I love the irony here

Over the past decade or so, I have slowly waded back into a hobby that I thought had died out when I was 12: collecting baseball cards. I can even pinpoint the way that it started, but that’s a post for another day. I would hope that the 12-year old me would be more impressed that I have a house and a family, rather than a few thousand baseball cards. But I can’t really say that for certain.

In today’s mail I got a large box filled with baseball cards. When I was a kid, 10 cards and a stick of gum was enough to make me happy. But 800 cards without the crappy gum? I would have gone into a coma or something.

As always, it was fun to sort through these cards looking for Cubs players (the primary thing I collect), cards with pictures that were taken inside Wrigley Field (collection #2), and players that I either saw play when I was growing up or who come from my hometown (collection #3). I pulled out the new Cubs cards (about 12 in all) and went to add them to the wooden box where I keep my larger collection.

Since I prefer trading  stacks of cards for a team I don’t really care about (say, the Phillies) for similar-sized stacks of Cubs cards, I don’t really know what I’m getting until they arrive in the mail. And at least half of the time, the Cubs cards that I do get are duplicates (when I was a kid we called them “doubles,” regardless of how many multiples of a card we actually had), and that’s fine with me. Those all go into a separate box, which is now filled with Cubs players throughout the years. (And if there’s any players that you want cards for, let me know and I’ll see what I can find. Anything for my readers.)

Today’s cards were then filed away in the regular Cubs collection, with the duplicates set aside to go into the duplicates box. There were cards for players like Mike Bielecki, Mitch Williams, Corey Patterson, Aramis Ramirez, and Kosuke Fukudome. Most are ex-Cubs already, and I’m hopeful that they all will be former Cubs soon enough (i.e., just about two weeks from today).

After I got done filing the new cards away with the old ones, there were only two that were ready for the duplicates box. And they’re shown in the picture above. Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett, reunited at last on my often Cubs-related blog. Can you feel the love tonight?

The story about these two goes like this: It was 2007, and the Tribune was in the process of trying to sell the Cubs. Thinking that a championship team would inflate the sales price, the Cubs impulsively threw gobs of money at Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly, and other veterans, and they hired Lou Piniella to manage the team. But things didn’t start out so well for Lou and his team. Going into June, the team was struggling. And then Barrett and Zambrano shook things up.

Zambrano was on the mound at Wrigley, and Barrett was catching. I don’t recall the date, but I’m pretty sure it was sometime in June. They didn’t see eye to eye about something, and so they got into a fist fight in the clubhouse. Legend has it that Carlos won the fight, but either way that won’t make for good team chemistry in the clubhouse. After Barrett was traded away to San Diego, the team suddenly caught fire. They won the division by two games, but got swept in the first round of the playoffs by Arizona.

In my mind, and probably in some others’ minds too, Barrett was the sacrificial lamb at the altar of a division title and (hopefully) better things in the years ahead. Sweet Lou was just getting started in Chicago, Ryan Theriot proclaimed “It’s gonna happen” and many Cubs fans–myself included–actually started to believe. And now, only four years later, all of the principals are gone, and Soriano can’t leave soon enough to suit my tastes.

I’ve sometimes seen collectible items where Bill Buckner and Mookie Wilson will both sign (for the right price, of course) a picture of the grounder that Buckner missed in the 1986 World Series, or some other sports juxtapositions that I can’t think of right now. If you wanted to print out a copy of this post, and then try to have Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett both sign it, you’d probably have better luck going to bat against Jason Verlander this year.  Just don’t say I didn’t warn you first.

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