Happy Trails, Kerry Wood

It has been learned today that my favorite Cub ever has decided to hang up his cleats.

This is one of those events where words suddenly seem an insufficient form of expression. What can we say besides thank you, Kerry Wood and we love you. Not much.

SO, from the bottom of my heart I do say thanks, Mr. Wood. It has been a privilege cheering you on all these years. My admiration, respect and gratitude will be yours always. Best wishes in the years ahead… I have a funny feeling we haven’t seen the last of you.

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Rhyme-o-rama 2012! Part Three

Grab your kazoos and party hats! Cue the confetti cannon and fireworks! Prepare your happy dances!

Opening Day has, at last, arrived.

Although, if you’re a Mariners, Athletics, Marlins, or Cardinals fan you’ve had your moment already. This celebration isn’t for you. Go away.

For the rest of us, let’s let the good times roll.

And what better way to kick off this glorious day than with the conclusion of Rhyme-o-rama 2012?

My remaining and increasingly un-predictiony “spoems” follow. I hope you’ll enjoy.

~

Let’s hope our hearts shall oft be cheered
By the presence of Blake DeWitt and his beard.

Rafael Dolis is as cute as can be
He’ll set up, which is fine with me.

Starlin Castro is here to stay-
We get to watch him every day. (Yay!)

Kerry Wood is my favorite, you see,
So instead of two lines
I am giving him three.

Don’t try to hit ’em where Reed Johnson ain’t,
He is everywhere, see, an outfielding saint.

Geo Soto I’ll shower with flattery,
He’s always a positive end of the battery.

Lendy Castillo and Shawn Camp have somehow made it this far,
I literally have no idea who they are.

Darwin Barney plays second base
By bubblegum power he activates.

Tony Campana, Campana Tony.
His speed is anything but phoney.

Luis Valbuena was acquired last minute,
If there was a prize for most infielders, the Cubs now would win it.

~

Thanks to you all for joining me on this strange, rhyming journey. Enjoy Opening Day, and Go Cubs!

Recapping Cubs Con: Day One

I already sense that this is going to be one of those posts that doesn’t possess a tenth of the information/brilliantly worded thoughts that I envision starting out (not that 99% of all my posts don’t end up the exact same way.) It was my intention to take excellent notes during the events, have tons of great photos, AND provide a wealth of insight via Twitter. As it turns out, doing all three of those things at once isn’t so easy. Now that the convention is over, I am left with a piddly collection of scrawled out notes, a handful of mostly blurry pictures, and hardly any tweets at all on the subject. Fortunately (for me, at least) I’ve got plenty of sweet memories to make reflecting on this annual event worthwhile. And I hope to offer you all the least little taste of what the experience was like.

Enjoy my disjointed recap…

Day One:

The first few hours of registering and wandering around the halls of the Chicago Hilton are hardly worth recounting, so I’ll just go ahead and skip to the Opening Ceremonies. Pat Hughes acted as emcee, and the environment in the Grand Ballroom was decidedly electric. Popular opinion seemed to be that attendance was down this year, but you could have fooled me… the room was packed. Introductions began with the broadcasting guys, then went on to team execs, former players, future players, and finally to the Cubs current squad. The fans offered a nice welcome to all the new guys (there are more than a few of those), especially to skipper Dale Sveum, and lots of love to the old-timers. If applause is a popularity indicator (and I think in this case we must agree that it is), the most-loved current Cubs would have to include  Darwin Barney, Tony Campanarama, Reed Johnson, and Starlin Castro. The ovation for Theo Epstein was enormous, with chants of “The-o! The-o! The-o!” breaking out. The response for the last introduction of all left these previous ones in the dust. When all acknowledged attendees had been introduced and Pat then said, “And I’ve got some breaking news…” the crowd went absolutely wild. We knew in a heartbeat what that meant, and the rest of Pat’s intro for our most beloved Kerry Wood was lost in the din. It was the clear-cut highlight of the evening, and probably the entire weekend.

After the ceremony was over, we headed downstairs to participate in the “Autograph Treasure Hunt”. This is a misleading title, as there was little treasure and no hunting involved. Basically what one did was to wait in one’s choice of long, snaking lines to receive the autograph of a player-to-be-named-later. We waited about an hour for our mystery-player (who turned out to be former-Cub Jon Lieber). I mean no slight to Mr. Lieber (who was every bit the gentlemen, even if he did show up late) but it was hardly worth our while. We ended up missing our train, ending day #1 on a less-than-pleasant note (not that it wasn’t still a great day). 

Day #2 holds a few more tales…

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.

***

Seeing Double: Cubs & Muppets edition

I have had this post in the back of my mind ever since Matt Garza came over to Chicago. Matt’s uncanny resemblance to various muppet characters is something I haven’t been shy about pointing out. But what about the rest of the team? It doesn’t seem fair to pick only on Mr. Garza, even if his muppety qualities are so strong. Today, therefore, I will be throwing a few more fellas under the bus… the Electric Mayhem tour bus, that is.

Keep in mind that some of these resemblances are physical, some are based more on personality. I think you can figure it out.

***

Darwin Barney – Rowlf the Dog

Justin Berg – Floyd Pepper

Kyle Smit (MiLB) – Beaker

Jeff Baker – Muppet Newscaster

(It’s the jawline.)

Carlos Marmol – Lew Zealand

Ryan Dempster – The Great Gonzo

Mike Quade – Dr. Bunsen Honeydew

Tony Campana – Bean Bunny

Carlos Zambrano – Animal/Sweetums

Kerry Wood – Kermit the Frog

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.

***

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?

***

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

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…