|Whoever made this picture should have explained what upside-down-U means.|
I’ll try to keep this simple for all of us who are as dumb as I am. My paragraphs will be short.
|Whoever made this picture should have explained what upside-down-U means.|
I’ll try to keep this simple for all of us who are as dumb as I am. My paragraphs will be short.
When I heard the Cubs had adopted the otherwise league-wide practice of playing pre-recorded walk-up music before every batter (as opposed to the traditional organ fare), I had almost no emotional response. As far as I’m concerned, and I doubt I’m alone in this, the Cubs picked the perfect time to introduce such a change: a time when our care-o-meter is at its lowest.
Fortunately, my youngest brother doesn’t know the meaning of the word apathy. That may be true both literally and figuratively, seeing as though he’s more of a music guy than a vocab wizard. I kid. He’s my baby brother. Sibling torture aside, the kid cares about his baseball.
The kid also has a kid of his own now who gets to experience the joy and pain of Cubs baseball on a regular basis. But I’ll let my brother tell that story in what is, as of this moment, an open letter to the Cubs in response to their use of walk-up music. As I alluded to earlier, Robbie is a guy who lives and breathes music, so it’s no small matter to him. As you read, I invite you to also take in this video featuring one of Robbie’s compositions. Originally titled “Nancy,” I prefer to think of it in this instance as “Robbie’s Lament.” (feel free to ignore the sappy photo array, it’s just easier for me to post videos than songs)
To whom it may concern,
My wife and 2-year old son took me to the Cubs game as an early father’s day gift, and they lost 9-5 to the A’s, but we had a great time. I couldn’t help but notice that the Wrigley staff seemed friendlier than ever. This was my son’s 6th Cubs game, and he had a blast. The highlights for him have always been the hotdogs, the 7th inning stretch, singing “Go Cubs Go” (when we’re so fortunate to see them win), the cup-holders, chanting “Let’s go Cubbies (clap, clap, clap, clap, clap), watching the game (of course), and yesterday he fell in love with “773-202-LUNA”).
We’ve taken him to see the Cubs play the Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, and to “Wrigley Field North” to see them play the Brewers. I even saw them play at old Yankee Stadium. None of these ballparks have the magic that Wrigley Field has. Going to a Cubs game is a very unique experience that is very different from these other parks, a much better experience. In fact, I would argue that if any of these other franchises wanted to improve their atmosphere, they should be trying to emulate Wrigley atmosphere. This, however, would prove to be an impossible task, since they do not have Wrigley Field itself.
For me, two highlights of Wrigley that set it apart from these other parks are the organ music, and the Dixieland band. When I hear this music, I feel like I’m getting a slice of Americana that is as classic as Wrigley Field itself. When I have gone to other parks, I have always bragged about how at Wrigley it’s about watching the game, and how Cubs fans actually do that. I’ve loved the fact that we don’t have “the wave” or blaring canned music to introduce each batter. You don’t see Derek Lee walking up to the plate in slow motion with Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” blaring as the opposing team’s pitcher shakes in his boots.
I read Paul Sullivan’s* article today about the giant mac ‘n cheese noodle and the Toyata sign (http://www.chicagobreakingsports.com/2010/06/cubs-install-giant-noodle-ad-outside-wrigley-field.html), and I don’t have a problem with any of this at all (I do miss the old Torco ad, but I digress). But yesterday, after sitting through a 1 hour 45 minute rain delay, my heart sank when Theriot walked up to the plate to Salt-N-Pepper’s “Push It.” I used to be able to hear fans cheer when the announcer announced each batter. I even liked it when the organ player played semi-obscure songs that play off of the batter’s name. In the aforementioned article Sullivan references this Soriano quote in regards to the song intros: “That motivates people when they go to home plate.” “I’ll wait to pick the perfect song, and I’ll be excited when I go to the plate.”
Isn’t that the job of the fans?
Sullivan also stated “The Cubs have also stopped playing organ music to introduce their players when they come to the plate. Now they have taped music, like most other ballparks.” Whether these song introductions are an idea of the players or of the marketing department, either way I think it is a mistake. Why is Wrigley trying to emulate any other lesser ballpark?
Over the years, I’ve seen the Cubs lose many games, but I’ve always left satisfied by the “buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks” atmosphere of old school Americana (with some modern upgrades). Wrigley is the field of dreams, it’s like you are going back to another era.
All that to say, while overall I had an awesome time yesterday watching the Cubs game as my son fell asleep in my arms, I could not help but feel disappointed by these new song intros for Cubs batters. I expect that sort of thing and even welcome it at a basketball game or even at a White Sox game, but not at a Cubs game.
Thank you for your time,
Before reading this, I really wasn’t all that bothered by the decision to introduce walk-up music and was considering posting almost the exact opposite sentiment to what my brother wrote in his letter to the Cubs. But seeing it in practice and reading the thoughts of someone with a much better appreciation than I have for the effects of music on the hearts and minds of the people who hear it, I’ve changed my mind.
I don’t advocate tradition above progress if it stands in the way of actual improvements to the ball club or the fans’ ability to enjoy it: but this is a move that offers no advantage to anyone. As much as I’ve been mocking the fans this week, I don’t discount that the participation of the fans is more valuable for energizing our players than . . . Mony, Mony or whatever the crap these guys choose as their intro music.
I think it’s time for Gary Pressy to play his own introduction and welcome himself back to the role of player introductions . . . Baby Come Back? I Want You Back? Gary, Indiana? I’ll stop. These are all awful and nothing better’s ever going to surface. Anyway, bring back the organ.
*Pepin le Bref, as he’s known here.
Yesterday I suggested that pressure from Cubs fans is having a detrimental effect on the players’ ability to perform. Today I’m here to tell you that I was 100% out of my gourd. That’s not the problem with Cubs fans. For the past few years we’ve played the part of a fan base with great expectations, but let’s be real: all the “this is the year” talk was just our dreams talking. Deep down we all knew the Cubs have no intentions of winning, but we don’t let that dissuade us from cheering for the team. This song is our motto: I will always love you.
What’s causing the Cubs downfall this year and every year is the genuine and firmly entrenched belief in the hearts and minds of all Cub players and coaches: We don’t have to win. We’ll still get paid. We’ll still have each other. The fans will still love us.
The Cubs don’t have to win. They don’t even have to put a good team on the field. All the organization has to do to keep the turnstiles spinning is toss us a few Dora giveaways, a beanie baby here and there, and trot Denise Richards into the press booth for a rousing rendition of “Pay No Attention To My Voice, Please.” Win and we’ll buy everything you’re selling. Lose, and we’ll complain. But our numbers won’t ever decrease, not really.
Organizationally, the front office merely has to create the illusion of trying. As long as there’s at least one player who can hit 40 or so homers or one pitcher who can strike out a dozen guys (or draw Chuck-Norris style worship of him manliness) the club’s cult following will remain intact. And if you don’t touch the ivy or the scoreboard, the house of worship that is Wrigley Field will never lack parishioners.
Psychologically, the players know perfectly well that if they give their 75% best, the fans will cheer as though they’re seeing Babe Ruth outperform his prime. If Derrek Lee can play like Bill Buckner, we’ll applaud him like he’s Lou Gehrig. Every now and then we’ll boo to preserve the illusion, but come on . . . we love these guys through thick and thin. Not that we can remember what thick is like.
What incentive does any player or team have to succeed in Chicago? The best ever celebration if they do win it all? Big deal! Why go the extra mile of winning a World Series when they’re lauded like kings if they win the Pirates series?
If we really want the Cubs to win it all, we’ve got to stop going to games altogether. Stop watching games. Don’t even check the box scores until the division is clinched.
And when we do go, boo them mercilessly unless they win. By seven runs. Even then, mild applause is sufficient. We’ve got to stop being the Generation X parent who praises the simplest accomplishment. Do you really want the Cubs to carry around that sense of entitlement and inflated esteem? No! We’ve got to become the old-school parents of baby boomers who reward Nobel-worthy feats with brief respites from corporeal punishment.
Grand slam, Theriot? Congratulations. No belt to the back of the legs until tomorrow. You made it to the World Series? Okay, I’ll disallow comments on my “Embalm Lou Piniella” post until you lose again.
The cheering, the love, the loyalty? It’s ruining this team.
|Grabow’s back. See what I did there?|
The Cubs have recalled John Grabow off the 15-day disabled list and sent Mitch Atkins to reexamine a career choice that has seen him as less desirable than John Grabow in the eyes of the Chicago Cubs front office.
Dennis Eckersley . . . had just been traded to the Cubs and seemed dumbfounded by the intensity and the atmosphere. Sandberg said he had a pretty funny moment with Eckersley.
“He just sat there and watched,” Sandberg said, “and after the game I remember him saying, ‘Wow, Ryne, is every game like this in Wrigley Field?’ He just couldn’t believe what he saw, the excitement of the crowd and everything happening.”
Cub fans love to hear that we provide a special playing environment enjoyed by our team and envied by visiting ballclubs. Even when wins are scarce, Cub fans somehow create a playoff atmosphere on a Tuesday against the Pirates. We need no jumbotron to incite an uproar when one of our pitchers gets a two-strike count on a batter. We autonomously rise to our feet when the Cubs get the chance to take the lead, even if it is the second inning. Well . . . sometimes. Other times we do the wave when the game is on the line.
The point is, Cubs fans have a reputation for being the most unconditionally supportive and vociferously optimistic cheerleaders in all of sports. When players come to Wrigley, they know they’ll be taking part in a game where everyone in the building cares to the utmost of their very souls. And that’s in June. When September and (with any luck not ruined by our jinx-happy fan base) October roll around, forget it. Wrigley Field is a pressure cooker.
And maybe that’s the problem. Every game. Every at-bat. Every pitch carries the weight of 10 million hopes and dreams. Maybe it is every player’s dream to play in front of a raucous, wildly cheering crowd, but the pressure of living up to our expectations just may be too much for any team.
The obvious point of rebuttal plays in the Bronx. Yankee fans have higher expectations than Cubs fans, and they outnumber us, too. But Yankee fans merely ask their teams to live up to history. We’re asking the Cubs to erase it.
NPR recently ran a story on the American Psychoanalytic Association’s views on the mentality of baseball among fans and players. One quote in particular stands out, from Dr. Robert Pyles, who stands to be the APA’s next president: “I never thought of baseball as a sport. I thought of it as a mythic struggle between heroes and bad guys.” That’s all well and good in the mind of a fan, but a player elevated to hero status has to feel enormous pressure from a teeming throng of blue-clad worshipers expects him to slay a 102-year-old dragon.
You can see it in the eyes of Mark Prior in the 8th inning of Game 6 or in Alex Gonzales’s nervous hands or in Moises Alou’s irate gesticulation. Leon Durham in ’84. The offensive impotence of the 2007 playoffs or the complete defensive meltdown of ’08. In all these instances, the pressure imposed by Cubs fans appeared to be simply too much for talented mortals to bear.
And that’s just the positive pressure. Now that Cub fans have had a taste of near-glory, they’ve grown embittered to anything but perfection. The journalists in this town have turn to sadists. Bloggers are out of patients. The paying customers resorted to booing the youngest player in baseball on his Wrigley debut. Fan pressure turns a playoff team into a nervous mess, and it has turned an underperforming June swooning club into a steaming pile of mediocre.
The calls for Jim Hendry’s head are on Cub-fan speed-dial. Lou Piniella is only half as old and tired as the fire-Lou meme. The Ricketts clan is so occupied by the team sponsor image reclamation campaign that they really can’t be bothered with fan complaints. But if the fans really wanted to make a positive impact on this team both now and in the future, we’d cool the heck down, take a deep breath and enjoy the game.
Keep this pressure up, and the entire Cubs organization will need the number for Milton’s therapist.
And don’t worry if you disagree with everything I said here. I’ll make the exact opposite argument tomorrow.
|World’s Greatest Fans = World’s Worst Luck|
Theodore Roosevelt Lilly stood atop the rain-soaked Wrigley Field mound Sunday night with a chance of realizing every pitcher’s dream: a no-hitter. During any no-no, pressure mounts for the pitcher, all the players, and the fans with every passing out. But this one carried a unique flair as both starting pitchers stretched their hitless performances into inning number seven. At least for this fan watching and tweeting from the comfort of his living room couch and referring to himself in the third person, the pressure of seeing Lilly preserve his chance at history was greatly reduced by Gavin Floyd’s pursuit of his own historicity.
The double bid seemed to cancel out the cardinal rule of superstitious baseball etiquette: don’t jinx the no-no.
Now, one might think that recording 27 outs without allowing a single hit is impossibly rare, not due to the speech patterns of observing fans, but because of just how easy it is for a professional baseball player to get a hit, especially given almost 30 opportunities to do so. I mean, think about that for a minute. If an individual player slides into an 0-27 slump, fans would boo him mercilessly. Aramis Ramirez, as bad as this year has been for him, never went 27 at bats without a hit (though he did reach an 0-20 hole). Aaron Miles’s colossal failfest in 2010 topped out at 20 consecutive hitless at bats. As bad as that looked, Miles never took a personal no-hit streak past the theoretical seventh inning.
So if it’s that rare for a hitter at his worst to make 27 outs before recording a single hit, shouldn’t we attribute the fall of a no-hitter to the overwhelming improbability of a pitcher retiring 27 batters without allowing even a remote base knock? Do we really need to add to the improbability by expecting all of humanity to refrain from saying, “no-hitter,” until it’s over?
Yes, maybe we do. A lot of people mentioned the no hitter, and it didn’t happen for either guy. Obviously we screwed it up. I mean, come on, what are the chances that the no-hitters would be broken up by Alfonso Soriano (who had been 1 for his previous 22) and Juan Pierre (0 for his last 11)? That’s gotta be roughly the same odds as Lady Gaga blending in . . . anywhere. Fate must have intervened.
Since I’m exploring the various ways in which Cub fans are destroying their own team, I want to look at more than just the disintegration of the no-hitter. What if the jinx goes beyond single-game probabilities? What if Cub fans are jinxing this team’s World Series chances because we can’t stop talking about 1908?
Obviously broadcasters aren’t playing along. You can’t go past the third inning of a nationally broadcast Cubs game (or, for that matter, an hour into any broadcast of any game in any sport in which either team is or has a chance of becoming the reigning world champion) without hearing a reference to the Cubs’ championship drought. But broadcasters have a job to do and time to fill. You can’t really expect them to shut up about it.
The fans are even worse, and I might be the chief among sinners. This entire blog is a shrine to the neverending chronicle of winlessness. Is it possible that every time I mention the (at least) 102-year span between championship celebrations, I lower the already infinitesimal probability that the Cubs might actually win it all?
Of course it’s possible. You could say it’s bordering on undeniable fact. All we have to do to ensure the Cubs end the curse of the billy goat (which is stupid and doesn’t exist and every sensible person knows this beyond a shadow of a doubt) is to go an entire year without any of us saying anything about a World Series or 1908 or 100+ years or any of that. Because every time we do, we are angering the baseball gods. And, if you haven’t noticed, the baseball gods are already pretty ticked off at the Cubs. If the Cubs were Ferris Bueller, the baseball gods would be Edward Rooney. But the Cubs aren’t Ferris Bueller. They’re Cameron Frye. They could be Abe flipping Froman, but it still wouldn’t change the fact that they have to bum trophies off of people.
But look, I can’t tell you what to do. Mention 1908. Don’t mention 1908. Just know that by doing so, we’re all jinxing the Cubs on a daily basis and we are killing this team’s chances at a World Series. When you sit there scratching your head, yelling at your TV, or trying to suffocate yourself with a 1945 commemorative pillow wondering how this team could play so badly, just remind yourself that it’s our fault. We’re jinxing it with every passing mention of the legacy of futility and the for baseball absolution that comprises the anguish and unrequited anticipation that is Cub fandom.
|Hey, don’t blame me. That’s Pogo talkin’.|
I haven’t performed a psychiatric evaluation on baseball fans across the country, but if I did I’d expect the results to show that Washington Nationals fans are among the happiest in all the land. Yes, the Nationals are in last place (despite being 2.5 games ahead of the 3rd place Cubs . . . divisions are stupid). But fans of the Nats are excited to have the most electric pitching prospect to reach the majors since . . . well, you know.
Cubs fans know what it’s like to be excited about a rookie pitcher (or two) with all-ever stuff and intergalactic potential and to be buoyed by the hope their rocket arms bring. We’re also looking at those hopes in the rear-view mirror. The team we’re looking at now inspires all the hope of a neoplastic skin lesion.
Looking back to the era of Prior and Wood leaves us with nothing but what if’s and if only’s, which aren’t in the least bit comforting, and the mourner’s favorite question: Why? We look for people to blame. Dusty Baker. Lou Piniella. Jim Hendry. Wood and Prior themselves. Steve Stone. Bartman, the goat, God, or anyone who believes in any of that. But what if we’re to blame?
Maybe fan expectations caused Wood to falter and Prior to deteriorate. Maybe large attendance turns good teams into bad ones. Maybe it’s bad luck to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” when Jim Belushi tells you to. It’s quite possible that latent racism lowers outfielder slugging percentage. Reading anything Pepin le Bref writes in the Chicago Tribune may induce fail-wreaking karma upon your favorite baseball team. Buying that Cubs’ jersey has been known to cause groin injuries . . . or it could be.
I don’t know. All I know is, the Cubs seemed doomed to fail no matter who trots out onto the field. The only constant I can see across the years is . . . us. So over the course of this week, I’ll be exploring all the different ways that being a Cubs fan hurts the team’s chances. Should be fun.
Ike = the Cubs
Poker = Baseball
12 Hands in a Row = 102 Years in a Row
Doc = Reality
Tombstone = the Only Thing Missing from the 2010 Cubs Team Picture
|Rest easy, Aramis, and remember: lift with your legs, not your thumb.|
Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago is reporting that Aramis Ramirez is headed to the DL, according to sources close to the Situation. I still don’t know how this situation or others involving sports teams develop sources outside of the team itself. It’s not like this is NATO discussing Kosovo or anything. Ramirez’s thumb hurts.
I also don’t know why so many people are complaining that this move wasn’t made sooner. I’m sorry, but I don’t think that a sore left thumb was a seriously significant contribution to Aramis’s woeful pitch selection and decreased contact percentage. He just hasn’t looked like a guy who can find the baseball with his bat or his eyes. Unless it’s a blinding thumb soreness, I’d say the thumb and the bat have been two different issues.
Naturally, the Cubs are expected to call up Chad Tracy, who has been hitting 8.000 and slugging 1.600 x 10^17 at AAA Iowa. You can pretty much count on the team to be in first place by the end of the month.
UPDATE: It’s official now. Aramis is on the 15-day DL, retroactive to June 8. I knew I could trust Snooki.
|Silva avoids a pitch from the best pitcher he’s faced all year: Dan Haren (who’s having a sub-par year)|
I’ve been wanting to post something about Carlos Silva for the last few weeks as his undefeated record begins to look more and more impressive (and the deal that brought him here appears increasingly miraculous), but I have hesitated because a) I didn’t want to jinx it, b) I don’t want to spew skepticism, c) I don’t feel the need to diminish what has been one of the few feel-good stories of the season.
But let’s face it, all of us have that nagging itch somewhere along the cerebral cortex telling us this won’t last. You know how every cartoon has an episode in which the protagonist finds a map to some buried treasure or enter a contest with a ridiculously generous prize, and they come tantalizingly close to acquiring riches that will change their lives (and the nature of the cartoon) forever, but you know deep down the creators of the show will never ever allow them to get what they’re after?
Such is Carlos Silva’s season. We know he can’t be this good, right? Well, watching him pitch, especially in his most recent outings, it’s pretty obvious that he really is outpitching the expectations. That’s not a fluke, it’s reality. But the money stat everyone’s staring at, the booty to Carlos Silva’s J-Lo, is his 8-0 record. (His 2.93 ERA ain’t too shabby, either.)
As much as any of us know that the Win stat is the most overvalued, meaningless number in all of sports record keeping, 8-0 still looks pretty darn impressive. I, for one (representing millions, I’m sure), am scratching my head trying to figure out how Silva could be so lucky. Because he’s been good, but not 8-0 good.
The best explanation is his run support. The Cubs are scoring an average of 6.45 runs when Silva starts, and they’ve never scored fewer than 4 runs for him. Is that because of the huge psychological boost they get from knowing Big C is taking the hill? I don’t think so. Let me give you a list of names of some guys who might hold the answer:
Homer Bailey (twice). Felipe Paulino. Oliver Perez. John Lannan. Dan Haren. Chris Volstad. Jhoulys Chacin. C. J. Wilson. Adam Ottavino. Dana Eveland. No, those aren’t the leading candidates to fill out the N. L. All-Star pitching roster, those are the starting pitchers Carlos Silva has had to face so far this year. Here are their ERAs: 5.51, 4.01, 6.28, 4.79, 4.83, 4.08, 3.77, 3.62, 5.06, 6.34; a collective 4.70 opposing pitcher ERA. Silva’s opponents have combined for a WHIP of 1.46, .89 HR/9, and a 1.68 Strikeout-to-Walk ratio.
To put that into terms I can understand, the guys who have started opposite Carlos Silva have been overwhelmingly craptastic. Silva has better numbers than his opposition almost across the board. Almost, because he’s actually been inferior to his opponents in HR/9 (.9 for Carlos) and SO/9 (6.3). Silva has made up for that with a very nice 3.92 K/BB ratio and a low 1.064 WHIP.
Again, I don’t want to diminish the pleasantness of the surprise Carlos Silva has been. I’m really happy for him and for, well, myself and all Cub fans who want to see him succeed. I just want to point out that the 8-0 record and the gaudy run support has as much to do with the lackluster opposition as it does to whatever magic beans Jim Hendry received along with Silva in exchange for Milton Bradley. I just hope the sleepy giant doesn’t come crashing to the ground on his way down the beanstalk.
|Yes, I know these numbers are tiny. Click the image for a better look.|