Archive for July, 2012

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by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Ryan Dempster and his sandy vagina

This past week, the Cubs and Braves agreed to a trade.  Cubs free agent-to-be pitcher Ryan Dempster was to be dealt to the Braves for highly regarded pitching prospect Randall Delgado.  The common thought amongst those of us who pay serious attention to baseball and it’s inner workings was that the Cubs would be lucky to get merely a solid prospect for Dempster.  At 35 years old and having a career year,  Dempster has somewhat limited trade value.  He is basically a rental player for whoever trades for him, unless that team either signs him to an extension or re-signs him after the season.  With little more than two months left in the season, roughly 60 games, Dempster could be expected to make about 12 starts for his new team, assuming a 5 man rotation.  12 starts isn’t a whole lot, which is why we didn’t expect much more than what we did.  But there was a snag…

The snag was the fact that Dempster is a 10/5 guy….he’s been in the majors for 10 years, the last 5 with the same team.  This gives him automatic veto power over ANY trade the Cubs wished to make.  This is in the standard player contract and has been collectively bargained.  It’s been around for decades and has been worked around for just as long.  Players generally okay a deal to a desirable team or for a contract extension.  Dempster was asked about waiving his 10/5 rights and agreed to consider being traded to a contender.

We all figured Dempster would be traded this season and the weeks dragged on as TheoCo sought out the best deal.  A possible deal with the Dodgers kind of died on the vine as L.A. wouldn’t part with top prospect Zach Lee.  This wasn’t a shock for the reasons I’ve covered.   But from nowhere, the Braves were being mentioned as a possible trade partner.  In what seemed like no time at all, a deal was hammered out with the Braves, a contender currently in 2nd place in the NL East.    The news of the trade broke somewhat prematurely on Monday afternoon on the Braves website.  The big issue?  Dempster hadn’t yet waived the 10/5 clause.  Well, we figured, this was nothing that would be an issue.

Wrong.

Dempster was taking a nap before the game in Pittsburgh that night and awoke to his phone blowing up with texts and voicemails.  It seems everyone he knew was calling for the scoop or to offer congrats or whatever people do when someone they know gets traded.  As he figured out what had happened, he said he felt, “blind-sided”.  As the day went on, Cubs fans eagerly awaited the news that Dempster has agreed to the trade.  We did our homework on Delgado and what he’d bring to the table for us.  Let’s look at him a bit closer….

22 years old.  6′ 2″, 170.  RHP.  Rated by Baseball America 2012 as the #46 prospect in the game, #41 by Baseball Prospectus, #43 by ScoutingBook Combine.  This is from ScoutingBook’s own website…

A wiry power pitcher with three quality pitches and developing control, Randall Delgado looks every bit the part of a young phenom: some days he can blow hitters away, while on other days he looks lost on the mound. His fastball, which can touch 95, lives more in the 92mph range with significant late movement. He got a look at the Braves big club in 2011, and he should get a much longer look in 2012. Depending on how beat up the major league staff is in midsummer, he could even get a call to stay.

Sounds like a steal for TheoCo, right?  I mean, surely this was a masterstroke!!!  There is no WAY that a prospect this solidly ranked with that much upside should have been exchanged for 12 starts of a pitcher on the downside of his career who is unsigned beyond 2012.  WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG AT THIS STAGE?  WAIVING THAT 10/5 CLAUSE IS A FORMALITY, RIGHT?

Again….wrong.

What happened is that Dempster decided to get a big wad of sand firmly entrenched in his vageen because the Braves stupidly leaked the news. He initially denied there was a trade.   He hemmed and hawed and decided he “needs to do what’s best for my family” and vetoed the trade.  In doing so, he scuttled what was a serious home run deal for TheoCo.  Dealing Dempster, doing us a favor by not pitching like his usual mediocre self, at peak value for OVER that value wasn’t an easy trick to manage I’m sure.  They caught a team in the hunt with a serious need for a pitcher with their pants down and fleeced them.  And Dempster fucked it all up because his little feelings were hurt.  By doing so, he was seen as a waffling, selfish asswipe who went back on his word.

I never have an issue with a player invoking his 10/5 rights or a flat no-trade clause due to family considerations.  A few years ago, the Cubs asked 1B Derrek Lee if he would accept a trade to the Angels (I think).  Lee, who has a daughter with a medical issue, said thanks, but he’d prefer to stay in Chicago.  Nobody said shit about it because Lee was up-front about not wanting to leave.  There was nothing more to be said about it.

The difference is that Dempster said he’d take a trade to a contender, Atlanta certainly being that.  What could be the big deal about going to Atlanta for two or three months?  Yes, he has a child with special needs as well as Lee did.  (Riley Dempster was born with DiGeorge syndrome a few years ago).   But why didn’t Dempster just tell TheoCo that he wouldn’t consider a deal?  That we could have understood.  Anyone would have.  But the story doesn’t end there.

Dempster has said he’d like to be dealt to the Dodgers, who courted a trade earlier as I stated.  His good buddy Ted Lilly is on the Dodgers and Dempster would like to be re-united with him to continue their bromance.  (For the record, that will be the last time you see me use anything with the prefix “bro” on it.  It’s so fucking stupid I’d like to de-ball the clown who got that off the ground.)  So let me get this straight, Ryan….Atlanta is bad for your family, but L.A. is a shining beacon of values and high standards or something?  Is that what’s best for them?

What a hypocrite.  All he did was probably lessen the return that the Cubs get, hurting the rebuilding process and keeping us that much further away from a championship.  The Dodgers already wouldn’t meet our asking price, so we know for a fact the return won’t be as highly valued as Delgado is.  Add in the fact Dempster pitched on Wednesday and his value has dropped a bit due to that very fact….it’s one less start his new team will get.  It’s maddening to see a respected player like Dempster go back on his word and inhibit the plan TheoCo have in place.  He has always said he’d do anything to help the Cubs, yet when push came to shove, he acted like a teenaged girl who got felt up at the movies and pitched a fit.

I, and others, have lost some serious respect for the guy after this.  His baseball card should have this picture on it as far as I’m concerned.

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

This is Part IV of IV. Here are parts I, II, and III.

An Oral Tradition

The Misadventures of Paulie

Moe, I get so much from reading these stories, thank you.

But I still can’t forgive you for being a CUBS fan. Reading over your stories, I was reminded of some of my earliest memories, both at Comiskey Park. The first one was that I was being held in my Tio Chava’s arms and I started to cry when the fireworks show started. Comiskey Park’s power was shut off with only the emergency lighting for the entrances to guide the way. Then giant BOOMS and CRASHES and holy hell came raining down. I held on to Tio so tight and wanted to go home, this was the summer of 1970 or 71.

The other memory involves your abuelo, he came home from work one day and told me that he was going to the game and I could go with him if I got ready ASAP. While he sat down to wolf down his dinner, I scrambled to no success to find my shoes. Crafty that I was I decided I wasn’t going to miss out on Sox game, so I walked down to the garage and opened the back passenger door to his Ford Station Wagon, light blue in color, and sat down in the backseat and just waited for him to take me. Next thing I remember I’m awaken by the same thunderous explosions that made me cry a couple years earlier, but this time I knew exactly what it was. Someone from the Sox hit a homer and the scoreboard went off, I didn’t know who hit it or what inning it was. All I knew was that I had missed my opportunity to go to the game. Between the time I sat down in the back of the Ford and the fireworks, I had fallen asleep, landed on the back floorboard, driven to the ballpark and your grandfather didn’t even know he had a stowaway. There I was stuck inside the family sedan, that was now parked deep inside a sea of cars (now lot C), trying to make sense of it all. Here I was no shoes, missing the ballgame and I was 3 years old.

Couple of innings came and went, I saw people laughing as they walk through the parking lot, I would immediately duck so no one would see me. Then finally I saw a figure coming toward me, from a distance I recognized his walk, his body shape, even his clothes, it was a-Pa, he had left the game early to get a jump on the crowd and leaving before the game ended. I sprang from the back seat to the front driver’s seat waiting for him the open up the door. When he did open the door he started asking me questions about what was I doing in the car? Was anyone with me? How did I get here, etc…. I don’t remember answering any of his questions, all I knew was that my little adventure to sneak off to the game didn’t quite work out as well as I hope for.

Many years later I’m in my mid 20′s and I was curious to my father’s take on the story. He recounted that he indeed left early and walking up to the Ford, and to his surprised he saw me jumping up and down on the seat. He was so surprised to see me and puzzled that he did a complete loop around the car looking for one of my tio’s to pop-up. He was convinced that one of the Tio’s was playing a practical joke on him, using me as a prop to mess with him. He said I did answer his question and I recounted everything that happened. On the way back home I sat in the front seat all the way to 25-O-5 house, he carried me all the way back up the stairs, again no shoes. At the time all I wanted to know from him was when was the next Sox game and if we planned on going?

-Tio Paulie

Uncle Ruben clears his name

Moe – Love the article and I appreciate the shout out to my kids. I too remember those times I got to go to games at Comiskey with your Abuelo. I’m glad to say that I have managed to take Maya to games (when she was 3 months old) and again when she was 6 years old. Nael hasn’t made it yet, but will.

As you know, your aunt Hina doesn’t get the whole Chicago White Sox and Cub (Yeah I wrote it in that order) ‘divide’ and more importantly she doesn’t like baseball (at all). But she did read (and enjoy) your article as well.

To all others I feel I must clear up some things:
1. We live in Austin, Texas not Houston. If you know both places, you know why that’s important. I expect an official correction.
2. I NEVER threw at you in wiffle ball. They are wiffle balls and you cannot control them. But you still needed to learn about who owns the inside part of the plate…

I’ve read part II already and now I understand why you strayed. Unfortunately, in 1998 I was then living in Houston and could not keep you from the ‘dark side.’

Oh yeah, and remember, ‘Karko is pretty fast for a catcher….’

-Tio Ruben

Family ties

Sitting in our office are two photographs from my youth. One is of Frank Thomas swinging off his front foot at a pitch low in the zone, the other is an autographed picture of Black Jack McDowell whose P’s look oddly familiar. I am indeed a Cubs fan, and an ardent supporter. I get teased about it in the family, but that comes with the territory. There are many things that I left out of this series, in the interest of time. Paulie, I do remember sitting underneath blankets in the upper deck of Comiskey as the temperature dropped to below 40. Ruben, after messing around with wiffle balls as an adult (and hitting a few friends), I can confirm, yeah those things are hard as hell to control. You’ll live on as a legend, however, in the same vein as Gibson and Pedro, a notorious head hunter willing to plunk his own young nephew to win the game. Them’s the breaks.

2003 and ever after

I was in a bar during game 4 of the 2005 World Series, taking pictures of the reactions that were sure to come. When Konerko raised his hands in celebration, I took a few pictures, then I went to a quiet place to call my uncle Pablo and congratulate him. I knew that somewhere, uncle Ruben was celebrating as well, and that fact was confirmed when he sent us a picture of him, in his White Sox uniform, posing for a company portrait. The engineering firm he worked/works for had a hand in building the Houston Astro’s Minute Maid Park. My uncle Ruben is a confirmed White Sox meatball.

2004 came and went, I was pretty numb to everything about that year. I had minor joy over the Maddux signing, the Garciaparra trade, but I couldn’t help but fight the feeling that the Cubs had missed catching lightning in a bottle.

I was right.

I won’t lie, I thought they would win in 2008, especially after an epic 5 day stretch against the Brewers late in the year. They had the best team in Major League baseball, and they had a World Series tested manager at the helm. It was the 100 year anniversary, I thought it would all fall into place.

I was wrong.

2009 was soul-sucking for a variety of reasons, most of them had to do with Milton Bradley. 2010 was forgettable and by 2011 I was settled in to a mindset that I would never see the Cubs win a World Series crown. I was on a plan to see my then girlfriend when Jim Hendry was fired, and then a few months later the Cubs hired Theo Epstein in the least Cub move of all time. Suddenly, there’s a plan in place.

I have hope.

Synopsis

Writing this has been therapeutic, and difficult. There’s a lot of buried emotion in those years, and there are a lot of things that I thought I forgot that, as it turns out, I’ll always remember. Walking the line on both sides of town has taught me two very important things: Stereotypes might begin with a nugget of truth, but they don’t always end up being true, and Chicago sports fans are the “most” of any fan I’ve run across. The most ardent, the most craven, the most defensive, the most intelligent, the most meatballish, and on and on. The smartest baseball mind I’ve run across in my very young journey belongs to a Cubs fan, our own Tony Leva (we would destroy trivia). Cubs fans aren’t associated with being knowledgeable about baseball for various reasons, I like to think our circle of Cub fan friends breaks that stereotype.

Cubs culture is bothersome, I hate “Go Cubs Win,” I dislike the cute bullshit that they do sometimes, but I fell in love with a team because of the product on the field, not the culture in the seats. The North Side is a completely different city than the South Side. White Sox fandom is passed down generation to generation. Old prejudices die hard with White Sox fans. The Cubs attract fans from everywhere, and that is due to both the neighborhood they inhabit, the WGN contract they have, and the ballpark. Wrigley gets a bad rep from us here at CAD T. WASP. I wouldn’t become despondent if the park was torn down to better the club, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be sad about it. It is a great place to watch a game, the simplicity of the park is what makes it for me, the baseball fan. If I had a family with young kids, I would go to Comiskey more often than not, there’s a lot for kids to do there. When I just want to watch a game, however, I love going to Wrigley. It’s not bombarding you with crap quite yet. It is a baseball monument, and there is a lot of history in that park, even if most of it is bad history.

White Sox culture is different than Cubs culture seems so obvious, but really the major difference is that we as fans worship different gods. We like to make out like one fandom is better than the other, but that doesn’t get to the heart of it. We are Chicagoans, and when Chicago roots for baseball, we do so in a language all our own. To talk baseball with a Chicagoan is to talk about the past, present, and the future. A true Chicago baseball fan honors the ghosts of the past with equal parts fear and respect. The White Sox honor the dead, the Cubs fear them. The White Sox god can be seen as cruel, but the Cubs god is a wrathful bitch loaded with all the right ammunition to take out the hopes and dreams of a fandom. In the end the baseball gods of Chicago are a fickle lot, sometimes you’re on your way to surpassing Rajah as the best right handed hitter of all time, only to have it taken from you mysteriously in the years that should be your prime, other times you’re a young pitcher under the tutelage of a sadistic manager who loves seeing triple digit pitch counts, snuffing out your flame twice as fast for it burned twice as bright. 

In 2005 a major portion of my family ended their wait. I saw the parade downtown, I saw the mass of people coming out to celebrate a Sox World Series. I saw the weight lifted from people as the trophy came around. I saw pure, unadulterated, baseball joy.

I’m still waiting for that moment.

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

This is part III of a IV part series on Chicago baseball through my eyes. Here are Parts I and II.

Family Secrets

I never knew my grandfather as a White Sox fan until the last stages of his life. You see, growing up I only saw my grandfather watch Cubs games. This has been explained to me in several ways, which I always felt fell short of the truth. It’s easy to peg my grandfather as a simple man if you just looked at the facts of his life without experiencing any of them. He was a carpenter, he raised a family, a very successful and loving family at that, he was loyal and he loved his life. There’s a complexity to him that I never understood until I got older. I took a lot of his wisdom for granted, and looking back in hindsight, I can see that he was anything but simple. In previous posts I outlined how my grandfather was, in his own way, a big White Sox fan. He was, at his heart, a historian and perhaps that’s why I am so drawn to the past. As the layman historian he used to drop facts on me all the time. They were always on a wide array of topics. By trade he was a carpenter, to me (and the rest of the family, I’m sure) he was a sage. He told me once that he used to be young, reckless, and dumb. I can’t really imagine the last two parts.  He was smart, he was compassionate, he was a socialist that liked Reagan, a Catholic with big family values that loved Bill Clinton, he spoke with an accent but he had an incredible command of the intricacies and nuances of the English language.

In short, Abuelo was a badass, and I seriously doubt he was capable of hating a sports team. Sure, the White Sox moved to cable and he wasn’t about paying for TV, so it made sense that he stuck with the Cubs who stuck with WGN. I’ll maintain that he enjoyed both the Cubs and the White Sox, albeit at different stages in his life.

So, when I would cross from the air-conditioned back half of the house into the sauna that was the front room/”Master Bedroom,” I would hear Harry Caray announcing a Cubs game. I never hated them. I wasn’t aware that you were supposed to hate them. I didn’t know about the light/dark side because, well, grandpa watched them, so how bad could they be?

I’d find out soon enough.

Flirting with the dark side.

I stayed home on May 6, 1998. I forget the excuse, but I remember the reason. The Cubs were trotting out some pitcher whose career would come to define Cubdom for a generation, for better and worse. I was young, only 12, and I didn’t appreciate it the way that I would have if had happened in my 20’s. Kerry Wood is a polarizing figure in Chicago, for both sides of town. There is a faction that despises Kid-K, and I get that. He never lived up to what could have been and perhaps more importantly he is/was a symbol of all that was wrong with Cubbiedom.

I can’t hate the man. While he wasn’t the only reason I crossed the Sox-Cubs battle line, he was a major part of the eventual shift. You see, on May 6, 1998, Kerry Wood was, for 9 innings, the most dominant sunuvabitch that ever took the mound. I didn’t realize it then, I wouldn’t realize it until much later when I heard Steve Stone say that not even the ’27 Yankees would’ve hit Kerry Wood, but that man put on the pitching performance of my lifetime. I haven’t seen anything quite like that. 

[youtube http://youtu.be/RB3mcrWY6GM]
This video is both everything that is great and awful about Cubdom

Kerry Wood struck out 20. It wasn’t a perfect game, he gave up a hit (fuck you, Kevin Orie) and hit a batter, but to this day, I’ve never seen a pitcher fool batters that way. That video shows the final pitches of strikeouts, what you’re missing is how he set those guys up all day. I’ve watched the replay recently, and it was beautiful to watch him set up guys with tailing fastballs and finish them with a slider from hell.

Just like that, in the span of 9 innings, I was hooked. Sosa really just drew the line in. A lot of people came back to baseball because of the great, fake HR chase of ’98. I came back in full swing because I was ready to. Truth be told, I missed baseball a lot. It so happened that the Cubs were infinitely more fun than the White Sox that year. I grew to learn new names, a new branch of history, a new side of baseball that I wasn’t aware of. I traded the Black and Gray for Blue and Red, and I thought that 1998 was how it was going to be every year for the Cubs.

I was a kid, and kids are stupid about things like that. Kids take things for granted, they don’t understand the importance of certain events, or how special a one year run is. That’s fine, kids are supposed to be stupid about things like that because they’re too busy being kids. As a stupid kid, I even figured it would be fine to wear my brand new Marshall’s Cubs hat to my grandfather’s house as my Uncle, the White Sox superfan that lives in Austin (not Houston as I previously stated) was visiting. Why would he hate the Cubs?

What is that on your head?

I was an idiot. My personal introduction into the battle of Cubs vs. Sox was initiated by the look of bewilderment and disappointment that my Uncle Ruben gave me when I walked in wearing a blue hat with a red C on it. I walked into the same house where he let me recreate John Paxson’s shot with using a nerf ball and the oven timer, where we played wiffle, where he brought home baseball card packs and comic books for me, wearing enemy colors and I had no idea.

It is such an awful and quiet thing to fall…but far more terrible is to admit it.

The silence lasted for 2 seconds before he launched into me. I don’t remember exactly what was said, and it wasn’t profane or angry, it was genuine disappointment. For some reason, I was allowed to survive that ordeal, albeit as a baseball outcast. I learned a lot in those few months, as Sammy and Mac were launching meaningless home run after meaningless home run. I learned that there is a real hatred between some White Sox fans and some Cubs fans. I learned that once you cross over, you can never come back. I learned that I didn’t really want to either, that I was happy to be a Cubs fan, but most of what I learned was in hindsight. No one is ever really happy about being a Cubs fan. We cherish the high moments, sure, but for the most part being a Cubs fan is about pain. I’ve felt that pain, but it’s nowhere near the same level as others have felt it.

The pain is generational, it is inherent, it has delivered for 100+ years and will continue to do so for at least another 5. I didn’t know any of that. I didn’t know that I would become ostracized. I didn’t know that the Cubs didn’t have a prayer against the Braves that year. I didn’t know that wearing the other colors opened me up for all the jabs that would come later.

I should have.

Abuelo, the White Sox fan.

For about 2 years I got to watch Cubs games with my grandfather. It would be a sweltering summer day, they would be on in the afternoon, and I would brave the heat of his room to sit at the foot of the bed and watch Sammy and friends bash their way to a Wild Card berth. He was the one that educated me on Greg Maddux and the unfortunate defection that was to be blamed on Cubs management. He let me know about Mark Grace and Rod Beck. He gave me a crash course on Cubs history during those days. I was in church when the Cubs finally relented and lost game 3 to the Braves. I figured they would improve next year and be back. Like I said, I was a kid and took these things for granted.

1999 was utterly forgettable and should have been a sign of things to come. I was still a Sosa fan, so I followed his success and cheered him on. I followed the home run race in 1998 very closely. Somewhere I have a video tape of the line shot to left field that McGwire hit to beat Maris. I remember that the Maris family was in the house for it, and I remember him crying and hugging the family. I remember it was the Human Rain Delay, Steve Trachsel that gave up #62, I remember Sosa coming in and celebrating with Mark, and I remember being happy that I saw history. I thought I was watching a living legend in 1999 and that was enough to carry me through the year.

My grandfather was diagnosed with cancer at some point in 2000. Andrew Welebir said that I have a steel trap mind, and for the most part that’s true, but for me, 2000 was a blur. I don’t recall the exact dates of when stuff happened, I just remember the events, the hushed voices of the adults as they talked about what to do next. The stories of what had happened to my grandfather recently. My memories of my grandfather are herculean. He used to play catch with me bare handed. He had massive hands and he was apparently a great baseball player in Mexico. He knew how to do everything around the house. I learned that from pitching in every so often over the summer. He was crafty with a bit of a mean streak, he used to grease up the guard rails in front so that the kids wouldn’t sit on them. He put nails on top of our wooden fence so no one would try to jump it. Once, somebody blocked our garage so that my mother couldn’t park in it. Well, he went to the car, popped the hood somehow, and punched holes in the radiator with a screw driver. Another time my grandmother sent me to give him his coffee, which he took black with sugar. I was 4 and I couldn’t find him. So, I saw that the ladder was out, which meant that he was on the roof of our 3 story house. Naturally I left the coffee below and climbed the ladder after him to tell him that his coffee was there. All 3 stories. They say that he panicked at first, but I doubt it. He got me back to safety, unhurt, and never made a big deal about it. He was smart, crafty, and he had a huge heart. He had a deep voice that was laced with 50 years of cigs, and in the end that was his undoing.

I wasn’t alarmed until I heard that he fell from a ladder. Grandpa never falls from a ladder. He skin color changed. He stopped moving as well. My entire family had scattered to different parts of the US, and everyone started flying back in. Everything after that, was a blur. I remember the long nights of visits as relatives I hadn’t seen in years came pouring into the house to say their last goodbyes.

There wasn’t much happiness during that time. The one, shining beacon that I recall about September of 2000 is that grandpa got to watch a White Sox game with his boys, Ruben and Pablo. Now, there are many lessons to be taken from that time, and as I grow older I think about that period from time to time. The one that I will talk about here is that for my family baseball will always be the bind that ties us together. I had flirted with becoming a Sox hater, and as stupid as it sounds, that moment stopped it. That probably sounds stupid, that I took solace in such a small event, but that’s what my refuge was. He was happy for a moment, and so were they.

My grandfather passed shortly before midnight on September 10, 2000 and was declared dead on the 11th. Those are the only two dates I recall from that year.

The Aughts

In 2001 my Uncle Ruben was in town and we went to a White Sox game. The Cubs were off to a hot start that year and I casually mentioned to him that all they had to do was win 2 of every 3 games and they’d be on their way to 108 wins.

“That won’t happen, if the Cubs win 108 games I’ll give you 100 bucks.”

I didn’t get 100 dollars that year, but that was the first Cubs team that I learned to appreciate in the same way I appreciated the 1991-1993 White Sox. You see, that team managed to win 88 games using smoke and mirrors. That was the year Lieber won 20 games and Julian Tavarez fooled everyone for half a season. It was the Fassero-Farnsworth-Flash year, when the bullpen was looking to be fairly automatic. That was the year Bill Mueller twisted his kneecap in St. Louis and the year the Cubs traded for Fred McGriff. I recall a lot about that team because, well, I loved that team, and in retrospect they weren’t anything special. Ron Coomer was the third baseman after Mueller (pronounced, Miller) went down. In 2009 I recognized Coomer at a Jewel in the Gold Coast. What he was doing there, I do not know, but I know I saw him and was about to approach him before I realized that I could ID Ron Coomer, 1/2 of the least athletic corner infield tandem in baseball history (Matt Stairs is the other half).

I remember a lot of hope building in July before having it dashed away by the end of August. Julian Tavarez and Jason Bere struggled down the stretch, Kevin Tapani was pretty useless by then, and the infield defense was completely exposed. Tavarez was sinker reliant and you just can’t survive with bad IF defense.

2001 will be remembered for 9/11, and I was sitting in religion class, talking about the Qur’an when the assistant baseball coach came into the classroom to tell us that someone had flown planes into the World Trade Center in New York. Half the school went home, I was part of the half that stayed. My mother worked downtown at the time and they evacuated her building. When I got home we stared in disbelief at the images that were on the TV.

Baseball was suspended for a while before resuming again, one week later, as Sammy Sosa went running out to right field sporting the dual flag look, my painful lesson in Cubs futility continued. The slow march to a third place finish was complete, but I figured that this was a year that they could improve upon and that they would compete in 2002, because I clearly didn’t learn anything in 1999.

2002 was a building block year, however. The team was awful, save for the pitching rotation that featured Kerry Wood, Matt Clement, and some kid named Mark Prior. On May 22, 2002, Prior debuted as a professional, and once again I fell in love with a Cubs pitcher. He fanned 10 and the most enduring image of that night is the MARKKKKKKKKKK sign out in right field.

As bad as the offense was, the pitching showed a lot of life. 2003 was an odd off-season. My uncle Ruben, who had been in exile in Texas, was coming back to Chicago for a work project. The Cubs were predicted by some to win 90 games. Others predicted that they would lose 90 games. In typical baseball fashion, you really couldn’t predict what happened next.

Heartbreak

You always remember the firsts; the first kiss, your first real relationship, the first time you made love. The scars that are left after your first heartbreak are perhaps more visible than any other first. My heart still hadn’t broken as a Cubs fan. I was too young and their failures were too minor. Sure, they had lost to the Braves in 98, but I don’t think anyone expected them to win that series. They choked down the stretch in 2001 and failed to play good ball in 2002. These things don’t matter in the long run when it came to baseball. If 2001 was the first team I enjoyed, 2003 will forever be my first love.

Dusty Baker took over for Don Baylor, and if you loved good, smart, aggressive baseball, that was the team to love. It was our introduction to a power rotation of Wood, Prior, Clement, and Zambrano. The team was fun, it had personality, it had drama, and it had a spectacular finish to the regular season. Clement had a following that year, fans wore fake goatee’s to his starts as an homage to his particularly excellent chin hair. Zambrano came into his own that year, Wood was healthy and sometimes dominant, but the show was Prior.

I missed the Maddux years, so to date that’s the best pitcher I’ve seen over a full year in a Cubs uniform. The “it” pitch that year was the slurve and Prior had it. Down the stretch he was pure dominance. He won 10 straight decisions, put up a 0.69 ERA in August, held opposing batters to a .409 OPS that month, and led the Cubs into the playoffs. There are memorable moments, the Kenny Lofton trade, the Aramis Ramirez trade (which also netted them Randall Simon who famously hit a member of the Brewers sausage race with a bat), Tuffy Patterson’s opening day, Sosa’s corked bat, and of course, the Shawn Estes start.

That year wasn’t so much about dates and events as it was about the total package. That team felt right. They looked like they had the pieces to compete with anyone, and they did. I thought I was seeing a preview of the World Series when the Yankees came to town that year, and the Cubs took 2/3. The symbolic victories were everywhere that year, and heading into the playoffs I figured that they would roll right on through and win the whole damn thing.

That year was a lesson in ghosts and dates. They haven’t been to the World Series since 1945, they hadn’t won a postseason series since 1908, it went on and on. The most memorable Sun Times sports page was a picture of Wood-Prior-Clement-Zambrano with the headline, “Ghostbusters.” I believed it. They won a hard-fought NLDS against the Braves before taking a commanding 3-1 lead over the Marlins in the NLCS. I figured that Aramis Ramirez hit the most important home run in Cubs history in game 4, and in game 5 some kid named Josh Beckett blanked the Cubs, ensuring the Cubs would win the NLCS at home.

I remember the conversation I had with Uncle Ruben the day of that game. We were in the car and I said “We’re finally going to see a World Series in Chicago.” He nodded in agreement, what else could he say? It was Prior-Wood back to back. There was no way they Cubs would lose that series.

Your moments of deepest despair usually occur when there is a sliver of hope. It’s one thing to be beaten soundly into submission. It is a completely different thing to see the finish line, to see the goal, the summation of a cities hopes and dreams, and then be beaten soundly. I was at my high school girlfriends house, in her living room, watching Luis Castillo warm up in the on-deck circle. Prior was in cruise control, and the game was in hand. I was counting outs, wondering what it would be like to see the weight of 90 years of frustration be lifted. I wanted to be at Wrigley, to be there in that moment, to celebrate with strangers. I wanted to hear the ghosts be exorcised, I wanted to hear Wrigley strain under the weight of 44,000 people celebrating at once as a curse was being lifted. I wanted to live in that moment.

Being a Cubs fan is about pain. Real, baseball pain. You will never be comfortable in any game situation, as much as you put up the front that you don’t believe in curses, a part of you does. Your baseball soul has withstood so much, yet you feel like there is still much to endure. I got that lesson that night, as I saw a team collapse under the weight of a symbolic play in left field. When Alou slammed his glove, I knew it was over. I knew that they would play tight from there on in, and I slowly realized what it was to be a Cubs fan.

What secret dreams men hold in their heart aren’t divulged until the realization of that dream. There is no crying in baseball, yet if it were to ever happen, if the Cubs were to ever win a World Series, I would weep like a child. That is the dream that I hold in my heart, at the bottom of my baseball soul, I just want to see one. I thought I would that year, and when it all came crashing down, when the cameras cut to a crowd in disbelief, when you could hear the players in the dugout as 44K went silent, my baseball heart broke in a way that I didn’t think was possible. I looked at my then girlfriend, I said I was ok, and I walked home.

When I got home it finally hit that this was going to happen again and again.

When I got home, I cried like a baby.

Part IV, the finale, will be out tomorrow.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

The Sox are trying to win me over

If you know me, you know I’m the furthest thing from a White Sox fan.  It’s a tale I’ve told before and it’s not really relevant at this stage of the story.  Suffice to say, since 1985, I’ve been adamantly opposed to all things Sox.  When they’ve had players I liked, it was only a couple at a time….Carlton Fisk, Robin Ventura, Ozzie Guillen.  Just kidding…Ozzie has always been a loudmouth prick that I couldn’t stand.  But I could stomach rooting for a player or two as long as the Sox sucked.  I recall being at a game where Ventura hit a walk-off grand slam and cheering like mad.  I’m a baseball fan and that was a great moment to see live.  But there’s something afoot on the South Side these days….they have a bunch of players I like and I’m confused as all hell by it.

Right now, there are FOUR players on the Sox that I really like.  It’s tough rooting for these guys and hoping they succeed and hoping the Sox lose every damn game as well.  It’s almost mathematically impossible for these things to dovetail over and over again.  Let’s take a look at who I hope doesn’t get hotel food poisoning every road trip…

Adam Dunn, the king of the 3 outcome players is the first.

Dunn is simply fantastic theatre. What I mean by a “3 outcome player” is that most of his at-bats result one of three ways….a base on balls, a titanic strikeout or a complete and utter fucking BOMB of a homer. His walks are fun to watch….he works the count in a professional hitter way and intimidates the pitcher into staying away from him is how it usually goes. I like that because intimidation is not easy to do. His strikeouts are fun because that big bastard doesn’t get cheated when he swings and misses. I swear you can feel the breeze when he whiffs, even on TV. I haven’t seen monster hacks like those since the last Friday the 13th movie. And there, of course, are his homers. Keep fingers crossed that the link works….

That’s just sexy. How a guy can hit a ball that far and majestically is beyond me. I love guys like this…scary-good. Scary-good is an adjective that describes my next guy….

Chris Sale and his video game stuff.

One thing that makes baseball great is the constant infusion of new talent. Sometimes it lasts for a player’s whole career and sometimes it burns bright for a spell, then fades away like it was too good to be true in the first place. Time will tell where Chris Sale will end up, but for now, he’s one of the best pitchers in the game and watching him deal is a thing to behold this season. When I referred to his “video game stuff”, it’s about his electric fastball and insane breaking stuff that looks like you’re playing on a console with a guy whose speed and movement attributes you’ve adjusted to 99 each and set him loose on your TV. But Sale is all too real right now and it’s fun to watch him demolish lineup after lineup. Baseball needs all the young talent it can get right now and Sale, an All-Star this season, is a top talent right now. I love guys like this. My next Sox player is also the newest one…

Kevin Youkilis, Greek God of Walks

First things first. Youkilis is not Greek…he’s Jewish. But being called The Hebrew Walkmaster doesn’t have any sort of ring to it, nor does The Strolling Shylock (Yeah, yeah, not PC, but I don’t take that crap seriously. Don’t get your panties all wadded over it). His nickname is one of the coolest to come down the baseball pike in decades. Back in the old days, cool nicknames were as common as Kardashian jokes….The Yankee Clipper, The Iron Horse, Teddy Ballgame, Stan the Man, The Say Hey Kid, etc. We needed some new cool ones and The Greek God of Walks is balls awesome. Pun intended.

The other cool things about Youk are his odd batting stance….

and his attitude and approach to the game.

His stance is not what you’d teach a young hitter. Holding the bat with an odd split-grip, with his top hand almost pinching the bat, Youk slides his hand down and moves his whole body into the swing. It’s hard for me to describe, but it’s really cool to watch such an individual approach at the dish. Whatever works for you is what you use. As for his attitude, he’s long been known as a team player who’d die for his teammates. Boston had a solid young player to move into Youk’s spot and Bobby Valentine didn’t do him any favors by dicking with such a respected veteran. The Sox picked him up for two guys who can’t play in the big leagues and made out like bandits. My last Sox guy isn’t a player, but he’s an important cog in the machine and has been pne of the most pleasant surprises of the baseball season.

Robin Ventura, Manager of the Year?

I couldn’t resist posting that pic. But that’s not why I like Ventura. As a player, he was a power-hitting, smooth-fielding 3rd baseman who was a class act and hard worker, coming back from one of the most horrific ankle injuries I’ve ever seen. When the Sox tabbed him as their next manager this past off-season, most people thought they made a huge mistake and were upset that Ventura would be set up for such a glorious shot at failure. Not just failure….EPIC failure. The type of failure that would have Sox fans calling for his head by the time the All-Star break rolled around. Somehow, it didn’t happen.

The Sox hit the break in first place and Ventura’s calming influence (read: he’s not a colossal prick in the ass like Ozzie was) has been a big factor in the Sox’s place in the standings. He’s shown an aptitude for setting a lineup and has been learning on the job in other aspects, like handling a pitching staff. Having 8 rookies on a pitching staff isn’t common, but the team has been pulling it off so far. It may crash and burn as the season wears on, but Ventura has been doing a bang-up job with what he’s been given. I can’t root against him the way I did Ozzie. Like Mick once said…”You can’t always get what you want”.

Cubs fans are fucking stupid again

In retrospect, I should have seen this coming. It should have been glaringly obvious. It really was a no-brainer. After being as many as 24 games under .500 this season, the Cubs have had a nice run where they’ve won 13 of 18 and have rocketed all the way up to a mark of 38-53 at the moment. Any sane fan would be enjoying this brief run of success in a sea of bad baseball, all the while knowing the inevitable shitty month of games is going to follow. Not some of these morons.

Apparently, this recent wave of not sucking total ass has some in Cubs nation thinking this team is now a contender. Never mind that no team that was as many as 18 games under .500 has come back to actually finish .500. The 1991 Brewers were 17 games under at one point and finished 83-79, good for finishing 8 games behind division champ Toronto. The Cubs were 7 games worse than those Brewers, or roughly 30% worse than them. So let me get this straight, you collection of baseball retards…..the Cubs are going to re-write the history books and demolish the standing record of coming back from the most games under .500 AND catch the division leader? Cincinnati is the current NL Central leader with a 52-40 record, good for a .565 winning percentage, which projects to 91.5 wins. With me so far?

To finish with a projected needed win total of 93 wins, the Cubs would need to go 55-16, which translates to a winning percentage of .775. Consider that NO team has EVER played a full season at that pace. I’m quite certain that a team or two may have played at a comparable pace over a similar number of games, but those teams weren’t 24 games under .500 at any point in their seasons. This Cubs team, filled with holes and bad players, isn’t going to be the first. We need to see this team for what is was before the season and what it still is…a work in progress. Just because The Riz is here, (I had to work him in somewhere this week) doesn’t mean we’re good all of a sudden.

Anyone who thinks we have a chance needs to call or email me. I have some beachfront property in my backyard you might be interested in. It’s time the entire fanbase smartens up and stops idiotic shit like saying, “WE’RE STILL ALIVE!!” because we’re now here near alive. Get over yourselves and get a clue about baseball.

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

“Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older too”

-Stevie Nicks

This is part II of IV in a mini-series about growing up Chicago, baseball style. Pt. I can be found here.

There are some great Chicago sports myths out there. MJ would’ve won 8 if he never retired, easy. Bear weather. Ruth called his shot to spite the Cubs. Ozzie ball. My favorite of all time is the eventual crowning of the 1994 Chicago White Sox as World Series champions. Nothing would’ve stood in their way en route to title #3 as they would’ve eventually done battle with the Montreal Expos.

There’s a lot of would’ves in that previous paragraph. Very few things are certain in a baseball season. The White Sox were 1 game up on a young Indians team at the time of the strike, and who knows what happens in the playoffs. What I do know of that season is that the 1994 team is one of my favorite teams in baseball history. That lineup was disgusting and Frank Thomas was living up to his moniker, “The Big Hurt.” The man was mashing at a historic level. He was carrying a 1.217 OPS through 113 games, with 38 HR’s, 109 bb’s and only 61 k’s. During the first phase of his career he was on track to perhaps becoming one of the best hitters in baseball history. He was walking with Ruth, Williams, Gehrig, Hornsby, Greenberg, Foxx, and a host of other legends, both living and dead. As a young baseball fan he was the bond that connected the current with the past.

That team was perfect for a little kid. You had the fast guys like Raines who ran everywhere, you had the mashers like Thomas for the HR insta-gratification, you had the good pitching in Fernandez, McDowell, and Alvarez, you had a little dash of everything with them. All the previous White Sox teams seemed to be building to this moment, to this season, all of it pointed to 1994 as the moment that the White Sox would shine.

I bought in, and I do think they win that division in retrospect, but it would have been a great pennant chase down the stretch (remember when Thome was a 3B? Jeez). Tony Gwynn was hitting .390 and he was chasing Teddy Ballgame. Matt Williams was on pace to surpass Ruth and Maris as the single season HR king. The Expos were kicking ass. Randy Johnson was just starting his enlightenment.

And then it was gone on August 12, 1994.

All of it, all that baseball, all that love and family ties, all that had been built up in my baseball heart, was shattered as Bud Selig announced that there would be no World Series played that year.

There are a few traditions that I still honor from the early days of my baseball fan youth, I don’t drink at Chicago home games. I watch the All-Star game, and I always watch at least one World Series game with my pops. As a family, we would watch the World Series together, and if I was lucky, my grandfather would be there too. Well, all I heard that season was how the White Sox might make it to the playoffs. Which meant I would get to see my hometown heroes play in a World Series game with the paternal figures in my life. That was going to be heaven right there.

I first read about the strike in Sports Illustrated for Kids (and yes, I did have a subscription until I was in 6th grade. Then it was plain ole SI for me), and I didn’t think anything of it. There’s no way they would cancel the season.

Well, the commish said no mas, and I said “Fuck you, baseball,” for a while. I flirted with coming back in 1997, but it definitely wasn’t as a White Sox fan. A funny thing happened after the strike, the White Sox got worse, gone were the hopes of a World Series title, and I was bitter about it. I didn’t turn to the Cubs immediately either. If anything, I was just an observer of baseball at that point. I wasn’t all in with it, but the Cal Ripken streak did help a lot.

My friend Sebastian lived on my block in Cicero. His family was full of Cubs fans, around April of 1998 he started telling me about this kid the Cubs had that was a Texan with a power arm like Nolan Ryan. Now, my favorite pitchers during the Sox years were Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, and Black Jack McDowell. Two of those guys have a lot in common, and anytime the good name of Nolan Ryan is invoked, I’m intrigued in the message. I figured I’d watch his next game and see what was up.

I got to stay home on a Wednesday to watch a Cubs game. I forget the excuse I had, I think it was a weak cough.

The date of that game was May 6, 1998.

Pt. III will be out next week

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

Growing Up Chicago: Baseball Edition

Choices

In Chicago there is an arbitrary choice to be made as you grow into maturity. Most of the time the choice is made for you, as it is usually dictated by family, geography, or your personal circle of friends. Here, in this city, you find your sports identity by the teams you root for. There are of course, the obvious stereotypes that no one can escape. Bears fans are all meatballs, as noted by the SNL skit that gained popularity so many years ago. Blackhawk fans are super protective of their sport and claim superiority over all. Bulls fans are black or just Jordan fans. And then there is the complexity that comes with baseball.

You see, it’s not just laundry that you root for when it comes to baseball. Woven into the fabric of Chicago baseball fandom are certain beliefs, ideologies, and two very distinct cultures that divide the chasm between north and south. To be a White Sox fan is to live a completely different existence than a Cub fan. Both fandoms do similar things, both are prone to the same idiocy, to the same level of fanaticism, to the same level of baseball enjoyment, but both do it in completely different ways.

I’ve walked both lines; I’ve seen both fandoms ride the emotional rollercoaster that is a baseball season. I’ve seen the ugliness, the beauty, the simplicity, of being a Chicago baseball fan, and beneath the complexity is a simple love of game that I argue extends deeper than any fandom in baseball. I know the east coasters like to claim superiority in this regard as well, but I will respectfully maintain that the Chicago baseball fan is more ardent, more invested in their team’s success on average, than any other team.

Here’s why.

Southwest Side

I was born at Mt. Sinai hospital kitty corner to Douglas Park on the city’s southwest side. For me, the choice of baseball fandom was made for me. I was born into a White Sox family. My mother’s side of the family moved into the city in mid-1960, first into Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, and then into La Villita, both eventually became the strongholds of Mexican American culture. Being from the South Side means that you are a White Sox fan, no questions asked. I really couldn’t name you any Cubs fans from my blocks on 25th and Drake, and then when we moved to Cicero in the early 90’s I knew of only 3 Cubs fans in the entire town.

For my family, on both maternal and paternal branches, baseball is our unifying bond. My father’s family could (and sometimes did) field a baseball team on their own. My father played ball, all his brothers played ball, all my cousins at some point played ball, and it was what they did, what we did, together. I was very different from my cousins. For starters I was born here; they were born on the family ranch in Mexico. To them, I was an American; I would never be Mexican enough to truly fit in with them. Baseball is all we have in common, and it’s really all we needed to have in common.

My mother has 4 brothers and one sister. All four, at one point or another, played ball. This is largely due to my grandfather, and it is indeed the root of my baseball tree.

Abuelo

When my grandfather made a permanent home on Chicago’s lower west side, he made a choice that our family, for the most part, honors to this day. He became a White Sox fan. My grandfather took me on a lot of rides around the city. He was a carpenter until they told him he couldn’t be one anymore and it was time to retire. In his retirement he took up a lot of home improvement tasks, which required a lot of running around to different mom and pop hardware stores around the city. The deal I had with him over the summer was this: I would help him run around in his hot ass steam mobile of a car, he would drive me to baseball practice. It was a fair deal all things considered, I learned a bit about home improvement, I got to see more of my neighborhood, and I spent time with my gramps. I learned a lot in those car rides. He used to quiz me on Mexican culture and baseball. He would tell me about the time Wilbur Wood started both ends of a double-header, he had Moose Skowron stories, he knew everything about every neighborhood we walked into, and he loved Brown’s Chicken.

By far, those car rides were my favorite part of summer.

This used to be Moose’s bar, “They Call Me Moose.” My grandfather always accentuated the o’s, making it sound like the Youk chant.

I grew up in White Sox culture, I wanted to play for the White Sox in my little league, and I have pictures of Frank, Black Jack, Tim Raines, and other White Sox players from the early 90’s. I actually had an 80’s Ozzie Guillen figurine, my family owns a few of the Old Comiskey seats. Hell, I played in the same South Cicero little league as his kid, I met the man before I understood what it was to actually meet him. I have a surprising amount of White Sox street cred thanks to those early years, and it’s because of my family.

Legacy

White Sox fandom is passed down from generation to generation. My grandfather passed it down to his kids, and my uncles are passing it on to their kids. My cousin Luca isn’t even a real toddler yet, but he’s being groomed to become a White Sox fan. Oh, and he lives 700 miles away from the South Side Mecca, he’s being raised in Washington DC.

My other cousins Maya and Nael were born to perhaps the biggest Sox fan in the family. There’s even a rumor that he planned Maya’s birth to coincide with a brief relocation to Chicago for work purposes. Maya was born in Chicago and is being groomed for White Sox fandom. She hates the Twins and she isn’t even 10 yet. They live in Houston, and the fandom is still being instilled in both Nael and Maya.

That is the framework for my youth as a White Sox fan. I had no real choice but to become a White Sox fan. And I was an ardent supporter. Trust me; I didn’t go forth unwillingly into the black and gray. I dropped my first f bomb in 1993 when the Blue Jays defeated the White Sox in 1993. I do love those early 90’s White Sox teams; they were fun to a young kid. Frank Thomas is still my favorite baseball player of all time, Alex Fernandez, Ron Karkovice, Bobby Thigpen; all those guys will live forever in my baseball heart. Speaking of Karko…

Sounds of Comiskey

I’m told that my first baseball game was at Wrigley, but my early childhood baseball memories were formed at Comiskey II. I’ve been to Comiskey I, but those memories aren’t there. What I do recall from my early formative years as a baseball fan all tie into Frank Thomas, Nancy Faust, Ron Karkovice, and Gene Honda.

Now, if you don’t know who Gene Honda is, read this, watch this and come back to me.

The Chicago White Sox had a pretty good team in 1992; they finished the year at 86-76, third in the west, and had the pieces to put something real together over the coming years.

I was 6, and extremely unaware of it all. I knew the entire starting lineup though, and most of the pitchers because of one man, Gene Honda.

Honda has a voice made for PA announcing. It’s deep, hard, and (perhaps I’m just projecting this), extremely South Side. My uncles and I would play wiffle in our backyard, and the Gene Honda voice was so ingrained in me, I recited the 1992 White Sox batting order by heart as I was up to the plate (as an aside, my Uncle Ruben would always throw at my face when I was facing him in wiffle. It was mortal combat with that cat, but I do partly credit him with giving me the quick twitch muscles I developed). Ron Karkovice is my favorite Gene Honda name of all time. Frank Thomas was another great Honda name, but the way Karkovice rolled through the stadium, with punctuations on both K’s, was hypnotic. It’s forever engrained into my baseball brain. It’s not leaving either. I’ve tried to imitate it at various points, but it’s nowhere near the same. Honda had IT. It’s gotten to the point where I would pay good money just to have Gene Honda record my voicemail message. He still does work on the South Side, Konerko is becoming another Honda favorite of mine. The voice has smoothed some over time, but it still carries in that ball park. He’s become a central part of that culture, he is a part of south side fandom.

That goes for Nancy Faust too. For me, I can’t declare it a real Sox game unless the pitcher is forced to exit in the middle of the inning to the tune of Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye (if it doesn’t start at 1:44, skip it to that point), played on the organ. HR’s, early exits, batting music sometimes, funky moments in-game, it was all punctuated by Nancy Faust (I have to admit, even as a Cubs fan, I haven’t seen much in sports that is more gripping than hearing 40K cheer along with an organ in a playoff game. Hearing the slow “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, gooooodbye,” is just chilling). For 41 years, ending in 2010, she was a big part of those parks, Comiskey I and Comiskey II.

Good Guys Wear Black

As for the actual teams I grew up rooting for, it was a blast to be a White Sox fan in that era. Baseball cards were still around (I had a Thomas 1991 Upper Deck card that I loved to death), the teams at that point were building towards something, and the new park for all its faults, was fun to go to with my family. That 1993 team is still one of my favorite teams of all time. I remember the scoreboard animation they had for “The Big Hurt,” a muscular slugger charging his bat with lightning and unleashing holy hell on a baseball, with his nickname flashing in the background. The screaming baseball is one of those things 8-year-old Moe never forgot.

There are a lot of memories of that early 90’s Sox run that I won’t forget. Tim Raines gunned a sucker out at home plate in 1991 and blew out his finger gun before holstering it. I don’t really remember anything about that play but his bravado (as an asshole high school player I pulled the same shit 12 years later, finga gunz and all). I recall the Wilson Alvarez no-hitter in 1991, I remember Joe Carter catching the last out in 1993 and the heartbreak that came with that.

I definitely remember 1994, when everything about my baseball world and my family life changed.

Part II will be out tomorrow.

Mat Festa

matfesta@tiamatsgarden.com

For the month of July only if you follow my work on Facebook or Twitter you will receive an ebook of Miséréri Nobis, my first graphic novel (a 238 page book) free. All you have to do is ‘like’ or follow me on Facebook or Twitter, email me at matfesta@tiamatsgarden.com, and I will send you the link to download the book.

Follow my work on Facebook, Twitter, and Tiamat’s Garden.

 

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

This coming Sunday, Ron Santo will finally be inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame. It’s a polarizing discussion around Chicago, mainly dividing Sox and Cub fans as one of baseball’s most popular tribal war finds another thing to disagree about. The arguments can be made on both sides, but I’m firmly in the pro HOF camp when it comes to Santo (as an aside, I think one of the sillier arguments compares Aramis Ramirez to Ron Santo, or puts Paul Konerko’s numbers next to Santo’s. If you don’t understand era’s in baseball don’t draw these comparisons).

That argument is old and I grow tired of it.

What I have issue with is the posthumous induction. Anyone that cared about Ron Santo or the Cubs in the past 20 years knew that, for right or for wrong, getting into the Hall was Santo’s biggest dream. Perhaps it was even his mission, secondary to his JDRF foundation. Santo was not a gifted radio announcer. In fact he was awful, and I listened mainly out of necessity (in the car, away from a tv, etc etc) than desire. There was an odd feeling listening to Hughes and Moreland after his passing, it didn’t sound right and it still doesn’t, but that’s because Santo became the Cubs on the radio.

When I see the frequency 720 I can only think of Ronnie. The various phrases he’s known for run through my mind and I think of the baseball related things he wanted in this world. A Cubs World Series win and a Hall of Fame induction.

He got the latter, but it comes too late for him to enjoy it. It doesn’t matter all that much, he is finally getting what he deserved, but it is coming from a place of spite rather than being based on merit alone. Make no mistake, Santo earned much of that spite, he was by most accounts, a dick on the field and could be off  it as well, but the final spiteful act committed by the Veteran’s Committee was petty.

The Veteran’s Committee was by all accounts, the committee to elect fringe players into the Hall. Ron Santo, in my humble estimation, was not a fringe player and deserved the honor long before this cabal was formed. In typical old player fashion, they kept him out of the Hall, but paid lip service to Ron Santo the player in public.

I don’t know what conversations were held behind closed doors to justify the act. I don’t know what they used to discredit his HOF credentials, what I do know is that the posthumous induction reeks. The voting process has become a joke. People vote against players simply because no one wants to allow a 100% vote through. Nobody can be a unanimous Hall of Famer. This is beyond idiotic. I’ve come around on the Pete Rose HOF argument, and I would be fine with certain ‘roid freaks entering the Hall, and that’s a different discussion for a different day.

For now, Ron got his wish. It was long overdue, but knowing the boneheads that vote on such things, completely expected.

He probably didn’t even say it. He wouldn’t dare. Would he?

This is not even a conversation. The fact that all this time is being wasted on a fruitless endeavor is sort o pissing me off. Basketball fans: it should piss you off, too. I don’t care if you’re the biggest Kobe fan in the world. Your only excuse to be on board with any of this is if you are under the age of…no, there is no excuse.

The beautiful thing about Kobe Bryant opening up his big mouth to say that 2012’s USA Basketball team could beat the original Dream Team is that there is actually no way to prove him right or wrong. It’s all speculation and competitive banter, but the part I don’t like is the disregard for the sanctity of the Dream Team. Up until this point, everyone has had the common courtesy and decency to concede to the Dream Team as the undisputed greatest basketball, no greatest period, team ever assembled.

As the anointed leader of the current Dream Teamers, this is another case of Kobe being Kobe.  I like that he’s reverting back to his former, 18 year old self-talking shit, allowing his ego to get the best of him, claiming supremacy in an area that no one can actually discredit him. He’s really just stirring up shit. What are his motives though?

Ed. Note – Oh you bet your ass Kobe is kicking it old school:
[youtube http://youtu.be/4uG8ubgvSSQ]

Uniquely American in every regard, only here in the States would you have a younger generation team showing up such a national treasure. Around the world, respect for one’s elders is considered a given, but not here. This is our sport. Basketball is ours, but show some respect. In the timeless and elegant words of  Westside Connection: bow down.

My initial reaction to Kobe’s proclamation was that of disgust mixed with a bit of shock. He said what? And LeBron backed him up, saying what about athleticism? Ate these jokesters for real? Maybe they thought the question was, “Can you beat the original Dream Team now, as in not them in their prime back in ’92 but now as middle aged men?” I think the ’92 squad would still give them a run…

Then I dug a little deeper, and I wanted to know more about not what Kobe said, but rather, why he would say it. Many of today’s top NBA talent doesn’t even make up their roster. The Dream Team consisted of the greatest players to ever play the game. Ever. Forever. For-ever-ever. For-ever-ever! Kobe needs to play the role of motivator, and that’s cool. But come on. Ignite the competitive fire at practice the way MJ would. Don’t make ridiculous claims like this. Lead by example on the court.

Th problem with this debate is that the rest of the world has caught up to us on the basketball stage, proven by our Athenian Bronze medal in 2004. When the 2012 squad blows teams out by an average of 40+ points, then a real debate can begin. Granted, they whooped the Dominican Republic last night by 50+, but their star is a 16 year old who’ll be a sophomore next year…in high school. So, they’re on pace after one game. We’ll see. Records are made to be broken, but legacies last a lifetime.

WWMJS? What would Michael Jordan say? He’s the most competitive person ever to walk the earth and soar its skies, so I’m sure he’s got something to say. The only competition the Dream Team faced was that of its own scrimmages, so it’s sort of fitting that its only competition twenty years later remains kept in the American family. By the way, Jordan just laughed off Kobe’s comments. Sounds about right. It is a laughable argument.

Bottom line: the Dream Team is and always will be superior. They’re the only team in the Hall of Fame for a reason.

If you somehow insanely disagree, chew on this:

Tyson Chandler looks to be the starting center. The Dream Team had Patrick Ewing and David Robinson, for crying out loud. Jordan is better than Kobe. Magic is better than LeBron. Scottie is better than LeBron. Stockton is better than Chris Paul. Barkley is better than any power forward on 2012’s team. Same goes for Karl Malone. And Bird is better than Durant and Carmelo Anthony, although Bird wasn’t Bird when sandman entered and The Dream Team dominated. I’d also like to point out the number of championships won, collectively, by both teams. OG Dream Team: Jordan’s 6, Scottie’s 6, Magic’s 5, Bird’s 3, The Admiral’s 2. That’s 22.

2012: Kobe’s 5, Chandler’s 1 from last year, and LeBron’s current 1. That’s a paltry total of 7, just 1 more than Jordan alone. NCAA Championships? Anthony’s got the only one for 2012. Jordan, Magic, Ewing, and Laettner (twice) all won it at the college level. But these accomplishments mean nothing to Kobe. He just thinks that if they played for 48 minutes, that his squad could win. Forget about the accomplishments, but they’re impossible to ignore.

Future Hall of Famers? Dream Team has 11 enshrined in The Hall. ’12 has future inductees in Kobe, LeBron, probably Durant and Paul when it’s all said and done. ‘Melo? No. Chandler? LOLz. 4 future HOFers by my count. Sorry Kobe, but you sound like Skip Bayless on this one. You’re just spouting bullshit to start a conversation. Well, there’s no conversation to be had here. This is a closed case, Mamba. But I’ll be more than happy when they get the technology ready for all 24 of you knuckleheads to hit the hardwood as holograms to settle the (non)debate once and for all. Then all sports conversations cease to exist, something I don’t totally welcome. Having opinions, disagreeing, proving yourself with memorized statistics and facts; these are a few of my favorite sports things. So let’s hear what you’ve got to say about USA Basketball, because we’ve regained supremacy. And that makes me happy as a fan of basketball and the Olympics. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Something I’ve wondered since I was like 10 years old though: why wasn’t Shaq on the squad instead of Christian Laettner? I mean, I’m sure his historic college career as arguably the best college baller ever (and Coach K) had something to do with it, but can you retrospectively imagine that now? A team filled to the brim with 12 Hall of Famers instead of only 11…