Welcome to Chicago, Theo! (Take Two)

  Hallelujah! The great storm is over…

When news of the agreement between Theo Epstein and the Cubs first became common knowledge, I penned a few jubilant lines on the matter. Then I determined that I wouldn’t post them until the deal was officially done and complete, figuring it would take a day or two. Ten long days later, here we are. It may have been a perplexing and tedious journey (I mean, who did the Red Sox think they were, asking for Matt Garza?) but we made it. Theo is now in the employ of the Chicago Cubs. We can put our party hats on and dance our pants off now.

Not that having Theo and his people guarantees us a golden ticket to the promised land. We all know (I hope and assume) that it does not. No individual can do that. Not an owner, not a player, not a manager, a GM, or a President of Baseball Operations. BUT there is no denying that this is a major event for Cubs Nation, and while there are no guarantees in this game, it sure isn’t one that hurts our chances. With upper management that is committed to excellence, we have reason to be optimistic. We have reason to hope that a new day is dawning, that this organization is changing for the better.

And so, you see, I am very pleased. Not disillusioned, I hope, but rather tickled pink. After a season like the Cubs had in 2011, all one really wants is a reason to hope again. I believe we’ve got one.

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About last night…

I haven’t much excuse for not posting anything of considerable substance these past few weeks. I can only say that the well of writing inspiration has been bone dry as of late. It’s September… I’m a Cubs fan. (I’m sure the world understands.) In any case, if the events of last night weren’t enough to electroshock me back into a baseball state of mind, I cannot imagine what would be.

Baseball fans witnessed not one, but TWO of the most improbable comebacks/collapses in the history of the game. Pity the Braves and Red Sox nations. I have seen my fellow Cub fans rejoicing all over the place that some of the heat may at last be lifted from our 1969 squad; no longer shall they and they alone be looked upon as the pinnacle of baseball failures! Welcome back to the club, Boston!

The Cardinals comeback/Braves collapse, of course, is the least enthusing of the two. I don’t look on Atlanta with an unfriendly eye, and the Cards are, well, the Cards. There is one circumstance from this that I do look on with utter and jubilant satisfaction. Around a month ago (perhaps a bit more than that) my brother and I made a bet regarding a certain St. Louis first baseman. I thought he would finish out the year hitting below .300 for the first time in his celebrated career. The bro insisted he would finish on top of the mark, as he always has. Initially, my brother suggested we bet a penny on our little disagreement. Feeling confident, I insisted we up it to a nickel. We did not forget our friendly little bet, and would update each other on where it stood several times a week. Going into last night, Mr. Pujols’ average was sitting at exactly .300, or .301 (I don’t recollect.) I am happy to report, he went just 1-for-5 against Astros pitching and has finished 2011 with a batting average of .299. How’s that for drama? How’s that for sibling rivalry? Time to cough up that nickel, brother.

The Tampa Bay Rays comeback, and the Boston Red Sox ultimate demise is, in my opinion, the most exciting thing. Of this year. And… of a lot of additional years. A few weeks ago, the lowly Rays were nine games behind in the wildcard standings. Everyone was talking about how dumb and unfair it is how the Yankees and Red Sox have a stranglehold on the AL East and wildcard. Something must be done, people said. Well, something was done. And the Rays did it.

Last night around 10:00, it looked like it was just going to be one of those disappointing almost-great-stories after all. With Boston up on Baltimore late in their game, and Tampa trailing by 7 to the Yankees in the 8th, I supposed the whole thing had come to nothing. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was thinking things like, “Oh well, they made it interesting” and “They should be proud of themselves, they put up a great fight” and all that. And then, all of a sudden, BOOM! 7-run deficit… gone! I was still listening to the Cubs (who, appropriately, fell 9-2 at the hands of the Padres) at that point and it was amusing to hear the updates and reactions from Pat, Keith, and Judd. I think everyone was more interested in what was going on in Florida than in San Diego. Who could help it?

As the Rays and Yanks headed into extra innings, I switched over to watch them on MLB.tv, keeping tabs of the O’s and Sox on the side. Moments after Jonathan Papelbon imploded, allowing the Orioles to score 2 runs and snatch the win, my Twitter feed exploded. And then Evan Longoria sealed the deal with a walk-off homer for the Rays and it exploded some more.

I think everyone had the same reaction: “Did that just happen?” The chances, according to this article on Yahoo? One in 278,000,000. One in two hundred and seventy eight million. Think about that for a second.

If anything outnumbered the outcries of, “Can you believe it?!?!”, it was “This is why I love baseball.” This is, indeed, why we love baseball. If I may quote from the one and only Dirk Hayhurst (who Twittered much last night, to the delight of all), “What’s great is, this is what you play for all season: a moment to decide something, to feel destiny in you hands and touch its consequences”, “Tonight is baseball magic, the tangible, palpable kind that reminds you why you love the game—for feelings like this, perfect and timely.” Truth.

I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. Who’s ready for some postseason baseball???

I like looking at this picture and thinking about it out of context. The Orioles celebrate their last place finish after the final game of 2011, Etc.,

Tee hee.

Predictorama! 2011: Something stirs in the East

With the beginning of the regular season just a few weeks off, it is once again time to dive into that fun, murky chasm that is MLB prognosticating. Folks from here to Chula Vista are consulting crystal balls and asking the questions they (apparently) can’t wait to know the answers to… who will arise victorious in the AL East? How bad will the NL Central actually be? Who will surprise us all? Who will fail miserably?

I am here, of course, to share with you the divination of my own crystal ball… it may have a huge crack in it, but I’m pretty sure it still works.

Today we will kick things off with a look at the American and National League East divisions. BEHOLD:

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AL EAST:

Brett Gardner will steal 70 bases this year. Baltimore will officially change its name to “The City of Misfit Cubs”. With the additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, Boston will will 231 games. Toronto will finish in 4th place, winning 15 more games than any NL Central team.

First place: Boston Red Sox

Last place: Baltimore Orioles

AL Wildcard winner: New York Yankees

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NL East:

Raul Ibanez will take up playing the ukulele. The Phillies geriatric offense will be their Achilles heel… you heard it here first, folks. The Washington Nationals will regret signing Jayson Werth to that obscene contract by the end of the first week of April.

First Place: Philadelphia Phillies

Last Place: New York Mets

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Predictorama 2010: Wagons East!

This is the continuance of my 2010 divisional projections… Last week I covered the West, now it’s time to tackle the big East! So let’s giddyup!

National League East – Will the Phillies keep up a stranglehold on the division? Will the Mets hit rock bottom? Will this be one of those strange random years when the Marlins win the World Series? If you’re looking for real answers to these questions, I’m sorry… you have come to the wrong place.

Philadelphia Phillies: Paparazzi will photograph Ryan Howard eating a sub at Quiznos and scandal will ensue. During a game in July, a stray kitty cat will find it’s way onto the field at Citizens Bank Park and Chase Utley will adopt it on the spot. I predict that the Phillies will not be the best team in the NL. Not because I believe it, but because I just really want to.

Florida Marlins: I’ll finally uncover the truth of Taylor Tankersley’s mysterious origins. Hanley Ramirez will learn to wink with both eyes.

Atlanta Braves: Though Tom Glavine has retired from baseball, expect him to soon announce a new deal with the National Hockey League’s Atlanta Thrashers. Jo-Jo Reyes will still be the only major leaguer with that first name.

New York Mets: Troubled mascot Mr. Met will run away from home. The health of the Mets’ key players will continue to crumble like a stale cookie. Someone will invent a memory erasing machine (like in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) so everyone will finally be able to forget 1969.

Washington Nationals: The Nats will make the postseason (YES THEY WILL) due entirely to the acquisition of Jason Marquis. Adam Kennedy will pitch. Nyjer Morgan will be my fantasy steal of the year.

American League East – The most frightening league in the Majors. In so many ways…

New York Yankees: Derek Jeter will introduce some exciting new products in his Avon line! Nick Swisher won’t change a bit. I will go on loving Brett Gardner no matter what he does.

Boston Red Sox: Jonathan Papelbon’s face won’t get any prettier. The green monster will eat Jeremy Hermida. Tim Wakefield will throw some more knuckle-balls.

Tampa Bay Rays: B.J. Upton will melt your heart. Carlos Pena will sign your taco.

Toronto Blue Jays: Bench coach Brian Butterfield will go on the Brian Butterfield diet plan and gain 23 pounds in the first two weeks. Edwin Encarnacion will be eaten by a garfoose.

Baltimore Orioles: The O’s will sign a member of their grounds crew to a major league contract and he’ll become the ace of their pitching staff.

Hot Soup Report: “Shhh! I gotta focus. I’m shifting into soup mode.”

The hot stove hasn’t been so hot for much of this offseason, and that is my excuse for neglecting the hot soup reports. Now there is suddenly a whole pile of soup-worthy tidbits. I’m just going to jump right in.

Trades

The big news since yesterday is the Roy Halladay deal, which has all but been finalized. Mr. Halladay will go to Philadelphia, Cliff Lee will go to Seattle and a tidy bundle of prospects will go to Toronto. It’s hardly thrilling to have Mr. Halladay join the National League. At the same time, I remember back when Johan Santana made the jump and we all thought nobody else would have a chance to win the Cy Young for years upon years to come. Not that that means anything. I’m just blabbering, trying to pretend that this move means anything to me. The Cubs will likely face Mr. Halladay and lose, yes. We probably would have faced Cliff Lee and lost as well. So what can I say?

The only other monumental trade was the Curtis Granderson tragedy, which I did mention previously.

Signings

Chone Figgins (Mariners): I was surprised how quickly this went down. I’ll tell you one thing… everybody is talking about Roy Halladay and such. Nobody seems to be noticing the Mariners. They’re getting things done, boy. They signed Mr. Figgins and have now traded for Cliff Lee. I’d say they’re looking pretty good. When one further considers that the Angels are losing Mr. Figgins, as well as John Lackey, well… one has to think that the AL West is gonna be a little more interesting this year.

John Lackey (Red Sox): Since his name already came up anyway… I don’t have anything to say about Mr. Lackey, besides that I’m not much of a fan. I randomly felt glad that the Cubs don’t have money to spend on such individuals this year.

Jason Kendall (Royals): I like Jason Kendall. I’m glad he isn’t a Brewer any more. For the record, I don’t like him so much because of the brief time he spent as a Cub (although he was charming in pinstripes), but because I used to enjoy his breakfast cereal.

Hideki Matsui (Angels): The only comments I can think of for this are attacks on the DH “position,” so I’ll refrain.

Randy Wolf (Brewers): Somehow, I don’t feel threatened.

Ivan Rodriguez (Nationals): This year, Pudge will become a lock to win the ‘Player-I’ve-seen-play-with-the-most-different-teams’ prize. Wherever this man goes, I end up seeing him play.

Mike Cameron (Red Sox): This pretty much narrows the Cubbies’ options for center-fielder down to Marlon Byrd. Unless we trade for someone. I vote for trying to talk the Yankees into giving us Brett Gardner. Otherwise, just give Sam Fuld or Tyler Colvin the job.

There are a bajillion other signings, but what interesting can really be said about Pedro Feliz to the Astros, or Bobby Crosby to the Pirates? This brings us to…

The Remaining Free Agents

Jason Bay: He won’t be returning to the Red Sox, according to the latest from MLBtraderumors.com. The front runners are said to be the Mets, Angels and Mariners, and the Yankees are “interested” (When are they not?) I want to see it down to the Angels and Mariners, don’t you? AL WEST INTRIGUE!

Matt Holliday: The Cardinals have, to my chagrin, made Mr. Holliday an offer for some obscene amount of money. If I was in power in St. Lou, the offer would have been: a box of Peeps from last Easter, a used copy of the original ‘Oregon Trail’ on CD-rom, a home-made Christmas tree ornament, and $1.42 in pocket change (lint included.) And that is my final offer. Not because I think ill of Matt Holliday, but because in this scenario I am obviously a mole trying to take St. Louis down from the inside.

Mark DeRosa: My offer to Mr. DeRosa would be the exhumed remains of my sweet baby turtle and a black shoelace. Anything to get him out of a Cardinals uniform.

Final Notes

The Pittsburgh Pirates picked up former Marlin prospect John Raynor in this year’s rule 5 draft. Here’s hoping he sticks! REBEL ALUMNI POWER!!!

Matt Murton, a former Cub and favorite of mine, will be pursuing his baseball career in Japan. I just want to publicly wish him the best. He’s a talented guy. I hope he finally gets a real chance to play and mops up over there.


“It’s just like Santa’s workshop! Except it smells like mushrooms… and everyone looks like they wanna hurt me.”

Welcome to part two of the Fair Base Ballist’s 2009 Christmas shopping guide! December 25th draws ever nearer, so if you haven’t finished (or even started) your shopping yet, it’s time to take action. Fortunately, I’ve compiled some more gift suggestions to help everyone out. You’re welcome.

Baseball bat pepper mill (23.30)

In case you missed last year’s hot item, here it is again!

Mesquite Cookery by John “Boog” Powell cookbook (4.50)

This would go great with the pepper mill bat. Check out that meat on the cover photo. All I can say is, wow.

Boston Red Sox Mr. Potato Head (13.99)

Because everyone loves Mr. Potato Head! Different teams are available.

Baseball Beast Sticker (5.60)

Fantasy Baseball T-Shirt (12.49)

I want this shirt. For serious I do.