Posts Tagged ‘Cubs’

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Dempster stops acting like a wank, goes away.

After receiving plenty of negative feedback from numerous Cubs fans following his decision to veto the Atlanta trade I talked about last week. Dempster, who somehow became The People’s Champion (said with dripping sarcasm), allowed himself to be dealt to the Rangers literally five minutes before the deadline expired at 3 pm Tuesday. While the return from Texas (third baseman Christian Villanueva and right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks, both from high-Class A Myrtle Beach) isn’t immediately viewed to be as strong as Randall Delgado, it was still more than the Cubs might have expected to get. Both players show some promising traits and will be tossed onto the massing pile of depth being built in the Cubs’s minor leagues. Maybe neither of these guys make it, but it shows the deep commitment TheoCo has the plan. Even The People’s Champion (TPC henceforth) isn’t immune from the TradeHammer. If you build enough depth and collect enough talent, eventually enough will blossom and bear fruit.

So endeth the era of TPC, a Tommy John reclamation project who became an All-Star for the Cubs, did the single worst Harry Caray impression anyone has ever seen, choked like a dog against the Dodgers in 2008, taking the air out of the team and setting that ugly sweep in motion, endeared himself to many with his charitable works, did his little glove-flippy thing and ended up looking like a hypocritical turd. I respect his charity stuff, but he’s never been off my shit list since the aforementioned choking in 2008. Good riddance to him and bring on the new era of Cubs baseball.

BEARS IN CAMP!!

It’s still early in camp, but we’ve seen a few interesting things happen so far. The battle at left tackle seems to be tilting in JaMarcus Webb’s favor, which isn’t a surprise. Rookie Shea McClellin has been struggling a bit in his first camp. Brandon Marshall hasn’t punched a bitch yet. Lovie almost raised his voice above that monotone he never strays from. Urlacher has yet to whine about his contract, which I was a bit worried about.

There are a few other position battles going on, but the team is set at the glamour spots…QB, RB, WR, LB. Until we see some game action, it’s tough for me to take anything that happens in camp seriously. A few years ago, 2007 if I recall, the reporters were raving about the offense they were seeing in camp. Over and over, it was MAN, THESE GUYS ARE CLICKING OUT THERE!!! and the like.

Then, the season started and they sucked ass and missed the playoffs. So until they crack heads with Denver next week, I’ll holster my Cutlerection and all it’s attendant glory. I’ll have ample opportunity to whip it around during the season, I’m sure. Looking at the Bears’ schedule, I’m seeing lots of bad teams and lots of bad defenses. If this new offense can click, it’s going to be a 9-11 win season, especially if the D/ST have great seasons. As long as special teams coordinators keep kicking to Hester, anything is possible. If there’s one rock-solid fact in the NFL right now, it’s that Hester is one bad motherfucker. He’s like Jules’s wallet in Pulp Fiction.

The Olympics started? When?

No, I know they’ve begun. After the snoozefest of an opening ceremonies, we’ve seen a badminton scandal (I knew the Olympic badminton scene was as crooked as a snake’s dick), Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympian ever, the US women gymnastic team win Gold, Gabrielle Douglas win individual Gold in a rout and the US men’s hoops team win a game by 83 before they sweep to their own Gold medals in a week or so. That’s about all I’ve been following so far, and that’s being generous.

I think the oncoming Bears season combined with the excitement of the arrival of The Riz, with a bunch of baseball trade deadline stuff mixed in have kind of blunted the allure of the Games. I’m not the biggest Summer Games guy anyway, but I usually get into it somewhat. I have no issue with getting psyched for the Winter Games obviously, but there was just no obvious for me draw this time around. Odd.

The 10th Annual Wrigleyfest

It’s coming, and it’s going to be spectacular.

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: 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.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

A Leader is Born

As much as I’ve loved what I’ve seen from young Anthony Rizzo both with the bat and with his glove, he really showed me something I didn’t expect from a player of his age and experience.  During a game against the Braves on July 2nd, a ground ball was hit to shortstop Starlin Castro by Dan Uggla.  After fielding the ball, Castro hesitated before throwing over to first base.  Uggla beat the late throw and many, me included, assumed it was just another brain fart/concentration issue for Starlin.  After the Braves were retired, Castro was immediately called over by manager Dale Sveum, presumably for a “keep your head out of your ass” lecture.  He’s gotten them before and I applaud Sveum for doing so.  But this time, there was a wrinkle.

The Riz went right up to Sveum and said it was his fault, that he took too long to get back to the bag.  Uggla is a right-handed hitter and an extreme pull hitter.  The Cubs infielders were swung around in a shift, leaving The Riz playing far off the bag near the hole.  When the grounder was hit, Rizzo was late to break to first, causing the hesitation on Castro’s part.  Now, many young players who made a mistake like that would see that their manager was ready to lay the blame on another.  He could have slipped into the dugout unnoticed, let Castro take the blame from Sveum and the fans who want to blame him for everything, and nobody would have been the wiser.

But The Riz isn’t just any young player.

He did what a leader does….immediately owned the blame.  He didn’t look to pass the buck.  At age 22, The Riz was ready, willing and able to step up like a veteran player, own up to a mistake and accept any consequences that came of it.  Sveum accepted the explanation and I’m sure was impressed at the maturity level of a young rookie, only 22 years old, already looking out for a teammate. You don’t see that in a whole lot of youngsters.  A leadership role is something some need to grow into.  You need a certain level of confidence in yourself to be able to take charge of others in a team sport.  Some are born with it and have always done it.  Jonathan Toews is a perfect example.  The Riz seems to be another.

When the Cubs were winning divisions in 2007 and 08, they didn’t really have a take-charge guy.  The closest they got was a guy like Derrek Lee, who never seemed like a strong personality or someone the other players took their cues from.  Building a winning team involves more than getting good hitters and pitchers.  You need players who can lead and impose a winning attitude upon the entire clubhouse or locker room.  Taking the blame like The Riz did is the type of thing that others notice and admire.  Players with this type of attitude and makeup are what TheoCo are trying to acquire along with talent.  I think they can mark this one in the positive side of the ledger.

The PSU Investigation Report

I’m not going to hammer on this topic.  There is plenty out there online about the release of the Freeh report and the ensuing reactions and emotions.  You can’t escape it.   I’ll therefore try to be brief….

What the Freeh investigation proved was that coach Joe Paterno, PSU president Graham Spanier, PSU vice-president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley all actively engaged in a massive cover-up of the activities of Jerry Sandusky.  Four insanely powerful and influential men did nothing to stop a serial rapist from perpetuating his vile activities, even allowing him unrestricted access to on-campus buildings and facilities, accompanied by numerous children (read: victims) for years even after they knew he had been under investigation for abusing children.  This had been suspected, but it’s now been proven.

The PSU program, termed “The Grand Experiment” was built by Paterno was built on a foundation of integrity, honesty and honor.  Paterno preached all of that and the PSU power-that-be embraced it.  It turned out to be a house of cards, built on a foundation of lies.  Integrity?  Please spare me.  Honesty?  Paterno lied to the grand jury about what he knew and when he knew it.  Honor?  Not a chance.  The entirety of PSU has been dishonored by the actions of those four and others like Mike McQueary, who saw Sandusky raping a kid on campus in the showers of the athletic building and did nothing to stop it.

There is no more defending any of those involved.   There is no more trying to justify Paterno’s reporting of the shower incident to his superiors.  There are no more questions about who knew what or when they knew it.  I do have one question though….who fits this definition?

sociopath, noun….a person with a psychopathic personality  whose behavior is anti-social,  often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.

There are at least four acceptable answers I can think of here.  I’m sure you can figure them out because they fit them to a T.

Lying Thievery is Alive and Well

I’m not bitching about the recent dispute with Viacom that resulted in DTV dropping the Viacom network’s channels….MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon and all their attendant channels, Comedy Central and a bunch of others.  That’s just a couple of fat kids holding their breath over who gets the bigger slice of the 16″ pizza in front of them.  There’s more than enough for both, yet they’re acting like spoiled little assholes.  But I digress….

No, what I’m bitching about is that DTV lied to or misled me from the beginning about what channels they offered, what their DVR capabilities were and the functionality of those DVRs.  I’ve burned thru more anytime minutes on my phone (good thing I have an unlimited plan) with these clowns than Keith Richards blew thru coke in the 70’s.  Well, maybe not.  But the point remains….DTV sucks a big fat hairy cock and my opinion won’t change until they make their service call Sunday and try to set this shit straight.

My money says they still fuck it up.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

The Riz’s Big Week

As of this writing, The Riz has played 9 games for the Cubs as the most hyped prospect since Mark Prior burst onto the scene in 2002.  So far, The Riz has put up a .323/.344/.710 slash line with 3 home runs (all of which were impressive for different reasons that I’ll get to) and a kickass OPS of 1.053.  Even though some are calling him Our Savior (I’m not copyrighting that one), he’s not.  He is just a kid still learning how to play the game and tap into that skill set he has.  Being a savior means you and you alone are responsible for a team’s success.  Theo Epstein is not a savior.  Nor are Jed Hoyer or Jason MacLeod.  They, along with The Riz and other young talents on the way, are all pieces of a big picture.  But I digress….back to getting my Riz-boner going.  Let’s take a quick look at his homeruns…

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This was The Riz’s first Cubs home run.  There was undue pressure on this kid to be the Next Big Thing and all us Cubs fans were anxious to see if he could live up to even a bit of the hype.  Getting this first homer out-of-the-way was a load off his mind.  He also hit it a ton and we all watched it soar majestically into the RF seats.  It gave us a lead and we won the game.  Hitting a game-winner for your introduction to Cubs fans absolutely met our expectations.  On to homer two…

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Coming against one of baseball’s better young pitchers, Tommy Hanson, this homer gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in a game they’d end up winning 4-1.  The Cubs don’t play very well in Atlanta, even when they have a good team, which they clearly don’t this season.   While hitting the homer was important, it carried two impressive factors….the sound and where it went.  Listen again to the sound the bat makes when The Riz makes contact.  That is some serious shit.  It’s a CRACK! that resounded through the park and made you turn your head to ask, “”WHO HIT THAT BALL SO FUCKING HARD?”  Most players don’t produce such a crack-of-the-bat reaction.  The Riz does.  The second factor is where that ball went and how it got there.  Not all players can hit to the opposite field with power, especially at 22 years old.  As CFer Michael Bourn starts back on the ball, he breaks into the “That bitch is gone” jog really quickly.  Bourn didn’t think that ball would carry so, as evidenced by where he was playing The Riz,….more straightaway than shifted over.  I don’t think anyone had scouted the oppo field power.  They now know.  Onto home run number three…

MLB isn’t letting us embed this one.

While this one was pulled, it was a different sort of shot than homer #1.  The first was a soaring, majestic bomb that took a couple seconds to leave the yard.  This was a goddamned bullet that screamed out of Turner Field with a flight-speed velocity that rivaled Katie Holmes’s sprint away from that whackjob she provided the beard for.  This ball traveled so fast that it rivaled myself looking for the new Kate Upton dance video.  (I’m not obsessed, I’m just in lust)  This homer also produced that great CRACK! sound that his second homer made.  In short, this kid can fucking RAKE at 22 years old.

“But Tony,” you say, “what about the glovework?  Can The Riz field or is he just a one-dimensional slugger?”  Well, here’s  a clip answering that question…

That run that The Riz cut down turned out to be kind of large….the Cubs won that game 3-2.  That was the game he hit homer #1, btw.  He’s doing it all!!  Seriously, he looks very comfortable at the big league level so far.  He’s not giving away at-bats.  He’s not been overmatched by anything yet.  He hasn’t been pressing and is letting the game come to him while he gains even more confidence and experience.  His makeup is as important as his baseball skillset and both have been fully displayed thus far.  Here’s hoping he keeps it going.

Minnesota Goes for It.

Hockey’s free agency started on Sunday the 1st and there were two huge free agents available….New Jersey’s Zach Parise, a center, and Nashville’s Ryan Suter, a defenseman.  Both are seen as the type of players who would inject some serious talent into whatever team landed them.  The Hawks had designs on both, especially Parise.  While the salary cap number for either player would be high, on the right team, it would likely be worth it.  Parise is a rugged power forward who can play on all special teams and has a nose for the puck.  Suter is a slick puck-moving d-man who may not be the physical d-man the Hawks need, any time you can add a Ryan Suter to your team, you’re better for it.  The evil bastards known as the Detroit Red Wings were thought to be a lock as the landing place for Suter, which didn’t bode well for the Hawks.  Parise was getting huge offers from various teams.  So what happened?

The lowly (well, maybe not anymore) Minnesota Wild, proud owners of 11 post-season wins since their inception in 2000, managed to land both prizes by giving them matching 13 year/$98M deals.  For those of you who suck at math like I do, that breaks down to a cap hit of $7.538 million per season.  While that much money would serve as an enticement to anyone to go live in Minnesota, the Wild had a couple built-in advantages.  Parise is from Minnesota and has plenty of family there, including his dad, former NHLer J.P. Parise. Suter’s wife hails from Minnesota and Suter himself is from nearby Wisconsin.  Add in the fact that these guys discussed playing together like LeBron and Wade and Chris Bosh did and it wasn’t in the cards for any other team to have a serious shot at these guys.

Too bad, although Detroit missing out on Suter makes me happy.

N.L. All-Star Kudos

Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey recently made the N.L. All Star team for the first time at age 37.  His struggles have been all over the media the past few months with the release of his new book.  I read it and was really impressed by his determination and sheer guts.  Born without an ulnar collateral ligament, kind of an important piece of anatomy for a guy who wants to throw a baseball for a living, living in sheer poverty for years, being sexually abused on numerous occasions as a youth and struggling to make it as a big league pitcher, Dickey never gave up on his dream.  Most other people would have found a job somewhere and taken care of his young and growing family.  Dickey persevered.  Dickey fought.  Dickey did the unthinkable and became a knuckleball pitcher.

For the baseball newbies, going from a conventional pitcher…fastball, curveball, another off-speed pitch….to a full-time knuckler is like nothing else I can imagine.  Not only did he become a knuckleballer, he’s one of the best pitchers in the game this season and earned that trip to Kansas City next week for an honor not many players earn the way he did.  When he enters that players clubhouse and dresses in his All Star uniform and later takes the field with and against young star players like Mike Trout, Chris Sale and Starlin Castro and future Hall of Famers like Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter and knowing he made it on his own terms and that he belongs with those guys, he’ll have me cheering for him as I have been since I finished his book.

I don’t like cheering for a member of the New York Mets, but I’ve no problem cheering for a guy like Dickey.  He’s earned more respect than most of us could ever hope to get.  Well done, R.A.

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

“In the presence of eternity, the mountains are as transient as the clouds.”

Robert Green Ingersoll

I think my fellow Cubs fans forgot. I really do. What TheoCo (Thanks Tony) meant to this organization was a complete overhaul of a broken system that included a faulty way of thinking. Ingrained in our brains is this desire to compete every year, we have in the cortex of our primal baseball brain an instinct to extrapolate results into something larger. We want to so desperately believe in symbolism, in curses, in acquiring free agents to constantly compete, above all we want to believe that every year is the year.

For awhile under the Hendry regime, we were afforded that luxury. For all the criticism that was levied against Hendry, you couldn’t say he didn’t know how to construct a team that could compete for one season.

One season. The old mantra. All we need to do is win one, the ends of bad contracts will just be victory laps. It’s different now, folks. We signed up for a different deal, a completely new way of thinking for us. We are still so very early in a complete make over of a franchise, and yet, we are antsy. Early on, before Travis Wood flashed brilliance and when the bullpen was a sieve, we wondered why Marshall was traded. Later, when the offense stalled and the Cubs were pissing away Dempster’s brilliance, we wondered why Rizzo wasn’t called up.

A myriad of offseason moves by TheoCo were predictably met with “Thanks for nothing, Theo.” Well, hold on to your asses because a bad team is probably going to get worse by the trade deadline. This is fine, this is all part of a rebuild. You know, that thing we all signed up for.

Now, in this section I will be looking at players who are likely to be traded. I will also list teams where I think it makes sense to move them. Trades, however, are weird as hell. There’s a lot of moving parts to them, and really, this is more of a list to watch out for than a list of impending moves.

Let’s take a look at some prime trade candidates.

Matt Garza

Garza is having an awful career year. He is posting career lows in H/9, BB/9, obviously WHIP, and a career high in SO/BB ratio. The problem with Garza is his rather perplexing propensity to just give up the long ball. He’s doubling up his HR/9 rate from last year. He’s given up 12 so far in 2012, he gave up 14 HR’s all of 2011. Garza seems like a prime candidate for an AL East team that is looking to add a piece. He’s already enjoyed success in the division and his ERA is screaming for a regression to the mean. Meaning I think his surface numbers will start matching his peripheral numbers very soon. Garza is not an ace, nor will he ever be one, but he is a solid 2, and I can see a team selling off some pieces to rent him.

Moe’s watch list: Yankees, Red Sox, and the dark horse Orioles.

Ryan Dempster

Dempster is having a plain ole outstanding career year at 35. Age is a factor in this deal because teams will be wary of his numbers considering he’s never been close to this good. Almost every number in his slash line is a career best. He did hit a bit of a rough patch, but it looked corrected in June as he threw 22 scoreless innings. Then he got hurt…which sucks for his trade value. I would put him on yellow alert for a trade mainly because I don’t know if Theo will like the packages he’s offered. I can see either the Tigers or the White Sox moving to get him, and that silliness about switching from the NL to the AL is overblown sometimes. I think Dempster found a zone, albeit only for this year. His stuff is good enough to thrive in the AL. Just don’t expect a King’s Ransom for Demp.

Moe’s watch list: Tigers, White Sox, Dodgers, and Arizona.

Bullpen

I would be shocked if anyone came calling for the ‘pen mates. There isn’t anything of value here. Marmol is doing his Rob Dibble impersonation, and anyone else of note is awful. This is an atrocious bullpen, there are no pieces that you can move here. Once again, if Theo manages to get ANYTHING for Marmol, it’s a win.

Moe’s watch list: lol

Darwin Barney

Prominent show fan Tom Mleko hates Darwin Barney. Well, perhaps hate is too strong of a word. He might just loathe him. I enjoy statistics, I really do. I wanted to be in SABR once (that dream is fading away). Darwin Barney’s statistics are not good, except for his WAR number. For some reason, the defensive component of WAR has Darwin Barney 4th in the NL in WAR (according to BBR anyway). That’s beyond mind-boggling. Darwin does some nice things on the field, but not enough to warrant such a high-ranking. I do think a few components of WAR are broken, and for the while I’m using a weird hybrid of scout categories and raw numbers to determine player value, but that’s another topic for another day. For now, understand Barney can help a big league club in contention by being a super utility guy. He plays solid defense and isn’t completely inept with the bat, he’s simply below average.

Moe’s watch list: Honestly, the only team I have a strong feeling about is the Tigers. This one is wide open.

Bryan LaHair

He’s been awful in June. The strikeout rate is a concern, and May is probably a better indicator of what type of player he is. LaHair is an interesting cat, he is still slugging .500+ even with an awful month. His BABIP has been corrected and pitchers are adjusting to him, he needs to adjust back. A cool down is to be expected, but a meltdown is unacceptable. I believe in his bat, but I don’t think he’s on the next Cubs contender.

Moe’s watch list: I’m going with the Dodgers on this one. If Loney can’t get his head out of his ass they will be looking to add a 1B down the stretch, I think. LaHair might be best available if he can bounce back.

Alfonso Soriano

We know what he is, so let me say a few things about Sori. He’s a butcher afield and inconsistent at best at the plate. He strikes out on bad pitches, and he’s really easy to hate because he can be a hot dog.

I don’t hate him, in fact, I’ve grown to appreciate the professionalism he’s displayed in spurts on the field, and consistently off it. He had the balls to confront Z. He put in work to become a bad OF this year, a marked improvement over the shitty tag he earned in the past. He didn’t run out a liner, he got paid a lot of money, I get it. I just don’t hate him. He’s a symbol of another regime, but I won’t hold that against him. He can contribute to a team, but it would have to be an AL team.

Moe’s watch list: Orioles. It makes sense, you can trot Johnson to left and find somewhere for Endy to go.

Roundup

You’ll notice I left Starlin off the list. I don’t see anyone coming to the Cubs with a compelling enough offer to take Starlin. Remember, he’s 22, younger than Rizzo, Jackson, Szczur and most exciting Cubs prospects. He’s shown great improvement in the field, and I think once he can take the offensive load off his shoulders, his approach will improve.

This team is a good bet to lose 100. Real good bet to be the worst team in Cubs history. I’m cool with that. Maybe 2 guys get traded off from this list, that would also be a victory depending on the haul they bring back. Stop worrying about surface things like W-L record this year, look deeper Cub fans.

Youk and the White Sox

To round all this out, I want to say that I like the Youkilis deal. The White Sox gave up a bad pitcher and a utility guy to take a flyer on an established Vet who is having a bad year. Almost zero risk, and the pay off is potentially huge. I think he’s a good candidate to bounce back because of a change of scenery, I feel that he wore out his welcome in Boston. As a hitter he sees a lot of pitches, which in turn wears down starting pitchers. Youk, Dunn, and Konerko is a pretty good threesome of hitters with a good approach. Konerko is getting recognized for his tremendous approach this year. It’s something else to watch. He never deviates from what he’s looking for. He’s turned into a great hitter to study.

Dunn has hit a rough patch and will likely turn in a Dave Kingman-esque season. Currently he’s at a .215 AVG. It would be glorious to see him stay there and hit 50 HR’s. Dunn is one of my favorite players, mainly because there’s no hidden tricks with him. He’s a big guy that’s up there to hit a fucking bomb. That’s it.

The White Sox are going to hang around, Cleveland isn’t going to win this division, and the Tigers need to make moves. The deadline will be interesting on both sides of town, albeit for very different reasons.

Exciting times my friends, exciting times.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

He has arrived!!

On Tuesday night, the TheoCo rebuilding project placed it’s first building block in place with the debut of Anthony Rizzo, a.k.a. The Riz. The deal for Rizzo was one of the first major trades TheoCo made since taking over in October. When TheoCo took over, the Cubs were lacking in impact prospects and the first priority was to stock the system with such prospects. Rizzo, a highly touted Boston Red Sox prospect, was dealt by Theo himself to San Diego as the centerpiece of the Adrian Gonzalez deal in December of 2010. The SD general manager at the time was Jed Hoyer, who currently holds that position with the Cubs. When Theo hired Hoyer and scouting director Jason McLeod to form TheoCo (I coined that one too, FYI. I’m a damned machine!), they immediately targeted The Riz and managed to wrangle a trade with the Padres to reunite them all here in Chicago.

As The Riz put up monster numbers for the Iowa Cubs, the team’s AAA affiliate, every Cubs fan was filled with anticipation of his arrival. With every majestic bomb of a homer The Riz hit, the fervor increased until his promotion was the most anticipated event in Cubdom since the lights were first turned on on 8/8/88. Here’s an example of what The Riz was doing down in Iowa. Try not to wet yourself with glee like I did….

The only thing holding him back was the service time issue. A player isn’t eligible for free agency until he has played 6 years in the big leagues. The Riz played 49 games with San Diego last season and accrued a small amount of time towards his free agency eligibility. By delaying his promotion, TheoCo ensured that The Riz will not be free agent-eligible until 2019. That extra season may loom large down the road when the Cubs should be contending with a mostly home-grown team. This is the plan and The Riz is the first brick in the wall. If Roger Waters reads this, go ahead and get pissy for stealing that line. Sue me.

LeBron joins The Club

With the Miami Heat’s winning of the 2011-12 NBA title*, LeBron James is no longer the Best Player to Never Win It All. His winning was inevitable as basketball is the sport best suited to having the best player win a title. It took a year longer than all those fake Heat fans (read: all of them) figured it would, but it happened nonetheless. Meanwhile, a funny thing happened…the world continued to spin on it’s axis, the sun rose in the East and Kate Upton remained scorching hot.


Yeah, so I’m a pig. Sue me after Waters is done with me.
Ed. Note – I love you Tony 

I don’t like how LeBron made his Decision. I didn’t like the Heat’s pre-season celebration before even playing a game with that lineup. I loved when they choked against Dallas last season and lost in the Finals. But he’s still a great player, the best on the planet right now, and he’s probably going to win a few more titles before he’s retired. That’s cool. He’ll never match Jordan for sheer accomplishment or competitiveness. He’ll never match Russell for total titles. He’ll never match Magic for charisma. He’ll never approach Kobe for likeability. That’s also cool with me. LeBron will be remembered for what he always will be….a great player without the killer instinct or drive to win that the greats had.

*Title asterisked because of the shortened season and Derrick Rose’s ACL injury.

Euro 2012

Yeah, like I’m going to talk about fucking soccer. Why? Because they’re flopping pussies.


Suck it, futbol.
Ed. Note – I hate you Tony.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

For the seven of you who read my column (HI MOM!), I’m sorry I missed writing something last week. Sometimes, stupid real-life gets in the way. Let’s open the insightful sarcasm door and see what’s on the other side…..

Jorge Soler & the Cubs Draft

When Theo Epstein was hired as the Cubs’s President of Baseball Operations, his plan was to build from the ground up, talent-wise. Unfortunately, the new draft rules dictate a spending limit for both the First Year Player draft starting this season and for international signings, which kicks in next year. One of Theo’s strengths with the Red Sox was building through the draft by overdrafting players and then paying them more money than their slot dictated. Basically, he could draft a player who had big upside that wasn’t planning on signing a contract and offering big bucks as incentive. That is no longer possible. Nor is overpaying international players. This season was the last time a big money deal could be offered to those players, of which two were considered prizes, both of whom are Cuban….26 year old Yoenis Cespedes and 20-year-old Jorge Soler. Cespedes signed with the A’s before spring training, but Soler needed to establish residency outside of Cuba before signing a deal. It became quite the story.


Jorge and the Seven Dwarfs doesn’t sound like a typical story, does it?

Why the big deal about Soler? Scouts have been raving about him for a few years now. He projects as a 5 tool guy…he can hit for both power(1) and average(2), run(3), throw(4) and field(5). While he may not develop all those tools, the consensus is that he’ll be a plus outfielder defensively and will hit for legit power on the major league level. He has a great work ethic and loves the game. Add in the fact he’s already 6’3″ and 225 lbs at 20 years old and you have a guy who most scouts projected as a top 10 draftee if he were eligible for the draft this season. It’s obvious why he was a much sought-after commodity that inspired a bidding war. The Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Dodgers all were in the mix to land him. But the new-look Cubs front office went the extra mile…something winners do….and signed him to a 9 year deal worth $30 million. Basically, they signed the last, best guy that could be signed under the old rules. This is huge and a big indicator of the new direction and attitude the team has taken. The Tribune never would have even considered a move like this, let alone gone that extra mile and got it done. Well done, TheoCo.

Before the Soler signing, the draft took place. Going into the draft, TheoCo said their priority was to draft “impact”. With the #6 pick, they drafted 18-year-old Albert Almora, an outfielder with a big skill set that is exceeded by his makeup….a measure of a player’s attitude and work ethic, not this….

Almora is already a major league-caliber defensive outfielder, but is still 3 or 4 years away from Wrigley. Then, the team picked 7 straight pitchers, filling the system with what it was lacking….pitching prospects. This was a solid approach and shows the team’s commitment to building for the future. An actual plan for the future….I may wet myself with pleasure!!

Lance Armstrong, Cheating Douche

This week, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency filed formal charges against seven time Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong. Since anyone can remember, Armstrong has been suspected of cheating, whether it be blood doping, PEDs, Erythropoietin, also known as EPO, blood manipulation and everything under the sun. According to USADA, more than 10 cyclists as well as team employees will testify they either saw Armstrong dope or heard him tell them he used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone from 1996 to 2005. I don’t know about anyone else, but if there are ten people willing to testify, that’s a REALLY bad indicator. It’s tough enough to get ten people to decide on what kind of pizza toppings to get, let alone decide to perjure themselves.

What bugs me about this whole thing is that Armstrong, a cancer survivor, did so much good to raise money for cancer research and the like, but did it while likely being a complete phony and a hypocrite. He preached hard work and dedication, all the while cheating his ass off. So many sick and dying people looked to a complete fraud for inspiration. Think about all those people who bought those LIVESTRONG bracelets, donating money to the cause, believing in a guy who was constantly breaking the rules and figuring out how to beat drug tests. Think about the people who breathed their last breaths thinking about what Armstrong had meant to them during their struggle that they knew they were about to lose. It makes me sad to think so many invested themselves emotionally in this guy. People who were dying, people who were sick and the families of those who were sick were defrauded by a guy who called himself “Champion”.

I only hope that this guy will own up to what he did and be man enough to live with the consequences.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

As most of us know, there are different types of sports fans. We have serious and casual fans. There are fair-weather and die-hard fans. There are fans who are able to look at all angles of a team’s moves and see the big picture after evaluating all aspects of said moves. Then, we have the lowest form of fan……the meatball.

The meatball is a vile thing. The meatball takes what may be true passion for his or her team and lets it rule them without actually using the ol’ grey matter. The meatball is probably incapable of rational thought anyway, but it doesn’t stop them from yelling uninformed crap at the top of their lungs. The meatball is also incapable of listening to anyone who can think about the issue in question and try to weigh the pros and cons of the situation. The meatball acts on instinct the way a moth flies into one of these…


ZZZAAAAAAPPP!!!

Recently, I’ve seen meatballs on both sides of town go batshit crazy for different reasons. The northside meatballs, easily identified by the backwards hats, Abercrombie sweatshirts, cargo shorts and flip-flops, lost their shit during the Cubs’ 12 game losing streak. The southside faction, identifiable by the alarming body odor and neck tattoos (those are the women!!), went ballistic over their team sweeping a last-place Cubs squad. Let’s analyze both sides and how stupid both of them truly are.

North Side

Flash back to when the Cubs hired Theo Epstein in October of 2011. During his introductory press conference, he laid out his plans for what amounts to a massive rebuilding project. He stressed that patience was required from Cubs fans. He was seen as a visionary and cheered by legions of Cubs fans. We all envisioned the day when we’d finally be able to cheer for a world champion baseball team called the Cubs. It all seemed so possible. There was much rejoicing…

Flash forward to early this season. After a 3-11 start, the Cubs went 12-9 to boost their record to a somewhat respectable 15-20. They were playing decent baseball and even took 2 of 3 from the defending champion Cardinals. Then, the bottom fell out as they embarked on that 12 game skid. And almost on cue, the meatballs lost their fucking minds. These are actual quotes from actual Cubs blogs and fan sites. The caps are mine to enhance their stupidity.

“FIRE THEO!! HE FORGOT HOW TO HIRE GOOD PLAYERS!!”

“OBVIOUSLY, WE NEED TO FIRE THE HITTING COACH AND HIRE MARK GRACE!! HE HAD THE MOST HITS IN THE 90s!!”

“WHY ARE THE RICKETTS TOO CHEAP TO SPEND MONEY ON GOOD PLAYERS? SHOULD OF (they are never smart enough to realize it’s “have”, not “of”) NEVER TRADED SEAN MARSHALL!! DUMMIES!!”

“SVEUM DOESN’T KNOW WHAT HE’S DOING!! FIRE THEM ALL!!”

“SAME OLD CUBS!!! I GUESS I’LL GO CHEER FOR THE SOX!!!”

“THANKS FOR NOTHING, THEO!!!”

It went on and on from there, but my point is made. The truly stupid have forgotten what Theo said in his presser….patience is required. The meatball mindset kicked into hyperdrive like the Millennium Falcon did when Han Solo was outrunning those dicks from the Empire. There was no end to the outrage until the skid was broken on Memorial Day. Their fury spent, they now lay in wait until their storehouses of idiocy are replenished and they find a reason to explode again. I can hardly wait.

South Side

As the Cubs were 3 games deep into that 12 game skid, they welcomed their supposed bitter rivals into Wrigley and got swept. At stake was the prestigious BP Cup, a laughably stupid trophy sponsored by the company responsible for the worst oil spill of all time. 5 million barrels of oil, yada yada yada…. Anyway, these clowns sponsored a trophy for some reason, thinking fans would treasure winning it like it were the Stanley Cup. Since the Sox won it last season, the sweep this season ensured the trophy remaining on the south side for another year. But I digress. Not because I’m going off on a tangent, but because the BP Cup is so amazingly stupid.

So after sweeping a last-place club starting a major rebuilding project, Sox fans acted like they actually won something. Again, the caps are mine to accentuate the stupidity.

“YEAAAAHHHH!!! SWEEEEEEEPPPP!!”

“GET BEHIND A WINNER, CHICAGO!!! CUBS SUCK!!!”

“HAHAHA!! STILL LOSERS!!”

“THE BP CUP IS STILL WHERE IT BELONGS!!!”



Like anyone gives a flying fuck about this.

I can’t recall much else, since I was just so entirely devastated by not being able to pleasure myself to pics of my team hoisting that prestigious trophy for at least one more season. Since Sox meatballs are so completely obsessed with all things Cubs, there was plenty of anti-Wrigley sentiment mixed in, my favorite of which were the claims that “nothing historical has ever happened there besides Babe Ruth’s called shot.” Yeah, let’s pop that balloon of Sox meatballery with some facts. The following have taken place at Wrigley….

5 NFL title games, including the first one ever in 1933….Gale Sayers scoring an NFL record 6 TDs…..the only remaining park used in the Federal League….the famous double no-hitter in 1917….The Homer in the Gloamin….the Harlem Globetrotters once played a game there….Stan Musial’s 3000th hit….3 All-Star games….5 World Series….Pete Rose ties Ty Cobb’s career hit record….Kerry Wood fans 20 Astros…the 2009 NHL Winter Classic

That’s a select list of some serious history right there, but the south side meatballs didn’t want to hear about it. No matter what was listed, it’s of no consequence and doesn’t count. They then parrot the familiar, “BUT THE CUBS STILL SUCK AND ALWAYS HAVE!!! WE’RE WINNERS!!!” Really? Winners? Let’s break out some more of those things I like to call, the facts, and see how much of a winning franchise they have over there. I’ll start with the number of World Series appearances the Sox have made since the first was played in 1903.

Five. Yep, that’s it. FIVE. A whopping five times, the Sox were the best team in the American League. There have been 106 World Series played (it wasn’t played in either 1904 or 1994) and the Sox have been there five times. Want to take a guess at how many times the Cubs have been to the Series? You know, the team the Sox deem inferior?

Ten. Ten times. For those of you who suck at math, that’s twice as many as the current BP Cup champs have been to. Hell, we haven’t even been there in 66 years and we still have doubled them up!! I hate when facts fuck up a perfectly good hatefest. Surely, the Sox must be dominating in total World Series titles, you say. I mean, the meatballs must have some sort of basis for this superiority complex, right?

Think again. They’ve won three titles to our two. We have a combined 5 titles. Consider this….from 1949 to 1953, the New York Yankees won five titles in a row. They matched our total title output by themselves in the minimum number of seasons. THAT is a team whose fans can rub it in and boast about superiority. Sox meatballs have no room to brag about shit unless they’re in Toledo or Pawtucket or some backwater like that. When they call us losers, they are ignoring the 400 lb elephant in the room. No, not a female Packer fan (fuck you assholes, you’ll get yours in the fall), but the spectre of failure that haunts both our teams. Get a clue about what success entails and you’ll see neither of our teams measures up.

Ed. Note – One of the things that pissed me off the most about the Cardinals lucking into winning the most recent World Series was that St. Louis now has doubled up Chicago when it comes to WS titles. Damn bitches.

Sadly, I’m not sure if you can ever recover from being a meatball. The idiocy and ignorance are usually too deeply ingrained to ever be rooted out and exorcised.


Exorcism worked for her, but the Devil is less powerful that the meatball gene.

But if you have a loved one who you’d love to be able to have an intelligent and rational conversation about baseball with, no matter what team you root for, please try liberal applications of facts and statistics. Discourage them from shouting half-truths and shit that’s totally steeped in bullshit. Talk things through with them, don’t let them close their minds to the big picture.

If that fails, you may try the Ludovico Technique for Meatballs. Ask this guy if it works.

They may never eat Italian food again, but it’s a small price to pay for the good health of a loved one.