Archive for the ‘Sports’ category

What the Cubs Need

October 14, 2011

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!

NY,NY

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It Kills Me to Say It…

August 27, 2010

… but Wrigley Field has to go.

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a devout Cubs fan. I love my Cubbies, even though I currently hate them.

And I love Wrigley Field – it has history, it’s gorgeous, it feels like home … it’s the Friendly Confines. But it’s killing the team, and here’s why.

The new ownership has no motivation to spend money and get the team winning. Wrigley sells out every game (even if there are currently empty seats, those seats were bought and paid for) and brings in truckloads of money to the owners. The Cubs are one of the worst teams in baseball and have one of the highest payrolls. A smart owner would see a devout fan-base, trade away the big contracts and re-build, investing in the team with the ultimate goal of becoming World Series Champions.

Instead, the owners poured money into Wrigley, making it a more fan-friendly place. Wrigley was ALREADY a glorified bar. A friend of mine once told me that Wrigley is the only stadium in baseball where you could turn every seat away from the field and still sell out games. At first I thought it was ridiculous, but the more I see Cubs “fans” away from Chicago, the more I think he’s right. People go to Wrigley for the stadium, not so much for the team.

And maybe a new stadium is what we need to really kickstart the team. It worked for the Yankees and the Cardinals (new stadiums brought them rings in their inaugural seasons), maybe it’ll work for us, too. Hell, maybe just threatening to tear down Wrigley and rebuild will light a fire under the organization’s ass because fans would riot.

All I know is this: the Cubs gave up on their season right around the same time I did: May. It’s been a painful year to watch, even more painful to think that the owner didn’t fire Jim Hendry, the worst GM in baseball, and I’m tired of a “fans” going to Wrigley to get wasted with their friends and ignore the game.

It’s time for a major change with the Cubs. I thought the new owners would do it, but so far they just seemed concerned with ticket sales.

<shrugs>
NY,NY

Baseball Needs Replay Flags

June 3, 2010

I hate to say. I don’t want to say it. But I think baseball might need to start using the replay more widely.

Photo: NBC Sports

Baseball has always been and forever will be a great game with human error, and I don’t think I’ll EVER say that replays should be used anywhere near the calling of balls and strikes, but after last night’s blown call, I can certainly get behind some use of the replay.

Here’s what I’m thinking: Each coach gets a replay flag, similar to the replay flag in football. This flag can be used once during the game to challenge a call made on the field (trapped catch, tag on the slide, safe/out at first, etc). The manager must throw the flag (or however this would be done – probably when he runs out on the field to complain about the bad call) before the next pitch is thrown. In extra inning games, the coach will get one flag for extra innings, regardless of the number of innings. The flag cannot be used to argue balls and strikes.

Had Jim Leland had a replay flag last night, Armando Galarraga would have a perfect game and umpire Jim Joyce wouldn’t have to live with his terrible mistake (I mean, this may have been the worst call ever. 2 outs left in a perfect game?! What was he thinking calling him safe ANYWAY?! In a situation like that, give the pitcher the benefit of the doubt. But I digress) for the rest of his life. It would be a win-win.

I normally defend the human error in baseball – it’s what makes the game perfect to me. I like that each ump has his own zone and that accurate pitchers are sometimes given an inch off the plate. I think blown calls are part of the game and probably should be. I mean, it’s just a game, right? And we’re all human – we make mistakes. Umpires can’t be perfect every call (though they’re damn near nowadays). But a badly blown call to ruin a perfect game on the last out leads me to think that maybe, in this age of high-definition video and replays galore, something can, and should, be done.

I will say this about the whole situation, though, Galarraga and Joyce have both handled it with class, and in an era of seemingly lawless athletes, it’s nice to see someone take the high road. But that high road traveler should have a perfect game on his résumé…

NY,NY

Away Team Fan

May 5, 2010

The crowds gather. Hotdogs and beers are bought. Everyone’s decked out in team paraphernalia. Excitement builds. The national anthem plays. It begins. The game opens with a hit.

And you’re the only one in your section to cheer, boldly identifying yourself as an Away Team Fan.

photo: hockeytown

I like to think I fall into the “lovable away team fan” zone because, being a Cubs fan my whole life, I’ve developed a well-honed self-deprecating loathing/sense of humor towards my team and can talk at length about our weaknesses, all with a smile on my face. Most Home Team Fans appreciate this and will identify me as a true fan of baseball, and not give me too hard of a time.

This is a delicate situation, though, and can be ruined by any number of things.

1)      A Home Team Fan taking the jokes about your team too far. It’s like how we can make jokes about our girlfriends, but if our friend makes the same or similar joke, he’s liable to get hit.

2)      You encounter the “loud, obnoxious, awful human being away team fan,” and they ruin the whole game watching experience with outlandish cheering, rudeness and overall douchebaggery.  Oftentimes at Yankee Stadium, this fan will be singled out by Home Team Fans as a problem, ridiculed into action, and kicked out of the park by security.

3)      You encounter the away team fan that doesn’t know their head from a baseball and only goes to the games to get drunk and yell about stuff. This can often lead to ridicule from the ENTIRE section and, as I recently had to do, can cause other Away Team Fans in the vicinity to throw said moronic fan to the wolves and side with the Home Team Fans in annoyance towards said moron fan.

4)      The Home Team loses, causing Home Team Fans to get overly drunk and angry at you for your support of the victorious Away Team. Beware drunk, angry Home Team Fans, especially on public transit – they will probably yell at you.

5)      The Home Team wins, causing Home Team Fans to get overly drunk and superior-feeling over you for your support of the defeated Away Team. Beware drunk, superior Home Team Fans, especially on public transit – they will probably yell at you.

6)      The Home Team is also a less than stellar ball club and defeats your team, causing the Home Team Fans to get overly drunk and condescending towards you. Guess what, Mets fans, your team is still terrible. And what happened to the Cubs tonight? I don’t know, probably the same thing that happens to them every year. How can you hate fans of teams that never win?!

It’s a delicate thing, being an Away Team Fan. Lost can happen. It’s best to surround yourself with friends, preferably of the Home Team Fan variety, so they can intervene with the all-important “they’re with me, it’s cool” to quell the anger/superiorness/condescension of Home Team Fans.

The only time it’s truly acceptable to be an Away Team Fan is if you’re a Cubs fan watching a Cubs vs Brewers game at Wrigley North … oh. Sorry. I mean Miller Park. It’s easier and cheaper for Cubs fans to go to games at Miller Park than Wrigley Field, and oftentimes Cubs fans will outnumber Brewers fans, effecting turning Away Team Fans into Home Team Fans. Sorry Milwaukee.

Go Cubs.

NY,NY

Hope!!! … and despair

April 6, 2010

Like all good Cubs fans, my favorite time of year is the off-season and April. You see, in the off-season, I KNOW in my guts that this upcoming year … this is the year we’ll finally do it. My hopes are high. The team has limitless potential. We’ve got a shot to be the first team to ever go 162-0! I think that maybe this is the year we successfully buy a championship (it would feel awesome) I have faith in our pitching. And I Love the team.

And these things stay true for the Cubbie faithful until, I dunno, let’s call it June (that’s the average for me, anyway). We can lose a couple of games in April (especially when our “ace” Big Z is pitching) and chalk it up to rustiness and gelling as a team and all that. No worries, though – there’s still plenty of season left and these Cubs have talent.

Then we actually start to play and my fears start to show with the team’s weaknesses. I get less lenient with the players. I yell much more at the tv. I stop giving them fun nicknames and instead create new insulting nicknames on a regular basis, I wear my Cubs paraphernalia with less and less gusto, etc. Again, though, this only happens once it seems like we’re shooting ourselves in the foot and playing our way out of playoff contention – usually by June.

This year, though, after an abysmal last year and not much done in the off-season except for Z and Soto losing some weight, my fears were realized on opening day with a 15-5 ass-whooping from the Braves with Zombrano giving up 8 runs in the first two innings. We have the third biggest payroll (according to CBS Sports.com) at $146,000,000 but get smoked on opening day. You know what? I’d love for the Cubs to be able to buy a championship and spend our money wisely. Instead we spent $100,000,000 on a 31 year old who still has 5 years left on his contract and can’t hit a breaking ball to save his life.  I feel like a Mets fan.

It’s ok, though, right? There’s still plenty of season left and they’ll turn it around. They’re just rusty. Trying to figure it out. Gelling as a team. And, wouldn’t you know it, these Cubs have talent. This is our year!

<sigh>

Go Cubs.
NY,NY

Don’t Fix What Ain’t Broke

April 2, 2010

Ok, NCAA. What the hell are you doing? I know you’re only in it for the money, but this is an absolutely horrible idea. For those of you that can’t figure out how to link to the article I just linked you to (try again!), the NCAA has just released potential plans to expand the men’s basketball tournament to 96 teams.

March Outrageousness

March Madness is the perfect post-season event! It’s an exciting, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, underdog powered, Cinderella storied, tears of victory/defeat, edge-of-your-seat sports masterpiece. There is absolutely no reason (except, of course, increased revenue) to change the tournament. Know how I know this is only for the money? Student atheletes (because they’re students first, right NCAA??) will miss even more school for March Outrageousness than they already do.

96 teams?! Come on. 32 teams would get a first round bye! There’s already hugely lopsided victories in the tournament. I don’t want to see a 24 seed losing by 80 points to a 1 seed. <shakes head> I guess the idea is to swallow up the NIT and combine the two tournaments. I, for one, vote nay (as if I have a vote).

There are plenty of things the NCAA can look into changing: the bowl system, getting any women’s sports decent coverage/viewership, making sure athletes in high revenue sports actually learn things in college, showing more of the Frozen Four, etc. Why would they look to change THIS?! Boggles the mind.

Bewildered,
NY,NY

IT’S MADNESS!!

March 19, 2010

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand this is why I love March!

Photo: ESPN

Murray State takes down Vandy.

St. Mary’s beats Richmond.

OLD DOMINION!!! takes down Notre Dame (suck on THAT, Irish!)

Washington upsets Marquette.

Wake Forest beats up Texas.

OHIO UNIVERSITY (not Ohio State, mind you) a 14 seed tops 3 seed Georgetown.

Northern Iowa beats UNLV.

Upsets galore. Overtime. DOUBLE overtime. Buzzer Beaters. Day 1 was awesome. Day 2 has a lot to live up to. And I’m excited to watch!

NY,NY