Saying Goodbye: 2012 Chicago Cubs

Another year of disappointing Cubs baseball is in the books.

I know this wasn’t the easiest team to watch…

I know you guys probably made a few faces like THIS during the course of the year…

I know I did.

But let’s not be fatalistic, guys. I mean, why should we be? So we had another bleh season. So what? We can take it. We’re Cubs fans, doggone it.

And there is every reason to have hope for the future. We still have Theo and friends. We’re building something. Our turn may not be as far away as it feels right now.

Besides which, if you look at this year’s playoff picture, you’ll see a whole lot of reasons for optimism. I mean, the Orioles made it, you guys. To the postseason. The BALTIMORE Orioles. And the Nationals. And the Athletics. It’s crazy. And kind of awesome.

So, let us accept the Cubs 2012 stinkiness with grace, and look forward to 2013 with minds unclouded. Because, one of these years, waiting til’ next year is going to pay off.

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Ron Santo: HoF Entree, HoPIL Oustee

The Hall of People I Like, or HoPIL (see the page here), has been an installment at The Fair Base Ballist since February of 2011. For my uninformed readers, it is a page I created in which to enshrine ballplayers of whom I am fond, and who are either active and not members of the Chicago Cubs, or inactive and not members of Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

The rules of the HoPIL disqualify current Cubs (because I pretty much love them all, so what would the point be?) and HoF inductees (because they have been publicly acknowledged as special and don’t need me anymore). Should a member of the HoPIL eventually fail to meet these requirements, they are to be cast out of it with much joy and dancing.

It is indeed with much joy and dancing, and with a little tear in my eye that I officially oust Ron Santo from the HoPIL today. As he is now enshrined forever in the halls of Cooperstown, he cannot belong to my silly institution any longer. The expulsion could not be more richly deserved by anyone.

Congratulations, Ronnie. We’ll love you always.

Cubs players honored Ron yesterday by clicking their heels as they took the field in St. Louis. You can see the video of their tribute here.

 

 

 

Rhyme-o-rama 2012! Part One

For the past year or so, I have done a series of pre-season posts under the moniker of “Predictorama!”, in which I tried my hand at forecasting the future year in baseball. Results were usually somewhat strange, and required more than a modicum of brainpower to dream up. Bottom line: lots of work for comparatively puny results.

I was ready to trudge through another year of wringing the psychic juices from my wet rag of a mind, but then I had another idea…

Instead of boring old humor and time consuming photo-shop projects (image doctoring is really not my gift) what if I did this year’s prognostics in poetic form? A rhyming couplet for each player on the Cubs 25-man roster. Because that wouldn’t be more complicated at all.

And that is how this year’s “rama” came to be “rhyme-o” as opposed to “predict-o”.

This is the first installment. Please laugh with me and not at me.

~

Before looking to the future, let’s take a very quick look glance back…

A limerick to summarize 2011
There once was a team called the Cubs
With players that mostly were scrubs
They did what they could
But they weren’t very good
And the fans long bemoaned all their flubs.

For the team as a whole in 2012, I predict the same thing I do every year. I’m the non-commital sort, you know.

Some folks believe the Cubs will stink;
I say we’re better than they think.
Still others hold the Cubs are dope;
I fear we’re stinkier than they hope.

And before we get to the players, an itsy bitsy ode to Dale Sveum.

For Our New Manager
At the helm’s our new skipper
His name is Dale Sveum
Should the Cubs hit the cellar
He’ll shoulder the blame!

To wrap up the first installment of Rhyme-o-rama 2012, here are a few for the players.

Sir Ian Stewart inherits third base,
We hope that he will not fall flat on his face.

Matt Garza is super, and rare are his blunders,
But is he Man Or Muppet, is what I still wonders.

Will Carlos Marmol get any scarier?
Or might he defeat that mental barrier?

He may well be traded, from what I have heard,
But there’s still no denying it: Byrd is the Wyrd.

Christopher Volstad is very tall
I’ve nothing else to say at all.

~

Tune in next week for more exciting rhyming action!

How (NOT) To Talk To Cubs Fans

First things first: Happy Single’s Awareness Valentine’s Day, everyone. One of the best parts of this time of year is hitting the candy clearance aisles on February 15th. But even that is secondary to the joy of the start of Major League Baseball Spring Training. Yes. That blessed time is nearly upon us. Before we start moving full speed ahead into the 2012 preseason, however, I have a few cobwebs to clear out.

I have had the post that follows sitting around since August. It came to me while visiting the Cubs in Washington. I have been meaning to get it up here all winter, but it just hasn’t happened. It is total off-season material, so I’m getting it in just in the nick of time. After this, it’s onward and upward! So let us giddy-up…

***

When I tell people that I am a Cubs fan, I almost always cringe. And it isn’t because I’m ashamed. It is because that I know that a torrent of cliche commentary and jokes are about to rain down upon me. When you live outside the hub of Chicago, at least, it’s inevitable. And non-Cubs fans have an uncanny way of bringing up the sorest subjects in these conversations. Provoking annoyance isn’t usually their intention, but it is often what they end up doing, just the same.

I was sitting and enjoying a lovely evening at the ballpark in DC last year, and had a friendly Nationals fan sitting to my left. Towards the end of the game, Kerry Wood came in to pitch. This man turned to me and asked if I liked Kerry Wood. The best response would have been, “No, no I don’t like him… I love him.” Because it’s true. I didn’t say that, though, I only said, “Yes.” He then proceeded to ask me if I remembered “that one time when Kerry Wood went on the DL.” For a moment, I honestly thought he was mocking me (and Kerry) but it quickly became clear that he was not. He launched into a retelling of the hot-tub incident in great (and occasionally incorrect) detail. Although I interrupted him to say that I did indeed remember that particular occurrence, he continued on as if I’d claimed never to have heard the story. In between the groanings in my mind, it occurred to me that a list of ways NOT to talk to Cubs fans would make a good blog entry.

  My intention is not to slap well-intending folk on the wrists, but simply to make them realize that these are NOT in fact subjects that the average Cubs fan enjoys dwelling on. Here are the topics to avoid:

1. Mark Prior: Nobody wants to remember how Mr. P’s promising career was derailed by incessant injury. It stunk. We know. We’ve moved on. (Exception: Feel free to bug anyone you see who is actually wearing a Prior jersey. They are asking for it.)

2. The “Curse”: It might sometimes be OK to bring this topic up with a Cubs fan that you have known a while (“Do you believe in that”, etc.,) but never broach it on a first meeting. And don’t say anything about goats or black cats. Unless, of course, you really like being on the receiving end of stink-eyed glares.

3. The latter-half of 1969: Proceed only if the Cubs fan brings it up first. Otherwise, stay away! I find it a sore subject and I wasn’t even close to being born yet.

4. Steve Bartman: This might be the most abused topic on this list. *Shudder* It is also my personal least favorite. I wish the world would just spare us all.

5. How many years has it been now?”: You know it’s in triple digits. Isn’t that enough?

6. Ronnie Woo Woo: We really do not care for him. His wooing haunts our dreams.

Now, I do not by any means wish to discourage non-Cubs fans from striking up conversations with Cubs fans. There are plenty of safe subjects that we would be willing to discuss at any time. To name of few:

Theo Epstein: You couldn’t select a more golden name to drop at this current time.

Wrigley Field: Almost always a safe bet. Unless you open with, “SO, when Wrigley going to be [renamed/replaced/torn down]?” But I don’t know why you would say that unless you are either the most sinister person in the whole world, or you have a death wish.

Ron Santo: Or any other beloved player from the past. Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace… I for one am always happy to share a pleasant discussion on Cubs legends.

Starlin Castro: Or whatever young player is showing the most promise at the moment. The hope of the future is always a safer topic than the disappointment of the past.

Kerry Wood’s 20 Strikeout Game: Games like these are even more meaningfulwhen your team is in the midst of a century long championship drought. Personally, I never EVER get tired of reliving this one.

The Promised Land: Most Cubs fans will be more than happy to imagine the riots that will overrun Chicago and the immensity of the ticker tape parade that will take place if the Cubs ever win the World Series.

Because, if it was this amazing for the Blackhawks, how much greater will it be for the Cubs???

Fellow Cubs fans: Please chime in! Are there any additions/subtractions you would make to my list? If so, I want to hear about it.

Welcome to Chicago: Ian Stewart

It’s funny how I instantly start liking people once they become Cubs. If you had asked me yesterday at this time what I thought of Ian Stewart, my reaction would have been to stare at you expressionlessly and perhaps blink a few times. Now that he’s a Cubs? Well, he seems pretty cool to me. Not that I know much about him, yet, but I’ll find something to love. Just watch me.

I like the name Ian Stewart. It sounds so incredibly British. I think I can build on that…

Tally ho, Ian! And welcome to the great city of Chicago.

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.

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.

***

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.

***