Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wrigley Gets a Visit from St. Nicholas

'Twas the night before Christmas at old Wrigley Field.
Not a creature believed that the next year would yield
A World Series trophy for the downtrodden Cubs.
Our candles of hope had all dwindled to nubs.

The most hopeful of fans in their wildest of dreams
Think the Cubs could contend by sucking less than five teams.
There's no feigning faith in the young Cubs' potential,
But there's always a chance in the craptastic Central.

If Ramirez and Pena play over their heads,
And injurious luck plagues the Cardinals and Reds,
And the wind blows out only when the Cubs are at bat,
The Cubs could top 80 in a division like that!

And we have Tyler Colvin and Castro and Kerry!
And the good vibes from CubsCon in mid-January
Will surely restore us from the darkness of doubt
By reminding us what being Cubs fans is about!

The sentiment and warm fuzzies might make your hope blossom,
And the fact that we have four Carloses is awesome.
But Kerry Wood's old now. Mark Prior's a Yankee,
While the Brewers have Gallardo, Braun, Fielder, and Greinke.

So if Santa brings a gift to the confines so friendly,
I'd settle for an analyst better than Brenly.
While the influx of talent is less flow than ebb,
The Cubs won't be helped much by Garza or Webb.

No, the best gift to calm any poor Cub fan's soul
Is the wisdom to dwell on what we can control.
Our displeasure won't lower the high price of tickets,
And our myriad blogs won't sway Hendry or Ricketts.

What we can do is care less (or a little less deeply),
Especially as the Cubs run the team so darn cheaply.
Our faith, like the ownership's plan is mysterious;
If we know that they suck, then why take it so serious?

Just enjoy it, relax, and hope for the best.
Cheer a little bit more, analyze a bit less.
But, I shouldn't presume to tell you how to feel, so . . .
Happy Christmas to all, and to all, go Cubs go.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pat's New Partner: Someone Completely Different?

This much we know: Pat Hughes has signed a 5-year extension with WGN; the Cubs and WGN are looking for someone to fill Ron Santo's slot as radio analyst (seriously, follow that link and you can apply right now); no one can fill the void Ron Santo left in the heart of Cubdom.

Ed Sherman says it well in his column on the Cubs' task of finding a new analyst:

Let's make this clear: The Cubs never will have another Ron Santo.

They'll never find another analyst who played the game harder and knew and felt more what it meant to be a Cub. There never will be another character in the booth who could make you laugh the way he did. Certainly, it is highly unlikely the new person will be wearing a toupee.

Indeed, Mr. Santo will be missed.
Sherman also informs us that Mark Grace is unlikely to leave his gig with the Diamondbacks, which allows him to moonlight with Fox on the weekends. That leaves a list of proposed usual suspects of Keith Moreland, Dan Plesac, Dave Otto, Todd Hollandsworth, Eric Karros, and Gary Matthews. If I had to pick between any of those prospects, I'd choose Zonk. But I'd much rather see the Cubs go in a completely different direction.

I don't know if the aforementioned job listing is official or facetious and can't say for sure how reliable the listed prerequisite is: "Preferred candidate will have played with the Chicago Cubs -- or played major league baseball with previous broadcast experience as a game analyst." I hope they'll find someone who meets none of those criteria.

Really, are you pleased with the state of baseball analysis as we know it? Do you find yourself saying, I wish a former player could tell me when the big moments are coming and that a hit here would be big or a strikeout here would be big or a win today would be big, big, big, BIG? Will you be waiting all winter for that special ex-jock to pretend he knows what the pitchers and hitters are thinking? Are you going through Joe Morgan withdrawal?

Didn't think so. I understand the value of former players who wish they were still playing can help us better relate to the action on the field, but for most of us who have been following the game for more than, say, two years, that style of insight has become repetitive. Every baseball broadcast I've ever heard follows that formula. Good-with-words guy describes the action, good-with-sports guy interprets it. Listen and watch enough games, and you pretty much know what's coming. Only the personalities change (and some of those have been and are truly entertaining, don't get me wrong).

But wouldn't you like to see something different? Wouldn't it be a stroke of genius to add a little spicy variety to the broadcast booth? What if we actually *gasp* learned something during a baseball game? It could happen if WGN would take a page out of Billy Beane's Moneyball manual.

Let's try putting a stathead in the booth. I'd prefer a witty, friendly one, but even a person with a caustic edge would be new. Regardless, Pat Hughes, for all his brilliance, is not a champion of advanced statistics. I don't get the impression he's closed to the concept, but he's an unabashed traditionalist in the most endearing sense. Imagine if the Cubs countered Pat's calm, old-fashioned play-by-play with someone who brought the conversation into the 21st Century of baseball metrics.

While Pat gives us the colors of the pinstripes, caps, shirts, shoes, and socks, his partner could hit us with win probabilities, linear weights, wOBA, and WAR. How much more interesting would the broadcast be if the analyst could tell us how the run expectancy would change when Quade chooses to sac bunt? I would love to hear someone challenge the antiquated myths of baseball lore, an anti-Morgan of the broadcast world. It would actually teach me something and inform us all. Scary, I know, but I'm willing to try.

WGN and the Cubs should be willing too. There's no reason this couldn't work. Pat Hughes can establish an on-air relationship with just about anyone, though I don't dream any pairing will be as magical as Pat & Ron. So how about some science instead? Do something new, something different, something informative for all who listen. I guarantee, it would have the entire baseball world talking. And some of the discussion might actually be complimentary.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kerry Wood, Cub

Guess who's back?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mark Prior, Yankee

Mark Prior is one focused son of a gun. Literally. His parents are Smith & Wesson. I kid you not..
Mark Prior is a Yankee. Kind of. He signed a minor league contract with the Yankees, and he has a shot at earning a place in their bullpen. If he makes the big-league club, it will be the first time he has pitched in the majors since 2006. A lot of people have mocked and will continue to mock this signing as a worthless, desperate move for both parties. The Yankees lost out on the Cliff Lee spend-a-thon, and Mark Prior just wants to do more towel drills with Larry Rothschild.

Screw that. Mark Prior wants to pitch. He will pitch. The Yankees obviously think that's a very real possibility, which means you should too.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Final Stage of Grief: Wrigley Field

Ron Santo deserved better.
I confess, when I learned of Ron Santo's death last week, one of the very first emotions to bubble to the surface was anger, and it was directed at four main parties, three of which I openly cursed: death, diabetes, and the Baseball Hall of Fame. The reasons for those three are obvious enough, so I won't explain them. The fourth recipient of my ire, though, may have been the most intense and prevalent, and I'm not sure why I didn't say anything about it right away.

I suppose I didn't want to redirect my grief where it didn't truly belong. Ron Santo was dead, and that was and is the truly sad part. It's natural for us to deflect the blame to a target that might actually yield positive results. There was no shortage of people to rise up and make the case that Ron Santo deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. That's something that can still be changed. It's too late to do it the right way, the way it should have been done decades ago, but it's not too late to do the right thing, and that's to honor Ron Santo as one of the greatest players ever to man the hot corner. But that won't take away an ounce of the grief of his death. It's not even what he really wanted.

If you think about what Ron really wanted before he died, you'll see exactly where I'm going with this. The entity against whom I fumed in unspoken rage was the team Ron loved with all his heart, the team that had kept him on life support with nothing but ivy, hope, and generally subpar baseball. Yeah, I was mad at the Chicago Cubs for failing to deliver what was probably the only item left on Ron Santo's bucket list: a World Series.

It's just a game. It's not important. To borrow from the classic film of the season, in the whole vast configuration of things, the Cubs are nothing but a scurvy little spider. The world doesn't revolve around them . . . but Ron's world did. As long as we're talking in holiday movies, I'd compare Ron Santo's wish for a Cubbie World Series to Natalie Wood's hope in Miracle on 34th Street that Santa would prove to be real. Maybe it was just a glorified childhood fancy, but it was important to Ron, and Ron was important to us.

And really, Ron Santo wasn't asking for a Miracle on Addison and Clark any more than he was asking for reindeer to fly or elves to travel at warp speed. All it really would have taken was for the Cubs organization to give two craps about how the team performed on the field. A lot of fans whine and moan about the sacrifices they've made for the Cubs, and it's laughable. Not so with Ron Santo. The man gave a lot to the organization. He lost his legs waiting for a championship that never came.

Maybe it is stupid to bring it up. The Cubs' failures aren't the reason I'm sad about Ron Santo dying. But they do seem insulting to his memory. And as his memorial services almost literally revolve around his beloved Wrigley Field and his connection to the Cubs, a half-hearted, half-baked attempt at kinda sorta contending does very little to honor a man whose legacy is his utmost passion for the Cubs and excellence in the game of baseball.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Perfect 10: We Will Miss You, Ronny

I'd tell you to rest in peace, Ronny, but wherever you are, you're probably as active and vocal as ever.
Ron Santo's death hurts. Took me about two days to write just that*. I wasn't sure why it hurt so much at the time I heard the news, but as it all sank in, one by one the reasons became clearer.

Santo was a fan. Up until Thursday, anyone who said he or she was the biggest Cubs fan in the world was misinformed. That title belonged to Ron Santo. He played almost his entire career as a Cub. The entirety of his professional broadcast career was for the Cubs. His Cooperstown plaque would have, if not for the worst oversight in the Hall of Fame's existence, featured a Cubs cap. He may have never been considered "Mr. Cub," but no one in the universe had as much emotion invested in the success of the Chicago Cubs as Ron Santo did.

For most people, that kind of commitment to a terminally lost cause would be considered absolute nonsense. For Ronny, it made perfect sense. Cubs baseball was the joy of his life, and his life was a battle. You can forgive him getting more than a little absorbed in a kid's game, because it kept this Old Cub, this dying Cub, young. Even when it seemed like this team was killing him.

In Ron, we had someone who identified with all our irrational joys and frustrations. His every "Yes!" and "Come on!" and, of course, "Nooooooooo!" were our primal reactions broadcast to millions, exclaimed to guttural perfection. Sometimes he would impart the insight of a Hall-of-Fame caliber ballplayer, but the art of telling us what we didn't know was never his forte. No, Ron excelled at shouting out precisely what we felt. More often than not, disappointment. The occasional jubilation. Never a word without at least a trace of hope. Maybe the respectable person should have bottled some of that up, but Santo could pull it off. And even when we chose to be a little more reserved, a little more rational, or a little more at work, where yelling, "What is that man doing!?" just wouldn't be acceptable, we could at least live vicariously through Ron's unbridled, unfiltered enthusiasm.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Who Would Pay to Rename Wrigley?

All this talk of renovating Wrigley at the taxpayers' expense (and let's face it, no matter how the taxes are collected, bonded, spent, or repaid, it all comes down to people paying taxes through the nose) has stirred up a lot of conversation about other potentially disconcerting ways for the Cubs to bring in revenue. While we fans are still partial to the idea of selling 2011 Cubs World Series Champion memorabilia as an ideal money-making scheme, the likelihood of that is { }.

Cubs think tank members in blogging and mainstream realms agree that the most obvious way for the Cubs to collect some quick cash is to peddle their most attractive commodity: Wrigley Field. More precisely, the naming rights. Wrigley by any other name would still smell like piss, so let's get over the sentimental attachment to our former overlords, shall we? It wasn't named Wrigley before that family owned it, so why shouldn't the name change now that we're 2 or 3 owners removed from their gum-chewing legacy?

Even if the Cubs do decide to sell the naming rights to their North-Side shrine, they still need to find a buyer. I've come up with ten possibilities, and, in a departure from the norm, most of them aren't even sarcastic options. As far as I know, none of the companies I'm suggesting have naming-rights deals with other arenas, fields, parks, stadia, etc. Some with good reason. Let me know what you think about the prospect of watching the Cubs play in, say, Apple Field.

1. Apple
They've got the money. They don't typically shy away from extra publicity. Maybe it could come with a decent Wi-Fi package for the fans as well.

2. Frontier
Frontier Communications is an ISP/telecom provider typically in smaller suburban and rural communities, and they recently acquired a ton of customers from Verizon service areas. Somehow this resulted in an enormous dip in their stock value. Telecom companies typically like naming-rights deals because brand awareness is huge for them. The publicity of owning the rights to the field soon to be known as formerly-known-as-Wrigley would give them a much-needed competitive edge in the market. It's a bigger doubt, though, that this smaller player in the telecom game would be able to pay out big bucks.

3. BP
Don't laugh. Or laugh, whatever. But BP, we know, has the money. They also have a brilliant history sponsoring crosstown cups. What they don't have is anything to lose. Yes, BP Field would make Cubs fans mad and unhappy. But guess what? They already are. BP and Cubs fans have nowhere to go but up, so I look at this as a low risk, high reward venture.

4. Kraft
I don't have a real good reason for this one other than that they could use a stadium deal, they have a ton of money, and I think my sons would enjoy Cubs games more if the vendors sold Lunchables.

5. Mars, Inc.
Food/candy giant. Recognizable, well respected name. Unobjectionable products. Oh, and Wrigley is their subsidiary, so they could keep the field named Wrigley and finally pay up on the 30 bagijillion dollars of free advertising they get every year. Or they could sue the Cubs for trademark violation for desecrating their brand by tying their name to a urine-soaked frat house. I prefer the bagijillion dollar option, though.

6. Bank of America
Kiefer Sutherland tells me that Bank of America is a proud partner of the Chicago Cubs. This is only natural. Let's put that bailout money to work at Wrigley. I mean, at BOA Ballpark. But seriously, the banking industry is another one where name recognition means a ton. This investment would pay off.

7. Comcast
From what I hear, Comcast customers are just as tormented as Cubs fans, so this makes all the sense in the God-forsaken world. It's another huge, competitive market, and Comcast stands to benefit greatly. Couple that with the 25% stake the Ricketts family has in Comcast SportsNet Chicago, and it's a win-win for everybody.

8. Friends of Meigs Field
Meigs Field got destroyed in a midnight raid by Mayor Daley. I'm sure the group that mourns that loss would take some pleasure in bringing Meigs Field back home to Chicago in the confines of Daley's least favorite baseball franchise, even if they couldn't land planes there. But they have no money. So . . . yeah. No.

9. Geico
The gecko. The cavemen. The money with eyes. The dude from Brothers McMullen and She's the One who's not Edward Burns. There can be no doubt that Geico isn't afraid of brand saturation. Why not add the Cubs as just one more spokesman? I see no reason. Making the decision to redub the Friendly Confines Geico Park is so easy, even a Cub could do it.

10. TD Ameritrade
Ever heard of synergy? Of course you have, and your psyched about the opportunity to see it happen for the Cubs. The Ricketts family is no stranger to paying for Cubs business with TD Ameritrade money. Okay, actually, everyone else in the world but the Ricketts is a stranger to that. Synergy. This is unbreakable. This is inevitable.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Purpled Wrigley

Image by @WNUR_Sports
A lot of people seem distraught that the Wrigley Field marquee has been repainted purple for the upcoming Northwestern football game. I don't mind so much. The scoreboard treatment was a little more shocking, though.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Goodbye Cubscast (Am I Allowed to Type That?)

MLB may never get it. 
If you've been following this blog for long, you know I'm a big fan of Cubscast, the godfather of Cubs podcasts. And if you followed the link to Cubscast, you know that Lou, Sheps, and Sneetch have cast their last pod. The fact that this groundbreaking podcast met its demise saddens me greatly; the way it happened makes me RAGE ANGRY HULK SMASH!

Call it credit or call it blame, Cubscast is the reason I started blogging about the Cubs. I was spending so much time and energy contributing to their message board, I figured I might as well move my verbose ramblings into my own lonely corner of the Interfrontiers. At that time, I wasn't aware that there were 254 batrillion Cubs blogs clogging the virtual plumbing. I knew Cubscast. That was it. And that was enough.

One of the things that made Cubscast great was that they produced the show like professionals but steered the content like fans. They deftly walked the tightrope between hope and frustration, criticism and cheering, being opinionated and open minded. It was a well crafted show and a good show in every sense of the word. They weren't out to make anyone look stupid. They just made being a fan of the Cubs that much more fun. I often disagreed with their opinions, but they set a tone on their broadcast that prevented disagreements from ruling the day. They never lost sight of the fact that baseball is a game and that the game was meant to be enjoyed.

So I enjoyed their podcast. They were and are great Cubs fans. Which makes what MLB did (MLBAM, to be precise) so mind-boggling. Here's an excerpt from Lou's parting words explaining how they were bullied into submission (my words, not his) by the object of their affections:

Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM from here on out) sent us a cease and desist letter demanding that we immediately stop using the Cubscast.com domain name. The letter also said compliance meant to immediately transfer our domain name to them, or else. A few weeks later we found out that MLBAM did not want us using the name "Cubscast" for our show, either.
MLBAM is the Internet/Interactive/Idiotic arm of Major League Baseball. They suck. They're the ones responsible for trying to charge for the use of public-domain stats in fantasy baseball, streamlining the secondary ticket market through StubHub, and assuring the entire world that they never see a single baseball highlight anywhere but through MLB.com, which they own and crap all over.

Remaining true to their greedy, senseless monogamist prison rape of their own brand, they decided that fans who wish to promote and enhance the engagement with the Major League Baseball product should not use the name of their favorite teams anywhere in their domain, program name, or any other place where such usage would make total sense for any fan looking for another way to express their appreciation FOR THE STUPID TEAM!


Deep breath. Let's continue.

We have pursued every angle possible in trying to find out exactly why this happened and how we could resolve it amicably. We have had several phone calls with MLBAM to gather the facts and state our opinion on the matter, which is that our site is not deceptive in the least and does not cause confusion (we have had a disclaimer at the bottom of our site for several years), among other things. We outlined our position in a letter back in March. We didn't hear much in response, and then several months passed before MLBAM got back to us, basically sticking to the language in their original letter, asking us to fully comply, and to call them if we had any questions.
Yeah, I've got a question. WHY DO YOU HATE YOUR FANS?!? Whew. Another deep breath. One more. Okay, carry on.

Somewhere in the middle of this ordeal we discovered that a major league team besides the Cubs found one of our sister podcast websites and didn't like that they didn't own it, which seems to be the genesis of this ordeal. We offered to immediately shut that site down and transfer the domain to MLBAM, but that is not good enough. MLBAM wants everything, including Cubscast.
That major league team is the twins. Attention all twin fetish porn sites: prepare to be shut down unless you take the word twins out of the domain.
Sorry, couldn't resist commemorating this event with one big sizzling pile of copyright-abuse irony.

Of all the things an organization with such great resources as Major League Baseball can do, this seems like a low note and a waste of talent to me. I love baseball, but I wish they would move quickly to embrace fan involvement, fan communities, and technology. Other leagues such as the NBA are setting the bar high, and baseball has some serious catching up to do. Watching a great sport like baseball is one thing, but being connected to other fans makes watching and experiencing a season a thousand times better.
THIS. I know MLB probably desires to see the postseason ratings plummet even further to prevent people who haven't directly subscribed to MLB.tv from being able to discuss the World Series without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball, but come on! Why would any organization seek out and shut down the efforts of their own fans and customers who are trying to promote their product? It is beyond stupid. It's like baseball is their girlfriend and they don't want anybody looking at her or referring to her by name . . . unless they're the ones who can whore her out privately.

Maybe I'm not the foremost expert on social media marketing, but this seems counterintuitive. I wish I could say it was old fashioned, but I can't remember a time in any era when any entity expressed such contempt for their own supporters.

Anyway, we are complying with MLBAM's request and shutting down the Cubscast site, effective immediately. I'm doing my part in this despite having my doubts about the legality of MLBAM's claim. I understand that they own the mark "Cubs" and I'm not a legal expert by any means, but in my opinion the jury's still out on whether or not using a mark to describe a fan club is actually an infringement or not. In our case using the word "Cubs" is simply the most accurate way to describe what we are. We host a free podcast about the Cubs. It's a shame that nobody including us ends up having enough fearlessness (and money) to see a judge rule on this issue. It would undoubtedly shed some light on this matter.
There are two things to discuss here: the law and the logic. Legally, either MLBAM is completely out of bounds or there are a lot of blogs who should be getting really nervous right about now. Bleed Cubbie Blue (sorry, you've got "Cub" in there). Another Cubs Blog. Twinkie TownMetsgrrl. YankeesBlog. Ray's Boathouse, Cafe, and Catering at Rays.com. International Talk Like a Pirate Day. They're all walking a thin line. Sadly, MLBAM will probably go after only those sites/blogs/podcasts that are too small to mount a legal defense. Whether they have legal grounds or not becomes moot when they're big enough to bully an underdog who lacks the resources necessary to challenge the biggest ball of collusion in America.

So yeah, legally (or at least logistically) MLB can tread all over a podcast that dares include the name of the team they discuss and cheer for. Logically, this move is a huge pile of fail. What does MLB gain from this exercise? An image even more tarnished than it already was? A brand that smells like armpit? Fewer fans? Less interest? A more solidified sense that no one under the employ of Major League Baseball has the slightest sense of ethics, decency, marketing, or social awareness? Yes, they gained all that and more.

Congrats, MLB, you managed to attain brand new levels of suck. I have the utmost faith that you can do even worse in the years to come.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ryne Sandberg, Dues Payer

His number is flying on the freaking flag pole. But, yeah, Sandberg needs to pay his dues.
When the news broke yesterday about Ryne Sandberg's departure from the Chicago Cubs organization, a grand total of 0.00 people were surprised. But Kevin Goldstein (and at least 10 other people who felt the urge to retweet the sentiment verbatim) deemed Sandberg's rejection of his old job as manager of the AAA Iowa Cubs to be a petty move, even for a Hall-of-Famer.

Sandberg spent just 4 yrs as minor league mgr and quits because he doesn't get the MLB job. Insult to those that actually paid their dues.

What's truly insulting is the insinuation that Ryne Sandberg has not paid his dues to whatever association is currently collecting that payment. If it's the fraternal order of minor league baseball managers, four years isn't a ton of time. Still, if it doesn't qualify as paying his dues, Sandberg's four-year stint has to at least cover the initial registration fee.

Or did he not pay his dues to the Chicago Cubs? Fifteen seasons. Ten as an All-Star. One MVP. Nine Gold Gloves. Seven Silver Sluggers. Sixty-two wins above replacement. I'd say the four years managing in the minors was overkill as far as his Cubs dues are concerned.

No, I'm sure what Goldstein was getting at must have been the dues required to be a major league manager. So I decided to take a look at the current roster of managers and see who has paid what, especially in the currencies of minor league coaching/managing, major league coaching, and major league playing time before landing their first full-time MLB managing job.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

2010 Random Season Wrap Up

I haven't done an end-of-season report card or award ceremony for 2010 yet because the season has been over for four months now. I've pretty much missed my chance.

Tom Ricketts is too nice.

The next tradition at Wrigley Field will be Todd Ricketts streaking across the outfield after the bottom of the fifth.

The next person to run a trade idea by me gets sent trough surfing.

Things might look bleak now, but in the next few years you're gonna like a lot of the new kids.

Last year, almost every move Hendry made backfired, and the Cubs had a winning season. This year, everything Jim Hendry touched (not named John Grabow) turned to gold, and the team sucked.

I have no idea if Jim Hendry actually touched John Grabow. Although it would explain why Grabow seemed so out of sorts this year.

Paying $60 to sit in the bleachers is like tipping the maître d' to let you wait longer.

Great pitching is the secret to winning in the postseason. Also good defense. And guys who hit well. And a decent manager. Luck, too. Oh, and the fans. Can't forget the fans.

And intensity.

Sometimes it's fun just to argue.

Carlos Zambrano should win comeback player of the year even though he has been here for years.

The next Cubs manager will be . . . disappointed before too long.

It's stupid to start a baseball game anywhere between 4:00 and 6:00 local time.

Baseball seems intent on simultaneously proving that they need to institute replay and that they will ignore that need like a steroid problem.

There were not enough highlights of the 2010 season to make a top ten list.

I could care less about the Chicago Cubs right now. I care about the White Sox less. I care about the Rockies less. I care about the political currents of Auckland, New Zealand less. If I cared about the Cubs as much as I care about those things, it would be less than the current state of caring. I could do it if I tried.

Most baseball fans don't want to have their opinions on talent critiqued by statisticians anymore than soap-opera fans want their favorite characters analyzed by psychologists.

Baseball needs to add another wildcard team like the Emmys need to add a category for Best New Show on The CW.

I really didn't think I'd be able to come up with this many things.

How is comeuppance even a word?

Obligatory Brett Favre Chilean miner joke.

Unless you're holding out hope that the Cubs will win a World Series at some point between now and next October, it's time to admit that the wait between titles is already 103 years.

Baseball is a metaphor for life. It is not life itself. People who can't make the distinction are metaphors for failure.

I could really use a strawberry lemonade Slurpee.

Happy Bartman Day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Club Meh

It's been a week since my last post, so I decided I should write something that would reflect in its length and depth the degree to which I care about the Cubs right n

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Lower Cubs Payroll: I Don't Even Want to Look

When a loud crash at your door sends you running to find this, trust me, you're not glad you looked.
You know that feeling you get when you're resting comfortably at home and a loud and/or unexpected noise shatters the silence? That jolt of adrenaline followed by a downward tug on your pancreas? When you have kids, that sound is often a dull thud; you freeze in the deafening quiet that follows, waiting to hear if a shriek of pain or some kind of tortured sobs will come next . . . you hope for just a controlled "Ouch!" You're scared to know what made the noise, but it's your duty to go check on the safety of your offspring.

In other instances, say in the middle of the night, it's just some kind of knock or far-off crash that is probably the wind, but that's not a good enough explanation. My wife insists it never is. I have to go check it out and see what the cause is. My default answer is "car door," but it's never satisfactory until I have done a quick survey of the house, made sure the kids are still in bed, and fend off any possible intruders who have clumsily made their presence known. Again, it's my responsibility to check it out, but honestly, I don't want to know what made the noise. If it really is a burglar, what am I going to do? Grab a knife? The gun I don't own? A flyswatter or some Lemon Pledge? I'd probably just tell him or her, "Hey, could you wrap it up and get out? My wife is expecting the 'all clear' and I want to be able to pass this off as a car door slamming. That can't happen if you keep banging around." I don't know what I'd do. I don't want to know. All things considered, I'd rather not investigate the noise.

One Sunday morning I had no choice, because it was one of those sounds you just can't ignore, as much as I wanted to: a loud, sharp bang followed by the unmistakable melody of glass smashing into smithereens. It was the day before the night before Christmas, actually. I ran down to the front door to see what was the matter, and I saw that a storm caused my storm door to shatter. I'll stop rhyming and get to the point. When I solved the mystery behind the noise, there was nothing I could do. Snow was packed up on the outside of the door, and any adjustment from the inside was sure to dislodge the glass trapped between the outer screen and the lower, unbroken pane inside. So I just left it. Until March, actually. It stayed pretty crappy outside for a long time, and I just didn't have the time to deal with that mess. We had other doors we could exit through.

As it turned out, and as it very often does, that scary noise didn't actually require the attention one's instincts tend to ascribe to it. Such startling sounds might be worth a look occasionally and demand a response every now and then, but a lot of the time it's just not worth the investigation. Even if it is something significant, there's probably not much I can do about it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why I Hope the Padres Win It All

Adrian Gonzalez, you are more than welcome to call Wrigley home.
This is just weird. Adrian Gonzalez is under contract with the San Diego Padres. The Padres have a club option they would be insane not to exercise to keep their Petco-conquering first baseman for 2011 at the ridiculously low price of $5.8 million. He's in the thick of a pennant race that could see his out-of-nowhere Padres in danger of returning to Nowheresville but well within reach of postseason glory.

They're one game behind San Francisco in the West. They're a half game behind Atlanta in the wildcard. But Adrian Gonzalez had his mind on the Cubs when Gordon Wittenmyer followed the Cubs into town.

I doubt Gonzalez brought it up. But the extent to which he waxed eloquent on the appeal of hitting at Wrigley and playing in Chicago (because playing in front of fans has proved to be of great import recently) went well beyond the norm for non-free-agents in pennant races. Here are all of his quotes from the article snipped together in succession:

There's definitely a lot of positives about Chicago that if they made an offer, I would be interested in it. . . . Chicago's a great town, and they have great fans, and I like the fact that it's a small ballpark. I know the wind can play against you, but it can play for you, too. There's definitely some positives. And my wife loves Chicago, for the shopping. . . . Castro looks good. He looks like he's got energy, and a good swing. . . . I know he got hurt, but Tyler Colvin is a guy that's going to be productive every year. He swings the bat well. . . . Marmol -- obviously, their closer's good. . . . I don't know what the status of Aramis is, but he's one of the top third basemen when he's healthy. They definitely have some good pieces. It's just a matter of making that right move or drafting that right guy.

That's a mouthful, but a moot one at this point. The Padres would be fools to relinquish one of the greatest bargains in all of baseball at one of its most important offensive positions . . . or would they?


Rays in the Forest: Popular vs. Good

Take it from a Cubs fan, David: even 40,000 fans can't drown out embarrassment.

If Evan Longoria hits a 3-run homer in a forest, but no one is around to see it, did it really happen? Somewhere else in Florida there's a guy named Steve who would answer in the absolute affirmative, but Longoria himself and his teammate David Price aren't so sure.

Longoria told reporters that the sparse crowd of 12,446 at Tropicana Field, on a night when the Rays had a chance to clinch a spot in the postseason, was embarrassing and disheartening. As shown above, Price shared the sentiment on Twitter, where it has been publicized to exponentially more people than the number who witnessed the best team in baseball getting shutout by the Orioles.

The embarrassment of the Rays seems like some strange Prince and the Pauper allusion when compared to that of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have the fans, the fame, and the Fortune 500 owner*, but the Rays have something the Cubs wouldn't mind trading places to experience: 93 wins and a magic number of 1** . . . and a little less pressure from the media and fans.

So which is more desirable: being popular or being good?

Friday, September 24, 2010

What Was Ailing Aramis?

That Charlie Horse is a beast to get to.
In the latest (and as I recall only) episode of Aramis Ramirez' True Confessions, the secret of the abominable first half that plagued the Cubs' 3rd baseman and emasculated the Chicago offense came to light . . . kind of. Aramis Ramirez was hurt, but he's not going into details.
I'm not going to say specifically what it was, but I wasn't healthy. . . . Not only the thumb, just injuries in general. I wasn't healthy, put it that way. It's tough enough to play when you're healthy.
I'm not denying Ramirez was hurt, but I'm deeply troubled by his simultaneous transparency and secrecy. If he had never said anything about it, I wouldn't care, but since Aramis brought it up, I need specifics. And since he's not going to say what was holding him back, I have no choice but to come up with my own diagnosis. Here are ten possibilities for what may have been holding Aramis back.

10. Ramirez is a nanosophobe, and his fear of dwarves crippled him until Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot were traded. Ramirez' OPS before the Theriot trade: .700. Since: .830. Actually, that one's so believable, I'm tempted to just stop right here. But I must press on.

9. He sneezed while stepping out of a hot tub after a long night of browsing the Internet. None of that actually hurt him, but after thinking about how his former teammates had been shelved by such mishaps, his sense of mortality overwhelmed him. Then he got better.

8. Jock itch.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Being a Cubs Fan Is Depressing

Ron Santo is a pretty joyful guy, but not even he can deny the depressing nature of Cub fandom.


I'm doing everything I can to make this post depressing. Photo of a glum Ron Santo: check. Ironic photo-manipulation isolating a single splash of Cubby Blue: zing. Sad song from Garden State: posted. Discussion of being a Cubs fan: would have gone without saying had it not been for my blatant disregard for the rule of threes.

If I'm discussing the Cubs, all the other stuff is just Spielbergesque manipulative emotional overkill. The depression is happening. If you're a Cubs fan, that is. Non-Cubs fans often derive great pleasure from discussing the Cubs and their fans. For White Sox fans it's cathartic. For people who just don't like baseball in general it vindicates their choice of pastime. For genuinely, clinically depressed people it might even be humorous that a self-chosen preference for the Chicago National League ball club could take the place of a chemical imbalance in immersing someone in melancholy. But for Cubs fans it's just a sad reality.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Quaalude Quade

Is Quade the stress-relief drug the Cubs have been looking for?
The Cubs just concluded their best road trip of 9 games or more in team history. They won in blowout fashion with a lineup in which Sam Fuld was the seasoned veteran, a lineup that consisted exclusively of rookies and minor-league call-ups. The team has gone 17-7 since Quade took over for Lou Piniella, scoring 5.1 runs per game and yielding just 4 per contest over that stretch.

His tenure hasn't been without adversity. I (among many others) questioned the way he handled the Castro benching. And not that it had anything to do with Quade, but just yesterday the Cubs lost Geovany Soto to surgery and Tyler Colvin to a life-threatening bat shard to the chest (something that would never happen to anyone if MLB cared to fix the problem). But the Quade win train keeps on rolling.

A lot of people attribute the Cubs' good fortune to the absence of Lou or Quade's superiority to Lou, which I find preposterous. Lou's time at the helm ended against a string of five teams with winning records. Quade has had it much easier. The Quade-led Cubs (heretofore known as the Qubs) have faced just two +.500 teams. Qub opponents have a combined season winning percentage of .472, and the six series they have won have been against opponents with a collective .455 win rate. The only good team the Qubs have dominated has been the St. Louis Cardinals, who have had just one day off since August 23 (and won't have another before season's end)—they are 10-17 in that stretch. Quade hasn't exactly been a giant-killer.

But under Lou, the Cubs weren't anything-killers. Overall, the Cubs have a 41-43 record against sub-500 teams in 2010. So while I don't think it's at all fair to compare Quade's two-dozen games managed to Lou's 3,548, I am curious to know if Quade has had a relaxing effect on the Qubs. A lot of people are saying they're thriving in September's low-pressure environment, but there hasn't been any realistic pressure on this team since July. And, with the exception of the Cards, none of the teams the Qubs have won series against are feeling much pressure either. So I don't think we can dismiss the entire positive swing exclusively to low-pressure situations and low-talent opponents.

Maybe the Qubs are feeling less pressure, less stress, and less performance-hampering anxiety because of Mike Quade.

I have often argued that a manager isn't likely to add or detract much to a team's ability to play, but I will add that the Cubs' Achilles heel has often been their penchant for buckling in critical situations. I won't blame any manager for that. I have, mostly in jest, blamed the fans for that. But Milton Bradley said it. Lou Piniella said it. Ozzie Guillen said it. Derrek Lee said it. All of them agree that there is a negative pressure on the Cubs that requires them to compete against 29 other teams and 100+ years of history. If there is one quality that could put one candidate ahead of the rest in my eyes, it would be the ability to shield the team from that pressure or to use it productively.

I don't know if Mike Quade really has that skill, but it seems like he very well might. And the simple fact of the matter is that if Quade is the manager in 2011, there will almost certainly be less pressure simply because of the fact that his name carries no expectations with it. I'd be willing to take that low-risk gamble.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cubs Managerial Candidate List

UPDATED UPDATE: Bob Brenly doesn't want this job. Don Wakamatsu might. And that would be a lot of fun, hearing Ron Santo every day trying to say, "Joining me is the fine, fine manager of the Chicago Cubs, Don Waka . . . waka . . . kazmatsui." So there are new names and newly crossed out ones. Can you feel the eternal hope springing up within you?

UPDATE: Several of your submissions have been added to the list, and to compensate we've narrowed down the search by eliminating a few names from contention.

Now that Fredi Gonzalez has declined the offer to become a contestant on The Manager, I thought this might be a good time for a brief rundown of the Cubs managerial search list. Here's whose names have been added to (and in some cases removed from) the list:

Manny Acta
Dusty Baker
Bud Black
Bruce Bochy
Bob Brenly
Daren Brown
Bobby Cox

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Propose A Moratorium On PED Discussion Until Everyone Reads This

Bill James makes it plain why the purist hubbub over PEDs is revisionist myopia and why the federal investigation is just plain stupid.

Here's a sample:

First of all, I have absolutely no doubt that, had steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs existed during Babe Ruth's career, Babe Ruth would not only have used them, he would have used more of them than Barry Bonds. I don't understand how anyone can be confused about this. The central theme of Babe Ruth's life, which is the fulcrum of virtually every anecdote and every event of his career, is that Babe Ruth firmly believed that the rules did not apply to Babe Ruth.

It only gets better from there.

Almost forgot, h/t to mb21 @ ACB

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cubs Season Tickets Are for Chumps

All things considered, I'd rather be staring at my TV.
Don't get me wrong (or do, it's up to you), I love Wrigley Field. But I can't go there 82 times a year (83 or 84 if you count the playoffs). I love the Cubs, but I don't really want to watch more than 5-10 games in person during any given season. I just have no incentive for ever investing in any season ticket plan. There have been some great posts lately over at Tales from Aisle 424 and ACB on the bigger picture of ticket sales, but I wanted to look at the issue of ticket sales from an individual perspective. From my view, season tickets are for chumps.

I want to rule out one segment of season-ticket holders from the chump equation: those enterprising individuals or . . . enterprises who, in periods of high demand, exploit other chumps on the secondary ticket market either for profit or to subsidize or completely pay for their own Cubs game attendance. When the Cubs are winning and people are willing to pay double or triple face value through online purchasing platforms happily and conveniently facilitated by the Cubs organization, owning season tickets is as much a business as it is a leisurely experience. Come playoff time, I imagine the potential for profit is absolutely outstanding.

But the people who actually go to the majority of Cubs' home games are suckers. It's just not worth the expense, and I don't understand why people are willing to spend so much money and time to watch the Cubs, even if they're good.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Castro Returns, Quade Shuts Up. It's About Time.

Enough said, indeed.
Two hours before the series finale of the Cubs/Astros series at Wrigley tonight, Gordon Wittenmyer tweeted this uncharacteristically abbreviated quote from Mike Quade about Starlin Castro's return to the lineup:

Enough said.

If only Quade had taken that approach two days ago when he first benched Starlin. I had no problem with the benching, but he should have issued terse sound bytes to the media upon request instead of laying out a verbose smörgåsbord of ramblings about why Castro would be enjoying a paid vacation next to Alan Trammell. Some people loved the move. Others hated it. But I can't imagine anyone was impressed by the stuttering overdose of the blah blahs.

Who am I to talk? I know. But I don't have the problem of the Chicago sports media hanging on my every poorly chosen word. Quade won't have that problem for long, either, especially if he can't learn to appear at least a little professional in front of the press.

Oh, wait . . . I forgot who his boss is.

Dignity. Always dignity.

Samardzija, I Hope Quade Starts Ya

A plethora? Ah . . . no.
Let's get something out of the way right now: I should be sued for that awful headline. I apologize, but I'm not so sorry that I'm willing to put in the effort for a better one. The good news is, I'm putting twice as much effort into the rest of the post, so hang on to your hat!

Jeff Samardzija is back on the Cubs' AAAA team, mostly because the AAA team ran out of games. Bruce Levine blogged about Spellcheck's back-and-forth journeys between the majors and minors and the bullpen and starting rotation. He mentioned his hopes that Samardzija remain as a starter, and I'd just like to echo them. First, let's see what Mike Quade has to say on the subject, since it's probably his decision, more or less:

A start's in the offing for him, and we'll just have to see.

Okay, I don't know what that means. I think I need Old Hoss Radbourn to translate. Let me just say that if a start isn't in the offing for Jeff Samardzija, I'd like to give Quade what for! Here's another quote from Carrie Muskat's aforelinked article on the recent call-ups:

The right-hander could start, but the Cubs do have an overload of starters now.

I must disagree with Muskat here. I would not say the Cubs have an overload of starters, nor do they have a plethora.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Will You Never Learn?

Damnation is a Way of [L]ife too
The nice thing about being friends with Cubs fans is that they never learn. They're like Wile E. Coyote. The World Series is their Road Runner. They keep thinking they're going to catch that damn bird, and it's pretty funny to watch them die a hundred gruesome deaths.

Every year I make a bet with Adam that the Sox will win more games than the Cubs. Last year, he won and I had to wear a Cubs hat to work. This year, he's conceded* and let me repay the indignity by posting on his Cubs blog. I already feel dirty being here, so I'll make this short and sweet before taking three consecutive showers and then watching the Sox dismantle the Tigers for their eighth consecutive win.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What Could You Possibly Want to Hear About the Cubs?

Bob Newhart waking up with Ryan Theriot to discover 2010 has been a dream? I'd take that.
I'm at a loss. I seriously have no idea what would constitute welcome Cubs news at this point. Cubs lose and help their draft position? Meh. Cubs win 10 in a row? Even meh-er. Starlin Castro hits ten straight homers? Yeah, that would be better than Starlin Castro makes a fool of himself and gets benched, but not by much. The baseball, by the reflexive property of suckiness, is what it is.



I could make fun of this team, but this entire season has been a joke, and it's no longer funny. It's like watching Aaron Miles hit all day long. At some point, wryly observing that he's not good just becomes overkill and any sane person would turn their attention to something else.

I could talk about next year, but the effects of the 2010 Kool-Aid wore off for pretty much everyone by June. We've been talking about next year so long, I'm already anxious for 2012.

Talk of the managerial search makes me want to drag my teeth on asphalt.

The wave making a comeback at Wrigley yesterday didn't even anger me. It's not even fun watching the White Sox fans get their hopes up, knowing full well they'll be utterly disappointed by season's end. It's just mildly enjoyable.

I don't know why I feel this strange duty to keep posting. I think everyone is done. And I haven't the slightest idea what would possess anyone to say, "Hey, I want to read something about the Cubs!" If such an urge strikes you, please let me know.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ernie Banks joins the Cubs


Here's a pretty cool fan video taken at the Cubs Press Pass All Access event at Wrigley Field on August 29. Ernie Banks tells some great stories about his first time at Wrigley (Is this all there is?), his father paying him to play catch with him for the first time, and the fans actually booing him at the event (in good fun . . . I think). Good stuff, and thanks to shellie619 for the video.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

What Harry asks for, Harry gets.
I taunted all of Twitter about the fact that I was about to enjoy some Chocolate Chip Banana Bread and they weren't. Doc Blume said he'd love to find a recipe. So since no one cares how much I hate the Mets, I figured I'd deliver something of use. (Harry Pavlidis wanted me to make sure to include a poorly photoshopped image of Soriano in a chef's hat. I aim to please.)

Here it is, slightly modified by my wife from a recipe you can find in its original form on kraftrecipes.com.

Ingredients
2 Eggs
1 cup Mashed Ripe Bananas
1/3 cup Oil
1/4 cup Milk
2 cups Flour
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips in medium bowl and set aside. Mix eggs, bananas, oil, and milk in large bowl until well blended. Add dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Pour batter into greased loaf pan.

Bake 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature. Cut into 18 slices to serve. Or just eat it all, whatever.

Ten Reasons I Hate the Mets

Playing the Mets feels like a punch to the crotch. Just ask Santo.  
This season has been brutal to watch, painful to listen to, and arduous to describe. It's no picnic coming up with something to write about this team on anything resembling a daily basis, not that you care. Really, you don't. As a collective group, the Chicago Cubs fan base crossed the Care Barrier more than a month ago. I'm not writing about this team out of a belief that people care, I'm writing out of obsessive compulsion.

If I'm to lure you to be likewise obsessed and compelled to the point of actually reading something here, I have to get unethically manipulative creative. So I turn to the wisdom of the wizard of direct-response marketing: Denny Hatch. Denny is an astute business man who knows, among a panoply of other business success secrets, how to trigger the emotions of his audience to move them to the point of action. His arsenal of instigation includes seven emotional catalysts guaranteed to push people's buttons: fear, greed, guilt, exclusivity, salvation, flattery, and anger.

Fear is played out with Cubs fans. Day baseball at Wrigley might be putting the Cubs at a disadvantage and dooming us to centuries of failure, but that's just one monster of many lurking in the shadows. Greed is a chord best strummed in the spring when fans hope to get their tickets and have their money, too. Guilt is best explored during the holidays, because that's what all the celebration is meant to cover up, isn't it? Exclusivity? I'll leave that to people who think the bleachers is a country club from which the $10 crowd should be banned. Salvation? Not until Bobby Scales comes back. I have completely abandoned flattery. That leaves me with anger, so I'll muster all I have for the Mets.

Fortunately, I hate the Mets, so there's a lot of anger to muster. Why do I hate the Mets? I'm so glad I asked on your behalf.

Ten Reasons I Hate the Mets

10. They suck.
9. 1969
8. They let their cats wander out into the on-deck circle.
7. I'm still mad about their fake prospect who could throw 163 mph.
6. They play in New York.
5. Blue and orange? Really?
4. Dwight Gooden
3. I just do.
2. That stupid home-run apple
1. My mom always told me that when a New York Met wore a C on his jersey, it stood for "Cocaine."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Shocking Truth: The Cubs Are Us

The Cubs are people! They're made out of PEOPLE!!!!  
The Cubs are people, and I don't mean they are a team comprised of human beings. They are that, but . . . no to the duh. I'm saying the Cubs consist of a litany of metaphors for people just like you or me or that guy who keeps sniffing his fingers on the train. It's like the Cubs assembled a motley cast of unremarkable human beings and, instead of putting them all in a house for a reality show, they processed, amalgamated, and packaged them into a baseball team.

The Cubs are people. The Cubs are you. If any of these statements don't apply to you, just look over your shoulder. Somewhere lurking behind you is the statement's intended recipient.

You don't like your job, and you dream of finding a better one. But you know tomorrow you'll be right back in that cubicle. You're the Cubs. The Cubs are  you.

You'd like a bigger house, but at the end of the day you know what's really important is the people that make life special. Achieving your wildest dreams would be nice, but enjoying life wherever you are is what counts. You're the Cubs. The Cubs are you.

You know that sometimes the only way to address your problems is to self-medicate, be the prescription alcohol, narcotics, or donuts. You're the Cubs. The Cubs are you.

Fukudome: Not Just for April Anymore

What'cha gonna do, brother, when Fukudomania runs wild on you, brother? 

Kosuke Fukudome has a career OPS of 1.004 in the month of April. This excellent track record of starting the season on fire has earned him the nickname "April Kosuke." Unfortunately, that's not a compliment. While his April accomplishments are praiseworthy, the moniker is more of an ironic mockery of his alter ego: MayJuneJulyAugustOrSeptember Kosuke. Unlike Rex Grossman, whose Good-Rex/Bad-Rex routine was far more erratic, Kosuke has been fairly good at limiting the offensive explosions to April, hence the name. Or has he?

I've heard Kosuke called a bust, a platoon player at best, a disappointment, and just another of Jim Hendry's typical failed free agent signings. Kosuke praise has been sparse. I get the impression, and it's a pretty well informed one, that Cubs fans and baseball fans in general view Kosuke as a guy who just can't hit once the calendar turns to May. This year, according to what I hear, has been no exception.

One problem: that's a load of crap. Here are Fukudome's offensive splits by month in 2010 (obviously not including his three-hit, two-double performance to kick-off September):

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Cubs Home-Field Disadvantage: Is Day Baseball to Blame?

A few more night games might not be a bad idea.
Yesterday I looked at the Cubs' league-worst home-field advantage since 1970. Today I'm surveying the history of the Cubs at home since 1901. Obviously most of that (every year from 1914 on) is at Wrigley Field, but I threw in the numbers from before that as well simply because . . . well, because I have them.

Before I go any further, I just want to rehash a few main points from yesterday's post:
  • Home-field advantage is legitimate in Major League Baseball. Every year since 1901 the home team has won a majority of the games played in baseball (a .540 winning percentage since 1970).
  • A study of the 2004 MLB regular season showed that travel leading up to a game has no effect on win probability for either team.
  • The study also concluded that home-field advantage is statistically relevant only in games decided by one run.
  • Results over the years support that studies conclusion that home-field advantage matters the most in one-run games; the home team has a .608 winning percentage since 1970. The home team has still maintained an advantage in games decided by 2 runs or more (.511) or 3 runs or more (.518).
  • Since 1970, the Cubs have MLB's worst winning percentage (.577) in all one-run home games where their advantage should be the highest.
  • Explaining home-field advantage is considered one of baseball's most indiscernible mysteries.
  • The Cubs, like every team in baseball, have an advantage when playing at home, but theirs has historically been less advantageous than that of any other team.
Most people who care to argue generally take one of a few main positions in explaining the home-field advantage in baseball. The first is that the structure of the game itself favors the home team. They'll argue that having the last at-bat either allows the home team a strategic advantage in one-run games (they know exactly how many runs they need to score in the 9th) or that it simply creates the statistical illusion of an advantage (if the home team is tied or trailing in the 9th, they'll almost always win by one if they win at all, and they never have the opportunity to build on their leads after the 8th inning). 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wrigley: the Worst Home-Field Advantage in Baseball

I love Wrigley Field. I do. It's one of my favorite places in the world. I say that to inform you that nothing in this post is out of spite for the venue I revere as a mecca of the baseball world. And as much as I give Cubs fans a hard time, I don't really think they're worse than the fans of any other team. There are some great Cubs fans and some abominable ones just as any fan base is prone to including members from both ends of the spectrum of tolerability.

But the home-field advantage at Wrigley, for the last several decades, has been the worst in all of baseball, and I've got the numbers to prove it.

I started out investigating home-field advantage in general in the hopes of proving something about the significance of psychology in baseball. The first wave of research showed that as far back as I could look (1901) there always has been a home-field advantage league-wide. In every season of Major League Baseball, the home teams have, collectively, registered a winning record. There have been 4 seasons in which the teams of either the National League or the American League had a collective losing record at home, but it has never happened across baseball.

Then I came across this study of the 2004 Major League Baseball season that went to great lengths to isolate the effect of both home-field advantage and travel on the probability of winning. I was happy to learn that travel was ruled to have no significant effect on win probability for either team and that home-field advantage is very real. However, the study also concluded that home-field advantage was statistically significant only in games decided by one run—but in those one-run games, it's pretty significant.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chicago Cubs: The Animated Series

The baseball might not be much to talk about. The games might be difficult to watch. But that doesn't mean the Cubs can't be entertaining. It might help if you imagine the Cubs as cartoon characters, and fortunately, this cast of characters doesn't make that very difficult at all.
Starlin Castro = Rudy from Fat Albert

Tom Gorzelanny = TJ from Recess

Mike Quade = Mumm-Ra from Thundercats

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stephen Strasburg is not Mark Prior

Prior illustrates the infamous "Prostrate Sigma" pitching motion.
If you care, you probably already know. The MRI of Stephen Strasburg's divine cannon of retributive wrath arm indicates he will probably need life-threatening career-ending your basic, run-of-the-mill Tommy John surgery, a procedure rendered so simple by modern medicine you can get it done in the food court at Walmart. I can't count the number of times in the last hour I've heard him compared to Mark Prior. Seriously, it would be like keeping up the count of hamburgers McDonald's has served in history. Suffice it to say, the comparison has now been made billions and billions of times.

I even made the comparison. Shame on me. The guys are similar in that they are both stud pitchers who were selected in the first two picks of the draft by teams that really, really, really (x billions and billions) needed them to do well. They both allegedly pitch with the "M" arm motion (aka the inverted W, the prostrate Σ, the sleeping 3, and the drunken zig-zag). They both have struck fear in the hearts of opponents with their dominant pitching and triggered mass bouts of hysteria among their respective fans due to long bouts of not pitching. And both were antagonized by their teams' ex-pitcher color analysts for not being tough enough to pitch through pain.

But the nature of Strasburg's early flirtation with the TJ surgical scalpel is nothing like Mark Prior's early career. Nothing. We have all, it seems, played revisionist historians with Mark Prior's days as a Cub. Please allow me to clear the record and scoff at the myriad fools who claim to have predicted Mark Prior's physical woes.