Thursday, October 29, 2009

Levine Gives Some Bad News, But Calls it Good News For Some Reason

I'm not sure, but I think Bruce Levine needs a dictionary to understand the meaning of "good news."  He starts out his blog post on with:
"The news is almost all good for Chicago Cubs fans with the team now in possession of new owner and chairman of the board Tom Ricketts."
 Awesome!  I've been waiting for some good news. What is it, Bruce?  The suspense is killing me!
"Ricketts will start the process of revealing his long-term and short-term plans on Friday with a news conference at Wrigley Field, where he'll begin his one-on-one interviews with the press followed by a full day of TV and radio one-on-ones."
OK, that is really only good news for you as a member of the media, but you're building to something, I can tell.  I bet it's going to be REALLY good news.
"Hard facts of a turbulent economy and a veteran-laden roster dictate some economic concessions from the fans and baseball operations in 2010, according to sources with knowledge of the situation."
Bruce, I have to tell you, that does not sound how one would expect to hear good news being delivered.  The phrases "turbulent economy" and "economic concessions from the fans" should not appear in any lead-in to what we would consider good news.  You might as well also include the phrases "anal cancer," "five-state kill spree," and "towel drill" in your lead-in.
"A slight raise in ticket prices can not be avoided as built-in costs and spending projections continue to mount. Over the past two seasons under Sam Zell and tribune Co., ticket prices increased over 30 percent across the board. That amount included a 23 percent raise after the 2008 season."
 I see, the good news is that the ticket price increase will merely be "slight," instead of "gargantuan" or "enormous."  That is fantastic news.  I'm going to start working on my "Only a Slight Ticket Price Increase Jig" right now.
"Ticket prices were frozen for 2007 after a horrendous season in which the Cubs lost over 90 games."
Well, that was kind of good news in 2007, but I'm not sure how that does me any good for this year.  Maybe it's good news that the Cubs were merely "under-performing," "flat," and "disappointing" this year instead of "horrendous."  To be honest, you're kind of stretching that definition of "good" though, Bruce.

I know!  Maybe the good news is that the ticket prices are going up so that the Cubs can afford to take on some additional payroll if necessary to keep the window of opportunity open for one more year.  Bruce, you sly dog!  You had me going there.
"According to major league sources, the Cubs' payroll will be locked in at close to $140 million, the same that was spent in 2009.

In order for the team's baseball operations department to have flexibility with this payroll, the Cubs will have to be creative and make trades that ware in the framework of the $140 million figure."
 Bruce, I'm going to come right out and say this is definitely NOT good news.  I mean, this is not even technically, news.  We've pretty much suspected as much all along, but being right all along doesn't make it good news.

"General manager Jim Hendry and his baseball department have been working on trades with Tampa, Toronto and three or four other clubs with players with big contracts that they would like to move."
Wait, I thought the Cubs couldn't take on any more big contracts.  Is the good news that you've been kidding up until now?
"A Milton Bradley-for-Pat Burrell trade has been on the table for three weeks."
Ohhhh, trading a talented player on the roster for a player that is white, has less talent, is more media-friendly, and has a similar salary is the good news.  That is probably more good news for you, but not so much for us who will be paying more money to watch the more friendly Pat Burrell strike out alot and not catch fly balls that are hit anywhere not directly at him.
"Toronto will talk to anyone who will take outfielder Vernon Wells off its hands. Wells has a multi-year contracts that pays close to $15 million per year."
Well, that is actually more than Milton Bradley makes, so in theory, the Cubs would need to unload more than just Milton Bradley's contract to afford Vernon Wells.  Maybe the good news is that the Cubs will soon be parting with Milton Bradley AND Carlos Zambrano!  I'm getting my champagne ready.
"Toronto at some point will be looking at moving ace right-hander Roy Halladay. It's unknown at this point if the Cubs will be involved. Halladay is one season from free agency."
Bruce, this is the last paragraph of your post and not only does it offer no information that is relevant to the Cubs at all, it still comes no where close to qualifying as good news.  Maybe the good news is that your post about all the good things Cubs fans have in store isn't longer.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wrigley + Tribune = 1908

My first memory of the Cubs being sold when I was nine years old was that I thought it was strange that the Tribune Tower was right across the street from the Wrigley Building.  In fact, I remember often not being sure which building was which.

My memories of the Wrigley-owned Cubs are few.  I remember that Dave Kingman and Bill Buckner were pretty much the best players on the team and they weren't around long. I remember Mike Schmidt hitting eight million homeruns per game against them.  I remember that the bleacher seats were only sold on the day of the game, and they were the cheapest seats in the park.  I remember that there were no night games.

I remember some of the players that traipsed through in Cubs uniforms: Mike Vail, Scot Thompson, Steve Ontiveros, Barry Foote, Larry Biittner, Bill Caudill, Dennis Lamp, Dick Tidrow, Mike Tyson, Junior Kennedy, Lynn McGlothlen, Lenny Randle, Jerry Morales, Mick Kelleher, Jerry Martin... it gets depressing to go on.

I remember that the Topps Cubs team baseball cards were the only team cards that had disembodied heads floating in space instead of a normal team picture.

I remember that the Cubs had not won a Championship since 1908 and had not won a NL Pennant since 1945.

When the Tribune took over, many things did change for the better.  Waxpaperbeercup has a great walk through the Tribune years as seen through the eyes of CCD and Barry Rozner, which goes into more detail, but I remember watching the Cubs slowly metamorphasize into a real major market ballclub under the guidance of the Tribune.  Notice I didn't say they were successful, only that they managed to start playing on the same stage as the big boys.

The Cubs made the playoffs in 1984 and succeeded in making me cry as I realized late in Game 5 of the NLCS that the Cubs would not be going to the World Series after coming so close.  I watched a group of overachievers reach the NLCS only to finally put in their place by Will Clark and the Giants. 

I saw the rise and decline of my favorite player, Ryne Sandberg.  I saw a brief shining portion of the career of the best player I've ever seen in a Cubs uniform, Andre Dawson.  I saw the lights go on and night baseball come to Wrigley.

I transitioned from Jack Brickhouse to Harry Caray to Pat Hughes (and a band of untalented pod people broadcasters) calling the games. 

I witnessed Gary Scott's singular major league regular season highlight.  I saw Mark Grace leading the major leagues in hits and doubles for the decade of the 90s.  I saw Greg Maddux begin his Hall of Fame career.

I watched Larry Himes kick Dawson and Maddux out the door in such a fashion that Himes should be glad we will probably never meet, because I swear to you, I will punch him in the face if I do.  I watched free agent disasters George Bell, Danny Jackson, and Dave Smith kick us in the collective groin with their baseball ineptitude.

I endured Sammy Sosa's frustrating early years, the euphoric middle years, and the maddening, bat-corking tail-spin final years that spanned 545 homeruns in a Cubs uniform.

My wallet saw the cost of bleachers go from the cheapest in the park, to among the most expensive.  I saw my season-ticket package quadruple in price in eleven years.  I marveled at the parade of people who came to the game to get their beanie baby, bobble-head, floppy hat, or any other miscellaneous piece of corporately sponsored junk.

I was bewildered by the constantly overhyped rookies from the farm system that never panned out:  Kevin Orie, Kevin Roberson, Derrick May, Ozzie Timmons, Rueben Quevedo, Joey Nation, Frank Castillo, Kevin Foster, Doug Dascenzo, Brooks Kieschnick, Lance Dickson, Mike Harkey, Steve Rain, Julio Zuleta, Brant Brown, Roosevelt Brown, Augie Ojeda, Bobby Hill, Hee Seop Choi, Ben Christiansen, Bobby Brownlie... again it gets depressing after awhile.

I envisioned the historic moment as Mark Prior mowed down Marlins and moved the team ever closer to the elusive World Series, and stared blankly as it all disappeared within a span of eight pitches. I fumed as LaTroy Hawkins started the Great Collapse of 2004 in Shea Stadium.  I endured two more years of death marches under Dusty.

I followed the resurgence under Lou Piniella and Spendin' Jim Hendry as they joined the Red Sox, Mets, and Yankees in the upper echelons of payroll to bring us Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly, Carlos Zambrano, and the mighty Mark DeRosa.  I stood helplessly by as a team with so much talent managed to not win a single playoff game, and then fail to even make the post-season in their third year together.

At the end, the Cubs had still not won a World Series since 1908 and still have not won a NL Pennant since 1945.

I'll continue to watch and hope and pray (and pay) that the end of the Ricketts' tenure (whenever that may be) will be different in that final regard.  I just want to tell you good luck, and we're all counting on you.

Monday, October 26, 2009

McGwire to Not Talk About the Past On Cards' Bench

I'm a little late to the party in posting about Mark McGwire joining Tony LaRussa's coaching staff in St. Louis as the hitting instructor, so most of the jokes about juicing the offense and injecting life into the lineup have already been used.  So, I thought I would take a look around the interwebs and see what the coverage looks like from the other side.

Rick Hummel in the St. Louis Dispatch makes the obligatory mention of McGwire's link to the steroid era, but doesn't seem very concerned about it.  He instead focuses on how McGwire once told LaRussa to keep Pujols on the major league roster during training camp of Albert's rookie season.  I guess, that is pretty prescient, but Albert came to camp and started smacking the ball around almost instantly and hasn't ever really stopped.  It's pretty easy to get behind a kid that is batting .400 with power.  I'd have been more impressed if Pujols had been struggling a bit, but fine, McGwire recognized Pujols as a superstar about two weeks before I did (I drafted him to my fantasy team that year).  To quote Milton Bradley, what else you got?

Hummel then points out that McGwire has been working with Skip Schumaker who was the Cardinals' Mark DeRosa before they acquired Mark DeRosa.  Then in fairness, he also mentioned that another pupil of McGwire's was Chris Duncan, so that one is not so impressive.

The most interesting portion of the piece, by far, was this little nugget:

"Matt Holliday, who was with Colorado and then Oakland, has spent considerable time trying to learn how to be a better hitter with McGwire's help and, as a pending free agent, perhaps might be more influenced to stay with the club, knowing that McGwire would be his hitting instructor all year long.

Holliday had approached McGwire through the auspices of Mike Gallego, then a Rockies coach and former Cardinals and Oakland player before that. Gallego had been a teammate of McGwire's in Oakland and the Rockies ultimately made McGwire an offer to join them as their hitting coach, but McGwire declined, as he also chose, belatedly, not to come to spring training in 2008 as a hitting instructor for the Cardinals."

Now the reason behind the move starts coming into clearer focus.  They are hoping that Holliday will take a hometown discount to work with the instructor he has chosen to seek out independently in the past.  Oh the shrewdness.  That should really knock Scott Boras off his game.

Meanwhile in another piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joe Strauss includes this snippet:

"McGwire has operated a de facto off-season hitting camp in Orange County for a number of major-league hitters in recent years. Current Cardinal outfielders Skip Schumaker and Matt Holliday along with recently-traded outfielder Chris Duncan are among the campers. Daric Barton, Bobby Crosby and Garrett Atkins also have attended."
So what I am seeing is a list of names that have worked with McGwire, with really only Schumaker showing any dramatic improvement.  Holliday has always been good, but has declined away from Coors Field, except for his first month or so in a Cardinal uniform.  Garrett Atkins' OPS has declined by at least 70 points every season since 2006 and has been seeing a lot more of the bench lately with the emergence of Ian Stewart in Colorado. 

Bobby Crosby has never emerged as the kind of hitter that Oakland wanted him to be, relegated him to a utility role, and have been shopping him around with little interest other than Jim Hendry sniffing around a bit.  Daric Barton is a young corner infielder in Oakland who appears to have a good eye (OBP is usually about 100 points higher than his batting average), but not much power.

This is not exactly an impressive resume.  I'd be fairly dubious if I were a Cardinals fan.  As a Cubs fan, it will make for an easy joke whenever a Cardinal hitter exceeds expectations this year.

Friday, October 23, 2009

There is No Way the Yankees Can Lose, Right?

I've been talking to a few Yankee fans about how Game 5 went, and if they might be a little worried that the Yankees missed an opportunity to close out the Angels in their ALCS matchup.

The answer I get back is invariably, no, we're not worried about it.  Afterall, the Yankees are coming back home and they have Andy Pettite going in Game 6, and in the worst case scenario, they have C.C. Sabathia going in Game 7.  The consensus seems to be that there is no way that the Yankees will lose those two games.  There is no way that the Yankees will lose the last three games of the series after being up 3-1.

Hearing Yankee fans talk, I find myself being transported back to 2003.  The Cubs had a 3-1 lead in the NLCS and Carlos Zambrano lost to Josh Beckett in the last game in Florida.  Cubs fans were not worried.  We knew they had Mark Prior and Kerry Wood scheduled for Games 6 and 7 at Wrigley, so we were supremely confident that the Cubs would be going to the World Series.

It didn't matter that the Cubs had a long history of coughing up a chance at history.  Whether your frame of reference was 1984 or 1969 or any other team that supremely disappointed you, you felt that 2003 was going to happen for the Cubs.  Of course, we all know how wrong we were.

Yankees fans have much more success in their history from which to draw confidence, but let's not forget that they were the perpetrators of the biggest playoff choke in baseball history when the Red Sox stormed back from being down 3-0 in the ALCS.  That team also had homefield advantage and lost both games in Yankee Stadium, where previously, most teams' playoff lives went to die.

Yet the thought of the Yankees not marching on to the World Series seems completely impossible to Yankees fans. I wish my memory was so short when it comes to the Cubs.  I know that I will never believe anything is inevitable until the final out of the clinching game is recorded.  Because of 2003, I may like the Cubs' chances and be horrendously disappointed when they lose, but I shall always at least be prepared for the ultimate letdown.

It would be kind of fun if the Yankees fans started to understand that mentality.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kaplan Explains How to be Classy

My Sunday was spent watching some football, keeping an eye on my fantasy teams, and getting ready for the big Bears/Atlanta game in the evening.  My thoughts about David Kaplan and our stupid little argument about Rudy Jaramillo's qualifications was fading into the background.  I was pretty much over him resorting to name calling, and I was ready for the Bears to make all the pain go away.

Unfortunately, the Bears did not read the script and proceeded to fail tremendously in almost every aspect of the game.  Jay Cutler engineered a long drive that seemed to be exactly what Hank Stram was talking about when he discussed matriculating the ball down the field, but then capped the drive off with an interception in the red zone.

The Falcons were giving Matt Ryan about 800 years to throw on every play, every blitz was picked up, and then Michael Turner started getting some traction in the ground game.

Meanwhile for the Bears, Matt Forte fumbled twice on the half-yard line while trying to score, losing the second one for a turnover.  The special teams allowed a huge return after Cutler tied the score late in the fourth quarter, setting up the go ahead TD for Atlanta.

Then in the final drive, the Bears kept shooting themselves in the foot with stupid penalties making Jay Cutler's job of tying the score even harder.  None of the penalties was bigger than a false start on Orlando Pace on 4th and 1, making it 4th and 6.  The final pass was incomplete, Falcons win, and I was pissed.

I was stewing about the lost opportunity the Bears had to assert themselves on the national stage.  I was steamed about the blown chance to defeat a very good NFC team in their building to keep pressure on the undefeated Vikings and gain ground in crucial tie-breakers that could come into play.  I was pissed as hell at the Bears' lack of execution after having two weeks to prepare for the game.

If you haven't guessed, I was not in a good mood.  Cue Dave Kaplan via Twitter:

"Jay Cutler's postgame press conference performance is embarrasing. Be a man and talk about the game. Very disappointing."

I didn't see the postgame conference.  My TV was still on NBC where they don't show the post game press conference.  That said, I could give a flying f--- what Jay Cutler does in a press conference.  As far as I'm concerned, he could have walked into the room, flipped everybody off, started hurling sweaty jocks at the reporters, and then relieved himself on the podium and it wouldn't have made me any more or less pissed off at him for his performance in the actual game.

He could have sat and recited the memorized cliches that all athletes not named Milton Bradley use on a regular basis to get the media off their back.  He could have sat there and blamed the whole game on himself and made a vow before God and all of the witnesses that the Bears would never lose another game as long as he had blood left in his veins.

Nothing he said or did would change that the Bears are now two games behind the Vikings and only 2-2 in the NFC.  So I considered saying so, but then I was happy to see one of my Twitter pals, @Adambuckled step up instead:

"@thekapman Only the media cares about a QB's press conference approach. Win, lose, shut up either way. I can live with that motto."

When you see something you like on Twitter, you usually retweet it and thereby share it with people who may not have seen it because they don't follow the original person who sent out the tweet.  I liked what Adam had to say, so I retweeted it.

Kaplan quickly fired back:

"There is a difference between being pissed and not showing class. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning they don't act the way Cutler did. That 's it."

This is where my bad mood caused me to stir a pot that had frankly been stirred enough, but when you have Kaplan lecturing people on class after his lack of it over the last couple of days and then attempting to end all criticism by declaring, "That's it."  I felt the lure of the Dark Side and gave in to my hate:

"Classy like calling people who disagree with you stupid? RT @thekapman: There is a difference between being pissed and not showing class."

Yeah, I'm the one who dredged it up again.  I released my inner Desipio and purposely baited Kaplan. As sure as Ryan Theriot getting picked off in a crucial situation, Kaplan went back to his tried and true method of taking the snark behind the scenes via direct messages:

"I did not call you stupid. I dogged your analysis of Rudy Jaramillo."

This is when I realized that Kaplan is not a middle-aged man who talks about sports for a living. He is a 1980's era teenager who still thinks that it is cool to say you "dogged" something as a put down.

So, like a puppy that has made a mess in the corner, I felt I needed to rub his nose in his naughty mess to make sure he realized what I was referring to:

"'Fan' said 'too stupid to be able to afford better seats' & you agreed. RT @thekapman I did not call you stupid."

At this point, I decided to bring the conversation back on point and sent out my reasoning for not giving a damn how rude Cutler (or any athlete) is to the media.

"Did the Bears get penalized any points in the next game because Cutler is a dick? Otherwise, I don't require my athletes to be nice guys."

"If the Bears have a choice between working on Cutler's manners and his propensity to throw stupid INTs, I say they work on the INTs."

"I didn't see it, but I bet Forte was a pretty stand up guy and it didn't change the fact that he fumbled the ball twice on the goal line." 

Shockingly, Kaplan actually responded (via direct message, of course) with actual clarification of his point.  This is a big step forward for Kap, and I hope he will take the next step and engage in some civilized discourse in the public arena in which he works, but let's not get carried away and stick with what he gives us for now:

"I don't care if they are nice guys. However, Pace faced the music as did Olsen, Briggs etc. Cutler has a responsibility to talk."

"He is the CAPTAIN! Lead by example."

I guess Kaplan feels that after a bad game, these guys need to sit and be scolded by the media for playing poorly and Cutler has the responsibility as a captain to be the head whipping boy.  Granted, I wanted to scold them myself.  I wanted to slap them around, but nothing gives anyone the RIGHT to grill these guys on every negative aspect of the game.  They have the right to ask whatever fool questions they want, and the athletes have the right to answer however they want. That whole freedom of speech goes both ways, Kap.

Urlacher (another team captain) has treated the press to hardly more than one word answers for the last few years now, and while the press doesn't like it, fans could care less that Urlacher or anyone else is not an expert on proper media handling decorum.  We would prefer they concentrate on kicking the crap out of the opposing teams.

As I was formulating my next response, Kaplan apparently got impatient and sent this:

"You are avoiding the discussion. I agree, curtail the INT's first. That doesn't excuse the other though."

He went from actually attempting to have a semi-civilized argument (albeit completely hidden away from the public) to reverting right back to an attempt at bullying and chastising the person criticizing his opinions.

After all of this, I find it hilarious that Kaplan believes himself to be an expert in how to win friends and influence people.  The man makes a living cutting people off in mid-sentence on the radio, hanging up on them, and either ignoring or insulting people who question him in print, so I'm not sure who dubbed him Miss Manners.  In response to his lead by example comment I sent this:

"Then the Bears shouldn't have made him a captain. He is who he is. He's a dick. He's been a dick. No surprise."

As for Kaplan's charge that I was ducking him:

"I'm not avoiding anything. I'm saying I care more about the performance on the field than how he reacts to it to the press."

Kaplan then fell silent to me, but my understanding is he had a number of direct message battles being waged (I know of at least two others who were getting into it with him last night), so he probably just lost track of all his squabbles.

So to recap, Kaplan calls people stupid and ridiculous on a regular basis, but thinks this interview is embarassing and classless.  I often wonder what color the sky is in Kaplan's world.  We know the skin color is bright orange.

Dave Kaplan Thinks I'm Stupid

So the other day I went to Dave Kaplan's blog and read his take on Rudy Jaramillo potentially/probably coming to the Cubs:

"GM Jim Hendry has been super aggressive since Jaramillo made it known that he would be leaving the Rangers and most baseball executives expect Jaramillo to choose the Cubs. Look for the Cubs to land him and to sign him to a multi-year deal worth at least $750,000 per season, which would make him the highest paid hitting coach in the game."

Personally, if you are going to make a change to address what the Cubs are lacking, and pay that person the equivalent of a managers' salary for many teams, I'd like to be pretty sure this guy is going to actually make a difference.  I made the comment that the signing of Jaramillo didn't seem to address what the Cubs need in the hitting department:

"Soooo... 'The Rangers want to see improvement in on-base percentage, in two-strike approaches and in pitch recognition' so they are making a change.

The Cubs need to improve their on-base percentage, two-strike approaches and pitch recognition so they are going to hire Jaramillo.

Makes perfect sense."

Seemed like a reasonable concern, though admittedly raised with my own personal brand of snark.  Kaplan responded with:

"Jaramillo is considered the best hitting coach in baseball. If the Rangers didn't like him why did they offer him a contract for next season and why has he been there for 15 seasons?"

I mistook his asking of a question for his desire for me to answer that question, so I foolishly responded:

"Steroids made a lot of hitting coaches look good. Plus, they play in a ballpark the size of my closet. He may be better than what we had, but when Mark DeRosa and Michael Young are your two best non-steroid projects, I think the reputation is overblown.

The comments from Rangers fans in that story leave me with the impression that not monay folks are really all that upset with him leaving.

But, if you really liked the 'See fastball, hit fastball' approach of the Dusty years, this is a great move. The Cubs half of the innings will go quicker, that's for sure."

Aside from my inexplicable misspelling of the word "many," I tried to explain why I have reservations about his resume when I have been given nothing other than Kaplan's assurances that he is "the best."  Nevertheless, I did throw out the steroids quip in a willy-nilly, pell mell sort of way. I do get angry at journalists for stating assumptions as facts, so I decided I would check and see if there was anything that might support my concern that steroids might have helped in overblowing Jaramillo's reputation as a hitting guru (anyone remember when Jeff Pentland was a genius?). So I looked up some Rangers team hitting rankings and posted:

"I threw out the steroids comment without anything to back it up, but lest you think I am just a bitter contrarian, I looked up the Rangers rankings in the AL during Jaramillo's tenure.

Top 5 rankings in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS
1995-2002: 22 (6 BA, 4 OBP, 6 SLG, 6 OPS)
2003-2009: 11 (1 BA, 1 OBP, 5 SLG, 4 OPS)

The top 5 finish in BA and OBP came in 2008 when Josh Hamilton was out of his head. With Hamilton returning to earth in 2009, the offense sagged back to an offense that didn't do anything but hit homeruns.

I find the clear disparity in performance between the steroid era years and the testing years to be highly coincidental, and I find nothing to support that Jaramillo is the 'best in the business.'"

Kaplan did not respond to this and later another commenter posted a link to, "Rudy Jaramillo's 5 Simple Steps" Training DVD, to which I could not help posting:

Step 1 - Buy steroids.
Step 2 - Buy syringes.
Step 3 - Fill syringes with steroids.
Step 4 - Inject steroids with syringes.
Step 5 - Repeat as necessary."

My obsessive need to insert humor into this very serious debate apparently rubbed at least one of Kaplan's six other readers the wrong way.  Someone going by the very original moniker, "Fan" decided to get personal:

"Aisle 424, no wonder you sit so far up in the upper deck, too stupid to be able to afford better seats.
Just a plain stupid post on your part."

I thought about pointing out that if intelligence is measured by proximity to the field, then I'm smarter than all of the media who sit above me in the press box, including Fan's hero, Mr. Kaplan.  I also refrained from mentioning Fan's apparent lack of any imagination in picking out a screen name, or ability to address the issue at hand, which is why Jaramillo is considered the best in the business.  Instead, I figured I would just give up on finding any polite discourse and bow out with:

"Fan, constructive criticism is always nice. Thank you for putting me in my place."

Still, I was hoping to find anyone, even if it wasn't Kaplan, to give me a reason why Jaramillo is considered so good, other than the nebulous group think that Kaplan has referenced as his one and only reason for his support of hiring a hitting instructor for multiple years and multiple millions of dollars that aren't his dollars.  So I refreshed the site one last time before giving up for good.  This is when I saw that Kaplan had indeed weighed back in:

"Well said Fan! Even though we don't always agree you do bring life to the party!"

So, Kaplan has given his approval of the assertion that I am stupid because I sit in the Upper Deck.  Keep in mind, he still has not supported his belief with any additional data or argument.

I'll admit that at this point, I got a bit pissed.  What was entertaining had turned into Kaplan and his minions calling me names for challenging their beliefs, or more accurately, his minions calling me names and Kaplan standing behind them yelling, "Yeah! What he said!"

I was on Twitter (of course) and posted:

"I'm so ashamed. @thekapman thinks I'm stupid because I sit in the upper deck."

So Mr. Kaplan sent me a direct message (by the way, check out WV23 for more fun Kaplan direct messaging) so that it wouldn't show up in other folk's Twitter feeds:

"Not because you sit in the upper deck. Because your analysis of Rudy Jaramillo is ridiculous."

Notice he did not actually mention my analysis of Jaramillo even in passing in his original support of Fan's beliefs of my stupidity.  I thought about responding in the public forum, but instead decided to respond via his preferred method of arguing behind the scenes where no one else can see that he isn't very good at supporting his general declarations of what the consensus believes as stone cold facts.

"'Fan' called me stupid for sitting in the upper deck and you congratulated him on an excellent post."

 And then:

"Also- can you explain why there are 2 distinct levels of performance of Jaramillo's offenses that coincide with the steroid era"
Kaplan has not responded to me directly, but included this in a reply on his blog to a commenter who agreed with him:

"Some of the folks who comment here are always saying how poor the Cubs are at teaching fundamentals and getting productivity from their players. Yet, when the Cubs try to sign the acknowledged best guy in the industry those same 'knowledgeable fans' have to find a way to rip it. Completely ridiculous."

Again, nothing to support the claim that Jaramillo is so good.  No testimony from a player who credits Jaramillo with turning around his swing.  No statistics to show that the Rangers offense excelled in areas where the Cubs are looking to improve outside of the era that featured such Ranger players as Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, and Alex Rodriguez - proven or highly suspected steroid users all.  No explanation of the two distinct levels of performance of Rangers batters that coincides with when testing for steroids began.  Just a vague reference to the baseball industry giving its universal approval.

I guess I thought a journalist with his connections and sources could provide something more substantive to support his claims.  Maybe that's a sign of my stupidity instead of my seat location.

Come by later to see how the direct message sniping spills over into a disagreement about whether we should be upset over Jay Cutler's level of civility (or lack thereof).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Guesses, Assumptions, and Some Actual Facts About PSLs

The Cubs' bankruptcy process appears to be turning around faster than Kosuke Fukudome swinging at a breaking ball in the dirt, so the TRANSFER of control of the Cubs from the Tribune is nearing completion.  This process has been a wonderful learning experience for many of us about the bidding process for a sports team, the numerous hurdles needed to be cleared in a transaction of this magnitude, and tax evasion.

I am looking into working out a contract with my employer wherein I TRANSFER 95% of the work I currently do in exchange for 95% of the salary they would pay me as if I TRANSFERRED 100% of the potential work, so that I can pay 0% in taxes each year.  Thank you, Sam Zell, you beautiful sneaky bastard.  Let me know how the IRS thing goes once this all works out.  I'm sure it will be fine.

As the Tribune Ownership Era draws to a close and we prepare for the Ricketts Majority with a Dash of Trib Ownership Era nears, we can start wildly speculating on what the new folks in the big office are going to do with our Cubs.

One thing is for sure, the Tribune never had $450 million in debt to deal with (not on the Cubs side of the business anyway) so one has to figure that the Ricketts family will be looking for revenue anywhere they can find it.  I can't imagine that anything is absolutely off the table.  If they haven't already started discussing such things, somewhere in a room behind closed doors, they will be talking about Jumbotrons, selling naming rights to Wrigley Field, building an entirely new stadium somewhere, and/or rolling out some sort of Personal Seat License plan.

Of the options above (and I'm sure there are other ideas I haven't even conceived yet), the one that concerns me most as a season ticket holder is the implementation of the PSLs.  If they take this route, the Cubs would be the first MLB team to have a PSL plan without having a new stadium.  Currently, the Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Padres, and Giants have PSL plans of various sorts in their new stadiums.  The Twins have also rolled out a package for their new park for next year, and are currently selling the PSLs to their fans.

Interestingly enough, neither the Mets or the Yankees have PSLs in their new mega-elite stadiums.  My guess is that they are selling the seats for such exorbitant fees that taking a PSL on top of that would be gratuitous, even for elite New York snobs.

Also, the good news for most Cubs season ticket holders is that the teams with PSLs currently only have relatively small parts of the stadium under a PSL policy.  In addition, it seems that when most MLB teams implement a PSL system, they roll it out as a membership in an elite club that features seats in a relatively small area of the park along with perks above and beyond what the "typical" season ticket holder would receive.  Some are pretty standard like the San Diego Padres Founders Club package:
  • Seats as wide as 22 inches
  • In-seat food and beverage service
  • Access to four private lounges
  • Private concourse
  • Padded seats
  • Extended legroom
  • VIP parking opportunities
However, some teams have gotten a bit creative with their marketing of the Club memberships.  The St. Louis Cardinals Founders Club sold licenses for the best seats in the new Busch Stadium with one of the perks being a freeze of ticket prices for members for a five year period:

There are a number of benefits and privileges that Ballpark Founders receive. Ballpark Founders have the right to maintain and control, for as long as they choose, the seats that offer the best views and the closest proximity to field. Also, the per-game ticket prices are guaranteed for five years (2006-2010), if all of the Founders Fees were paid in full during the 2004 season. Ballpark Founders also have the ability to transfer, will or sell seats to anyone. They will also have the right to purchase season tickets for their chosen seats as long as the Cardinals play in the new ballpark. Lastly, the original Ballpark Founders will have the option of being recognized in the Ballpark Founders Recognition Display located on the main level of Busch Stadium behind section 147.

The Arizona Diamondbacks' Legacy Club is likewise the only portion of Chase Field that requires a PSL purchase.  In addition to the ownership of the seat license:

Legacy Club members receive...
  • Personalized Reserved or Valet Parking, one parking option for every two seats purchased.
  • Personalized Seats: Each of the Member's seats will include an optional nameplate indentifying you as a Legacy Club Member.
  • First priority on the purchase of additional regular season tickets and post-season ticket packages!
  • Exclusive opportunity to purchase an all-inclusive food and beverage Premium Package.
  • Invitation to annual reception highlighting the season's food and beverage offerings.
  • Exclusive access to the all new Sonoran Room

The Twins seem to be taking the amenities up a notch for their PSL purchasers in the new Target Field.  The Minnesota Twins Legends Club includes an upscale weather-protected lounge and dining area for members.  Take a look at the brochure on this web page and tell me you don't at least consider for a second the idea of switching allegiance to the Twins.

The San Francisco Giants CSL Charter Seats seems to be the largest chunk of seats in any one baseball stadium to fall under a PSL policy.  The Giants have about 15,000 seats that come with a PSL.  That is over one third of the seats in the 41,500 seat ballpark.

So, the Cubs have a number of teams that have come before them that have set the bar pretty high for what a fan should expect from purchasing a PSL.  All of the stadiums offer better amenities to their Club members than the Cubs currently have to offer in Wrigley Field as it is currently configured.

The other consistent factor in the decision to go with PSLs is the right the purchasers would have to transfer their seats by sale or through a will or trust.  Currently, Cubs ticket holders need to skirt the system with some backdoor arrangements in order to keep long-held tickets in the family or sell them to someone else (which can get problematic when disagreements occur).  A Personal Seat License becomes the property of the purchaser and can be sold for however much the market for that License will bear, so the purchase of such Seat Licenses and Club Memberships can be viewed as an investment.

After looking into some of the other plans, I don't think the Cubs will be able to roll out any PSL plan before they figure out a way to renovate the stadium to provide the types of amenities that one would expect.  Notice that I said "before they figure out a way to renovate the stadium" and not "before the stadium is renovated."  I'm sure there will be something rolled out within the calendar year of 2010 that will outline the selling of seats or suites in areas of the stadium that don't exist yet.

Also, the Cubs have traditionally had a bit more arrogance when it comes to factoring in their fan base's economic concerns, so they may not necessarily care that Wrigley can't compete on a luxury level with the other existing plans.  They may roll out a package because they know they can because its the Cubs.  I know the Tribune could care less, and I'm hoping the Ricketts care more about the fans, but since it look slike Crane Kenney is sticking around for awhile, I'm not holding my breath for a major culture shift within the Cubs' upper management.

We probably have a better chance of seeing Aaron Miles do something productive on the baseball field. 

Monday, October 12, 2009

Eeeny Meeny Miny Moe

The MLB playoffs are down to five teams remaining and I could really care less about any of them.  I have no clue who to pull for, so I'm going to list the pros and cons of rooting for each and see where I come out.

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Their fans have been waiting the longest for a World Series of the teams still remaining (Rockies didn't exist until 1993 and Dodgers last won in 1988). 
  • The longer the Dodgers hang around, the more we will see shots of Alyssa Milano at the games. 
  • I don't live near or know any Dodgers fans, so their celebrating will not bother me as much.
  • Vin Scully should get to call another World Series while he's still up in the booth.
  • We'll be seeing and hearing more of Tommy Lasorda than any reasonable human being can stand.
  • It's hard to cheer for a team whose own fans leave the park by the 7th inning to beat traffic.
  • In a perfect world, Manny would not win any more rings and blow out both knees, separate his shoulder, and get syphillis after running into the wall.
Philadelphia Phillies

  • Philadelphia fans actually do appreciate their teams' few successes and die a little with their failures, so I respect that.
  • The Phillies' core is pretty much homegrown with Utley, Howard, Victorino, Hamels, and Rollins providing the bulk of the star power, so its good to see that being rewarded.
  • My sister's boyfirend is a Phillies fan, so that's nice for him.
  • They won last year.  I don't like repeats except when it comes to my own teams.
  • I'm still a bit weary from listening to how Philadelphia FINALLY broke through to win a championship, when I was old enough to remember the 1980 World Series.

Colorado Rockies

  • The Rockies have never won a World Series.
  • Denver seems like a nice enough city.
  • They haven't been around long enough nor done anything to the Cubs to warrant me hating them yet.
  • I can't stomach yet another team that was born in my lifetime winning a World Series before the Cubs.  It's bad enough that the Marlins have won two already, and even the Rays have already gotten there.
  • I don't like anything that gives Don Baylor even a little bit of pleasure.
  • Don't want to see any stupid people (I'm looking at you, Stone) who think the Cubs could have won the World Series if they hadn't traded Marquis.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

  • They seem like a pretty classy organization and a great role model for how I'd like to see the Cubs treat their fans.
  • No one outside of Anaheim seems to care that much about them, so they could probably use a little positive mojo.
  • It will give me plenty of opportunities to say "Chone" like it rhymes with "phone" so that I can be entertained by people who feel inclined to correct me.
  • The Angels have brought us abominations such as Thunder Stix and the Rally Monkey, which should be considered capital crimes.
  • A deeper run by the Angels will give people like Phil Rogers more opportunities to use their hindsight to criticize not signing Bobby Abreu for the seven billionth time.
  • Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is just a stupid name.
New York Yankees

  • My grandpa and my uncles are all Yankee fans, so they would be happy.
  • I like Joe Girardi.
  • Chances are good that the world will not actually end if the Yankees win again.
  • Alex Rodriguez would officially have everything you could possibly want in life as a reward for being a giant two-faced douchebag.
  • Endless features with Yankee players talking about how proud they were to be able to wear the pinstripes as if they wouldn't have played in teal mini-skirts if someone had given them more money to do so.
  • They're the f---ing YANKEES.
When it comes down to it, I'll probably find myself rooting for the Dodgers.  They're National League, they just took down the Cardinals, and it would be cool to hear Vin Scully call one more World Series.  The problem with that is that I would want the Dodgers to take down the Yankees, which means the Yankees have to get there.  I would love to see Joe Torre beat down the team that didn't think he was worth paying anymore.  Plus, it would get Don Mattingly a ring, which the Yankees could never get while he was a player or a coach in the dugout (they won a few when he was a special instructor in Spring Training).

If it is Dodgers against the Angels, I might have my tendency to root for the underdog (no matter who is actually favored, the Angels will always be the underdog in L.A.) win out over any temporary allegiance I may have for the Dodgers.

But for now, I'll go with the Dodgers.  Go Dodgers!  I guess.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cardinals Have a Ways To Go Before They Are Cub-Like

Last night, as I prepared to turn the channel to The Office from the Cardinals' Amish closer trying to set the Dodgers down to close out a 2-1 victory, all hell broke loose instead.

Matt Holliday attempted to catch the third out of the ninth inning with his groin and was unsuccessful.

Then Ryan Franklin threw about 800 pitches to Casey Blake to try and get him out, he ended up walking him.  Matt Holliday ate some sunflower seeds to try to make the pain in his heart and balls go away.  Ronnie Belliard stepped up and lined the first pitch he saw into center to tie the game.  Franklin then threw a wild pitch because the greatest defensive catcher in the world didn't want to be bothered by blocking the ball with his body.  He loaded the bases by walking Russell Martin and set the stage for Mark Loretta.

Despite all that had happened up until that point, I still figured the game would go into extra innings because there was no way that Mark Loretta gets a hit.  There was no way.  Mark Loretta sucks.  He's Mark Grudzielanek with a more pronounceable name.  But then Mark Loretta got a hit and Dodger Stadium went apeshit.

I was stunned and thrilled.  The Cardinals were just plain stunned.

I was, of course, tweeting out my snarky comments along the way and amongst the random blurbs, I sent out:  "I wonder if Holliday is wearing a Cubs batting glove under his mitt."  This is, of course, a reference to Bill Buckner wearing his old Cubs batting glove under his mitt for the infamous 1986 Game 6 ball-through-the-legs play.

Meanwhile, many Twitter folks were piling on the Cardinals' pain with their takes on the situation:
  • @desipiodotcom - So is this what it's like when other people watch the Cubs? Muahahaha!
  • @cubsff - Cardinals Collapsing Like Cubs
  • @cnorman70 - Was nice to see the Cardinals do their best Cubs impersonation last night (and thus far in the NLDS)!
  • @LukeHighley - The Cardinals even do chokes better than the Cubs...DAMN, can't you guys let us have something?!
  • @TMchicago1 - Wow, one almost has to feel for the Cardinals....that is normally how the Cubs lose important games
  • @PTIShow - When did the Cardinals become so Cub-like?
Good times were had by all.

When I went to bed, I started thinking about how the Cubs are still so synonymous with losing and choking.  Mainstream media, bloggers, and casual fans have spent a good deal of time talking about how the culture surrounding the Cubs has changed.  The combination of being so close in 2003, along with the back-to-back playoff appearances in 2007 and 2008 has raised the level of expectations.  Winning is now expected.

But last night proved that isn't the case at all.  Cubs fans and people covering the Cubs still EXPECT them to lose.  The first thing many of us thought as we watched the Cardinals grasp defeat from the jaws of victory was how insanely like the Cubs that was.

The true expectation is that even if they are a good team, they will eventually choke and fail.  They may have changed the expectation of fans attending individual games, but the overall expectation of the Cubs is that they will eventually be on the golf course working on their putting while other teams are playing in the World Series.

The culture of the Cubs and their fans will not change at all until they actually do win a World Series.  In the meantime, everytime somebody makes a misplay, blows a save, or strands runners in a crucial situation, the comparisons to the Cubs will always be there for hack journalists to get some easy laughs. (Thanks for the link, @jmkobus)

Meanwhile, this singular game or series (if they do go on to lose) will not change the overall view of the Cardinals as a top-notch organization.  I wish to hell it would, but it won't.  So I'll just enjoy the moment and replay this video of the Cards collapse as described by the venerable Vin Scully over and over again.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Metrodome Drowns Out Chip's Hackery

Say what you want about how lame it is to play baseball inside a Hefty bag, but if I could be guaranteed as many unbelievable post-season games and moments for the Cubs as the Twins have had in the Metrodome, I would advocate the Cubs playing inside of a giant used condom.

The Metrodome just doesn't want to give up its baseball quite yet.  The Twins, after having a 4% shot at the playoffs on September 30th, managed to claw their way back to force the 163rd regular season game, AKA The Tie Breaker.  Then, as if that weren't enough, they played an extra quarter of a game before sending the place into a meltdown as Carlos Gomez streaked around to score on a base hit by Alexi Casilla.

Nobody is going to get any work done in Minnesota for at least a couple of days because no one is going to have a voice left after the Vikings and Brett Favre pretty much had their way with the Green Bay defense the night before in the dome and then probably the best Game #163 ever played (yes - I include the Black Out Game in that assessment, and not just because the Sox won that one).

The way things are being perfectly scripted, I half expect to see Jack Morris pitch a perfect game, Kirby Puckett hit for the cycle, and Brett Favre hit a walk-off Grand Slam to defeat the Yankees in the NLDS.  Of course, all of those achievements would be completely ruined by Chip Caray providing the play-by-play.

You watch baseball all year long and put up with Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver and all of the national level guys that equate learning how to over-pronounce the Latino players' names with adequate game preparation, so you think you have built up an immunity to inane chatter and brutal game-calling.  Then Chip Caray takes it up a notch in the most important baseball game played thus far in 2009.

Besides using the term "fisted" more often than the most detailed description of hardcore lesbian porn, Chip sometimes seems to be calling the game he envisions in his head instead of the one that is actually unfolding in front of him.  Check out the video at Waxpaperbeercup of Chip describing the would-be Nick Punto sacrifice fly as a base-hit.  I'm just glad that Casilla didn't actually score there to win the game because Chip's miscall of the action would get spliced into every "Go crazy folks!" and "I don't believe what I just saw!" baseball highlight montage until the end of time.

Later, he was talking about how great the game was and that nobody was minding staying up late to watch it.  He said that at about 8:40 PM local time.  Apparently, Chip's bedtime is before my girlfriend's six year old niece.

This doesn't even touch on the Chip catch phrase that sends Cubs fans into drooling convulsions, the legendary "Swung on and BELTED!"  I wish my grandfather had been a legendary broadcaster so I could make a very good living while being a total hack.

*No idea who originally did this Photoshop job, but it was circulating on Twitter before the game ended last night.

The actual Postseason starts this afternoon and we're all hoping the action on the field can continue to outweigh the dreadful descriptions being broadcast to us.  As long as the Twins and the Metrodome are involved, I get the feeling that is possible.

Monday, October 5, 2009

(Insert Team) May Be Interested in Bradley!

The worst part about a season that ends disappointingly, and by that I mean how every Cubs season has ended since before the Titanic went down, is that it opens the off-season of non-stop talk, and very little actual action.

The absence of games being played lends itself to discussions of topics that most people have very little real knowledge about.  So, with a lack of actual facts and nothing tangible to distract us, the Cubs world becomes one of assumptions and gossip.

Listening to people discuss the Cubs on talk radio this weekend kept making me think of this:

The way things have already started, here is how I imagine the entire off-season is going to go:

Step 1: One of the mainstream journalists, who we shall refer to by the completely fictitious identity-protecting names, Kave Daplan, Ril Phogers, Saul Pullivan, or Steve Stone, will report that some team might be interested in acquiring Milton Bradley.

Step 2:  Cubs fans on Twitter and/or with blogs will pass along the report and immediately begin offering opinions on the rumored deal.

Step 3: 110-year old WGN listeners will push numbered buttons on the electric doodad that allows them to connect to the voices in the radiofied contraption box to tell them that Milton Bradley should be run over repeatedly by a horseless carriage.

Step 4:  Everybody will hear way more about OBP and how RBIs are a meaningless stat than is considered safe by the EPA.

Step 5: Kave, Ril, Saul, and Steve will milk the furor for as long as they can before they "break" that the team is no longer or never was interested in Milton's services.

Step 6: Reve Stosenbloom will make a fairly obvious joke about Milton being surly that might have been slightly amusing if it had been delivered before the rumor was killed, but instead makes you want to set your clothes on fire before jumping into a kiddie pool filled with gasoline.

Step 7: Rinse.

Step 8: Repeat.

It's going to be a long winter.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Merry Christmas Game

The time has come to say good-bye to the current iteration of the Chicago Cubs.  While, this is essentially a good thing since they have been collectively disappointing us since Milton Bradley got tossed after his first Cubs plate appearance, it also means saying good-bye to the summer family for a few months.

It's an annual ritual that always comes a bit too soon for our tastes in Aisle 424.  We call it the Merry Christmas Game because, for the most part, we probably won't see each other again until at least after Christmas.  Now that we have Facebook and iPhones and Blackberries and Twitter, it is easier to stay in touch during the offseason, but it's still the Merry Christmas Game to us.

This year, we had the opportunity to plan for it in advance because we knew for sure when it would occur.  Advancing to the playoffs the last couple of years made it harder to predict.  Last year, we attended Game 2 of the NLDS with the hopes that Zambrano would put the Dodgers in their place and position the Cubs to either force a fifth game at Wrigley, or win the series and we'd get at least two more games in the NLCS.  Of course, by the end of the game, we knew that probably wasn't going to happen (more like the second inning) and we all wished each other a Merry Christmas after the final out.

This year, we've known for quite some time this game would be it, so we're more ready for it, but its still not an occasion you look forward to.  We'll sit and watch Dempster try to end the season on a positive note, talk about how screwed the Cubs are with the contracts, debate whether Hendry should or shouldn't return, when the Ricketts will feel comfortable enough to send out the letters informing us of the new PSL policy, and whether they will still have the hubris to raise ticket prices again.

We'll mock Aaron Miles if he comes in the game.  We'll reminisce about all the things that went wrong, and how if any one or two of those things had gone right, how we might be instead anticipating a third straight post-season appearance.  The What-Ifs and If-Onlys fly pretty heavily at the Merry Christmas Game.

Then the game will end and we'll all shake hands and head off towards our off-season, counting the days until we will be back in Aisle 424 with our summer family and a renewed sense of hope.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Silver Lining of Failed Olympic Bid

Top Ten Good Things About
Chicago Not Getting the 2016 Olympics

10. Crane Kenney won't feel compelled to get a priest to bless the Olympic Stadium.

9.  White Sox fans won't need to learn how to say "You Suck" in any different languages.

8.  Our tax money can go back to going straight into local politician's pockets, as God intended.

7.  No need to train the cow to light the Olympic torch by kicking over a lantern.

6.  Won't have to listen to Mike North bitch about synchronized swimming being an Olympic event.

5.  City Council can focus on bringing Carnivale Festival to Chicago.

4.  Saves the embrassment of having the water events in Lake Michigan canceled due to elevated levels of fecal matter.

3.  Oprah will have to work harder to achieve her master plan of stopping all traffic in the city.

2.  Street vendors taking a bath on their "Ruck Fio" t-shirts.

1.  Nothing will distract from the Cubs' 108th consecutive year without a World Series.