What the Cubs Need

Posted October 14, 2011 by paul c wagner
Categories: Baseball, commentary, Sports

Tags: , ,

Hope is a bastard of an emotion.

Sure, it helps people survive life-threatening situations or gives them the will to live/fight against impossible odds and somehow come out on top. Hope lifts you up when all seems lost.

But it’s also the reason it hurts so bad to be a Cubs fan.

It’d be one thing if the Cubbies just came out every year without having made any off-season moves, or traded away all of our good
players, (a la the Pirates), or decided to stop playing people to artificially drop our gargantuan payroll, or just generally showed signs of officially throwing in the towel.

But the Cubs don’t DO that. They (against all odds) inspire hope that next year NEXT YEAR will be The Year.

Hiring Theo Epstein is a perfect freaking example of this.

Here’s the story: I pretty much gave up on the cubs this season in April. Maybe May. MAYBE. Here I am, mad at the team because of an atrocious season, ready to swear them off for the entire next season and save myself some mental and emotional anguish, and, as per usual, they do something in the off-season (when the playoffs start) that Inspires Hope. This year they go get the GM that brought the Red Sox their first world series in a good long while. They got a world series-less streak killer of a GM!

But I tell you what: I’m skeptical.

Yup, skeptical right in the face of Hope. Sure Theo did a wonderful job with the Red Sox and got them a ring (and he might just be the messiah if he does it for the Cubbies, too), but the Sox have a bigger payroll than the Cubs and completely imploded at the end of this season. The Cubs’ m.o. for years has been to pick up a big-name player and pay him more money than he deserves (I’m talking to you, Soriano). We (as fans and as a team) don’t need more of that.

What we need is to build on the (few) positives from this season. Darwin Barney is excellent. Starlan Castro is one of the brightest
young stars in the game. We FINALLY fired our god-awful, terrible, jackass of a GM. It looks like we won’t have Zombrano next year to “guarantee” a world series victory only to follow up his words with temper tantrums and mediocre pitching. This LeHair kid shows promise. Marlon Byrd can see just fine and looks to be the leader this team has been missing since we stupidly got rid of de Rosa.

What we need is our GM to be focused on getting talented YOUNG players on the team. We need to build up our farm system and promote from within rather than trying to bring in some star player (Albert Pujols or Prince Assface) to save the day. We need to re-establish the culture of winning that we had in the early 2000s when we were the perennial favorites to win the Central every year (read: invest in/ develop excellent starting pitching). We need to cultivate a closer from our own staff (We have three viable candidates in Wood, Marshall, and Marmol – they just need some help. We need our new GM to bring in a manager dedicated to his team, to developing young players, and one that doesn’t tolerate mediocrity or childish outbursts, but rewards balls-to-the-wall effort.

The Cubbies have the talent to be a decent team. What they need is the leadership to take them to the next level. Here’s hoping Theo can bring some magic back to the Cubs. Lord knows we can’t get any worse.

Go Cubbies!


Most Valuable Position Player?

Posted September 28, 2011 by Corporate Kerouac
Categories: Uncategorized

There has been a rather exciting MVP race through the second half of the season in the American League.  It has been a race that has been fun to watch, interesting to debate, and all around good for baseball. At the forefront have been the dueling center fielders of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.  Jacoby Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson have both put together stellar seasons to place them at the top of the list.

Curtis Granderson has been the best player on the AL East Champion New York Yankees all season.  He’s hit 41 home runs and knocked in 119 RBI’s to this point all while holding up a .270 batting average and scoring 134 runs himself.   He’s been spectacular batting #2 for that team all season, and is a big reason why the Yankees won the east.

On the flip side of the rivalry, Jacoby Ellsbury has also been stellar.  Ellsbury has hit 32 Home runs and 103 RBI’s.  He has 38 stolen bases and an average of .319 with 119 runs scored and 105 RBI’s. Ellsbury is the 11th leadoff hitter in history to hit 30 homers in a season (Ian Kinsler is the 10th, accomplishing that earlier this season).  He is also the first Red Sox player ever to hit at least 30 home runs and steal at least 30 bases in a single season. Even though the Red Sox have been struggling at the end of the season, Ellsbury has stayed hot and has kept the Red Sox in the wild card race almost single handed.

Just with these two players this has been one of the best MVP races in recent memory.  It’s been the best one since the steroid era at the very least.  You have 2 speedsters playing center field who’s games revolve around stolen bases and defense, and all we can talk about is how many home runs they are hitting.  2 guys who have found their power stroke while still keeping up their average, stolen bases, and runs scored.  It’s been an impressive season out of both of them and they are both getting a lot of consideration due to the markets they play in, but there has been another player who has quietly inserted his name into the discussion.

Justin Verlander has had the best season of any player in the league this year; not only does he deserve the Cy Young Award but also serious MVP consideration.

There is an argument that pitchers can’t win the MVP award because they have their own award, but this argument cannot hold true anymore.  Since 1999 the Hank Aaron Award has been given to the best hitter in each league.  This award is the equivalent to the Cy Young for a hitter and if it is treated that way then it opens the MVP conversation to the player that actually is the most valuable to his team.

Justin Verlander won his team 24 games lost 5 and didn’t factor into the decision in 5.  So out of the 34 games he started only 5 of them were losses directly attributed to him.  Looking at his wins and no decisions he has won or given his team a chance to win in 29 games this season.  In a league where there is so much emphasis on the bullpen having a starting pitcher being a part of 29 decisions and winning 24 of them is a big deal.  Can we say that a position player has that kind of affect on that many games in a season?

For those still leaning toward position players because they play everyday I offer this argument.  Curtis Granderson has had 688 at bats this season and Jacoby Ellsbury has had 655 to this point.  So they have had a chance to affect the game that many times. Justin Verlander has pitched 251 innings, which means if he faced the least amount of batters in those innings  (which he did a few times) he would have affected 753 at bats directly.  That is quite a bit more that the 2 leading position players contending for the award.  Saying that pitchers don’t have the same affect on games just doesn’t hold up.  Sure Verlander only played in 34 games, but he affected more at bats than any hitter in the MLB.

For historical significance, the last person to win 24 games was Randy Johnson in 2002 and the last person to win more than that was Bob Welch in 1990 with 27.  Also, the last pitcher to win the MVP was Dennis Eckersley as a closer in 1992.

Wins being only one pitching statistic; Verlander also has the best ERA in the American League, the most innings pitched and strike outs in both leagues, and tossed a no hitter this season. If there has been anyone more dominant in the league this season I haven’t seen him.

Now that we are past The Steroid Era it’s time to start looking at the Most Valuable Player as just that and not a trophy for a guy who hits the ball the farthest the most often.

Little Things … or How I Got Turned On and Intimidated by Language

Posted January 7, 2011 by paul c wagner
Categories: commentary, Life in Transit

Tags: , , ,

Life. In Transit.

I recently started reading a new book. It’s excellent. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, it’s called. You should read it.

Although I used to work in publishing and probably should, I won’t delve into what the book is about. I will say this: it’s philosophical and inspiring and superb and and and and the mastery of language and beauty of writing displayed throughout… breathtaking. It stirred up my loins a bit, her writing, and intimidated the hell out of me – no way could I ever master the written word like that.  Seriously, it has caused me to lose all ability to write and, even, to speak coherently, it seems. I now criticize even my thoughts for their lack of elegance.

image courtesy Columbia Pictures

Anyway, I had just finished a passage about how grammar is necessary because it allows one to deconstruct language into its bare parts, see it naked, as it were, and revel in the beauty of a well-crafted sentence (sounds odd or boring. it’s not.), when I arrived at my subway stop and had to stop (ha!) reading. My ipod was playing a dark and introspective Tom Waits song (aren’t they all?) and I couldn’t help but take note of his lyrics and turns of phrase. I appreciated the timing, for the song matched my mood and seemed to be the musical equivalent of a good piece of literature.

The song ended, leaving me feeling all wordsy and smart, when what should my ipod play me next? Rhianna’s Please Don’t Stop the Music. And I laughed, out loud, right there on the street, likely startling small children and little old ladies with my hysterics. Seriously, folks. Rhianna just came to party. But now they’re on the dance floor, acting naughty. Yay rhyming.

Ah, language. Gotta love it.


Four Resolutions You Won’t Keep

Posted December 28, 2010 by paul c wagner
Categories: commentary, humor

Tags: , , ,

It’s getting to be that time of year, again. You know, the end of the year. And also the beginning of the year. We’re at the precipice of the dawn of a new year! and all that other crap.

Now, I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but I know that some of you do. And you make lists of them. Lists. So I went ahead and Googled some common resolutions, so I could add my insight. Here’s my list of the top resolutions you won’t keep, and my solution to your problem.

1) Lose Ten Pounds
Why you won’t keep it:
It’s HARD to lose ten pounds! And even harder to keep the ten pounds OFF for an entire year. Ugh. An you have to exercise and eat less? Fuck that.
Paul’s Solution: GAIN ten pounds. Because you know what’s super easy? Putting ON weight. And food is delicious. And NOT exercising is pretty damn relaxing. Sure, it’s maybe not the sexiest resolution, but I bet it makes you feel pretty damn awesome doing it.

2) Start A New Hobby
Why you won’t keep it:
Ugh. BORING! Unless this new hobby is something kick ass like “learn to turn normal everyday items, like a chainsaw, into a weapon for the coming zombie apocolypse,” starting a new hobby – like, say, knitting – sounds pretty lame. And routines are hard to break, so fitting a new hobby into your life could be really time consuming.
Paul’s Solution: Quit an old hobby. Like knitting. Nobody actually likes people who knit, we just like it when you give us free scarves or hats, even though they’re too loosely knit to actually serve any kind of useful function. Knitters think they’re better than other people, but, really, they’re taking perfectly good zombie-fighting weapons and completely mis-appropriating them to make useless crap with yarn.

3) Drink Less / Quit Drinking Entirely
Why you won’t keep it:
Because drinking is awesome. You feel great (at least until morning), it tastes good, it brings people together, it might help you get laid, it’s fun, it helps you forget all that debt you accumulated going to an over-priced school … I could go on, but, really, what’s the point. Don’t quit drinking. Unless you lost your job because of it. Or something else equally serious. Then you should probably quit drinking.
Paul’s Solution: Drink more water before you go to sleep after a night of drinking. Hydration fights the hangover, and hangovers are at least one of the reasons you want to stop anyway (I can’t help you stop the stupid shit you do/say when you’re hammered. Quick potential solution: buy a helmet to keep safe and duct tape to cover your mouth). Eliminate the hangover, eliminate the problem. So drink up!

4) Help Others
Why you won’t keep it:
Fuck “others.” How’s about they help ME? I’m stretched pretty thin, what with paying bills, student loans (hence the drinking, see above), and other miscellaneous shit that costs money, and I could totally use some extra cash, but I don’t see people lining up to give me charity. We might be coming out of a recession, but I sure as hell don’t feel better about my personal financial state of affairs. The only reason I’m going to a soup kitchen is for the free dinner.
Paul’s Solution: Grow a mustache for charity and get other people to help others in your name. Boom. Done. Check it out: http://mustachesforkids.org/

So, there you have it, potential “new year, new you”s. Good luck with all that betterment. I’m going to go sit on the couch, crack open a beer, throw away some yarn, and not shave. Bring on 2011!


Oprah’s Santa Special

Posted December 25, 2010 by paul c wagner
Categories: Uncategorized

Oprah: We have a VERY special guest for you today. Some of you may have even fed him. A man that shares my love of milk and cookies, the one, the only, Santa Claus!
<crowd erupts into cheers. Women yell. Children faint. It’s like the Beatles but better. Santa, looking svelte, jogs out onto the stage.>
Santa: Thanks everyone! <bows> <claps back at the audience> <hugs Oprah> <sits>
O: Thanks for coming, Santa! And on Christmas, no less. I’d’ve thought you’d be tired.
S: Well, you know, I mean, we obviously do all of our work Christmas Eve, but, Oprah, there are upwards of two billion Christians out there! We mastered the whole “magical manipulation of time” thing decades ago, so it really isn’t so bad. And the sleigh is quite comfortable.
O: Santa, I have to say, you’re looking pretty good despite all that milk and all those cookies. I think people were expecting to see, you know…
S: A fat man?
O: I was going to say large and jovial man, but fat works.
S: Okay. One time. ONE TIME a guy gets stuck in a chimney and he’s stuck with the “fat and jolly” label for eternity. <stands up and lifts his shirt, pointing to, against all odds, Santa’s Six Pack Abs> I worked my ass off for these, literally!
O: <blushes> Why, Santa <fans herself> I bet the Mrs. quite likes the slimmer you!
<audience hoots and hollers>
S: And there’s another thing that really gets me going. Mrs. Claus is NOT fat. You know that girl Giselle (Naughty List) that’s married to that handsome quarterback Tom somethingorother (Good List)? Mrs. Claus maker HER look ugly.
O: Now, Cubby Claus, let’s not get worked up here. I didn’t mean to offend. How about it audience? Do we like the new look on Mr. Claus?
<wild cheering>
<a thrown bra lands on Santa’s head. He removes it. >
S: haha, thanks, Ladies, but I’m a married man.
O: Okay audience, we have another surprise! If you look under your seats you’ll find….
<santa interrupts>
S: <visibly angry> You would, wouldn’t you. Right in front of me. You know, Oprah, the whole “giving things away” shtick that you do? That’s MY thing! You’ve been using my material for years, and not once have I heard a “thanks for the idea, Santa.” You didn’t even write a letter.
O: Wel,, agai…
<Santa angrily stands up>
S: No. No. I’m done with this. I’m out.
<starts to leave. stops>
S: And you know that show that you do where you give away all of YOUR favorite crap? I invented that, too. Except I give kids THEIR favorite things! Suck on that!
<storms out>
O: I guess that’s our show for today. Merry Christmas, everyone.


Best Party Ever

Posted December 15, 2010 by that dude
Categories: humor


God: Satan?
Satan: ‘Sup?
G: So, I was wondering if you could do me a favor?
S: Umm…Do you think you’re in any position to ask me of anything?
G: Umm…Do you think you’re in any position to refuse?
S: (sighs)…What do you need…?
G: Well, I’m planning on throwing a party, a sort of 6 billionth anniversary party with all of my friends, and well…
S:  And well, what? You’d like me to come? You need me to bring something—some pita chips and hummus?
G: Actually…I was wondering if I could use your place.
S: Use my place? Your party? At my place? Dude…
G: Come on! Your place is so much cooler than mine! Plus, you’ve got way more space…
S: This is so not fair; I hope you know that right…
G: Of course it’s fair. I mean, it’s fair if I say it’s fair.
S: Oh, come down from that high horse, for once!
G: Hey now! Watch your tongue, let’s not rehash old battles…
S: You think you know EVERYTHING!
G: Well, I mean, it’s a lot deeper than “knowing” but I wouldn’t expect you to understand that.
S: Whatever. You think you can insult me and expect me to just open up my home to you and your loser friends?
G: Well…yes?
S: Ha! The gall! You’re simply unbelievable.
G: …
S: (sighs) What time are people coming over?
G: So, there’s another tidbit of info…
S: What now?
G: Well, can you like, be somewhere else during the party? My friends feel you’re kind of a killbuzz…
S: What?! ME?! What? And it’s not “killbuzz”, it’s “buzzkill”. There’s no such word as “killbuzz”.
G: Well, I’m fairly certain it’s a word now.
S: Puh.
G: In fact, it’s appearing on a piece of toast under a picture of my son…right…now.
S: Whatever.
G: That’s really gonna mess those people up!
S: You’re so manipulative.
G: Watch it…Envy’s a sin.
S: What’s the worst that could happen to me?
G: Don’t tempt me man.
S: Again, whatever.
G: So, yeah. Quick recap—party at your place, please don’t be there, and we’re starting instantaneously.
S: Go to hell.

-Springfield, IL

Purse, Satchel, Carry-all- I want one

Posted December 9, 2010 by that dude
Categories: commentary, humor

Tags: , ,

It's European.

Why can’t dudes use purses?

I mean, I have a messenger bag in which I carry my computer, some papers, and little book that I take notes in it, but because it is large enough to hold a computer, I usually don’t get crap about it. However, if I were to get a smaller version of the same thing, upgrade from a laptop to an iPad, and carry that around, apparently I become a dandy.

Back in the day- the medieval day, mind you- men would carry satchels around with all of their stuff in it- “satchels” that if they were on the clearance rack at Filene’s Basement would garner serious attention from the most the “fairer sex” and from the “fairer sex” only. Why is that?

My pockets can only hold so much! I have important business papers (or something) to carry, and I don’t want a briefcase- I want to have my hands free so that I might encounter whatever life throws at me. Nobody ever called Indiana Jones a fairy. Indiana Jones carries a purse. Indiana Jones also single handedly defeated the Nazis. Therefore it follows that purse-wearing destroys fascism. We could all hope to live in a world free of fascism- where men are free to wear purses without reprisal. I dream of such a world. Won’t you join me?

-Springfield, IL


What's he's wearing over his shoulder? Just the saving grace of free people everywhere.