Saying Goodbye: Your 2011 Chicago Cubs

“I am and always will be the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams.”

I know that the average Cubs fan was relieved when the 2011 season finally ended last week, and probably doesn’t think there was much worth remembering fondly from it. I believe that there is always something worth remembering from every year. This year, by some miracle, I have come up with not one or two but TEN positive things to either take from the 2011 Cubs, to look forward to in 2012, or (in a few cases) both.

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10. Sean Marshall… the man who deserved better than the Chicago Cubs. Sean recorded 34 holds and a 2.26 ERA and all that, but I don’t need to recite his stats. We all know how good he is.

9. Jeff Baker & Reed Johnson. Is it just me? Maybe. These may not be marquis-type players, but I have determined that they are genuinely likable human beings and I enjoy watching them play very much.

8. Carlos Pena’s smirk. I’m glad Carlos got to spend a year on the North side. I’ve always been a fan, and I will miss his smile next year.

7. Matt Garza. It obviously isn’t reflected in his won-loss record, but Matt had a very good year for us. And what stands out even more than his solid pitching performances is his enthusiasm. If it was so unflappable in a stinky year like this, I would love to be able to see how psyched up he’d be for a good year of Cubs baseball.

6. Kerry Wood. If seeing Kerry back home again didn’t warm your heart, you might not have one.

5. Throwback uniform days. We got not one, but TWO vintage uni days in 2011, a rare treat. Throwbacks will never fail to thrill me.

The socks… oh! The beautiful socks!

4. Ron Santo-ness.

3. Darwin Barney. I know that a lot of Cubs fans have long since turned their noses up at Darwin, proclaiming him unworthy of whatever acclaim he may have received this year. I know he isn’t Robinson Cano or anything, but Darney certainly exceeded my expectations of him (in the first half, particularly) and that is enough for me to count him among the high points of this year.

2. Tony Campanarama’s mad wheels. I know that some of the same noses turned up against Darwin Barney are likewise against Tony. He may not possess a lethal bat, but honestly… find me someone more fun to watch on the basepaths. You won’t, because there isn’t anyone. This is more than enough to earn our little speed-demon a spot on this list.

1. STARLIN CASTRO. Enough said.

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GM For a Day

It had reached that time of year when fans the nation over begin to put their GM caps on and think/talk about what moves they would make if they were in charge. GM caps aren’t nearly as fun to play with when your team is mired in sub .500 mediocrity, but it is something to do nonetheless.

The following is a just-for-fun looksee at what I would consider doing if I were the Cubs GM for a day. You will see that, even as sentimental as I am, I do not share real GM Jim Hendry’s somewhat alarming stance on fire-sales and rebuilding.

This may be the most heartless post I’ve ever written.

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Dempster, Ryan: While I am trying not to let my heart interfere with my head in my pretend 1-day tenure as Cubs general manager, I can’t help it with Dempsty. I couldn’t possibly let him go anywhere. (See also: Wood, Kerry.)

Garza, Matt: I never would have traded for Matt in the first place. Unless some other team was daft enough willing to part with 3 of its top ten prospects, I wouldn’t let go of him this year. It just seems pointless.

Grabow, John: Free to a good home.

Marmol, Carlos: There was a time when I would have considered Carlos #2 as untouchable. I don’t any longer. I suppose all that 9th inning stress has gotten to my head. I am not saying that I would trade Carlos, only that I wouldn’t rule it out. And I would demand a LOT in any possible trade situation (more than he is worth.)

Marshall, Sean: Sigh. It would be difficult for me to pull the trigger on any deal involving Sean, but I hope that in the end I would be able to do what was right for him and the Cubs.

Russell, James: If John Grabow and Sean Marshall aren’t around I guess that would make James the new go-to lefty in our bullpen.

Samardzija, Jeff: He’s done OK this year, certainly better than anyone expected. I would just keep Jeff where he is and ride out that contract.

Wells, Randy: Most of these fellows fit into one of three basic divisions. One, the guys somebody may want. Two, the guys that nobody want. Three, the guys people want but can’t have. I’m afraid that Randy might be a two.

Wood, Kerry: Maybe Kerry should be a one, but he’s a three as long as I’m GM.

Zambrano, Carlos: I wouldn’t even consider Carlos #1 as trade bait. If only to annoy Paul Sullivan.

Hill, Koyie: I heard a rumor that someone might be interested in Koyie. If it’s true, he’s theirs. But it probably isn’t.

Soto, Geovany: Not for sale. Catchers, even half decent ones, are too hard to come by.

Baker, Jeff: If I were the GM of a team that was in contention, I would want Jeff Baker. As Cubs GM, I would hesitate to part with him. Players as versatile and inexpensive as Jeffy B. are worth hanging onto, even in a bad year.

Barney, Darwin: Not going anywhere on my watch.

Castro, Starlin: Crown prince of all the untouchables.

DeWitt, Blake: Blake has never really seemed like a fit on the Cubs. I would send him some place where he could be more useful.

Pena, Carlos: I love Carlos Pena. I always have. I’ve enjoyed watching him as a Cub. But he is still probably the first guy on the proverbial chopping block.

Ramirez, Aramis: The times, they are a-changing. I’m willing to say goodbye if he is.

Byrd, Marlon: Yet another prime trade candidate who I’d miss.

Campana, Tony: Should probably be in triple-A getting more seasoning and playing time, but if half the trade propositions I’ve suggested went down, he’d probably have to tough it out in Chicago.

Fukudome, Kosuke: Sayonara, Fuke. (I seriously feel so mean all of a sudden.)

Johnson, Reed: I couldn’t let go of Reed. So much for that head/heart business.

Soriano, Alfonso: Rumors, schmumors. Fonsie isn’t going anywhere, whether we like it or not.

*Jackson, Brett: I would appease the people (myself included) who would like to have a peek at Mr. Jackson in Chicago before the 2011 season expires.

*Flaherty, Ryan: How do you feel about third base, Mr. Flaherty?

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So, how ’bout it? What would you all do if you had GM powers for a day?

Wildcard Wednesday: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Happy Wednesday once again, my friends, and happy Star Wars day!

First off, I just want to offer a big “YAY!” to Carlos Pena for finally hitting his first home run in Cubbie blue last night against the Dodgers. I had bet he’ll pick it up now that he doesn’t have that hanging over his head any longer.

Just look how happy he is!

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Now! Who’s ready for a bit of this-day-in-history? Anyone? No? Well, here it is, anyway:

Audrey Hepburn (1929) and George Will (1941) were both born this day.

A French manufacturer debuted the first folding umbrella in Paris (1715)

The Yankees set a record with 8 sacrifices and beat Babe Ruth and the Red Sox 5-4 (1918)

The first legal Sunday baseball game was played in New York City (1919)

Lou Gehrig hit 3 consecutive home runs and the Yankees beat the Tigers 11-9 (1929)

Five died in a 2-day riot at Alcatraz in San Francisco (1946)

Ernest Hemingway was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man & The Sea(1953)

The first ever Grammy Awards were held, with Perry Como and Ella Fitzgerald among those honored (1959)

Pitcher Bob Shaw set a record with 5 balks in a single game (1963)

Willie Mays hit his 512th home run to break Mel Ott’s NL record (1965)

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And, finally, an amusing (non-baseball) photo I happened upon last week. It looks to me like these hockey player’s were trying to recreate Jan Brett’s classic children’s book The Mitten.

Wildcard Wednesday: “Are the cubs really as wild as they say?”

I’ve been a bit backed up blog-wise this week due to busy-ness and technical difficulties. Let us hope for smooth sailing from here on…

Today I thought I’d just fling around a few thoughts on the Cubs season thus far. It’s only been five days, but there is already plenty to talk about.

NL Central Standings, as of this morning

My scatter-brained thoughts on…

Tyler Colvin: Did you get a load of Tyler at first base yesterday??? He looked like a pro. I never would have expected as much, especially given the standard (years of Derrek Lee and, now, the very adept Carlos Pena) I can’t help holding him to. It was really a delight to behold. He’s had some delicious at-bats, too.

Carlos Pena: Speaking of Carlos Pena! How much do we love him already? Who could resist such gloviness or such smiles? I am happy he is on our team.

The Defense, in general: Much better, so far, than I expected. Starlin’s gems have outnumbered his hiccups. Mr. Pena has been great. Geovany Soto’s arm has saved us a number of times already. Nothing truly atrocious has happened in the outfield. Now if they can only keep it up…

Andrew Cashner: Cash put up a hey of a showing in his first ever major league start yesterday. Of course, given the Cubs fortune, his health is now in question. I am hoping and praying, for his sake and ours, that the shoulder tightness which forced Cash’s early exit proves to be nothing serious.

Matt Garza: Was very enjoyable to watch in his 12-K Cubs debut. Is even more fun to watch in the dugout during games he is not pitching.

Starlin Castro: I’ve tried to be objective when it comes to our young shortstop. I can’t do it anymore. I love this kid. He has thrilled me to my very tippy toes since I first watched him taking batting practice in Cincinnati last May. I can’t recall having as much satisfaction watching any single player as I have had watching Starlin. Of course, it is less than a week into the season. He probably is not going to maintain a batting average of over .500. Just the same, you have to think that we are going to have a whole lot of fun rooting for Starlin this year. And, hopefully, many many more years in the future.

Geovany Soto: Made the best tag ever on Sunday.
Darwin Barney: Runs funny. But so much fun to watch!


Kerry Wood: Boy is it ever nice having him back home where he belongs!

The BIRDS: The droves of seagulls and low volumes of people have made Wrigley Field something of a sight these past few days, dontcha think?

Hopefully it doesn’t come to anything like this…

Predictorama!: Your 2011 Chicago Cubs, Part Two

A most happy MLB Opening Day to one and all! The Cubs turn doesn’t come until tomorrow afternoon, but there are several games (real games!) being played to hold us over for 24 hours. There is also this, part two of my Cubs prediction party, as promised. Get caught up with Part One, if you missed it!

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Picking right up where I left off…

Reed Johnson: I anticipate bookoos of Reed-inspired baby sloth smiles from innumerable¬† game-saving web-gems and a copious amount of hit-by-pitches. It’s good to have him back, isn’t it?

Carlos Marmol: Give Marmee one sloth hug for strikeout, minus one for every walk. I think he’ll come out well enough ahead. I’m calling Carlos #2 makes the NL All Star team. Or, if he doesn’t, we will all consider it injust and be wild with fury.

Sean Marshall: If he can replicate the outstanding numbers he put up last year, our bullpen isn’t going to be too shabby. 1 baby sloth hug for every time Sean’s curveball gives me goosebumps. 25 more if VCU wins the NCAA championship.

Marcos Mateo: I totally typed in “Juan Mateo” at first by accident right there. Does anyone else remember that game in 2006 when Juan was- for some reason- used as a pinch runner in extra innings and scored the winning run? And Derrek Lee proclaimed something like “that’s the slowest I’ve ever seen a human being run”? You remember the little things in seasons like that…

Anyway, if Marcos can do something that amuses me half as much as his brother did then, I shall be delighted.

Carlos Pena: It is hard to say exactly what kind of numbers Carlos will put up, or what kind of year he will have. It is easy to say that he will certainly charm us all with his winning smile, and good defense (maybe even a walk-off home run or two.) He isn’t going find baby sloth hugs hard to come by, no matter what his batting average is.

Aramis Ramirez: Probably not going to win any more silver sluggers or golden gloves. Sigh. Sometimes reality and time aren’t fun.

James Russell: One consolation baby sloth hug for every time James is going to be shuffled from Chicago to Iowa. The same goes for Justin Berg, and anyone else like that.

Jeff Samardzija: Every bullpen seems to have at least one designated kitten-eater… one guy that elicits groans before he has even tossed a warm-up pitch in the bullpen. I’m calling that that guy is gonna be Shark in 2011. 3 sympathy baby sloth hugs for him, but he can’t collect them until he cuts his hair.

Alfonso Soriano: Either Mr. Soriano has been flying under the radar lately, or people have run out of things to say about him. I, for one, have hardly given him a thought this spring. But Sori isn’t just the Canadian word for “sorry”… it’s still our left-fielder, too. I am hoping he quietly has a half-decent season, provided the injury bug doesn’t bite. 4 baby sloth hugs per home run, minus 2 for every groan-inducing defensive play.

Geovany Soto: This is one guy who I genuinely look forward to watching every day… one of the few I don’t feel like I have to cross my fingers for. I foresee good things (good health, potent bat, possible all star selection if he isn’t barred out by Brian McCann and Buster Posey.) 5 bonus baby sloth hugs for every stolen base, triple, and/or inside-the-park home run Geo hits this year. 100 Bonus baby sloth hugs if he ever does a handspring on the base paths.

Randy Wells: I’ll feel better about Randy when I know he’s found a good woman.

Kerry Wood: Kerry will always be allowed as many baby sloth hugs as he wishes, regardless how he performs. I predict a solid year from my all-time favorite Cubs, with just one negligible DL stint.

I’m happy he’s home.

Carlos Zambrano: Two baby sloth hugs per hit recorded. I don’t know what to say about Big Z anymore. I mean, his bat is easier to rely on than his arm. I am going to err on the side of superstition and not predict anything. I just hope… no, wait… I don’t. My lips are zipped.

 

 

Wildcard Wednesday: The not-so-many faces of Carlos Pena

As you can see, I’m trying out a new look here at the FBB. I’d rather not keep changing it all the time, but can’t seem to find a style that really satisfies me. We’ll see if this one sticks (I welcome your opinions.)

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Last Wednesday, I put up a collage featuring the many varying faces of Matt Garza. I decided to create another one for today. I call it the not-so-many faces of Carlos Pena.

Alternate title: The many smiles of Carlos Pena.

 

“I want to be able to say that I hit with Francisco Meza.”

I meant to put this link up on Wednesday and it slipped my mind.¬† So, I’m just going to tack it on here at the end of the week like the consummate professional I am.

Click here and you will find yourself at new-Cub Fernando Perez’s tumblr page. He posted a video that I was too amused by to not share. Fernando and Carlos Pena met a kid with a tee in a parking lot somewhere in the Mesa, AZ area and he apparently decided to document the encounter.

Cuteness.

Have spectacular weekends, everyone!