Thursday, August 27, 2009

Calling (out) All Cubs Fans

Milton Bradley has brought this into stark relief, but the problem has been going on as long as I've been alive. It's a sensitive topic, so I'll keep it short, easy on the sweet.

The following are true, albeit made up:

Cub fans are 85% more likely than other fans to believe they control the outcome of the game.

Cub fans are 77% more likely than other fans to think that a players looks significantly influence their on-field play.

Cub fans are three times as likely as Reds fans to blame a loss on a post-game press conference.

98% of Cubs fans have credited "supernatural forces" with the result of at least one entire Cubs season; of those, 89% believe they can control the aforementioned supernatural forces; 17% of Cub fans think those numbers are a little low.

86% of Cub fans are annoyed at baseball record keepers for not statistically tracking "clubhouse vibe."

2% of Cub fans are billy goats.

.01% of Cub fans were alive the last time they won a World Series.

100% of Cub fans who just read that winced.

Whatcha Gonna Do When Milton Bradley Runs Wild on You?

I'm sick of it. I've had enough. I'm mad as Lou, and I'm not gonna take it anymore.

Not at the Cubs. Not at anyone on the Cubs. Right now, my ire, my disappointment, and my criticisms are all aimed squarely at the fans. But surprisingly enough, the best advice I can give them just may be to keep doing exactly what they're doing.

The drop from first place on July 31 to second place (a full 9 games behind the Cardinals) here on August 27 sickens me as much as it does anyone. But the specific symptom irritating me now is that the Cub fans are (aside from Aaron Miles) focusing their slide-induced angst on one player more than any other. Here are his stats in that span of time:

G: 18 / HR: 3 / RBI: 9 / BA: .303 / OBP: .410 / SLG: .500 / OPS: .910

That's who's getting booed. The guy with the .910 OPS is the one getting skewered, roasted, shredded, and slathered in barbecue sauce by Cub fans while August gobbles up the Chicago Cubs. If you're okay with that, it's probably because you know that player is Milton Bradley. You don't care what his stats are, you hate him, and you hate him even more for calling you out on it.

I cannot see the reason behind that. (Actually, I can. Here's a list.) But with the right theatrics, I could be okay with it.

Before I give away anymore about the idea that will save Milton Bradley's career in Chicago, I need to vent my frustration about my fellow fans. Here's some of they hypocrisy flying around the Cubosphere:

Milton goes 4 for 4. Cub fans tell him to shut up and hit.

Milton says he faces hatred on a daily basis. Cub fans converge in a giant flaming ball of hate to tell him he's wrong. And stupid.

Milton says he has a group of people to help him deal with his struggles. Cub fans tell him to deal with it.

Lou says he doesn't understand the logic of booing. Cub fans say they have every right to say whatever they want.

Milton talks twice a month. Cub fans tell him to shut his yapper.

Cub fans call Milton a whiny douche and a petulant ass. Cub fans . . . you've been to Wrigley, right? If that isn't the pot pulling the race card on the kettle, I don't know what is.

[/vent] But look, all of that is okay. It is! The Cubs need Milton Bradley. Not just for his stats. The Cubs need a heel, someone they can boo freely, openly, lustily. They need an Andre the Giant to Jake Fox's Hulk Hogan; a Triple-H to Derrek Lee's The Rock; a (10) Million-Dollar Man to Ryan Dempster's Macho Man Savage.

If Milton can just learn to enjoy the boos, thrive on the hate, and feed off the negative emotions of Cub fans (and that's an all-you-can-eat buffet, brother) he just might hit .400 in 2010. Look at what he's doing in this renaissance of Milton bashing? He's hit home runs in two straight games. He's getting hits from the left side. Add the theatrics of hand gestures to the fans, attention-getting postgame interviews, arguing with the refs, er, umps . . . it's all there!

All we really need is obnoxious entrance music, a personal manager like Bobby the Brain Heenan or Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart, and maybe an annoying female sidekick to boot . . . Heidi Montag, maybe? We could turn Milton Bradley into a WWE-size blockbuster!

To make this work, though, I'm gonna need Cub fans to keep bringing the hate. If Milton's slugging percentage rises and falls with the boo-meter, we can't afford to take a day off. If y'all hate him enough, we could be talking World Series faster than you can say "Sports Entertainment."

Now, if I can only bring in John Cena to get the baseball to stop doing that silly "you can't see me" gesture to Fonzy all day long.

UPDATE: Today's 0-5 stinkfest did nothing to validate my support for Milton Bradley. I sit corrected, head in my hands. But this would still be more enjoyable WWE style.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I Just Saved $150 Million on My Baseball Team

There's no shortage of articles about how Sam Zell botched (yes, they all use the word botched) the sale of our beloved Cubs. Most of them focus on Zell and his foolish attempt to sell Wrigley separately like a spare part, the convoluted broadcasting contracts that further slowed the deal, and the $150 million price drop to $845 million from the astronomical billion-dollar milestone the baseball/business world had anticipated.

But who cares about Zell? When the sale finally goes through (and I'm sick and tired of people positing that it is final—it still has to clear the bankruptcy court on 8/31 and the MLB owners, possibly at meetings in November) Sam Zell will be a distant memory, no less forgettable than Chris Stynes.

What I care about is the Ricketts family and the $155 million they saved on this deal.

I know that right now I sound a lot like my wife when she returns from Kohl's, although the most she's ever saved on one trip, I believe, is $60 million. But the Ricketts just saved 15% on the Cubs. Just imagine if they had received the 20% or 30% coupon in the mail!

What could the Ricketts do with $155 million? Pay the players for one whole year. Woo hoo! Or they could forgo the savings and double the payroll (minus a couple bucks in luxury tax). Heck, he could send the entire outfield (Soriano, Fukudome, and Milton Bradley) to a deserted island with their 2010 salaries and still have $115 million. Okay, the fact that those three will make $40 million ($18 mill, $13 mill, and $9 mill respectively) is a little depressing.

Look, I know that in this economy, spending $845 million isn't easy on anybody. But Zell owning this team may have just finally paid off, thanks to the same terrible business sense that led him to buy the Chicago Tribune Company in the first place.

Maybe, just maybe, we can afford to pay for (and move on from) some costly contractual mistakes.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day-Off Reflections: 2003

2003 gave us false hopes. Allow me to let it happen again.

Bring up the 2003 Cubs and three names come to mind instantly: Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Steve Bartman. Not exactly a flood stream of happy memories.

So I'm going to ask something of you that you've probably asked of yourself hundreds of times: forget the 2003 postseason and the 2004 SI cover jinx ever happened. If you can't afford that much therapy, just pretend you can forget those things ever happened. Because once you set the dismal end aside, you might remember that 2003 was a dizzying, thrilling, spin-you-round-till-you-toss-your-cookies carnival ride.

The 2009 Cubs have now played 122 games. At this point in the schedule (after a 5-10 loss to the Dodgers) the Cubs were 64-58 and in 2nd place, a 1/2 game behind the Astros. Not a shock that the Cubs wound up winning the division, based on that position alone. But at a couple of points before and after the 122-game mark, the outlook was about as bleak as it is now.

Game 101. After getting swept at home in a 2-game series against the Phillies, the Cubs dropped one game under .500, putting themselves in 3rd place and 5 1/2 games out of the division lead. Things were really bad. Twenty games later, the Cubs were in 1st.

Game 135. The Cubs were shutout 2-0 by Doug Davis and Milwaukee, putting them back in 3rd place, a mere 3 games over .500, and 2 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cardinals. With only 27 games left to play, things looked really bad . . . again. Eight games later, the Cubs were in 1st.

Game 149. The Cubs dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to the Reds, putting them 2 games behind the Astros and 9 games over .500. Things weren't hopeless, but with 13 games to play, it looked bad.

Game 155. A loss to the Pirates kept the Cubs 1 1/2 games behind the Astros, who lost to the Cardinals with 7 games to play. Darkness.

Game 159. Todd Van Poppel's Reds beats the Cubbies, bringing them into a tie with Houston. Three games to play. Totally nervous.

Games 160 and 161. A rainout forces the Cubs to play a doubleheader with the Pirates—and the Cubs sweep! The Astros lose to Milwaukee, and the Cubs clinch the National League Central! There is much rejoicing throughout Cubdom! Exclamation points are overused, and no one cares!

Are things as bad now as they were then? It's pretty tough to answer that question objectively, since I want the answer to be, "No, they were worse then, and there's no way the Cubs can lose!" Being 8 games behind the Cardinals right now stinks. However, I would rather be 8 games back chasing 1 team than 5 games back chasing 2.

I use this rule of thumb: to calculate how far back in the standings a team is, I combine the number of games they trail every team in that race because you need all of those teams to lose. On July 24, 2003, the Cubs were 5 1/2 games behind the Astros and 2 games behind the Cardinals. I look at that as being 7 1/2 games out of first. As I said before, it only took 20 games for the Cubs to overtake first place after that point (which they would later relinquish and reclaim multiple times).

So the big question remaining is, are the 2009 Cardinals superior to the 2003 Cardinals and Astros? No, they're not. In fact, he 2009 Cardinals aren't even as good as . . . the 2009 Cardinals.

Let's be realistic: Matt Holliday is hitting .394 with a .457 OBP and .688 SLG since joining St. Louis. With Oakland, those numbers were .286 / .378 / .454. I can't guarantee anything, but it is highly likely that Matt Holliday won't continue to put up the numbers he's currently posting with St. Louis. Albert Pujols makes his teammates better, but unless he's sharing HGH, he doesn't make them that much better.

The Cardinals will probably slow down a bit. Past Cubs teams have shown the ability to close a big gap in a short amount of time. The big question is, can this year's Cubs team feast on the smörgåsbord of suck laid out before them in the coming weeks?

I don't know. But I don't feel like a total idiot for hoping they do.

Pictures courtesy of MLB, Sports Illustrated

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cubs Must Go From Boys to Men

This long-distance dedication goes out to the Chicago Cubs from that special someone who knows you belong together, even if it seems like you'll never be together: The Playoffs love you. They want you back. Please don't say it's the end. You just don't understand how much I love you, do you? . . . You just won't come back to me, will you? Just come back to me!

I can't let go. It's unnatural.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Top Ten Things I Hate About Cubs West Coast Trips

I did a Top Ten Positives list to try to fool myself into happiness. Here's reality's wake-up call:

Top Ten Things I Hate About Cubs West Coast Trips

10. The Cubs lose when they go to the West Coast.
9. Reminds me of Steve Garvey.
8. Limericks about Orel Hershiser don't fit in one Tweet.
7. The worst migraine I ever had (which included temporary local paralysis) was induced by staying up to watch a Dodger game.
6. The pain of a midnight loss is still fresh in the morning.
5. The Cubs stink out West.
4. Mannywood.
3. Dogs that roam the field before games leave behind metaphors of Cubdom.
2. West Coast trips are like those sitcom episodes where the whole family goes to some exotic place and something awful happens and by the end of the two-parter, everyone's just glad to make it home alive.
1. I'm just so tired of losing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Twitter Is Cubs Therapy

Does Kevin Gregg [bottom right] owe Shane Victorino an apology?

A funny thing happens when a guy fails colossally for the Chicago Cubs: he starts to get blamed for more than his fair share of guilt. If it goes on long enough, the poor sap can achieve legendary status of abysm (yes, it's a word; no, it doesn't mean what I'm implying it means . . . yet; it will catch on as the act or state of being abysmal).

It's called . . . the reverse Chuck Norris effect.

The positive side of the routine has gained popularity on a commercial level with the Dos Equis beer ad campaign about the Most Interesting Man in the World, but we all know it originated with Chuck Norris. You can read them on into infinity (which Chuck Norris has counted to . . . twice) at It has some real gems like these:

When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn't lifting himself up, he's pushing the Earth down.


Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.

You can find a great alternative on Twitter that sings the praises of 24's Jack Bauer. Just follow JackFacts24 (or merely follow the link; you need not tweet to read tweets) to read more tremendous founts of hyperbolic grandeur like this one:

Jack Bauer's killed so many bad guys that #5 on the World Most Wanted list is a Malaysian kid that downloaded the movie Dodgeball.

See. It's funny. It even reaches peak hilarity in the baseball world over at The Ted Lilly Fan Club. But when it happens in the opposite direction, sadness creeps in. Don't get me wrong, it's enormously funny, especially when it happens live on Twitter, as it did last night. The downside is that sad events (like anything involving Aaron Miles or Kevin Gregg) precipitate the folly.

The joking began directed at the indescribably bad Aaron Miles. I suggested he was the reason Tony LaRussa started batting his pitchers 8th, and things snowballed from there. People started adding the hashtag #reversechucknorris to their insults to make it easier to track (you can read the conveniently organized hatin' right here).

But by the time Kevin Gregg gave up his third game-losing home run of the year, any ire directed at Miles shifted dramatically and overwhelmingly at Kevin Gregg, and not even those goggles could have shielded him from the hatred radiating off our collective screens. The rage was too acute, too intense to channel into meticulous hashtaggery. No one thought to accuse Kevin Gregg of being the real beer tosser (until now) as tweets gave way to torches, and the fun of it vanished.

Had it not been for the outlet of ridicule that Twitter provides, though, I'm afraid the rage of that moment would have been much worse. It's at times like these that Twitter comes in real handy. It gives any fan a chance to vent without destroying things. It makes the bad a little less painful. And it makes the good (like when I had the good fortune of predicting Kosuke's 3-run homer against the Pirates) even more fun than usual.

Again, even if you're not a tweeter or twitterer or tweetist, you can follow the commentary stream in any number of platforms. Cubscast has its convenient and friendly 140 Characters from Home Plate page. You can search for #cubs on Twitter. Or if you join Twitter, you can comment from within the MLB Gameday applet (for free . . . for now). It won't fix the closer situation, but it will help us deal with the brokenness. If you're already tweeting, be sure to follow me, @Adambuckled . . . or not. I tweet too much.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Top Ten Things About a Cubs West Coast Trip

The Cubs are about to begin a string of late-night (for me) contests against those West-Coast adversaries the Padres and the Dodgers. And while these road trips bring their fair share of negatives in both the baseball world and real life, I did manage to come up with these ten pluses:

Top Ten Things About a Cubs West Coast Trip
10. You're barely awake enough to appreciate the sadness of a tough loss.
9. Tom Skilling is even sexier after midnight.
8. Eating your traditional 8th-inning nachos means you can call in sick to work without lying.
7. Afternoon and evening freed up for more important matters like reworking your fantasy football draft strategy.
6. Easier to curse Aaron Miles freely and loudly after the kids go to bed.
5. 90210 airs at its originally scheduled time.
4. Dodgers series = four straight nights of watching the camera cut away to Alyssa Milano.
3. Real good chances of falling asleep before Marmol or Gregg blow the game.
2. Gail Fischer and Todd Hollandsworth not afraid to drop F-Bomb in after-hours postgame.
1. Milton Bradley's swing gains two hours.

Friday, August 14, 2009

You Won't Like Me When I'm Angry

Image courtesy of

You know I try to be positive, right? If you've read my Cubs profile, you know I do my best to think from the perspective of the players, the manager, and the general manager and to try to understand why they do what they do. I give them the benefit of the doubt.

As this Twitter discussion with Lou, co-host of Cubscast, shows, Monday's game inspired a flash of violence that made an impression on my coffee table. But the anger faded. For the most part, I try to stay positive and hope for the best. Heck, my last post was a Romper Room clip. But yesterday's game had me furious—and I'm still fuming. There might be serious furniture casualties if this keeps up.

In some ways, yesterday's loss to the Phillies was the easiest to stomach of all the games in the sweep. The Phillies who are supposed to hit well did. The reigning AL Cy Young showed the award was no fluke. Ryan Dempster pitched okay except for a few costly mistakes. The bullpen didn't implode. The offense was stymied by a pitcher who does that to teams on a regular basis.

But here's what really browned my ivy:
  • Milton Bradley was moved from the #2 spot, where he's excelled, to the #3 spot, where he has no business hitting.
  • Kosuke hit 2nd, instead of leading off where he has excelled. (For a detailed and extremely clever explanation of why both these moves were idiotic, read on.)
  • Ryan Theriot hit leadoff, where he has done well, but not as well as when he hits 7th or 8th.
  • Aaron Miles is still on this team, and he played yet again.
So I'm angry at Lou for screwing up the lineup, especially for messing with Milton Bradley's hot streak. I mean, COME ON! Bradley clearly thrived in the lower pressure of the #2 slot. He's hitting almost 200 points better as the #2 hitter than in the 3-slot. When he tries to get on base and hit good pitches hard, he's brilliant. When he tries to hit for power like a #3 hitter, he is not good. Lou: put Milton back in the #2 slot and do it NOW.

And I'm mad at Jim Hendry. I won't criticize his off-season moves, because very few of them have turned out to reflect statistical projections. I won't blame him for that. But I WILL blame him (in all-capped italics if I must) for the move he's not making now. Aaron Miles needs to go, and it should have happened a long time ago.

The Cubs have Aaron Miles because the Cardinals decided he wasn't good enough to play for them any more. It's not like releasing him would bring shame to anyone but Aaron Miles. I don't hate Aaron Miles. He seems nice. But he has not played at a major-league level all year long. Maybe his injuries excuse that. Maybe the frustration is eating him up. Whatever the cause of his meltdown, I feel bad for him. But I don't want him around anymore an any role more demanding than assuming Yosh Kawano's clubhouse duties.

You can read Aaron Miles's full stats at, but I'll highlight these for you:
I'm not mad at Aaron Miles. I'm sure he's doing everything he can. But it's time for Jim Hendry to give him a wonderful assortment of parting gifts including the home game version of The Mendoza Line Challenge. Miles is taking up a roster spot, and the list of players more deserving of being on the roster than Aaron Miles is long and includes my brother's roommate's cat.

I'm fed up with inexcusable bad decisions. Yesterday's game was the prime example of stupid, indefensible management. Jim, Lou, I have been your advocate and defender, but you are testing my freaking limits.

[Yosh Kawano image courtesy of Baseball Hall of Fame]

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cub Fan Palette Cleanser

It's time to wash away the angst, Cubs fans. Let's forget about the beer throwing, name calling, justice bringing, and massive failing. Let's have a Superman day, mmmKay? Press play, watch, and repeat until you feel spring fresh.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stat of the Week: Milton Bradley 2, MB's Revenge

Here's a Rhorshack test for you: What does this image make you think of? Sosa? Marquis? Bradley? Jay Johnstone? Right now I see only the first number, because Milton Bradley belongs in the 2 slot of the batting order. Since Lou made Milton 2nd in command, here's what his stats look like:

.476 BA; .542 OBP; .619 SLG; 1.161 OPS; 5 G, 3 R, 3 RBI

This is a small statistical sampling, I know. But Milton's OBP is .400 for the year. His SLG is .402. He belongs near the top of the lineup, $10 million be damned. And statistics aside, the #2 hole just may be the lowest-pressure spot in baseball. It's perfect for him.

Coincidentally, Kosuke Fukudome is making a killing as a leadoff platoon man. Here are his numbers as the Cubs offensive front man:

.325 BA; .439 OBP; .550 SLG; .989 OPS; 22 G (1 as a replacement); 15 R; 2 HR; 12 RBI

If you want a reason to be optimistic about the Cubs playoff hopes, these guys provide lots. Milton and Fukudome have each produced an average of more than 1 run per game in their new homes in the lineup. They're on base all the time. If they keep this up (or anything close to this) it is highly probable that their run production will increase.

I know this season has been a roller coaster, but there are plenty of signs that the rest of the ride could be a lot of fun (with a lot less puking on ourselves).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Milton Bradley's Fate (and Swing) in His Hands

Yesterday looked like a resurrection game for Milton Bradley. He went 4-5 with an RBI (3-4 from the left) and is 7-11 in the series against the Rockies. So why would I pick today to critique his hitting? Why would I come down hard on a guy who is currently enjoying his best offensive (and, in some ways, least offensive) surge of the season?

Because Milton's one out in yesterday's games epitomized the secret of his struggles. Cue the video.

The movie is old, but the story stays the same. In the critically acclaimed film, Milton Bradley Breaks Bat Over Knee, Milton Bradley plays himself as a Padre. At the 0:52 mark, you can see a moving scene in which the oft misunderstood slugger strikes out as a left-handed batter and then shows the audience that the film is not at all ironically titled.

I bring up this clip to help, not to embarrass. Pay close attention to Milton's hands as the pitch approaches the plate. He's moving his hands up and back, which is what he did in his one failed at-bat of yesterday's game. He also strikes out in this video, which is what he did in that at-bat yesterday. He then breaks his bat in frustration, which . . . you get the idea.

I've noticed it a lot lately. When Milton whiffs from the left side, his hands are invariably moving backward (and usually a tad upward) before he starts his swing. I'm no batting coach, but that can't help. Normally when you swing the bat, forward hand movement is advantageous.

Still, I wondered if I was only noticing this backward technique on bad LH at-bats and forgiving it the other 23% of the time. But as this video clip from shows, Milton doesn't always move his hands backward when he swings . . . just when he misses or gets freakishly jammed (and usually in high-pressure RBI situations like yesterday's K).

When Milton is most successful, he drops his hands slightly before swinging, sometimes a little backward, but never as pronounced as the epic-fail swings at crunch time. Actually, from the right he hardly moves his hands at all before swinging.

So there it is, Milton. I advise you to adopt some kind of trigger/timing mechanism involving dropping your hands so that you avoid these counterproductive activities before (and after . . . dear Lord, someone stop the maple carnage) your swings. Other than that, keep up the good work against the Rockies.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Let the Pictures Tell the Story

I've really got nothing to say about the Cubs right now, other than I hope they win. So here's a brilliant bit of photography from the geniuses at the Windy Pixel. Enjoy (and buy).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pujols Impressions

When I saw the situation, I knew and everybody in the world knew what was going to happen. Bases loaded. Two outs. Albert Pujols at the plate in the 10th. Cardinals leading 8-7. 0-2 count. . . . Against the Mets.

The grand slam came as a shock to absolutely no one. It wasn't the game winner, but it was assurance to Cub fans everywhere that A) the Cubs would have to share 1st place with the Cardinals for one more day and B) Albert Pujols is ridiculous.

Now some people claim there's no way Albert Pujols is on steroids. To me, that's the cry of hope drowning out the voice of reason. But it doesn't matter. Pujols is playing on a level playing field against other men who all want to win, to succeed, to put up gaudy numbers, and to be the best. And right now, those other men look like boys. In their eyes, Albert Pujols is in another league of manhood.

In the eyes of my son, however, Albert Pujols is just a funny name. At the Cubs game last week in which Randy Wells seemed to be coating his pitches with fly-ball repellent, I was trying to teach my almost-six-year-old son one of the finer points of the game. Koyie Hill was up with two outs, and even on their way to a 12-0 win, the Cubs would really like to see him reach base so that Randy Wells could bat this inning and turn the lineup over for the next. Randy Wells, I said, isn't the best hitter in the world.

"So who is the best hitter in the world?" my son asked.

Here I faced the first of several moral dilemmas: Do I tell my son the truth, or do I let my disdain for all things Cardinal cloud my answer? Reluctantly, I blurted out the truth: "Well, I hate to say it, but he plays for the Cardinals. It's Albert Pujols."

Instantly, my son burst into irrepressible belly laughter. Between loud giggles and desperate gasps for air, he managed to repeat with inquisitive hilarity, "Poo holes? Poo holes?!!?"

And then came the next moral dilemma: Do I laugh with him at Albert's unfortunate given name, or do I tell him to A) not make fun of people for their names and B) avoid the scatological humor (a lesson at which I'm a horrible example)? I did my best. After all, my wife was watching.

"Son," I said, trying to suppress my own giggle-snorts, "I know it's a funny sounding name, but it's not nice to make fun of people's names like that. Be nice, and use nice words."

He laughed. A lot. He's a restless little boy, and that joke kept him in his seat for three innings. (When he needs to make someone laugh, he'll ask, "Hey, do you know who plays for the St. Louis Cardinals?" I can't stop him.) But he did soon ask me if . . . that guy, was really the best hitter in the world.

Next dilemma: Do I tell him about steroids? Do I take advantage of my son's impressionable mind by filling him with more anti-Cardinal prejudice? Or do I gloss over what I believe to be reasonable suspicions to protect that part of his innocence left untouched by Pujols jokes? I tried to be honest:

"Yeah, he's the best. Some people think he cheats, but it's pretty hard to prove either way."

"How could he cheat?"

"Taking special medicine. Kind of like if Harry Potter took Felix Felicis before a Quidditch match."

"Oh." Then he paused and reflected for a moment, thoughtfully, deeply. "Poo holes! Bwah!"

That Pujols grand slam brought back this story, because I realized so much of baseball is our perspective. What are we watching? What do we hope to see? What do we fear? Our expectations and biases and viewpoints can drastically alter what we see and how we experience the game.

There are still two full months of baseball left, but Cub fans are scoreboard watching as if 101 years hang on every game. It's probably not the best approach. It's exacerbated by the virtual tie with our nemesis.

Even the rivalry brings out some of the worst in us: the urge to demean and deride the other team and their fans (guilty); the temptation to stick pins into our Matt Holliday voodoo dolls (I'm waiting); the tendency to equate the Cubs with good and the Cardinals with evil. Even the steroids issue often hinges on the damage a new revelation would inflict: I'd get some satisfaction seeing a using Cardinal outed, but I would instinctively defend any Cub who got named.

I guess it just helps to remember that these are people. Not gods, not devils. It's best not to worship them or hate them. Sit back, enjoy the game for what it is, and turn your attention and passion to things that truly matter.

Like teaching your kid to stop shouting, "Poo Holes!!!" in mixed company.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sean Marshall: The New Closer?

I'm just going to list some facts. Not even stats. Just facts. You draw your own conclusions.

  • Kevin Gregg has struggled lately. He struggled earlier, too. In between all that struggling, he was pretty good.
  • Carlos Marmol is somewhat undependable. He has great stuff. Sometimes that stuff makes it into the strike zone. The Carlos situation seems to get worse in the 9th inning.
  • John Grabow looks like the Cubs' new lefty specialist/jam remover.
  • Sean Marshall used to be the Cubs' only lefty specialist/jam remover, and he's been great in that situation all year.
  • Sean Marshall has looked very good in high-pressure situations.
  • The Cubs might want to try somebody else at closer.
  • I wouldn't mind seeing the Cubs winning in the 9th inning with a guy named Sean Marshall on the mound with the potential to earn himself a save and the Cubs a win.
That's all I'm saying.