Cubs look to buck the trend

ChicagoBaseball

The Crosstown classic begins tonight, and continues through until Thursday. The teams appear to be on different arcs, with the Cubs playoff-bound and the White Sox thinking about who they can trade away at the deadline coming up. But none of that matters when the two teams take the field tonight at U.S. Cellular Field.

On paper, it looks like the Cubs will be able to take it to the Sox, especially since Sox ace Chris Sale is out of action. This should be a mismatch, right?

But there’s an undercurrent that Cubs fans should be aware of, and it doesn’t bode well.

This year MLB has decided to create an interleague “home and home” series for every one of its teams. There were two games played on Monday and Tuesday in one city, with the action switched to the other ballpark for Wednesday and Thursday. Four days, four games, two ballparks. Fun, right?

Some of the matchups are geographically obvious, like the Cubs and the White Sox and the Giants and A’s in the Bay Area. But others are harder to understand. Boston and Atlanta are in the same time zone, and the Atlanta Braves were once the Boston Braves, but somehow they had an interleague series against each other already this season. The Red Sox took three of the four games of the series, so that counts as a win for the American League.

You might think that 4 game series like this should split two games apiece, with neither team able to declare victory over the other. Everyone ties, and nobody loses. But in only one of the 11 series so far this season has this happened. The Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins–bound together by being located in the upper midwest, I suppose–split their four games this season. But in 10 out of 11 series played so far, a winner could be declared.

Guess how many of these ten interleague series were claimed by the National League team? Five, right? After all, that’s half of ten, and it makes sense for the two leagues would split these series in this way.

But no, it isn’t five series for the National League, and five for the American League. In fact, that’s not even close to being the case.

Well then, let’s be optimistic and say that seven series went to the NL team, and three went to the  the AL team. After all, the American League pitchers have to bat sometimes, and that must work to their teams’ disadvantage, right?

But no, that’s not the case. In fact, you’re getting further away from the correct answer. You’re getting colder, I might say.

6 series for the AL, and 4 for the NL? Warmer.

7-3? Warmer, but not there yet.

8-2? Now you’re really warm.

9 wins the AL, and 1 for the NL? Congratulations.

Yes, the breakdown goes like this:

The Miami Marlins of the National League took 3 out of 4 from the Tampa Bay Rays when they played over four days back in May. And it’s all downhill from there, for the Senior Circuit.

Houston (AL) took 3 of 4 from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Detroit (AL) took 3 of 4 from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The LA Angels (AL) took 3 of 4 from the Dodgers back in May.

Seattle (AL) took 3 of 4 from the San Diego Padres.

Kansas City (AL) took 3 of 4 games from the Cardinals to claim Missouri bragging rights.

Oakland (AL) took 3 of 4 games from the San Francisco Giants last month.

Toronto (AL) took 3 of 4 games from the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Cleveland Indians (AL) outdid everyone by sweeping the Reds and claiming the Ohio Cup (or whatever it’s called).

So after 44 games of interleague play in these eleven “home and home” series, the American League has won 31 games, to just 13 wins for the National League. That’s a beatdown, no matter how anyone decides to look at it.

After the Cubs and White Sox play their series this week, there will be only the Mets and Yankees, Nationals and Orioles, and Rockies and Rangers left in this new format. I like the idea, and I hope it continues in the future.

But anyone thinking the Cubs will mop the floor with the White Sox needs to understand the odds of this happening aren’t real good.

With that said, Go Cubs!

 

 

An apt metaphor

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I’ve not been writing much in this space lately, as I’m sending off pieces to other websites instead. But I can always link to them here, so here’s a Five Wide piece I wrote, and here’s a TTFB piece. Another piece should run on FiveWide soon, but the Cubs stuff has pretty much come to an end for a while. Or at least I say that now….

The picture above shows a black container and a blue container, sitting side by side in an alley in Chicago. Neither one is any bigger than the other, or newer than the other, and they appear to co-exist with each other pretty well. The Cubs wear blue, and the White Sox wear black (I can’t claim to understand why, but that’s what they do).

But when you consider that their purpose is to collect all of the refuse that builds up inside a house or an apartment, the metaphor of these two receptacles becomes even more fitting.

Both the Cubs and the White Sox were fit for trash collection this year, but nothing more than that. So I’ll put this picture up as my way of saying good riddance to a very trying baseball season on both sides of town.

Can’t do it

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I took this picture of a copy of the Chicago Tribune–from the day after the White Sox won the World Series in 2005– to send it in to a memorabilia appraisal TV show I read about online. I have no illusions that it has any monetary value. And yet, as a hardcore Cubs fan, a paper like this for my team would be more valuable than I could ever quantify. I hope to see one someday.

When this paper came to my door back in 2005, I couldn’t open it up. I knew what the news was, and I wasn’t even upset by it. But to take the paper out of the bag was an emotional bridge I could not cross. So until the Cubs reach that same point, that plastic bag isn’t going anywhere.

Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye

AJ

A requirement of living in Chicago is choosing one baseball team or the other. Every other sport in this town offers one team, and thus everyone who’s a football fan lives and dies with da Bears. The same is true of basketball and the Bulls, and hockey and the Blackhawks. But baseball is a whole different story. It’s the North and the South, just like the Civil War. And also like the Civil War, the good guys are the ones up north.

I imagine, from the perspective of a Cubs fan, that the White Sox fans must really hate Wrigley Field. It’s the embodiment of all things related to the Cubs. It’s the pretty park with the ivy on the outfield wall, and the rooftops all around, and the firehouse across the street. It is all of those things, but to hate on the Cubs is to hate on those things.

A.J. Pierzynski was the White Sox player I always loved to hate. When Michael Barrett slugged him in a Cubs-Sox game back in 2006, he was acting on every Cub fans’ behalf. And every time that A.J. would do commentary on TV, while holding the microphone with that World Series ring from 2005 on his hand, I thought about how much I despised him. He, like Wrigley Field, was the embodiment of the other side in Chicago’s long-running baseball feud.

I shed no tears for the White Sox or their fans when A.J. Pierzynski left town to sign with the Texas Rangers. I even got a good laugh when, opening up a pack of the new Topps 2013 baseball cards that just came out, I saw a rather interesting shot of A.J. in his old stomping grounds at U.S. Cellular Field.

But A.J. has moved on, and White Sox fans are left with the card (not shown here) as one last reminder of him. I only wish that he could take the Cell’s scoreboard down to Texas with him. Good riddance.

and I believe in the Promised Land

Over the nine months I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve written more posts about the Chicago Cubs than any other topic. But I have other favorites, too, and Bruce Springsteen’s music is definitely on that list. This is the first time I’ve been able to fuse the two subjects together, and I’m excited to be doing this, so here goes:

The first–and so far, the only–Springsteen concert that I’ve seen was at the United Center in Chicago back in 2007. I went with my sister, and we had a great time, both at the show and in the perfect fall weather that bookended it. Lately, I’ve been listening to a bootleg of the show that I found online. My favorite song from that show–and possibly my favorite Springsteen song of all–is one called the Promised Land. The concept in the title goes back thousands of years, but I can relate to it as a Cubs fan in the 21st century.

The Israelites in the Hebrew Bible wandered through the desert, looking for a land that they had been promised. I’m not religious–13 years of Catholic school notwithstanding–but I’ve been wandering about my whole life. And the absence of anything to show for that hasn’t diminished my belief that it’s still out there. For some reason, it’s only become stronger over the years.

Bruce Springsteen played at Fenway Park in Boston for two nights back in September of 2003. For the first night’s show, he and his band played The Promised Land as the 17th song and before the first encore started. But for the second night’s show, he didn’t play it at all. Every show has a different setlist, and sometimes songs don’t get played. But the year after those two Springsteen concerts, the Red Sox finally did get to their promised land, after eight decades of wandering through baseball’s desert.

Did that song finally help to get the Red Sox over the hump? It sounds like a goofy thing to say, but is it any goofier than a ground ball rolling through Leon Durham’s legs in 1984? Or the almost unbeatable Mark Prior blowing a 3-run lead in 2003? Or the persistent belief that one man and his goat have effectively cursed the team for over 60 years? It’s certainly worth a shot to find out if there’s anything to playing this song live in a star-crossed baseball venue. Perhaps it has worked once, already.

After reports, rumors, and speculation, it’s now official that Bruce Springsteen will be coming to Wrigley Field this fall. He played in the Uptown Theater once upon a time, and Soldier Field back in the 80s, but this is the first time he’ll be at Wrigley Field. I hope to get tickets, but even if I don’t I’ll try to find a listening party in the Wrigleyville area. Bruce and his band will be heard up and down Clark Street, when the time comes. (NOTE: I attended the first of the two shows, and wrote about it in various places online.) 

In trying to get ahead of that curve, I humbly suggest to Bruce Springsteen, and to everyone else reading this, that The Promised Land would be an essential addition to a Wrigley Field setlist. Not only is it a fantastic song–one that calls on the power of an unshakable belief in something–but it could also be the portent of something great to come for the Cubs. (NOTE: The song was the first one played at the second Wrigley Field show in 2012, and not the first show that I attended. But at least it was played.) 

I’d like nothing more than to argue about whether or not this made any difference, after it finally takes place. And so I’m laying down this marker now because, as Tug McGraw once said, you just gotta believe.

(NOTE: The video presented above was filmed in 2016, four years after I wrote this post. The original video was removed for copyright grounds, but this one’s really good, too. They all are, I’m sure.)

Hanu-Cubs, Night 5

We begin, as always, with Steve Goodman’s music. Every Cubs fan needs to know about this song:

The first night was devoted to Dave Roberts, the second night to Sam Fuld, the third night to Ken Holtzman, and last night was for Jason Marquis. Tonight the candlelight shines on another pitcher, Steve Stone. Stoney, as we fans call him, is well known on both sides of Chicago, as he has played for the White Sox (1973 and 1977-78) and the Cubs (1974-1976).

I don’t remember him that well as a player, but after his playing days were over (which included a Cy Young award with the Baltimore Orioles in 1980), he was in the broadcast booth with the late Harry Caray for 13 seasons on WGN. He has also worked on White Sox broadcasts with “Hawk” Harrelson in recent years. From this fan’s perspective, he knows the game as well as anyone else, and better than most. Thanks for all the memories over the years!

Tomorrow night will be another position player, and perhaps the most compelling personal story of all. I hope you’ll come back to read it. And the Stone card appears below: