Will Cubs Baseball Ever Love Us Back?


In his Hall of Fame induction speech, Andre Dawson repeatedly mused that if you love the game of baseball enough, the game will love you back. The moment itself was proof enough to Andre of the truth of his proverb, but the Cubs-Cardinals game that followed presented a pretty convincing rebuttal.

Even though Cubs fans still get caught loving the possibility of sweeping St. Louis and hoping that things would turn a bit less hopeless, baseball has no love for Cubs fans. Every team loses. Every team goes through stretches where they leave runners stranded, watch opposing homers untie games in extras, and find new ways to turn excitement into disappointment at neck-breaking speeds. But chronic losing isn’t an every now and then affair with the Cubs.

For the Cubs and their fans, losing is a way of life.

Apparently we love it. Sure, the Cubs had a date with world-champion baseball for a couple, but it’s been over a century. I don’t know if she’s gonna call back. The Cubs and winning have been seeing other people for 102 years. I’ll keep loving baseball—yes, Cubs baseball—but with all due respect to the Hawk, I expect my love to go unrequited for another century or two.

Hawk Soars to Cooperstown

Andre. That is all. Photo: FansEdge Blog

Congratulations, Andre Dawson! Many will debate your stats and your Hall-of-Fame cap, but no one will ever question your commitment, power, talent, and overall badness. Thanks for sacrificing your knees to make the game better.

My favorite Andre trait: the patented “this pitch is going over a Tru-Link fence, sucka” stare. What’s yours?

UPDATE: Be sure to check out Charley Beatley’s (of Hawk4theHall fame) post of the Top 10 moments of the Hawk’s career. It’s a great compilation.

With Z, the Picture’s Worth 1,000 Angry Words

What does this man have left to say?

Zambrano is going to be allowed to speak his mind to his teammates before he says anything to the media. That’s phenomenal. I think the look on his face in the photo (imported from the link above) says it all.  Maybe he’s just tracking the flight of a fly ball, and I’m probably reading far too much into it, but he looks like a guy who is taking in a game he loves while feeling like he no longer belongs.

I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions.

What the Past Year Has Told Us About the Ricketts(es)

Pete, Todd, Laura, and Tom Ricketts discuss plans to launch a Fat Albert cover band.

I’ve heard from a lot of Cubs fans who believe the Jim Hendry not-yet firing (and the fire sale that still lacks the spark The Boss told us was essential for such matters) tells you all you really need to know about the Ricketts family. There isn’t consensus on what that is, but people’s opinions on the matter have galvanized considerably. Here’s the gist of some of the varied views:

The Ricketts are typical fans who plan on catering to their own kind. They don’t know what they’re doing, they’re fueled by emotions and dreams and rainbows and latent racism, and deep down they probably have no desire to win as long as everyone enjoys their time at the ballpark.

We knew the Ricketts were fans when their names emerged as candidates to buy the team, but I don’t know what they’ve done that reflects the mob mentality of fans in general. Some say the Ricketts were behind Milton Bradley’s suspension. Others point to the decision to stay in Mesa. In my mind, both of those were no-brainers although the former seemed more like a vitriolic response straight from Hendry while the latter resembled shrewd business and political manipulation, not blind adherence to tradition. And keeping Hendry hardly represents the typical fan sentiment.

I just don’t see how a fan mentality has reared its irrational head in any significant way just yet.

The Ricketts are slimy suits who care only about money. I try to make it clear whether by illustration or direct statement that I know nothing about business (the lack of ads on this site says that quite loudly), but my gut tells me that the net return on the Ricketts family’s investment in the Cubs is somewhere along the lines of -$800 million. People like to point to George Steinbrenner’s windfall from increasing the value of the Yankees franchise 100 fold, but The non-Springsteen Boss bought low on the Bronx Bombers. The Cubs are never going to be a $2 billion franchise, let alone a $100 billion franchise.

Yes, they have implemented a number of revenue gimmicks: the ticket pre-sale, the noodle, and the Who Wants to Be A Middle Reliever? game show. But keeping Hendry and endorsing his “we’re not rebuilding, we’re competing” mentality is not the move of someone who prizes revenue over winning. Hendry doesn’t exactly follow the Andy McPhail Guide to Winning on the Cheap. If the Ricketts just want revenue, their going about it all wrong, and I don’t think they got rich by being that stupid.

The Ricketts don’t know baseball and are too stubborn to listen to reason. The first part may be completely true, but they haven’t done anything to show that; they certainly haven’t done anything to indicate they aren’t open to change. Hiring Ari Kaplan as a stats guy was, I guarantee, not done to appease the lustful longings of Jim Hendry. Maybe Crane Kenney had something to do with it, but who cares? What does Crane Kenney do anyway? Granted, maybe the fact that there’s no impressive answer to that question is part of the problem, but I don’t think that’s the reason the Cubs’ record is what it is. It would be nice if the Cubs had a baseball genius as president of the organization, but Kenney isn’t standing in the way of progress. He’s probably more there for his business acumen than anything, and the Cubs franchise is a rather big business.

The bottom line, though, is that Tom Ricketts really hasn’t made a single baseball move to this point. Lou’s retiring on his own. Kenney and Hendry still have jobs. They play walk-up music now. The only thing Ricketts has really shown is some semblance of patience. I thought that was a virtue.

I don’t think we’ll get an accurate read on Tom Ricketts as owner until 2011. We’ll see, over a year removed from the ownership transition, how much Jim Hendry is allowed to spend and how many prospects he’s allowed to ship out. We’ll see what happens to ticket prices. We’ll see a new manager hired, but not by Tom Ricketts. He said he’ll let the baseball people make the baseball decisions, and I don’t think he would keep Jim Hendry as GM if he didn’t intend to do that. If the owner doesn’t agree with what Hendry wants to do, he has little incentive to continue to employ him.

And if Hendry fails to deliver with a gun* to his head, that’s when Tom Ricketts’ ownership style will truly come to light. When he begins the interview process for new GMs, he’ll run into a few people who tell him the Cubs can’t win until they clean house. He’ll hear from people who believe the GM should have more control over on-field decisions and policies than the manager. He’ll interview a person or two who think day baseball is killing the Cubs, that sabermetrics wed to scouting can end the curse, or that putting Cashner in the bullpen has retarded his career as a starter beyond repair. What he does when he has to make that choice, or if he allows someone as baseball-illiterate as Crane Kenney to make that choice for him, then we’ll know something significant about this family whose name defies pluralization.

But right now we know very little. At least I do, and I stand behind that.

Top Ten Non-Player Trades the Cubs Should Make Right Now

Make this move, and I’d never turn away from the TV for a second.
Photos from lamoltihalstein.wordpress.com/ and Mary Altaffer / AP 

With the trade deadline just over a week away, the theories, rumors, and proposals about who’s going where and for what are running amok across the information superhighway with reckless abandon. And while the mainstream media and the superbloggers out there would have you believe only players can be traded, that won’t stop me from encouraging the Cubs to take their mercantile thinking outside of its proverbial cardboard enclosure.

Here are ten trades that could improve this ballclub right now and in the future, and they don’t have to deal a single player:

10. Chicago’s weather  and a half a pizza for San Diego’s weather
Do I really need to tell anyone how bad the weather sucks in Chicago? No, I don’t. But it sucks. I’ve never been to San Diego, but I hear it’s nice. I don’t want to have to go there to confirm the matter, so I expect Hendry to bring the deal to me. And there’s still half a pizza left for him to enjoy, so no complaints.

9. Len Kasper to Crazytown for Mike Tyson and a sedative to be named later
This deal has so much upside for both parties, it makes me want to gnaw my ear off.

8. Jim Hendry to DD for a box of donuts
It’s not that I think he’s doing such a bad job, it’s just that the Gift-of-the-Magi irony would be, quite literally, delicious. I love delicious irony.

7. The Wrigley Scoreboard to Navy Pier for the IMAX screen
I really want to see Inception. I’ve heard it’s quite good, and I’m tired of trying to avoid all the spoilers. So to everyone at the theater watching the score get updated manually, allow me to spoil the ending for you: Cubs lose.

6. “The Friendly Confines” nickname to the United Center for “The Madhouse on Madison”
I know, Wrigley’s not on Madison. And the UC isn’t all that friendly. But it would be nice for the place known as the Friendly Confines to know what it’s like to see a championship banner raised to the rafters. Then the Cubs can re-sign the name in the offseason and it can tell us all about it.

5. The men’s room troughs to Hell for whatever it is they pee in there
I mean . . . really.

4. Cubs history to Croatia in exchange for their entire Summer Olympics legacy
Because they’ve won one more gold medal than the Cubs have won World Series. That’s a 50% improvement there, pal. Although, if it’s true that sports history has come to an end, this deal becomes moot.

3. Cub fans to the USS Enterprise for Spock, Data, Uhura, and Deanna Troi
Cubs fans need to be more logical if we’re to survive another century. But there’s no sense in putting the Bud Light Fan Cam to an end. Well, okay, maybe there is, but let’s not get carried away.

2. The Wrigley Field press corps to the Ringling Bros. Circus for a team of poorly trained monkeys
If the beat reporters are going to sling crap at Cubs players and coaches, it might as well be a literal exercise.

1. The 7th Inning Stretch Guest Conductor tradition to the American League for the DH
So you’re telling me if you had to choose between Denise Richards singing and Ted Lilly not hitting, you’d have to think twice about it?

Don’t worry. His days of batting for the Cubs are probably gone, but we’re not covering that here.

Zambrano Takes Care of Business

What was supposed to be a showcase of the projected odd numbered starters for the 2009 Cubs (1. Carlos Zambrano, 3. Rich Harden, 5. Jeff Samardzija) turned into an odd mix of an encouraging win, an embarrassing loss, and an early exit . . . but not necessarily in that order. Carlos Zambrano was expected to get some bullpen work in Wednesday night’s game between the Iowa Cubs and the Oklahoma City Red Hawks but left the scene after an early workout to, as HOFICMACSH* Ryne Sandberg put it, “take care of some business.” I hope Bobby Scales didn’t talk him into selling Amway.

Samardzija picked up his seventh Iowa win of the season after going five innings and allowing one earned run. He earned the W against his old (so old that right now he’s looking like he should join Lou in retirement) teammate Harden, who delivered a familiar 5 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 9 SO performance as he continues to rehab from a strained left butt cheek.

No reason to panic as Zambrano is scheduled to take the hill in relief on Thursday. Unless, you know, Zambrano pitching makes you panic. Or if the business he was taking care of was, in fact, dinner, in which case the National Guard needs to act pronto.

*Hall Of Fame Iowa Cubs Manager And Cubbie Skipper Hopeful

A Portrait of Cubbieness

Ricketts and Hendry reflect on the Piniella era: it’s not success, but it ain’t that bad.

Now that we know Lou Piniella’s days as manager of the Chicago Cubs have a definitive number (while Jim Hendry’s do not) and we’ve all endured the initial explosive reaction from media both social and mainstream, it’s time to take a deep breath of whatever gaseous substance you wish to inhale and look at where the Cubs really stand. Between the lines of yesterday’s press conference is a rather clear portrait of what the near future of the Cubs is going to look like.

While I can’t argue too fiercely with interpretations to the contrary, I don’t think it’s that bad. Let’s strip down yesterday’s off-the-field developments to bare facts.

Lou Piniella is retiring after this season. I always thought this was the plan, but until yesterday Lou had discussed his longterm outlook with a certain je-ne-sais-Favre. Speculation swirls as to why Lou’s agent let the news slip at this point in the season, and I can answer that question with resounding certainty: I don’t care. I mean, really, between the trades that aren’t happening and the NL Central deficit that isn’t shrinking, there isn’t much left to distract from. The reasons behind the news leak or Lou’s decision to retire construct a thoroughly boring mystery. I trust Lou when he says he’s retiring because he wants to retire and not because of the product on the field. No one really cares about the why, it’s the what next that’s generating real buzz. And Lou’s replacement is far less important than the matter of Hendry’s job security.

Jim Hendry still has a job. A lot of Cub fans are angry about this because of how awful they think Jim Hendry is. While I think most fans have given Hendry an unfair and ill-informed job evaluation, I’ll save that argument for another day (or for smarter people). What’s even more baffling to me is how urgently people want Hendry gone. Tom Ricketts’ vote of confidence in Hendry midway through a horrendously disappointing season in which injuries can’t be used as an excuse at all strikes many fans as a betrayal of his initial promise as owner to hold his front office accountable. I call bull drama. Let’s look at what Ricketts said:

Jim is our general manager full-stop. He will be leading the effort to find our new manager for next year and will be our general manager going into next year.

I’ll tell you exactly what that means:

A) Tom Ricketts uses expressions like “full-stop,” and that’s kind of weird.

B) Ricketts viewed 2010 as a transition year. After buying the team in a process that took longer than he expected in an economy that sucked harder than he had predicted, the opportunity for Hendry to adequately build a champion just wasn’t there, in Tom’s opinion. He at least figured that it wasn’t enough of a slam dunk to expect a 2010 World Series crown. This season was Jim Hendry’s grace period. You can throw Piniella in that mix as well, but his retirement makes their plan toward Lou a nondecision. Firing Lou this year would just force them to pay someone else to babysit the failure.

C) Jim Hendry has one last chance to build a winner. If the Cubs don’t legitimately compete and succeed in 2011, Hendry will be out of a job. If they’re under .500 by the time June 2011 rolls around, Jim will be gone. If they haven’t sniffed first place by July, he’s fired. If the Cubs reach the postseason and put up a bagel, Hendry will have eaten his last donut as the Cubs’ GM.

D) There will be no fire sale. Not this year, anyway. Jim Hendry will manage this team, generally speaking, like a man fighting for his job, not a man building for the future. He won’t be allowed to mortgage the future entirely—don’t expect any Soriano-type free-agent deals that completely restrict Hendry’s successor (although, Hendry likely had very little to do with the terms of Soriano’s contract). But Hendry’s mindset will be win-now all the way. I’m not saying the Cubs will compete, but Hendry will be fired if they don’t.

E) The next Cubs manager will be the guy Hendry thinks gives the team the best chance to win. He won’t hire Ryne Sandberg if he’s not satisfied he can win now, nor will he do so if there’s even the remotest possibility he can sign Joe Torre. Jim Hendry knows he’s in no position to give anybody a chance to prove themselves because this is his last chance to do the same. So, if Jim Hendry has anything to say about it (as Ricketts has emphasized that he does), you can forget the marketing-driven decisions and the goodwill gestures. Hendry will be desperate to win, not to coddle the fan base.

F) (It seems fitting that this list end in F) Success for the rest of this season will be measured in expiring salary that can be dumped. There’s a slight chance Hendry would trade for a significant impact player on the block provided they can negotiate a contract extension (with a complimentary No-Trade-Clause). Then the off-season will be a mad rush to trade whatever remaining baggage Hendry has no more use for and to sign his next free-agent man crush.

My 2011 prediction: Joe Torre is the next manager of the Chicago Cubs, which will improve the team by exactly half a win. Hendry’s assorted trades and signings will improve the team by 4 wins. The Cubs’ luck will improve by 3 games. The Cubs will win the wild card, get swept again in the first round by the Giants, and Jim Hendry will be fired. It will be the last time the Cubs make the playoffs until 2017.

Meh. Could be worse.

Lou Piniella, former Yankees manager and player, will retire as manager of Cubs at end of season

Lou Piniella, former Yankees manager and player, will retire as manager of Cubs at end of season

The New York Daily News is saying it’s Toodle-Lou after this season. No official word from the Cubs, yet. Also uncertain: whether a throng of disenfranchised Cubs fans will follow Lou out the door. Seriously, this season could make a lot of people want to quit following baseball, let alone the Cubs.

You Gotta Keep It Perforated

I have no idea where this image came from, but it’s pretty funny.

The following is a post from a rarely updated blog of mine. I just felt like posting it. Enjoy. Or don’t.

Dear Adam,

Dude, I can’t stop perforating. I’m a ticket printer. I print tickets for a living. 50 years I’ve been printing tickets and perforating the stub. Ticket printers had to perforate it so when the ticket takers take the tickets, the stub tears off nice and clean before it takes up permanent residence in a wallet or a scrapbook or something. You leave the theater to go number one? You still got a nice evenly separated stub to show the one in every thousand ticket takers who actually check stubs on re-entry. Anyway, the point has been rendered moot by scanners. They scan the barcode on the ticket now. There’s no such thing as a ticket taker. They’re ticket printers now. Now us ticket printers got a reality to face. There’s no ticket tearing. The perforating seems superfluous. What should we do?

With thanks,

Ticket Printer on the Perf

Dear Perf,

Listen to me, buddy. Listen to me good. You keep perforating that ticket. You have a story to tell. You have posterity to think about. Think about the children. Last week I took my son to a baseball game, and he held that perforated ticket in his hand. It never got ripped. The ticket scanner did not take a thing from us except the experience of what it used to mean to enter a ballpark. Without that perf, my son will never ask why those little almost-holes are lining up three-quarters of the way down the ducat. With the perf, he may one day ask why there is a line waiting to be ripped. And I will be ready to tell him that we used to live in a world where ticket takers took your ticket. They ripped it, and they ripped it good. We used to live in a world where ticketing agencies didn’t charge you $2.00 to print a ticket on your home computer (what the blazes is up with that, anyway?). We used to live in a world where barcodes were something you put on groceries, not the pass that delivers you through the gates of Wrigley or into the hallowed halls of an R.E.M. concert.

Don’t you dare stop perforatin’, Perf. Tell your story. Don’t ever stop!