO ON NONE RUSH!! These guys have been fucking AWESOME together tonight. That was a great strip by Sharp to set that rush up!! Suck it, Blows!!

10:25….Next time I get cocky, tell me to shut it. 3-2 now on a terrible goal off a Kane turnover. Crawford needs to get his ass down on that stuff. No reason for something like that to sneak in under him. Just terrible to let in such a weak goal like that. You don’t win the Cup by doing shit like that.

9:30….Got to keep up the pressure and not lay back and try to hold on. Stay with what’s been working so far tonight. Keep skating, boys.

8:15…Frolik high-sticked in the face right in full view of the official, no call. So glad the NHL has the highest quality refs. That was as blatant as can be and it got ignored.

6:13…Finally, we come back with some speed and get a good chance. Time to let it all hang out and close these guys down.

4:40
…Almost a fluke goal by the Blues there. Bad bounce almost somehow sneaks over Crawford, who made a tougher save than he thought he’d need to make. Whew!

3:01…Getting a bit chippy there in front of Crawford. I’d be doing the same thing if I were St. Louis. If they manage to tie this, it’s going to be on a dirty goal…it sure won’t be on a glorious chance.

1:32…Well, fuck me. Tied at 3 on a shitty, dirty crap goal. I called that bullshit. Total garbage. Hawks let St. Louis dictate the tempo and did indeed lay back and hoped time would just run out. You can’t do that against a top team and hope it works.

1:00…No excuse to blow a late two goal lead at home to a team that simply can’t keep up with our speed, no matter where they are in the standings. St. Louis has no business being in position to get at least one point tonight. Shame on us for not finishing the job. They have 18 shots and 3 goals, none of which were solid scoring chances.

End of regulation, heading to overtime….With a possible clinching in sight tonight, we need to win this one. While this OT should never have happened, it’s time to rise above that crappy final ten minutes and get that third point.

OT

3:45…Glorious 3 on 2 chance for us, but Halak made a nice save after the St. Louis d-man altered Hossa’s shot by going down, forcing a high shot. Taking away half the net sure helps the goaltender.

2:19…FANTASTIC save by Crawford!! That’s what I’m talking about!!

1:56…Michael Frolik, Mr. Snakebitten, denied twice in close. He couldn’t hit water if he fell out of the proverbial boat. He works so hard in all areas of the ice and just can’t get the payoff. I bet he’s forgotten what a red light looks like.

0:32…Kane gets robbed by Halak. That had game-winner written all over it. Those are the kinds of saves that Stanley Cup winners get from their goalies. Halak is the only reason I’m still writing and swearing at my TV. Dirty cocklunch.

End of OT, heading to the shootout…This is where we miss Toews a whole bunch. Our shootout crew without him is, how do I put this delicately….as shitty as 3 day old diapers. Come on guys, make me eat them words.

1st round
…Kane leads off for us. He beat Halak with a backhander a couple weeks ago in the shootout, let’s see what he does here. Great save by Halak on the backhand attempt. Grrrr….but it might have worked if he didn’t get in too tight. David Perron leads off for the Blues and gets blanked by Crawford!! Scoreless after one round.

2nd round
…Sharp gets denied by Halak’s glove hand. He’s a sniper, not a slick move guy, but our choices are sort of slim without Toews. TJ Oshie is next up for St. Loo and his dumb Ohio State ass gets stoned!! Scoreless after two rounds.

3rd round…Stalberg with a hugely weak attempt. Another guy without much of a shootout resume. If the Blows score here, it’s all over. Alex Steen with a fake slapper/quick move and gets denied by Crawford!! Still scoreless after 3 rounds!! We go to extra extra time!!

4th round….BOLLAND SCORES ON A SWEET MOVE TO HIS FOREHAND!!! Finally, the dike is broken!! (No, I’m not making a lesbian joke) 1-0 Hawks!! Ok, let’s see one more big save!!!! Patrick Berglund needs to score to keep St. Louis alive….he hits the GOALPOST!!! HAWKS WIN IN THE SHOOTOUT!!!

Some good, some bad tonight. We should have won that game in regulation, but after blowing what should have been an easy two points after dominating the best defensive team in the NHL again, we managed to scratch the win column. Our top two lines…Kane/Hossa/Brunette and Kruger/Sharp/Stalberg were easily the best players on the ice all night. That’s good. Even better…we moved to 95 points and are basically in the playoffs. 4 games left in the season, 3 of which are very winnable. We get Nashville next on Saturday and I don’t expect them to do anything different than they’ve done to us all season. But with two games against a bad Minnesota team and the finale against a suddenly struggling Detroit squad, we have a good chance of keeping some momentum going. And if we get Toews back, look out.

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: 
mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: MRubio52

Yesterday I took a look at the AL Central and gave a prediction of how I think the teams will finish the year. Today I’ll be looking at a historically weak division, the NL Central. The tempting thing about the NL Central is that it’s attainable. The Cubs are blessed to be in a relatively easy division. The powerhouse teams lost two key contributors in Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. The temptation will be there if the Cubs manage to find themselves in contention early in the year to sell off the farm and go for it now. I know a few Cub fans that would fully endorse that strategy, but they should begin to understand that the Cubs aren’t going for it this year. So with that, here’s how I think they stack up.

1. Cincinnati Reds –  Dusty is gonna Dusty. He’s already pushed two young Reds pitchers to the limit and it’s scary to give him control over Mat Latos, a guy who is getting over shoulder trouble. The projected 5 starters for the Reds are Cueto-Latos-Arroyo-Leake-Bailey. Latos is coming over from a park that suppresses offense, but he was a guy that missed bats. Throughout the minors Latos was consistently above 8 with his K/9 rate. His command was spotty last year, and he lost a tick on his fastball, but he still oozes potential. He’s 23 and he has to work on some things to become the elite pitcher he hinted at becoming 2 years ago. I think he delivers on some of his potential but the GABP will mask some of the gains that he’ll make this year. The real reason I have the Reds winning the division is on the back of that offense. VottoRolenBruce is a bitch of a row to get through. Bruce is displaying the power potential that will eventually make him a star. He improved his road splits last year. Votto should be the MVP of the league this year with both Prince and Albert gone from the NL and a slight regression from Matt Kemp. If the Reds can get any production from the SS position they’ll be a historic offense. Zack Cozart is slated to be the starting shortstop. After last year’s shortstop debacle Cozart will have a longer grace period than most to produce, but he’s 25 and you usually know what a player is at that age. The bullpen will be missing Ryan Madson who is out for the year and will undergo Tommy John surgery. Sean Marshall becomes the closer and he should fill in nicely in that role. The rest of the bullpen is shaky, even phenom Aroldis Chapman will have his “Oh God” moments, but it shouldn’t keep them from competing.

2. Milwaukee Brewers – Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke should be battling for Cy Young votes next year. The rotation after those two gets a little bit shaky, but if Marcum keeps the gains he’s made over the past few years, he’ll remain the solid #3 option that the Brewers need to compete for both the division and the extra wildcard spot. Where they fall into trouble will be offense, which is strange to say of this team. They are replacing Prince with Mat Gamel at first, but Fielder’s production will be sorely missing from this lineup. If Corey Hart isn’t healthy (he’s dealing with a knee issue) it further compounds the issue. Fielder was an OPS machine, and the Brewers brought in Aramis Ramirez to help mitigate the effect of his departure. Braun and Ramirez will be productive, but they won’t replace the production that both Prince and Hart brought to the team. The pitching will keep them in contention, and that bullpen is solid. Axford established himself as a reliable closer, and I expect a disgruntled K-Rod to be traded by the deadline this year. The offense needs to figure it out if they want to win the division, as it stands they should win the second Wild Card spot.

3. St. Louis Cardinals – No Albert, limited Carpenter, limited Wainwright and no Magic Pixie Dust from the old man means a slide back for the Cardinals. St. Louis is depending on too many older players for them to win this division. Carlos Beltran has to stay healthy for the offense to be potent enough to compete with the Reds. Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman are a decent 1-2 punch, but the Machine isn’t looming in this lineup anymore. Rather, World Series hero David Freese and Yadier Molina will be their protection in the lineup. The pitching is going to suffer the loss of Carpenter, who is only supposed to miss a month, but older pitchers with shoulder issues aren’t something to be treated lightly. Wainwright will help, and the bullpen will be solid, but the Cards offense will limit their ceiling in 2012. They will be competitive, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them either win the division or make the playoffs, but I don’t see it happening.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates – They don’t have enough to be taken as a serious contender. Andrew McCutchen is a great player, but the front offices inability to surround him with talent is a concern. Their starting 3B, Pedro Alvarez, has lost his way at the plate and he wasn’t very special to begin with defensively. There’s an ugly hitch in his swing now and he tends to have happy feet in the box. Neil Walker is a good player, but the Pirate offense can’t be taken seriously at this point. They don’t have a front line starter, they’re relying on the corpse of Erik Bedard to be productive, and while they have an ok bullpen, there won’t be too many save opportunities. This is another lost year for a lost franchise, and I bet they’ll still finish ahead of the Cubs. Speaking of which…

5. Chicago Cubs – I did an in depth series on their depth. You can read it here. There’s three parts to it, so take you’re time. I’ll wait.

They’re gonna be awful this year, and that’s part of the grandiose plan that TheoCo has drawn up. The next few years are about two things, accumulating good prospects and getting rid of bad contracts. The Cubs have famously shot themselves in the foot when it comes to spending in the hopes that a World Series trophy would render these next few years as a honeymoon period as the team tries to restock and retool. Well, the Cubs choked all that away in 2007 and 2008, fell spectacularly on their face in 2009, had their manager quit on them in 2010 and hired the cryptkeeper for 2011. Then that Boston craziness happened and we somehow ended up with a competent front office that has a concrete plan for building a serious contender for years to come. It doesn’t look like they’ll stray from that plan either, so get ready for a 70 win season folks, because Soriano is the only established offensive threat the Cubs have right now. The division is certainly gettable for the next few years, but the Cubs won’t bite. They’ll wait, and I’m fine with that.

6. Houston Astros – This franchise is awful. The offense rates below average as it will center around an old fat 1B and a young OF prospect with a flat swing plane. Well, that’s not fair to JD Martinez, he is a legit hitter, but his power will be limited because of his swing, and that’s a bit of an issue at The Ballpark Formerly Known as Enron. The opposition will certainly knock the ball out of the park, but the Astros can’t do it on a consistent enough basis to be taken seriously. The starting rotation is headlined by Wandy Rodriguez, but after that it’s a collection of bad. The bullpen is meh and there’s no hope down on the farm. They’re gonna be bad for awhile.

I can’t remember the specific game, I never thought I would have to commit it to memory, but I was watching a Bears game with two of my brothers last season. It was before Cutler went down but that’s all I remember about the game. All except one thing. Every time Forte was given the ball, no matter how well he did, one of my brothers would jump up from his seat and yell, “PAY THAT MAN!” I didn’t realize at the time that the phrase would become the DE-facto mantra of uninformed Bears fans.

Speaking of stupid custom jerseys...

I don’t like thinking about football when the baseball season has just begun. I’m also not a big fan of long, dragged out, over dramatic crap. It should then come as no surprise that talking about Matt Forte and his continued cry-ass-ery with the Chicago Bears wasn’t on my list of shit-that-needs-a-doin. But the fact that I can’t go a day without hearing some Cro Magnon spouting off, “pay that man,” has forced my hand. It’s easy to see how he has contributed to the team since he was drafted in 2008. He is clearly one of the top ten running backs in the NFL right now. Forte has consistently produced, season after season, and proven he is a valuable asset that is well worth a dramatic increase from his rookie pay. He’s also a selfish dolt that doesn’t know when to shut his mouth and be a professional. In any other career, the chances of him getting a raise acting the way he does would be well within the zero range, but since he happens to be good at football people think he deserves more money.

There’s a problem with that idea. Football may be a sport, (That is a fact. You can look it up. I did!) but the NFL is a business. It’s a big business. It’s a fucking colossal business. Why does that matter? It makes Matt Forte an employee. Matt Forte doesn’t play for the Chicago Bears, he works for them. He has a supervisor and coworkers. He gets a regular paycheck and benefits. He gets vacation time. (Tons of it!) His job is to show up and play fucking football a few months out of the year. Somewhere along the way Forte, and many Bears fans, lost sight of this.

I know that professional football is still pretty damn far removed from your run of the mill career. There is a definite skill set needed to compete. The players don’t last as long. In fact, they get the shit kicked right out of them so they get compensated accordingly. Since most rookies don’t make much money when it comes to sports salaries, and many players don’t have anything to fall back on if their football career doesn’t pan out, they are anxious to grab that guaranteed contract money as soon as they’re eligible. I understand and I would more than likely have the same mindset if I was in their shoes. The problem is, Matt Forte turned down that money last season. Most reports estimated the contract extension he was offered in 2011 to include at least $14 million in guaranteed pay. I’m no genius, but Forte, wasn’t that the contract you were supposed to sign? Especially knowing that the Bears had the option to franchise tag you FOR LESS MONEY if you turned it down? C’mon! Who’s really getting screwed here? Forte or the Bears’ PR department? The Bears gave Forte an offer that, while not generous, was pretty fair considering the market value of a running back in a sport that is fast moving away from the running game. Forte turned it down. End of story?

Unfortunately no.

Forte went into the off-season thinking that his performance would earn him a better contract. I’ll be the first to admit he had a great season, but if it was up to me, I’d have slapped him with the franchise tag too. Especially after he turned down a decent deal. I don’t know if it’s Forte’s overblown sense of pride or his agent’s overblown sense of greed but one of them needs to have the shit slapped out of them. Everyone else saw the franchise tag coming. Forte just refused to look. So now he’s all disappointed with the organization and feels betrayed because they signed a back up running back. Face it Matt, you play a position that is decreasing in value as we speak, for a team that is trying to build a passing game that doesn’t include much of you, in a league that has a salary cap. How much are you really worth?

The chances of this happening again are pretty high.

None of that is even mentioning the lifespan of a running back in the current NFL. How many seasons does he really have to be an impact player? Five, six, maybe seven? This upcoming season will be his fifth year in the league and he’s already sprained his MCL. Would you offer a five year contract to a player who might only last one more year? Would you then guarantee that player $14 million? I very much doubt it. I hear you union guys in the back yelling, “But that’s wrong! He’s already earned the money by playing so good!” Well he’s also been a grade “A” ass-hat about the whole thing. Nobody wants to work next to, let alone pay, somebody who bitches about everything. The fact that he has played well during his four years with the team means nothing when you get down to the business of it. There’s a whole team to support and fans to appease. If paying Forte less money was better for the team, which is definitely the case, shouldn’t fans be happy that the Bears are trying to get a good deal? If the money they saved by slapping the franchise tag on him got used to fix that Swiss cheese of an offensive line, shouldn’t the fans be ecstatic? Oh yeah, that’s happening. If that money got used to bring in a high caliber wide receiver for Cutler, shouldn’t fans be praising the man-gods that decided to franchise tag Matt Forte? Oh wait, that happened too. So why are fans so quick to defend Forte and down the team that made a proper business decision in the interest of building a better franchise? I forgot. This is Chicago. An emotional attachment to our players is more important than having a winning team. By the way, Forte got paid a bit under $700,000 for the 2011 season. Should he choose to play with the franchise tag, he will be guaranteed around $8 million. For a single season. That’s almost twelve times what he was being paid last season. It’s a raise of over 1000%. Think about that the next time you see your extra 2.3% yearly increase.

Recently, Forte went to the twitter-verse with this. “There’s only so many times a man that has done everything he’s been asked to do can be disrespected!” There’s one thing he hasn’t done that many fans, sports media types, and I’m sure the Bears have asked him to do. Matt Forte needs to grow up and learn to play ball in the NFL.

Email: virtualsportsman@gmail.com

Twitter @virtuallymatt

“Isn’t it strange? The same people who laugh at gypsy fortune tellers take economists seriously.”

I think it’s important for baseball fans on both sides of Chicago to understand that neither the Sox nor the Cubs will be seriously competing this year. The Sox have a better shot at catching lightning in a bottle this year if they get great years from their roster, but it’s a big if at this point and oddly enough it can all hinge on Jake Peavy’s health, which is a scary proposition. The Cubs have virtually no hope, the rosters of the teams in front of the Cubs are all better. The Reds, Brewers and Cardinals will fight for the Central lead leaving the Cubs in a slap fight with the Astros and the Pirates to avoid the cellar.

So a lot of people are going to tune out without properly understanding what you’re watching. For the Sox this is Kenny’s last stand. His acquisitions all have a strange propensity to blow up in his face. Manny Ramirez, Ken Griffey Jr., Jake Peavy, Alex Rios and Adam Dunn were all massive faceplants to this point. He let fan favorites Ozzie Guillen and Mark Buerhle take their talents to Miami. He hired a manager that no one knew was a serious candidate and took full control of this team moving forward. Any success the team enjoys will be his, but so will the failure. Not many GM’s get to fire 2 managers, so Kenny’s on the clock

Epstoyer is enjoying a honeymoon currently, but they’ll have to work efficiently to rebuild a decimated Cubs organization. The Cubs have almost no pitching help in the minors. There are a few Cub fans that will want the Cubs to win now . When Cubs start getting traded most of these will get restless and wonder what the aim of the organization is. There are even a few that believe Theo and company only won because they spent Yankee money. This is true to an extent, but the Red Sox also drafted wisely and had good talent come up from their farm system. The make over the Cubs are going to get will be impressive, but the clock will start once the Cubs trade a marquee name.

Which brings me to the purpose of these two pieces. AL/NL Central “Predictions.” I’m placing the teams in order of believed finish, but I’m not going to place a W-L value on it. We’ll start with the AL Central. NL Central will go live tomorrow.

1. Detroit Tigers – They are the favorite to win the division and they are a candidate tot make some noise in the playoffs. They added Prince to Miggy and have a potent offense. The lose of Victor Martinez will hurt as Ryan Raburn will get more burn in the lineup, but Prince more than makes up for that. We all know what Prince can do with the bat, ditto with Miggy. The real question is how awful that IF defense will be. Prince-Raburn-Peralta-Cabrera has a serious chance at being the worst IF defense of all time.

Especially considering that this dude played third 60 lbs ago.

It would be pretty astounding to see what Verlander would do with a good defense, but as it stands the defense shouldn’t affect him too much. He probably won’t be as great as his 2011 season, but he’ll still be a Cy Young candidate in 2012. The rotation guy that might suffer is Doug Fister. Verlander and Scherzer both strikeout batters at an above average clip, but Fister’s career SO/9 is 5.5. He upped it to 7.3 in 70 ip with the Tigers, but I would expect that rate to fall. The ‘pen is solid and a name to look for is Daniel Schlereth. If he can gain some semblance of control he can become a high leverage pitcher.

2. KC Royals – It’s hard to predict a 2nd place finish for a team that boasts Bruce Chen in it’s rotation, but here they are, on the back of what should be a rather impressive offense. The kids can play, Hosmer is legit and should emerge as KC’s best player overall this year. Alex Gordon is going to be a great leadoff hitter this year, and Moustakas should make some positive gains at the big league level this year. The question with this team is when will the pitching help get here? All of their starters are projected to be below average this year, the only pitcher that may be worth his salt will be Jonathan Sanchez. Daniel Duffy is a few years away and like I said, Bruce Chen is an important part of this rotation. A lot of what this team does moving forward will depend on what they can do to solidify the starters. The bullpen has some names to keep an eye on, but losing Joakim Soria hurts. I think the Royals take a major step forward but the rotation will hold them back from competing for a wild card spot.

3. Cleveland Indians – Carlos Santana is the damn truth. He will emerge as the best catcher in baseball this year. He’s great with the stick and he’s a good defender. The Indians should surprise people this year, but a bad offense will keep them from really making noise in the central. Shin-Soo Choo is key for the Tribe. If he can get back on his star track this year the Indians can scare the Tigers for a few months. If not, the Indians will be relegated to fending off the Sox and the Twins in third place. Ubaldo Jimenez won’t be competing for Cy Young’s anymore, but he is a solid top of the rotation pitcher. He should emerge as the ace over Justin Masterson this year. Josh Tomlin needs to increase his K rate to his minor league levels to have a breakout year, but he should still remain as a decent mid-rotation option. The Bullpen will keep this team from being a complete cellar dweller.

4. Chicago White Sox – It’s not an awful rotation. Danks should have a rebound year, Gavin is a candidate to have a great year, Chris Sale will make some noise in the rotation, but their success or failure all depends on the offense. Adam Dunn was historically bad and that saved Alex Rios from more criticism. Gordon Beckham lost his swing and will have a difficult time getting it back. AJ Pierzynski is hitting second in the lineup. Brent Morel will get significant playing time. It’s just a bad offense. Dunn should rebound somewhat, he’s currently crushing fastballs which is a good sign considering how slow his bat looked last year. Dayan Viciedo has light tower power but we have to wait and see how his game translates in the MLB. Rios is likely to hit 3rd for most of the season. The Sox have too many questions regarding the offense to be a serious contender, you have to hit HR’s in the Cell to compete, because everyone else will.

5. Minnesota Twins – This team is awful. Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham will carry the load on offense, and their pitching rotation will be flat out awful. Carl Pavano’s K-rate might dip below 4 this year. They have no frontline starter in their rotation. The bullpen will be using gasoline to put out the fires this year, there’s little help down on the farm, Justin Morneau is probably done playing baseball, they will be in the cellar this year. They have a long rebuild ahead of them and Gardy should probably get fired this year.

The tournament’s just not that into you. It’s not you, it’s it. The tournament does not care about your crazy Cinderella stories and upset specials. Early on, yes, it was exciting. That’s when unsuspecting top seeds are supposed to get upended by upstarts trying, no dying, to make a splash and instantly put a new program on the map. Lehigh became only the fifth #15 seed to beat a #2 when they beat Duke this year. When that happened, you guys were still in that “can’t keep your hands off of each other, hot and heavy” phase. The tournament was expectedly exhilarating. It had you tuning in to games on three or four channels. You were bending over backwards to make sure you didn’t miss any of the action.

But you guys settled into sort of an annual, predictable rut. Turns out that the exciting tournament you fell in love with for its craziness and spontaneity was just a regular, boring ole tournamental showcase for the NCAA’s elite programs again. These elite programs continue to trump all the initial madness, triumphing over all the smaller conferences, mid-majors, and majorly unequipped programs to claim championship after championship. Once you get past the Sweet 16, the shocks dissipate, and what we’re left with is another notch on the belt for a top ranked program.

The most recent surprise to win it all? That would be Villanova as a #8 seed back in 1985. Since then, there have been 26 champions-16 of them were #1 seeds in their respective region. 4 were #2 seeds. 4 were #3 seeds. One was a #4 seed: Mike Bibby and Miles Simon’s (yes, THEE Miles Simon) Arizona Wildcats from 1997. The other was Danny Manning and Larry Brown’s Kansas Jayhawks from 1988, who won it all under the moniker Danny and The Miracles as a #6 seed.

For anyone who thinks the gap is anywhere near being bridged between major powerhouse programs and the wannabe up and comers, look around. Hi, I’m reality. Have we met? Baylor had a nice little regular season, but Brittney Griner and the Lady Bears might give them a run if it ever came down to it. Butler almost beat Duke a couple years ago in the Final, but come on. It’s Duke. They’re always susceptible to a loss in March. VCU made the Final Four last year, but they lost to Indiana in the second round this year. The aforementioned Butler actually had consecutive Final Four appearances leading up to this year, and this year ended up in the College Basketball Invitational. These two budding programs (Butler and VCU) are actually getting more attention this time of year for their coaches, baby faced Brad Stephens and frenetic Shaka Smart, deciding not to fill the head coaching vacancy at Illinois. The lack of a sustained effort over the course of time for these, and I use the term loosely, underprivileged schools makes for nice symbolism for their inability to break through the rigamaro of the tourney to win a national title. It’s a lot like the real life scenario when trying to get a job in your chosen industry: “Well, your resume looks good, but you don’t have any experience.” Bitch, how am I supposed to get any experience in the industry if you won’t give me the experience? How are these schools supposed to recruit without any credibility as national champions? They’re fighting a losing battle. Some high school graduates choose Purdue for engineering, Harvard to become President, West Point to take over the military, or Oxford to hone their scholarly crafts. Other high school graduates go to Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, or UCLA to play basketball (Disclaimer: the author is well-aware of every mentioned university’s academic achievements in addition to their sports accolades; this is a sports site though, after all).

The real madness lies in the fact that these student athletes are not allowed to reap any of the financial benefits until after leaving school and turning pro. Enter John Calipari. Those aforementioned high school seniors deciding where to attend college? If they desire to cash checks signed by David Stern and the NBA, they go wherever John Calipari is strolling the sidelines. He’s done it at UMass, Memphis, and now Kentucky. Rick Pitino has done it in four different decades. Bill Self has done it at Illinois and Kansas, and Thad Matta has done it twice now with Ohio State. Getting to the Final Four is one thing. Being the Final One is what it’s all about, but once again it’s going to be a well-known, already reputable school who will be the beat the bracket

This year, the teams that were supposed to be here are here. It’s not quite a 2008 situation when all four #1 seeds advanced to the Final Four, but Kentucky at #1, Ohio State and Kansas at #2, and Louisville at #4 is relatively…sane. These four powerhouse programs have a combined 20 Final Four appearances. Insane.

Looking back on your relationship with the NCAA Tournament though, it never was all that mad. The initial rounds provide some spark, but the top seeds who inevitably fizzle out are somewhat usual suspects to begin with (ahem, Duke, ahem). The Final Four is, and should be, reserved for the upper-echelon basketball programs who were ranked in the top ten all year for a reason. The SaniTERRYum is reserved for some semblance of madness, but March’s spark is fizzling fast.

That’s the beauty of March Madness: anything can happen. Only when reality sinks in do people realize that it usually doesn’t.

Many Silly Things #3

Posted: March 27, 2012 by Mat Festa in Comics, Misc
Tags: , , , , ,

by Mauricio Rubio Jr.
Email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
Twitter: MRubio52 

The Chicago Bulls have amassed a rather impressive record without their star recently, showing the trademark determination that has made them a force in the regular season over the past 2 seasons. It’s been an odd year, and most teams have been bit by the weird season bug. The Heat have lost big in back to back games; the Knicks went through their odd mid season crisis when Melo came back to play with Lin, Vinny’s Clippers hit a mid-season mire that might cost him his job. All in all, teams have gone through slumps and at various points their local medias have hit the panic button.

I guess it’s Chicago’s turn.

The Bulls got drubbed by a faster, more willing Denver team which came after the Bulls barely escaped with a win against Toronto (thank you Deng). After an 8-0 run to start the game the Bulls were outscored 108-83. Usually this is a game where Derrick Rose comes in to completely bail you out or does enough to keep it close. As well as Lucas and Watson have played of late, Rose has a tendency to control the tempo. He understands what pace the Bulls need to play to be successful, and regardless of what out-of-town-stupid talking head says about his game, the ball moves better when Rose is out there.

That’s what it looks like when Rose isn’t out there to bail you out. Anyone that is mitigating the importance of Rose to this team because they’ve shown great determination in winning without him is delusional. Deng is hurt, and his shot is pretty much done for the season. Rip Hamilton will likely never be healthy this year. Brewer is inconsistent offensively. Noah has an ugly jumpshot that does go in sometimes, but he gets to passive on defense sometimes. I’m taller than John Lucas III.

Let me break some news here, the Bulls need Derrick Rose if they want to do anything significant. Don’t listen to the bullshit arguments about him not being a true point or whatever people want to say to be controversial. Understand that Rose is the best player on the floor most nights and that the Bulls won 6 rings without a traditional point guard before, and they can do so again. The best players in this league have the ball. Basketball is a sport where you can do that relatively easy and on a consistent basis.

The Bulls have designed an offense where the point guard carries the scoring load, yet Rose was still at 8 APG on the nose. I can’t believe that I have to sit here and type that Derrick Rose makes his team better, but damnit people, stop listening to stupid and understand that Rose makes his team better. The myth that the Bulls move the ball better without Rose started most likely with Skip Bayless, and it’s been growing some odd support as detractors pointed to the Bulls record and their win over the Heat as proof that they’re better without Rose

Stop being stupid.

What you need to understand is that Tommy Thibs is the best damn coach in the game, he should win his second Coach of the Year award. His end of game substitution patterns have been masterwork all year long. He’s unafraid to bench the highest paid players on the team if they aren’t performing and his defensive teachings have turned the Bulls into a juggernaut defense. It’s impressive when it’s on.

There’s only so much energy you can expend in a game before it starts catching up to you. The Bulls have grinded out maximum effort wins lately, but last night the Nuggets beat the shit out of them. We all need Rose to come back healthy, because the playoffs are looming and this team can’t be exhausted then.

by Mauricio Rubio Jr.
Email:
 mr@99sportsproblems.com
Twitter: @MRubio52 

Part one, which focuses on the infield, can be found here.

Part two, which focuses on the outfield, can be found here.

Pitchers

1. Matt Garza – It’s unfortunate that Garza is a legitimate ace because the Cubs aren’t ready to reward his talent. He’ll be 28 this year and he’s an absolute stud. There’s been a lot of talk that the cubs need to trade Garza and get a good haul of prospects back for him. I’m moving into the camp that thinks it’s not absolutely necessary. I wouldn’t be mad if it did happen, but I think that Garza will still be effective into his mid 30’s when the Cubs should be ready to compete. He won’t ever be considered an elite pitcher due to his penchant to give up the home run, but you can certainly make the argument that he should be. He’s actually maintained velocity on his fastball, but he works his offspeed stuff well enough that a slight dip won’t matter.

Matt Garza's velocity

2. Carlos Marmol – Marmol will always played a dangerous game with the base on balls, but it’s crawling into scary territory now. His historic 2010 season was probably him at his peak, and I believe the Cubs would have done well to trade him then. Marmol’s top comp has always been Rob Dibble. That’s kind of an issue because Dibble’s production fell off the table at age 28 and was done with baseball at age 31. Marmol’s production did taper off in 2011, his age 28 season, as he didn’t induce more batters to swing at his White Castle Slider (it’ll make you shit your pants). That’s the issue with slider dominant relievers that rely on the strikeout, the careers are short as batters just lay off the garbage. He’s losing velocity on his fastball as well and the window to trade him may have closed already.

Marmol's velocity

3. Ryan Dempster – I don’t like the guy’s personality and I think too many fans give him a free pass because he’s “funny.” He caught very little grief for being a no-show to the 2008 playoffs and that really turned me off to the dude. All that being said he’s a decent middle of the rotation option for contending teams, but on the Cubs he starts opening day. Don’t look at the ERA from last year too much, bad defense was to blame for being over 4, but if the Cubs are looking to get any value from him they need to move him now. He’s a crafty righty who mixes pitches well enough to be solid, but his average stuff keeps him from being elite.

4. Jeff Samardzija – Just when you think you can ridicule a product from Notre Dame and write him off completely, he comes around and does that for an entire season. I remember this being the one draft pick and subsequent signing that made me start hating Hendry. He’s confounding, he never was a strikeout artist in the minors, but he almost struck out a batter per inning in the majors. He’s always had a good fastball, but he learned a cutter last season and relied less on the heat with good results.

So of course it makes sense that he’s competing for a rotation slot and has a decent chance of winning the job. I don’t know what to make of him anymore, he wasn’t worth the money that Hendry dished out to him, but his second career as a starter, which was what he was drafted as to begin with, might actually be successful.

5. Paul Maholm – He doesn’t strike anyone out and he gives up a lot of hits. That’s a bad combo for any pitcher, but it’ll be especially bad for Maholm in a Cubs uni. The Cubs defense is still trying to improve and it won’t do any favors for a Livan Hernandez like pitcher. Maholm isn’t quite the workhorse that Livan was, and he can’t handle the bat like him either. Maholm shouldn’t last long with the Cubs, he’s effectively holding the spot for someone else.

6. Travis Wood – He was much better in 2010 than he was in 2011 when he became much more hittable and saw his K-rate get slashed. LoMo vouches for Wood’s stuff, but as we all know, baseball is one big nasty game of adjustments. The league clearly adjusted to Wood and the tape is out on him, it’s up to Travis to adjust back. He’ll need to if he wants to find significant big league success. He’ll be 25 this year.

7. Chris Volstad – He’s slowly been lowering his walk rate and he posted the highest strikeout rate of his young major league career last year, but he was more hittable than ever in 2011 and he saw an uptick in his HR/9 ratio. That’s a bad combo for the Cubs. Volstad filled out physically last year, but his stuff didn’t. He’s likely to make the rotation, but the 25 year old will need to work hard to avoid the “Rotation Filler” tag that he seems destined to acquire.

8. Randy Wells – Remember him? There were the whispers that he was enjoying the North Side night life a little too much in 2010 and the allegations carried into 2011. He’s not fooling anyone with his stuff and his walk rate has been climbing since 2009. He was blasted for 23 HR’s in 135 ip last year, that’s awful. He’s a curious case and he’s going to have to find some answers in 2012 if he wants to stick around with the big club.

9. Marcos Mateo – There’s a lot of ifs with Mateo. If he’s healthy and if he can cut his contact rate, he can close if Marmol implodes. He has a good strikeout rate for a late inning reliever, but he doesn’t avoid many bats yet. He has the stuff, and he has moderate command, if he takes a step forward he can be a sleeper candidate for the closer’s role moving forward in a post-Marmol time. At the time of this writing an MRI showed no damage to his elbow but he is getting shut down for 10 days.

10. Trey McNutt – I was a fan of the McNutt experience since he was drafted, but as we all should know, AA ball is nut cutting time for prospects, and McNutt looks lost there. He needs a third pitch (and eventually a fourth) to deliever on his SP promise, but the first item on the docket is to find his mechanics again. McNutt still has age on his side, but as Chili Davis once said, “Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.” Time to grow up, McNutt.

11. Jay Jackson – Jackson has been sliding backwards since his promotion to AA in 2009. If he ever figures “it” out, he can be a useful back of the rotation option, but for now he looks like a reliever. Jackson has average stuff and a plus fastball, but he has a good combo of pitches that would be more useful in the rotation than in the pen.

12. Kerry Wood – This speaks more to the lack of organizational depth than Kerry Wood’s importance to the 2012 Cubs. I like Wood, I always have. He was a warrior and he wanted to be out there, but his body consistently failed him as he threw with an unhealthy delivery that cut his career down. He’ll be solid in 2012, but he’s likely to be done after that. I don’t know why the Cubs resigned Wood, I won’t complain too much about it since he’s a cheapish option for the ‘pen, but he won’t be on the next Cubs contender.

Synopsis

This organization is pretty bare. It’s not on the level of the White Sox (that’s not a shot kids, the Sox system is universally panned as the worst in baseball), but there isn’t a lot of help down on the farm that can compete for starting jobs. Jay Jackson is a significant prospect in the system, and that’s an issue. As for the big league club, they will struggle to win 72 games this year. The future of this team lies in the amateur drafts that take place in June. The Cubs need pitching help the most as the system is noticeably bare of impact SP talent. Effective relievers can be found through various means, but finding a solid #1 or #2 starter is difficult. The makeup of this team should be drastically different by September as Cub fans should be introduced to young talent that can make a difference at the Major League level. Anthony Rizzo is the best prospect on the team in my opinion, and his call up date should be around May-June, depending on what Bryan LaHair is up to. Brett Jackson should be a star, but not necessarily a superstar. I would be happy with his development if he ended up being Curtis Granderson before the HR explosion, or Mike Cameron.  Trey McNutt is the best pitching prospect with the departure of Cashner and Carpenter, and that’s worrisome. Dillon Maples is a name to pay attention to, but he is yet to make his pro debut.

There’s a lot of work to do, but I do trust in TheoCo. to get it done.

I used to be a Cubs fan. That is to say, I used to care if they won or lost. I’m pretty sure that constitutes some part of fandom. Honestly, I liked the Braves more as a kid. I begged my dad for one of those awesome red and blue hats with a curved “A” on the front for two years. I had pretty much picked them at random though, and they happened to be a great team at the time. So there was that. But there was never a reason for liking the Cubs other than them being from my neck of the woods. I never felt a connection with the team until I reached my late teens and early 20’s. Perhaps it was the fact that as a teenager I felt like I was in a rut. There wasn’t much going on to make me feel like I had a future. Sound like any baseball team we know? Sure there were some star players, Mark Grace being one of my favorite first basemen of all time (Can we get a hall of fame recount?), but there was never a real feeling that victory could be ours. It was all just for show, and maybe some ticket sales.

 There was always hope.

Baseball’s currency is doled out in hopes and dreams. At the end of the day, the Cubs are pretty much always the biggest spenders with the least to show for it. The phrase, “next season” may have started with the Brooklyn Dodgers or the Red Sox, but the Cubs wear it like a “dunce” cap. “This is the year” is an equally comical codpiece. Even now, in a season that every sensible baseball fan knows is a throwaway rebuilding year, there are people preaching about a possible playoff appearance. What the fuck are they thinking? That’s why people laugh at Cubs fans. In 2003 when the Cubs basically shot themselves in every foot they could during the playoffs, and blamed some poor fan, I had pretty much had it with being one of their fans. I didn’t even want to be associated with those people. It just got so ugly and hateful. I felt like Cubs fans were a crew of Goonies if they had all been Chunk. It was fucking awful, half a city screaming and crying as if their chubby fingers were inches from some rusty blender blades.

But still, I watched. I kept on being a “fan” and hated every minute of it. I actually found myself smiling (sometimes giggling) every time Sosa struck out, as if his every whiff was proof that the natural order of things remained perfectly in line. Then on Saturday October 6th 2007, though I conveniently had another, I threw my favorite Cubs hat into the warehouse trash compactor at the hospital I worked at towards the end of my shift. The Cubs had just lost the division series against the Diamondbacks, three games to zero. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the team that was cursed, it was the fans and the only way to break that curse was to stop watching them. If the 1994 strike had forever ruined my inner baseball child, being a Cubs fan in the time since crammed it into a coffin, slapped a White Sox “2005 World Series Champions” bumper sticker on it, and lowered it into the cold dark earth.


So I did the unthinkable. After nearly 20 years of being a fan of all things baseball, I quit. I stopped paying attention. It didn’t matter anymore. The team I chose to follow was a horrible heart eating monster that wouldn’t stop until I had given it everything. Then it would walk away with my pride in its roided out gorilla hand and finish another season under .500. Fuck that shit.

 It lives…

But I couldn’t ever really let it go. I still loved the game, even if I hated some things that were happening in it. I played All Star Baseball 2003 obsessively for seven years after it came out, as the expansion sensation Indiana Outlaws, building up a team that would rival the great champions of yesterday. I had Ricky Henderson’s ancient ass leading off at the age of 45 and he played 5 seasons with my team, batting .345 with around 40 stolen bases a season until 2008. Fred McGriff, Greg Maddux, and Craig Counsel made up the rest of this come-from-nowhere unstoppable force that I wished the Cubs could be. (Counsel coincidentally lead my league in on base percentage every season until retiring in 2006. Perhaps he should have been given more at-bats in real life?) For all my trying I couldn’t stay away, and I knew baseball was waiting for me, if I ever wanted to hang out again.

Then I met Mo. That jerk loves baseball. He loves it in the way I used to as a child and he’s a grown ass man. He made me feel icky. His love of the game reminded me how much I had enjoyed it and how much fun we had together. It made me feel like I had abandoned a good friend. I just threw baseball in the trash compactor at work and crushed it. So I started paying attention again. I found a changed game. One that, free from any players I knew, wasn’t so bad. It was hard at first. I still had hurt feelings. I was still pretty butt hurt about all the cheating it did. Especially Bonds and McGwire. Fuck Those guys. Eventually, and most recently because of fantasy baseball, I began to like it again. Baseball and I were on good terms. Being civil and all that.

I’m not quite ready to be a Cubs fan yet.

So here I am, all excited for a new baseball season, but there’s a catch. I don’t really have a team to root for. Sure I could join Raul and be a Sox fan, but that wouldn’t feel right. Don’t get me wrong, I like watching the White Sox. I get happy when they win. I get disappointed when they lose, but they don’t feel like they are my team. If you have to try to like something, it’s not meant to be. I could jump on the Marlins’ ship and support the possible one hit wonder they have going on there, but even that feels cheep. Atlanta doesn’t feel the same anymore either, so what’s an estranged baseball fan to do?

As I said before, the Cubs have always been free and easy when it comes to dealing out hopes and dreams. Even now with Theo, I’m skeptical. I don’t know the deal with all these prospects they have. I don’t know if Garza is going to be any good in a year or two. I don’t know if Rizzo or Jackson are going to be worth a nickle, ever. Neither does anybody else honestly, so don’t hate me for being initially unimpressed. I’ve been out of the Cubs loop. I like Theo. He says and does good things. There’s a track record to justify any optimism someone may be inclined to feel. I just don’t want to get hurt again.

 The guys have talked about the bandwagon fan before on the podcast and I agree with their collective opinion that bandwagon fans don’t really exist. But I would be a liar if I didn’t say for all my hatred and anger, baseball angst and regret, for all my idiocy and wasted time, I’ll be the first true bandwagon fan if that bastard Epstein can pull it off. I’ll buy a rude custom jersey, a new hat, and jump for joy in the streets of Wrigleyville if the Cubs even make the playoffs in the next five years. Until then, I’ll be watching other teams. I’ll be playing MLB The Show. I’ll be pretending I know what I’m doing in fantasy baseball, stacking up catchers and talking shit the whole time. But only until they prove that those hopes and dreams they’ve been squandering all these years were worth it. Maybe then, and only then, can I truly be a Cubs fan again. Some people may think that’s shallow, that I’m a fair weather fan, but all relationships are give and take. Cubs fans have been doing all the giving for a century. It’s about time they got something in return.

Email me @ virtualsportsman@gmail.com

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