Saying Goodbye: Derrek Lee

The Cubs franchise lost another face on Thursday. The team has lost a lot of heart (and stomach) wrenching games this season, but none have been as regrettable to me as the loss of this lone man, Derrek Lee. (He joins Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and Andrew Ladd as Chicago athletes cast off to Atlanta this year.)

I feel like I ought to be writing psalms and sonnets  in commemoration of D-Lee’s seven years in Chicago. His glove alone is worth an ode or two. I’ll never forget the Oakland A’s broadcasters sighing and admiring our 1st baseman during spring training in 2008. They compared him to a ballerina. I imagine that Cubs fans will be holding (unfairly) all succeeding first baseman to the Derrek Lee standard.

His bat was nothing to sniff at, either. The same broadcasting duo mentioned above fawned over D-Lee just as much when he was at the plate. The comment I particularly remember was, “He makes striking out look good.” Can’t argue with that.

What makes this man really valuable, of course, is his quiet leadership and honorable conduct on and off the playing field. Hitting home runs and winning gold gloves will win you plenty of fans, but it takes something more than that to hold on to them.

These few paragraphs hardly seem a worthy sendoff for a man who was as important to my team for as great a period of time as Derrek Lee was. Simply know that I offer this puny farewell with all the respect and admiration that my heart can muster. Were I in attendance at today’s Cubs-Braves match-up, I’d be the first fan on my feet to offer Mr. Lee the ovation that he deserves.

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Name That Rookie!

While perusing Google Images yesterday for a feature I originally intended to have today, I found a photo (#5, below) of great intrigue. It gave me an idea I fancied even better than what I had planned. (Sorry folks… worst hair and facial hair in the major leagues will have to wait.)

The idea is to try and identify the major league player from the photo on his rookie card. I have obscured the names on the images that follow… Some of them are really easy (yet just as fun,) others are more challenging, as long as you haven’t seen the cards before. All are names you should know. Look for the answers in the tag section under the post. Enjoy!

~

#1:

That stache isn’t fooling anybody.

#2:Look at that face! Gah! So young. So, so young.

#3: Hard to figure out? No. Amusing? Yes indeed.

#4:Only one dude’s old enough to have a card from that set…

#5: He should really go back to this look.

#6Personally, I would not have known who this was in a million trillion years. Of course, I had prior to this point been ignorant of the fact that this man spent 5 years in a Kansas City Royals uniform.

If, like me, you stupidly  did not know this and need a hint, here is a quote about this person from about five years ago: “[He] looks like Jesus, acts like Judas, and throws like Mary.”

#7I saved my favorite for last. Somehow, this guy is exactly the same and completely different all at once.

Weeks 11 & 12 in Review (Sort of, not really)

I have pretty much been on a blog-cation for the past two weeks. I haven’t been bothered in the least about planning, writing, or material-collecting, and have in large part been tuned out of the goings on in baseball land. This review of the last two weeks is really more a review of the two major league games I attended in that span…

June 15th, Wrigley Field, Athletics @ Cubs

MVPs of the game: The grounds-crew, who collectively said “Rain delay, schmain delay” and got the field into playing condition. They deservedly received the evening’s loudest ovations.

Game highlights: There weren’t many to choose from, as the Cubs lost in embarrassing fashion. But it was a thrill to see Rebel-alum Brad Ziegler pitch at Wrigley, and a Tyler Colvin home run.

Thumbs down: The institution of at bat walk-up songs for Cubs players is very disappointing. If Gary Pressey can’t play it, I don’t wanna hear it.

Thumbs down even farther: The “fans” who were booing Derrek Lee ought to have been forcibly removed from the ballpark.

Say what? : I barely even realized that we got to witness Conor Jackson’s debut as an ‘A.’ I heard his name mentioned in some capacity before the game, but it didn’t register for some reason. I was thinking he was a minor-league call up or some such thing. But I DO know who Mr. Jackson is, and I rather like him. Because, y’know, his dad was on JAG and stuff.

Why I feel upbeat about what was, in fact, an error-filled, rain-delayed Cubs loss: Victor Hugo, in Les Miserables, said that “To breathe the air of Paris preserves the soul.” I don’t know about Paris, but that is essentially how I feel about Wrigley Field. I don’t get to visit often, which might be a good thing. I hope never to take for granted the fact that we’ve got a beautiful little gem of a ballpark.

June 23rd, Nationals Park, Royals @ Nats

On the fourth day of Strasmas: Mr. S recorded his first hit! Also, his first loss! The latter will be so much more special in our memories when he finishes his career 428-3.

I’m melllttiiinnngggg!: Unfortunately, the numbers on the thermometer that afternoon were even higher than those the radar gun was flashing. In fact, the heat index was up over 100. Being out of doors in such sweltering heat for such an extended period of time (6+ hours) made it nearly impossible to enjoy any part of the day.

Not that anyone noticed, but…: Kansas City’s Brian Bannister really outpitched the Nationals’ phenom. And my second favorite American League Central closer (the chipmunky Joakim Soria) notched another save.

My heartfelt sympathies to: The individuals who must have been absolutely cooking inside those president mascot costumes. I do not believe that running around in one of those things on such a day could possibly be healthy or safe.

Thanks for the giggles: Royals relief-men Bruce Chen and Anthony Lerew were in high spirits despite the weather. They made me like them… Mr. Lerew deserves some sort of award for his hair alone.

+ A lot of cool points: Pudge Rodriguez, Cristian Guzman, Jordan Zimmerman. Congenial and obliging autograph signers, all. You gentlemen made the day for my brother and me.

Week Nine In Review

Week nine of the Major League season: In which entirely too many interesting things happened.

For the Cubs…

Losing series to the Cardinals and Pirates do not a happy fanbase make! Thus…

Kitten Eaters of the Week: Everyone (minus most of the starting rotation.)

Super Hero of the Week: Carlos Silva. Making the Cards look silly will earn you this distinction.

I heard it through the grape vine: Rumors of Derrek Lee or Xavier Nady being shipped to Los Angeles swirled, but were soon quashed.

Demoted: John Grabow, to the disabled list. Tom Gorzelanny, to the bullpen.

Promoted: Andrew Cashner, from triple-A. Carlos Zambrano, back to the starting rotation.

Headed in the Right Direction / Outstanding Gloviness: Darlin’ Starlin Castro has been showing off some filthy skills at short. I see Gold Gloves in his future.

Elsewhere in baseball…

Best Worst Headline: “Pirates plan is to acquire talent from the draftThere’s a revolutionary idea!

No More Ouchies!: David Huff scared the living daylights out of us all. Kendry Morales went down with one of the more bizarre injuries I’ve seen lately.

Stop, Thief!: Oakland’s Gabe Gross may have pulled off the most sparkling home run robbery of the year when he pulled in a would-be blast from off the bat of Detroit’s Gerald Laird. The Tigers might want to consider some kind of security system, because they got robbed more than once this week…

Masterpiece: That’s what Roy Halladay had on Saturday night. Yet the one we’ll all remember most was…

The one that got away: Armando Galarraga did everything that Dallas Braden and Mr. Halladay did and just got a tough break. He did essentially pitch a perfect game. So did Harvey Haddix (and then some.) That’s baseball! That’s life! By now we all know that the events that followed Mr. Galarraga’s incredible outing were even more memorable than the performance itself. Joe Posnanski’s article on the whole thing is a MUST READ. Here is a nice excerpt:

And in that moment when [Galarraga] had a perfect game so unfairly taken away from him, he smiled. In the interview after the game, he simply said that he wasn’t sure about the call but he was proud of his game. When told afterward that Joyce felt terrible about the missed call, Galarraga said that he wanted to go tell Joyce not to worry about it, that people make mistakes.

Galarraga pitched a perfect game on Wednesday night in Detroit. I’ll always believe that. I think most baseball fans will always believe that. But, more than anything, it seems that Galarraga will always believe it. The way he handled himself after the game, well, that was something better than perfection. Dallas Braden’s perfect game was thrilling. Roy Halladay’s perfect game was art. But Armando’s Galarraga’s perfect game was a lesson in grace.

I liked these snippets from Yahoo’s Big League Stew, as well.

Our reward comes in seeing someone perform at the highest level and then having enough presence of mind to maintain a proper perspective when something goes against them.

It’s kind of strange that there would have been plenty of plaudits thrown Galarraga’s way had Jim Joyce made the correct call, but that we also wouldn’t have really seen the true measure of the man if there hadn’t been a bang-bang play on the would-be the 27th out.

Headed for Countryside Acres: Ken Griffey Jr.. Hey, wait! I already covered this yesterday!

One for the road: 18-yr-old Eri Yoshida debuted for the indy-league Chico Outlaws this week. I always looked upon this phrase with distaste in the past, but I’m saying it now, anyway: You GO, girl.

“When putting away your luggage after arriving home, always close the zippers so bugs can’t crawl in.”

Author’s Note: The following post includes significant Starlin Castro-inspired enthusiasm. Nothing that has happened since his stellar debut has really dampened my excitement over him, and it is my opinion that the individuals who booed Starlin during last night’s game should all be hit square in the face with a sock full of pennies.

I hope nobody will hate me for relating every minute detail of the little trip I went on last week. Friday’s game was by far the best Cubs one I have ever been to in person, and the entire day was just flat out awesome. If it ever sounds like I’m bragging, forgive me. I am not trying to… I honestly had an incredible few days and count them as a tremendous blessing. If I could give everyone a little of my leftover joy, I would. And Cubs Nation would have a few more happy campers. Continue reading

Week Two In Review

Week Two of the Major League Season: In which there was Wrigley’s home opener, errors, home runs, #42’s, and some disturbingly fine weather.

Around the Majors

Outstanding Gloviness: The two coolest defensive plays of the year so far are both by starting pitchers. This week it’s Pittsburgh’s Paul Maholm. I’m putting my money on Jorge De La Rosa for next week!

Fashion Statement: The Braves and Padres donned throwback uniforms in yesterday’s match-up. If I never mentioned it before, I LOVE throwbacks. Love, love, love ’em. So any time two teams have a throwback day, you’ll be hearing about it.

Atlanta’s spiffy powder-blue duds.

“Sigh” Young Award: I bestow this week’s trophy upon Milwaukee’s LaTroy Hawkins. With many thanks.

Houston, we have a problem: It took the Astros until yesterday afternoon to tally their first Win. No 0-162 season for the ‘Stros this year! 1-161 still looking like a possibility, though.

“Blast” of the Week: Did you see Aubrey Huff’s inside-the-park homer? My favorite part is Mark DeRosa pretty much lying tummy-down on the grass to emphasize the need for a slide (although it wasn’t really necessary.)

Disabled: Brian Fuentes, Brian Roberts, Jimmy Rollins, Esmailin Caridad

As For The Cubs…

Superhero of the Week: I wish there were more candidates… I’m going ahead and awarding this one to Kosuke Fukudome for his game-winning hit Wednesday.

Kitten Eaters of the Week: Alfonso Soriano, Jeff Samardzija (two weeks in a row for the Shark. Not a good thing, but I’ve had enough of the “trade him to the Bears” jokes already.)

Called Up: Jeff Gray… woo-hoo.

On The Right Track: Theodore Lilly pitched 4 innings in Iowa on Wednesday. He will make another minor-league start next week and hopefully be back with the Cubs before the end of the month.

Hug of the Week: Marlon Byrd. I just wanted to hug him about six different times, didn’t you?

Signs of the Apocalypse: Derrek Lee was ejected from yesterday’s contest by home-plate umpire Angel Campos. This is about as common as an ivory-billed woodpecker sighting. And the only thing rarer than ivory-billed woodpeckers and D-Lee ejections? Eighty-degree weather in Chicago in APRIL.

“My kind of town, Chicago is- my kind of people, too- People who smile at you.”

As promised, this is my post dedicated to the 25th annual Cubs Convention, which took place this past weekend. All of my information has been gleaned from various locales across the web. Basically, I have attempted to pick out all the highlights and arrange them here in one convenient location. For your pleasure.

-WGN radio provides an nice assortment of audio from the Convention’s various interview panels, as well as some condensed videos and some photos. See ’em all here.

-Allow me to offer a quick congratulations to Mike Fontenot, who, according to the Tribune, became engaged this off-season. The only thing more precious than engagements is new babies.

-When asked who on the team would shake things up now that Milton Bradley is gone, Ted Lilly replied that he’d be willing to assume that role. Oh, Ted…

-Though few apparently noticed, Carlos Silva was present. Good for him!

Andre Dawson basically came out and said that he prefers to wear a Cubs cap when he is enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame this year. What else would one expect him to say at what is basically a big, infectious Chicago love fest?

-One session not recorded by WGN was “Down on the Farm,” the one featuring Cubs prospects. This is a shame as I would dearly have loved to hear it. Fortunately, the meat of the thing is covered thoroughly on ChicagoCubsOnline.com. The panel included minor-leaguers Andrew Cashner, Welington Castillo, Brett Jackson and James Adduci as well as scouting director Tim Wilken and VP of player personnel Oneri Fleita.

-I found this mildly entertaining video on YouTube. Half of it consists of long-winded introductions, but I was amused by how uncomfortable the pitchers look during that time.

-Perhaps the biggest buzz coming out of the whole convention was over Geovany Soto. Our catcher looked to be in splendid shape and says he has dropped 40 pounds. Geo’s attitude was also encouraging. He seems ready to rebound in 2010 after his disappointing sophomore effort.

PICTURE TIME!

Sellout crowd!

From left- Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks and man-of-the-hour Andre Dawson. According to attendees, Mr. Dawson received the loudest ovations of anyone there.

LOOK, MY UNCLE DAN WAS AT THE CONVENTION!!!! Signing autographs…? Oh… wait. Sorry. That’s new team owner Tom Ricketts.

I listened to the audio from this pictured session and was initially perturbed by all the female fans (and even the host) who kept telling the players how good-looking they were. When I saw photos, however, I couldn’t help but agree. In fact, I thought that every person I saw in videos/pictures looked fantastic (except Jeff Baker. But he just really doesn’t photograph well.)

D-Lee, of course, always looks great.

The new, svelte Geovany Soto.

And two more you have to click on:

I really really wonder what the deal is with this one. What is going on here?

First thing out of Ryan Dempster’s mouth: Is this vodka?