Tag Archives: Chicago Cubs

MLB17 Chin-Music: Derby Downtime Induces Cubs Late Season Delivery

1 Aug

Say hello to the new new Chicago Cubs! That’s no typo, I’ll explain.

The new Cubs were 2016 MLB champions. The new new Bruins are the current version that seems to have shaken off the malaise that had permeated their clubhouse from May into early July. When they needed runs on the board they couldn’t score ’em, when they sought to stop their opponents from crossing home plate they couldn‘t shut ’em down.

But the Northsiders recent run of winning ball (13-3) has seen them bounce the Brewers, season-long NL Central stalwarts, from the top perch last week, a change in divisional standing reinforced this past weekend when Chicago took 2 of 3 closely fought contests at Miller Park.

The change from enigmatic defending champs into a club with clout can be traced back to the 3-day Derby layoff in mid-July.

So begins the separation process where the eventual division champ comes into focus (some flag-grabbers have been crystal clear since springtime) and the also-rans start to fade in the dog-days of late summer.

Notice I didn’t write All-Star game layoff.

MLB’s mid-season shindig hasn’t been about its best ball-players for many moons now, not since Bud Selig & Sponsors decided at the height of the steriod surge (90s) to highlight the home run, putting muscle over what really matters, League rivalry and showcasing the variety of baseball skills from mound to mitt to making contact with the bat, be it single or space-shot.

Coming off their excruciatingly long awaited (1908) World Series win that had much the nation applauding, in relief more than anything, and Chicago’s worthy opponents, the Indians, shaking their heads (were up 3-1), the Cubs actually began their trophy season in fine enough form, going 13-11 in April.

But starting in early May and going to Derby time the Cubs looked downright pedestrian in a group not exactly brimming over with contenders.

Besides Milwaukee there hasn’t been much to crow about in either Midwestern bracket, be it Senior or Junior circuit, although Indians and Royals have, like the Cubs, fought their ways back into respectability at or near 10-games over (.500). All of which means this state of parity will ensure that the wild-card and half the division races will go down to the September wire.

The Bruins, like most clubs in 2017, have had their share of injuries. Blame, however, for their inconsistency lay in untimely hitting (7th in both runs (477) and RBI (454) (NL)) and dead bats (.244 BA (13) / 877 SO (9)). The champs can, as in 2016, still generally generate the 4-bagger (141 (5)).

Team pitching’s been better than average (4.00 ERA (4 / 4.35 MLB)) even as staff stars Jon Lester (8-6) and Jake Arrieta (10-7) have regularly struggled. Encouraging signs as stretch-run nears are, 1) KC closer pick-up, tall Wade Davis (6’5 / 20sv / 2.12) is nearly always closing when given the chance which ain’t often this season; 2) middle-relief in Duensing (L), Edwards, Rondon & Strop has been effective with most ERAs around 2.50 (Hector 4.31 / 5hr) with fine ratios (BB-to-SO / H-&-R), and 3) team run-stoppage (401 (12)), a rank 4th best (Numerical ordering of league ranks around the web confuses and needs clarity) that lags behind League darlings the Dodgers (317) yet shows understanding of its necessity, especially come post-season.

The champs have been feeding off their new title like a baby feeds off its Mama. That’s good for awhile but now it’s time for the Wrigleyites to get onto solids, stand on their own two 2017 feet and take seriously the task of doing what their famous tough-as-nails forefathers did in 1908: Win their third pennant and 2d consecutive World Series championship (v. DET (4-1)).

Will today’s Central standings hold for the duration? Chicago has the edge over Suds City in experience so it’s certainly within realm of possibility that they’ll have the mental wherewithal to hold on the rest of the way. All one need do is get their playoff ticket punched for, once you’re in, regular season records mean little. That Pennant flag is up for grabs and ANYTHING can happen.

And ‘anything’ these days usually means the Los Angeles Dodgers fold-up their title-hunting tent pretty early (See; 1988). Senators (Nats) haven’t faired much better since they reconfigured in the nation’s Capital.

National League contenders Arizona (60-45 (3 games)) and Washington (62-41 (3)) are in the City of Big Shoulders to start the August slate and should prove a good test of the Cubs re-discovered moxie: Real or transitory?

But Milwaukee’s a feisty crew, appearing equal to the task of unseating their I-94 rival to the South. They’ve given up the lead but that mark of contendership does not wear-off easily. And if any ball-club knows how to stop a separation process (See; beer) it should be a team from Milwaukee tagged the Brewers.

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credit: JoeMaddon, wc.cca, A.PardavilaIII, 10.20.16; AnthonyRizzo, wc.cca, B.Grey, 8.1.12; Bryant-Machado-Reyburn, wc.cca, MD, 7.15.17, K.Allison; Cubs, 1908, G.Lawrence, wc.cca
Posted: 8.1.17 @ 4:22pE, edit 9.2 (“board”); Copyright © 2017

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MLB17: Cubs Atop, Everything Old Is New Again, Even 19c. Championships, SABR-Snobs

9 Mar

Set to defend their first MLB title since 1908, the Chicago Cubs have stepped off cloud nine and back onto terra firma to begin their quest for a 2nd title-in-tandem (1907-08) by taking to spring training in their longtime Arizona locale.

Success has a way of opening passage ways in the mind heretofore unexplored and the Cubs brains must be booty-laden with new discoveries. Not likely, though, that franchise history is big on their brains, not since their World Series win over the Indians (4-3) and subsequent victory parade that wove its way through the Windy City last November.

What else is not on the Cubs’ brains is pre-season predictions.

Spring training will trigger in the mind of baseball writers a slew of topics to typically include new roster additions, departures and the all important pitching rotation with ancillary arms in relief included.

To those media who matriculate in the sabrmetric school, the last degrees of winter and early buds of spring will always lead to, ta-da, the ranking, i.e., ‘Who‘s #1?’ It’s click-bait and best served when the entrée has cooled down (all-time greats) and won’t burn the palate with rank predictions.

Almost any other March in any other year the question of who is baseball’s pre-season best would be a small curiosity.

But if you have to ask ‘who’ in this particular spring (See; Cubs), even in rhetoric, you may be better suited to the mock draft department, all leagues and associations, where the minutia of musings on the ephemeralia of college hopefuls never ends, if you can find a seat. Crowded in there.

It can’t be denied that the legion of Bruins fans numbering more than the ancient Roman and Yankees empires combined, coupled with story-driven media, will be, on regular occasion, reveling this season in that long, glorious Cubs chronicle of great teams and players, right up until the present version take to the post-season in hunt for that dynasty-affirming, fairly elusive, back-to-back World Series win (See; SF, LAA, LAD, KC, PIT, MIN, CHW, STL, BAL, etc.).

The Cubbies have hit, pitched, fielded and run those bases all the way back to elite status, making it entirely appropriate now to take those moth-balled memories, some sweet, some bitter, out of storage to put on display to keep reminding us from where we came and then where we hope to go.

William Hulbert

Feeling Western baseball was getting the high-hat treatment from Eastern snobs, Chicagoan William Hulbert (1832 – 82) founded and, after its initial campaign (1876), assumed presidency of both the White Stockings (Cubs) and the National League, holding the fledgling 8-team organization together through its toughest times in bravely tackling issues in game-fixing and scheduling indifference by banishing offenders, and corralling destabilizing players on the money chase in instituting movement restrictions, i.e., the first reserve clause.

1876 – 77 White Stockings: The first MLB championship

Al Spalding
Deacon White
Ross Barnes
Cal McVey

Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson (1B – Mgr, 1876 – 96)

When recounting the history of the National League Chicago baseball club (1876), first known as the White Stockings, then Colts, Orphans and today’s Cubs, or for that matter the chronicle of major league baseball itself, it begins with Adrian “Cap” Anson, the profession’s early notable batsman, manager and personality. His numbers, no matter disingenuous efforts by contemporary sabrmetric tinkers & twiddlers to deplete, do remain, as his tenure (1871 – 1898), stellar benchmarks (1939 (HoF)) for baseball hopefuls.

Noteworthy in Anson’s career is having managed the Stocks to five (5) championships in seven seasons (1880-86), the major’s first dynasty. That’s championships, NOT pennants, for where there’s one pennant-winner in a season there necessarily must be an opposite organization with their own flag-waver, both of whom meet in an official, culminatory contest. And when a team does all that the schedule permits, even with no money-grab playoff or opposite League face-off (which is no perfect test, anyway (See; Cubs 1906 & Pats 2007-08)), and compiles the best record of the assemblage (8), THAT is a championship as worthy as any World Series won in 2017.

Those achievements would tarnish after his death (1922) as Cap’s role in setting the color barrier, in particular the ban of Fleet Walker, the first American black player to roster in the majors (Toledo 1883-84). Though his stance is of record, Anson’s impact is much debated. Of no debate is that no Caucasian of note, in sport or politics, called to break the ban until Mr. Rickey, testament that we are a product of our times. Do we then strike all names from MLB annals pre-1947? What thinkers had done since Gutenberg’s press was to balance the good against bad, expecting that Anson today would regret his greed. And given that the mass of sport media in 2017 would enshrine misdeeders Clemens & Bonds if given the chance, striking such a balance should come easy.

1880 – 86 Stocks: Five (5) championships, three in-a-row

Larry Corcoran
Fred Goldsmith
Michael “King” Kelly
Frank Gore
Abner Dalrymple
Tommy Burns –
Ned Williamson
John Clarkson

1890 – 1900 Colts – Orphans

Clark Griffith
Bill Hutchinson

Frank Selee (Mgr. 1902-05 (d.1909))

Former Braves championship manager (x5) shaped the Cubs’ roster that would, under Frank Chance’s leadership, gel into the greatest team in baseball history.

1906 – 1910 Cubs: Four pennants, back-to-back WS titles (1907-08), the Merkle Boner game (9.23.08), its resulting tie-breaker playoff at hostile Polo Grounds (10.8) taken by the Bruins (4-2) and “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon (Franklin P. Adams)” in Tinker to Evers to Chance (’10) 

Joe Tinker
Johnny Evers
Frank Chance
Jack Taylor
Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown
Orval Overall
Ed Ruelbach
Frank “Wildfire” Schulte (.994 outfield 1908)
Heinie Zimmerman (triple-crown winner)
Harry Steinfeldt (3B) & Jim Sheckard (46 sacrifices ’09)
Johnny Kling (catcher)
Carl Lundgren
Jack Pfiester, King Cole & outfielder Jack McCarthy who in facing the Pirates on 4.26.05, threw-out three baserunners at homeplate to set a major-league mark.

1914 – 15: Chas. Weeghman Park (Wrigley) opens – Whales (Federal)

1918 NL Pennant (L v. Boston (4-2))

Though falling to the Speaker – Ruth – Red Sox, the Bruins scored more runs and fashioned a lower team ERA than the Beaneaters.

Hippo Vaughn
Claude Hendrix
Lefty Tyler
Charlie Hollocher
Fred Merkle
Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander (1918-25)

1921 – 22: Bill Wrigley acquires majority holding in the Cubs while in 1922 first-bagger Ray Grimes sets the consecutive-game RBI streak at 17 and selective batsman Charles Hollocher whiffs a mere five (5) times in 592 at-bats.

1929 – 1945: Pennants (5), Hack-Attack and Ruth’s called shot (‘32 WS)

Joe McCarthy (Mgr. 1929 WS)
Charlie Root
Kiki Cuyler
Rogers Hornsby
Hack Wilson (191 RBI in 1930)
Lon Warneke
Charlie Grimm (player-Mgr. 1932, 35, 38 (H) & 45; ashes on Wrigley (83))
Billy Herman
Dizzy Dean
Bill Lee
Claude Passeau
Stan Hack
Bill Nicholson
Phil Cavarretta
Andy Pafko

Gabby Hartnett
Mgr. – player 1938 World Series: “Homer in the Gloamin’”

With the 1938 season closing and Pirates clinging to 1st place, the leaders headed to neck-breather Chicago for a key 3-game clash where catcher Charles “Gabby” Hartnett won G2 on a thrill by clouting a 9th inning tator at twilight (gloaming (Scottish)), inspiring his Cubs to sweep that series and St. Louis to grab the flag. Sadly for the Faithful, inspiration waned as the Yanks swept Chicago in four.

1950s Lean Years

Hank Sauer (MVP 1952)
Ernie Banks (MVP 1958-59)

I met the great Ernie Banks in his baseball gloaming, aka, twilight (Are you paying attention?), in the summer of 1971, not long after he’d retired from the game and was holding a signing for his new book titled, Mr. Cub, on the sidewalk outside a store in my suburban Chicago town of Glencoe. My parents provided well for me and my five siblings, always top Christmas and birthday gifts, but getting a toy or $15 (?) book on short notice off-holiday was out of the question. I’d eventually get Ernie’s book, still have it, but not until the next year. So, I being 9 yrs old, wanting his autograph, a bit bold but lacking in full discretion, asked Banks for his signature on my Mickey Mantle Rawlings® ball glove. The legend obliged, sans that signature smile. But I, not satisfied (‘Hey, hey, let’s (get) two!’), put an ever-so-small piece of paper no bigger than a JFK 50 cent piece, onto the table for another mark. Well, Ernie Banks was not pleased, not pleased at all. But I was pleased as punch and skedaddled home. I lost that scrap signature but still will with regularity gaze and smile upon the Mantle glove with Banks name in green-felt pen. Thanks, Mr. Cub.

Ken Hubbs Cut Short

Were he alive today he’d be 75 (12.23.41), but promising young 2nd bagger Ken Hubbs, whose slick field and capable bat won him a gold glove and 1962 ROY honors, along with his small aircraft passenger Dennis Doyle, both tragically died in plane crash near Provo, Utah on February 13, 1964 enroute to Doyle’s home and wife who’d recently given birth, in Colton, California.

Durocher’s Revival (1965 – 72)

Leo “The Lip,” who’d rostered with Murderers’ Row (‘28-9), Gashouse Gang (34), guided the Bums to a flag (41), Giants to glory (54) and then returned the sorry Cubs back to respectability, takes most the flak for their late season swoon in 1969 when their All-Star laden squad appeared headed to their first World Series in almost a quarter century. And poppycock to that. Durocher gets his share, of course, but cry-babies and clueless vets must bear most the burden for the old man. Those of us who remember (I was just a gerbil then, but I do recall Gramps telling me, ‘Hey Steve, Kessinger went 4-for-4 yesterday!) point no fingers but form a half-smile at what might’ve been and the joy that was.

Ernie Banks
Billy Williams
Fergie Jenkins
Ron Santo
Don Kessinger
Glenn Beckert
Randy Hundley
Don Young
Bill Hands
Ken Holtzman
Phil Regan
Ted Abernathy
Jim Hickman
Dick Selma

1970s Malaise

Bill “Mad Dog” Madlock: BA titles 1975-76
Rick “Bid Daddy” Reuschel: 1973-81, 83-84

1981: Tribune Company buys Cubs

Dallas Green Unstitches ‘Loser’ Tag

It seemed to come outta’ nowhere, the super and ultimately sad season of 1984. If ‘Big Brother’ was watching he must’ve had a good laugh on us Chicago Cubs fans, with unexpected help from corporate Commissioner and Evanston native, Peter Ueberroth who saw fit to give 2nd best NL record-holders but nite-game capable, the San Diego Padres, home field which proved decisive in the short series (3-2). The Cubs were sunshine supermen in G1 (13-0) and G2 (4-2), then should-be HOF’er Steve Garvey and electee (07), Tony Gwynn took control for San Diego, frustrating the Northsiders and their fans once more.

Jim Frey
Don Zimmer
Harry Caray & Steve Stone
Ryne Sandburg
Rick Sutcliffe
Leon Durham
Thad Bosley
Greg Maddux
Bob Dernier
Ron Cey
Henry Cotto
Gary Matthews
Lee Smith
Tim Stoddard
Steve Trout
Larry Bowa
Dennis Eckersley
Richie Hebner
Jody Davis, ♫ catcher without a peer (H.Caray) ♫

1989 NLCS (L 4-1 v. SF)

Don Zimmer
Ryne Sandberg
Andre Dawson
Shawon Dunston
Lloyd McClendon
Mark Grace
Greg Maddux
Jerome Walton
Dwight Smith
Mitch Webster
Rick Sutcliffe
Mike Bielecki
Scott Sanderson
Mitch Williams

1998 NLDS (L 3-0 v. ATL), Mgr. Jim Riggleman

2003 NLCS (L 4-3 v. FLA)

Call it reasonable fan interference, meaning, Steve Bartman wasn’t obliged to remain seated with 1) real chance of being hit by a foul ball, and 2) expectation no Cubs player could’ve snagged it. As such, no ejection. But because Alou did have a chance to grab the wall-straddling foul-ball, hence his protest, umpires were obliged to call fan interference yet cowered from their duty in not charging the out to eventual rally team, Florida. But Cubs were 88-74 in 2003, making fans unbridled expectations unreasonable and the outcome digestible.

Dusty Baker
Sammy Sosa
Moises Alou
Mark Grudzielanek
Corey Patterson
Alex Gonzalez
Kenny Lofton
Mark Prior
Kerry Wood
Carlos Zambrano
Matt Clement
Joe Borowski
Aramis Ramirez
Kyle Farnsworth
Mike Remlinger

The Piniella Years

2007 NLDS (L 3-0 v. AZ)
2008 NLDS (L 3-0 v. LA)

The Ricketts (09) – EpsteinMaddon Years

2015 NLCS (L 4-0 v. STL)
2016 WS (W 4-3 v. Indians)

Dallas had a certain touch in managing (PHI ‘80 WS) and generaling (CHC ‘84, 89), but Theo Epstein & Joe Maddon have a clobber between ‘em, like in that Weavers’ song ( If I had a hammer…), forging winners like a blacksmith did a wheel frame for proper strength and balance in the long journey. Yee-hah!

Joe Maddon
Anthony Rizzo
Dexter Fowler
Jon Lester
Kyle Hendricks
Travis Wood
Ben Zobrist
Hector Rondon
Addison Russell
Trevor Cahill
Javier Baez
Kris Bryant
Jason Hammel
Aroldis Chapman
John Lackey
Jake Arrieta

Play ball!

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credits: Cubs-logo,1914, Wjmummert, wc.cca; E.Banks, Bowman, 1955, wc; K.Bryant, wc, 7.9.14, M.Haas; W.Hulbert, NYPL, wc; Chicago-White-Stockings, 1885, wc; Cubs, 1906, wc, BPL; G.Hartnett, Goudey, 1933, wc; GlennBeckert, wc, 1967, TSN; H.Mason-D.Green, SABRO, wc, 8.1.09; can-of-corn
Posted: 3.9.17 @ 11:10am EST, adds 3.10, 6.20, 10.12; Copyright © 2017

MLB17 Chin Music: With Cubs Ascendancy, Baseball’s Spotlight Swings Midwest

4 Jan

Now that the Chicago Cubs have rediscovered their long dormant championship flair, a find expedited by an ownership (Ricketts) that acquired top managerial (Theo Epstein & Joe Maddon) and player talent, the 2017 MLB spotlight swings Midwest, back to the region where major league baseball was first imagined (Hulbert), empowered (NL – 1876) and then came to thrive.

Champions for the 9th time (Cap Anson (6), Frank Chance (2) & Maddon (1)), the new & improved Northsiders seem to have a vision, egos largely in check, are still wearing their classic blue-pinstripes and still lovable even as ticket prices climb. All of it is, of course, a friggin’ nightmare for Cubs regional rivals (Pale Hose, Redbirds, etc.). But then teams of substance love a challenge, right? Right.

cubs-wc-18k-1957-78-sportslogoThe toast of that “toddling town,” the “big shoulder(ed)” Bruins who last November won their first World Series since 1908, that being the 2d in a back-to-back (1907), making it the first dynasty in the World Series era, the same year “Take Me Out To The Ball-Game” made the stadium scene, currently hold the biggest championship sandwich in all of sport. Chomp!

Cubbies (you can still call ’em that) took MLB’s first title in 1876 when the great Al Spalding (Byron, IL) was a top moundsman precedent to launch of his sporting goods empire, and have sandwiched in that 140 years all the good & bad included therein, by way of their 2016 triumph over the hearty Cleveland Indians.

Baseball may not’ve been invented in the old Northwest Territory but its people and their passions certainly played the major role in turning the game, and its entertainment value, into America’s great national pastime.

While the White Stockings (Cubs), led by legendary men like Spalding, Fred Goldsmith, Ross Barnes, Deacon White, Anson, King Kelly, Larry Corcoran, George Gore and John Clarkson, were dominating the new National League in taking 6 of its first 11 championships, including 3-straight (1880-82), 250 miles southwest, German immigrant made-good-in-beer, owner Chris von der Ahe was building his St. Louis Brown Stockings of the rival American Association, a team featuring Charles Comiskey and Bob Caruthers, into an equally titanesque team, one that dominated their fraternity in fashioning their own early dynasty in winning four-straight AA titles (1885-88).

cubs-wc-bpl-1906-196kLook at the line: Harry & George Wright’s Cincinnati Red Stockings (1869), Chicago wheeler-dealer William Hulbert who first conceived of the major league and then worked to keep it alive (1875-6), acting with iron-fist as defacto Commissioner, the White (Cubs) and the Brown Stockings (Cardinals): Boston, New York, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Providence, they all had their glory, some of it sustained, but until Babe Ruth suited up for the majors (Red Sox / Yankees), regardless of what John McGraw might say, west of the Appalachians was where the game’s ‘main office’ would remain until the 1920s.

Since the Yanks gave up their World Series monopoly (1963), the joy of winning has spread from coast-to-coast. Good for baseball, good for fans, worldwide.

Today, it’s the Cubs who stoke Midwestern pride. And as the Bruins are the most popular sport franchise in the nation, even before they raised their latest championship banner, or will come April, that state means plenty.

Their biggest off-season news, exit of table-setter Dexter Fowler to St. Louis. Cubs will miss his run production (84 – 125g) and playoff pop. What they won’t miss of the 30-year old are his SOs (124) and low OBP% (.393).

cubscelebrate-wc-11-3-16-a-pardavilaiii-7mCardinals: Though the Yanks had rebirths in more recent times (70s / the Joes), from 1926 to the present it’s been the Cardinals who, while never fashioning back-to-backs, have been the consistent standard of excellence in the major league game on par with the Highlanders.

Tigers: It’s been 30+ since Michigan’s pride won a WS in that transcendent 1984 when Sparky Anderson & Co. jumped out early and never looked back (.614). Two flags and a half dozen playoffs under Jim Leyland left the franchise hopeful yet frustrated. Aces remain in the aging Verlander and Cabrera, purse-strings tighten on big payroll and Tigers’ ownership seem content to lick their wounds for now.

Indians: Like Detroit, after Mike Hargrove’s two pennants and two WS losses, Tribe lowered expectations for a time. Now back on a mission with the same man who helped quench Red Sox championship drought (x2), hoping Terry Francona can get his club back to another Series, up 3-1 and able to close the deal.

Royals: Cast-off from Milwaukee, Ned Yost has managed KC to two flags in three years and a World Series win (‘15), Royals first since 1985 when Dick Howser skipped, Brett hit, Saberhagen won and Quisenberry closed. Stumbled a bit in 2016 but kept heads above water (81-81) and expect to contend again.

arrieta-wsg6-11-2-16-a-pardavilaiii-3-2mBrewers: Kick themselves for thinking Yost the wrong man (fired 2008, 83-67). For a club priding itself on thrift, even if it means one flag in 47 years (‘82), they should kick themselves, hard. Good call on Fielder but at 5’11” and near 300 lbs., how long could it last? Wisconsin taxpayers still waiting for a return (WS) on their Miller Park investment (2001). Patience is a virtue, until it’s not…Mark.

White Sox: Cubs southside rival (1901), Sox play in a park (Guaranteed Rate) whose name changes for dollars, making it occupant’s poor play seem of lesser importance. Champs in 2008, Pale Hose now remind Chicagoans of ‘85 Bears whose single SB win stands as both a testament to excellence and unfulfillment.

Reds: Last pennant, 1990 (win).

Twins: Last pennant, 1991 (win).

Pirates: Last pennant, 1979 (win).

canned-cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: RizzoCelebrates, wc.cca, 11.3.16, A.PardavilaIII; Cubs-logo, wc, 1957-78, sportslogo; CubsTeam, 1906, Boston-Public-Library, wc; Cubs-Celebrate, wc, 11.3.16, A.PardavilaIII; J.Arrieta, wc, 11.2.16, WS-G6, A.PardavilaIII; can-of-corn
Posted: 1.4.17 @ 11:17am, edit 3:06 EST; Copyright © 2017

MLB16 Chin Music: Cubs Win Is Just More Cloudburst For Rainmaker Epstein

6 Nov

Those Sporting Gods are a funny bunch of deities. Not funny like a “clown,” oh no, but curious, like that monkey on PBS (“George”).

sportingmeetinggods-wc-1630-cv-poelenburgh-3mAt times they seem asleep at the wheel, having no interest whatsoever in the goings-on of sport, letting just about any Whosit on a hot-streak hoist the Title hardware (‘86 Mets, ‘06 Heat, ‘15 GSW, ’14 Seahawks), then, at other times, the Sporting Gods just can’t keep their all-guiding hands off of the controls.

It’s the latter practice that looks to’ve been in operation for major league baseball’s World Series 2016 that pitted two Title-starved opponents in the Cleveland Indians against the Chicago Cubs.

The Gods must’ve had themselves a good long laugh.

Not with the winning Bruins (4-3), the team most pre-season prognosticators pegged to take the title, but in affecting the crazy course by which the Cubbies finally navigated their way, once again (‘07-08), back to the champion’s podium.

As for the Indians, Mgr Terry Francona and Cleveland brass will have ’em back.

chancemcgraw-5-2-1911-gg-bain-loc-wc-66kEmphasis on the adverb ‘again’ as most people, even the raucous revelers on State Street, have no idea (interest) that there were times, like in the 1880s (Cap Anson, King “Hook-Slide” Kelly, John Clarkson) and then early 1900s (Chance, Evers, Tinker, Brown, Kling, Overall, Steinfeldt, Reulbach) when the name Chicago Cubs struck fear into the hearts of men, even the likes of Cobb, Wagner, McGinnity & McGraw.

First, the Gods put the Tribe out front (3-1), building hope for their frustrated fans who hadn‘t had a championship since Red River was in the theaters (“Yeeee-ha!” (‘48)), then they set the Cubs, who hadn’t even taken a pennant since that heart-wrenching year of 1945 (FDR – WW2), storming back to even it up at three, most of their wins coming on the road, no less, at Progressive Field.

And if that weren’t enough to trigger the PVCs, then the deciding game seven (7) goes extra innings (Zzzzz), has a rain-delay and had baseball writers pulling their hair out not knowing which title they were gonna’ post (’Cleveland, City of Champs!’ or ‘Cubs Win, Cubs Win, Cubs Win!’).

james-wc-4-27-8-k-allison-3-8mEven a kingly presence in the crowd (LeBron James) couldn’t turn the trick for the Tribe.

But if there are any fans in sportdom who can fully appreciate both the lows of losing the big match (Indians) and then the cathartic joy that comes with winning the Chalice of a Champion (Cavaliers), it would be those who reside in and around the Forest City, Ohio.

So after all their fun n’ games, why’d the Gods tab Chicago the winner?

If there’s one thing the Divinities will not tolerate, something they simply abhor, it is the haphazard stewardship of baseball records.

If you write about rounders often you will come to rely on the wealth of statistics made available on the web at baseball-reference.com. The same sort of repository exists for many of the major American merriments. When you cut through all the sabrmetric snooze (WAR, OPS, etc.), the site’s smorgasbord of stats is a tremendous baseball resource for which this user is grateful.

gold-medieval-ring-wc-sonofthesands-britain-146kBut when the boys who run the site brazenly decided in-Series to award championship rings to the Indians (appearing as a gold icon next to the relevant year in the “Postseason” section (all now removed)), as early as the close of game three (3) with Tribe up 2-1, the Sporting Gods decided on a winner: The Cubs. There’s that, and the fact that the Northsider’s dry-spell for a World Series winner (1908), whether based at West Side Grounds or Weeghman – Wrigley Field, had Cleveland’s beat by 40 years. Plenty parched.

— — —

He was near demigod status in his role shaping the Francona Red Sox teams that ended their own championship drought in 2004 and reigned again in 2007. But in doing the same for the parched pin-strippers on Chicago’s Northside (See Also; GM Jed Hoyer), Theo Nathaniel Epstein (b.12.29.73 (NY)) left behind the wunderkind tag and joined a select group of baseball executives (GM – PBO), builders who, when funded ($), create dream seasons and dynasties. It’s a membership that includes Branch Rickey (OH) and Ed Barrow (“born in a covered wagon in Springfield (Ill.)(Wikipedia)).” Big stuff.

inherit-tracy-wc-1960-ua-54kBut with progress comes a cost, a quid pro quo. You gain something, you give something up. For the Cubs and their followers that price may be the ‘lovable’ they’ve been serving up since 1945.

Spencer Tracy (“Henry Drummond”) spoke to this yin-yang thing in Stanley Kramer’s highly acclaimed Scopes Monkey Trial movie, Inherit the Wind (‘60):

Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it.
Sometimes I think there’s a man who sits behind a counter and says, ‘All right, you can have a telephone but you lose privacy and the charm of distance.
Madam, you may vote but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder puff or your petticoat. And Mister, you may conquer the air but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.’”

The faithful, Cubs ownership in the Ricketts family and Manager Joe Maddon, both deserving of the Rainmaker tag themselves, the sports media, all have failed to consider what it will really mean to the Cozy World of Confine now that the Cubs have won their 3rd World Series championship.

epstein-wc-slingsby-9-8-10-688kThe red, white & blue Bruins have built so much out of “nothing” it became the most beloved brand in all of sports. Everybody likes the Cubs, even before 2016. The undying love they engender in their fans nationwide is admired on par with Yankees’ prowess in play.

Winning changes everything. Fenway fans in their 40s understand that. There’s a new expectation, standard in Bean Town and Chicago, too. Anything short of a World Series title gets an incomplete grade. Tension rises, especially amongst the fair-weather fan who jumped the bandwagon and has wherewithal of a wet peanut.

Finally breaking that championship drought (’04 (1918 v Cubs)) can be cathartic for those who still hold the pain from chances that got away (‘67, ‘75, ‘86). But it’s a different mood in Boston these days. Success is sweet but it can be a pretty girl with a fickle heart: Warm when in clover, cold when the chips are down.

And that’s half hyperbole.

The victory parade down Michigan Avenue in November, so thick with confetti The Fugitive could’ve eluded police for days, was a beautiful sight to behold.

chicago-mi-ave-wc-4-9-11-l-fuss-2-8mA man who knew a thing or two about progress was at the Allied controls when the Cubs were in spring training and about to embark on a season that would take them to what was to be their last NL pennant and fall classic prior to 2016 (1945). That man was U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – April 12, 1945 (d. Warm Springs, GA)):

This is what 4-termer FDR, the standard by which all Presidents are measured, had to say about progress: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much (Yankees & Cardinals), but whether we provide enough for those who have too little (Royals (2015) and Cubs (2016)).”

Hooray for progress!

.....canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: T.Epstein, wc.cca, 10.22.16, A.PardavilaIII; Sporting(MeetingGods), wc, 1630, CV.Poelenburgh; J.McGraw-F.Chance, wc, 5.2.1911, GG.Bain, LoC; L.James, wc, K.Allison, 4.27.8; gold-medieval-ring, wc, Britain, Sonofthesands; Inherit-the-wind, S.Tracy, UA, 1960; Epstein, wc, 9.8.10, S.Slingsby; MichiganAve., wc, Chicago, L.Fuss, 4.9.11, Canned-corn
Posted: 11.5.16 @ 9:57pm EST; Copyright © 2016

MLB16 Chin Music: Angels Weep But Gods Still Favor Pujols & Trout

29 Sep

It won’t be the question that keeps Anaheim Angels’ braintrust fidgeting when their 2016 season ends with conclusion of Sunday afternoon’s game against the visiting Astros. More likely it will be the implementation, whenever that might be, of the painful answer they already know: Mike Scioscia has gotta’ go.

Mike’s a pretty brilliant baseball mind. No doubt on that point (.541 (17)). And in his day, a pretty nifty ball-player, too. A two-time All-Star and champion (1981, ‘88), he was a mainstay backstop with Southern California rival, the Dodgers.

scioscia-wc-12-9-15-a-pardavilaiii-5-2m-wintermtgJim Fregosi (1979-81) and Gene Mauch (1981-82, ‘85-87) made the Anaheim Angels of Greater Los Angeles Metro respectable but it was Scioscia who finally molded and managed them to that brass ring, the 2002 World Series title (v. SF). To date it’s the Angels only pennant and championship.

But if it’s not working, and it hasn’t been for six of the last seven seasons, it’s gotta’ be fixed, that is, if you (owner) still have designs on winning again.

It’s not just ‘not working’ at Angel Stadium, it seems to have slipped into reverse. From 98 wins (‘14), to 85 (‘15) to 70-whatever this 2016.

Apart from that well-meant but somewhat ill-advised Josh Hamilton signing, you can’t really lay much blame at the doorstep of Angels’ owner Arte Moreno.

scioscia-wc-4-7m-7-23-11-k-allisonNumber one, he’s forked out the moolah in massive amounts to top talent in recent years in hopes of re-capturing the glory of the early 2000s, stars enough to make a tiny All-Star team, contract-money enough to fund a tiny space program but results so small the hardware would barely furnish the mantel in a “Tiny House (ugh).”

Two, Arte’s loyal, especially to dedicated employee who brought a long suffering franchise their first championship. That’s a rare thing today, in big business or small. And then how was Moreno to know Vlad Guerrero would turn out to be post-season pedestrian (17g (‘05-08): 1.rbi, 0.hr, 7r).

The ouster of Scioscia is a move many in baseball have probably pondered at each season’s end since 2012. That year marked the Halos third consecutive absence from the post-season after having made the grade in six of eight seasons prior in that successful span from 2002 (WS) thru 2009.

Since that well-deserved World Series victory in 2002 the Angels have been ignominiously bounced from six of those playoffs, going 1-12 in four divisional series, just slightly better in the two American League Championships at 3-8.

Point being, the Angels post-title decline has been clear n’ steady. There have been respites by way of playoff appearances, some in bunches (‘04-09), one set-apart (‘14), none of them at their opening having conveyed a strong sense of World Series Wherewithal (See; Above).

morenofan-wc-j-miller-6-9-7-188kIn his defense, the Pennsylvania native (11.27.58) has had his share of untimely injuries (Hamilton, Weaver, etc.) and line-ups somewhat lacking in both pitching (starters – mid – close) and hitting, particularly contact men (.300), though, such bats are at a premium today in free-swinging MLB and Angels 2016 team-BA does trend well (.260 (6-AL)).

Current Halos’ GM Billy Eppler, a sabrmetrics adherent, has only been on the job a year and can’t be expected to shoulder much blame for current malaise, though, his number fixation (WAR, OPS, etc.) does not invite hope. Any administrative blame to be doled out must be born by Bill’s predecessor, Mariners current GM in Jerry Dipoto (2011-15), along with farm-system (Mike LaCassa) and scouting (Ric Wilson) directors. Get the big bucks, you get to bear the brunt.

But line-up deficiencies, whether they be in All-Star caliber or utility players, those workaday guys that can fly under-the-radar yet meet important team needs that don’t necessarily get quantified in sabrmetric – fantasy reports, plague nearly every team in both loops.

Even baseball’s 2016 version of the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy winner (regular season’s best) in the Chicago Cubs (Did I just write that? Good sign, Bruins-backers), have an Achilles heel or two which Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein must lose a wink or two fretting over every nite they hit the hay (Zzzz).

pujols-4-14-12-laawc-1-26m-m-olearyTwo men you can’t fault for Angels “free-fall from ecstasy (Skowron)” are Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.

In four full and one partial season (99g / 2013) with Halos, Albert, finishing his 16th MLB run and a likely 1st-ballot HOF’er when he hangs up his spikes, has clubbed 490 (+/-) ribbies and 146 taters, 29 per, on average. Pretty terrific production for a man in his mid-30s.

How many more runs of bountiful the Sporting Gods afford Al is hard to predict.

He turns 37 in January but is seems a well tuned machine and wouldn’t surprise if he produced for 2-3 more years. But one thing this fan, and AP himself most assuredly, would not want to see is that career BA dropping below the .300 mark. It currently stands at .309 but he’s been well off that average since exiting the Gateway City and will likely fall below the hallowed marker with 1-2 more full seasons of play. It’s something to ponder, anyway.

trout-wc-7-24-11-501k-md-k-allisonMike, a fan favorite due to his easy adjustment to the majors, daring style of play and, though seems in need of work on driver attentiveness (“CHP Says…” / ocregister / 9.1.16 / Schwebke & Sudock), shows a spirit for the game and concern for others, finishes up his 6th season in Anaheim and stands as a strong AL-MVP candidate, leading the loop in OB% (.441), BBs (113), likely to reach the 30 and 100 plateaus in HRs and RBIs respectively and has surpassed the 100 mark in runs-scored for the fifth time in his relatively short MLB career. He’s presently leading in that latter category (122) in a year when it‘s a good chance that 20+ players will reach the century mark in runs.

It would not be hyperbole to write that the rise of Hamiltonism (See: Billy (198 runs in 1894)) is in no small measure due to the corresponding rise in Troutonics.

Back to Mr. Scioscia. He is an Anaheim legend and will have his number or name retired. But Mike and his betters should keep in mind that all good things come to an end and change, too often today instituted haphazardly for no good reason but to keep the pay-checks coming, can in fact work a real benefit, for the franchises and legends in question (See; Curly Lambeau, Tom Coughlin, Casey Stengel & Mike Babcock whose Red Wings record compares to Mike‘s own).

What the contract between Scioscia and Moreno states in its particulars (term, payout, etc.), this writer need not know. Such agreements, if wisely drafted, contemplate the multitude of circumstance, including the above postulated.

.....canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: M.Trout, wc, MD, K.Allison, 7.23.11; M.Scioscia, 7.23.11, wc, MD, K.Allison; M.Scioscia, wc.cca, 12.9.15, A.Pardavila, WinterMeet; Moreno-Fan, J.Miller, 6.9.7, wc; A.Pujols, wc, 4.14.12, M.O’Leary; M.Trout-Fan, 7.24.11, MD, K.Allison; Canned-corn
Posted: 9.29.16 @ 4:40pm, edit @ 10:17 EST; Copyright © 2016

MLB16 Chin Music: The Last Iconic, Hack’s 191 Endures As Ueber-Think Thrives

24 Aug

The Ueber Code: No $tone Unturned

Evanston, Illinois: That’s the birthplace.

It aught tell the reader, onto which of Windy City’s two major league ball-clubs I pin my hopes n’ dreams for World Series glory. It aught.

Not familiar with Chicagoland, beyond sports, its famous residents (Prez Obama, Ray Kroc (McDonald‘s), Carl Sandburg (“Big Shoulders”), Oprah Winfrey, Bill Murray) and the legends (Mrs. O‘Leary, Al Capone, Harry Caray)?

...........Hack.Wilson.smile.faceNo map-app? No problem. Some clues: I think Hank O’Day had moxie to burn while bribe-taking Joe Jackson, human as we all are, has no place in the Hall, ever.

Still in the dark? Hmmm, okay, let’s see…oh, oh, I’ve got it, this should flip the switch: My team was the first dynasty of professional baseball, winning the flag (6) or taking 2nd (3) nine of MLB’s first 15 years (1876 – 90) and today can make a strong case in claim of title to our nation’s most beloved sports franchise, i.e., America’s Team. A claim.

That‘s right, you got it, I’m a Chicago Cubs fan.

And like any Bruins backer worth their weight in beehive bounty, I accept the White Sox as a necessity to Chicago’s baseball gestalt, appreciating their one-half part in helping make that rare state, a metropolis supporting two major league teams (NYC, SF Bay, LA metro). Were they members of rival operations, i.e., a Federal, Players or American Association, that’d be even the better (quality & cost controls), but the Courts and compliant media don’t see it that way and most fans, even with $20 nachos, aren’t squawkin.’ Buuurp!

..........Comiskey.wc.thm.1910.BPLI’d appreciate South Siders even more had they chosen to keep “Old Roman” Charles Comiskey’s (1859-31) name for their new digs (1991-02), one that drips with cachet, first gaining national prominence in late 1880s as key cog in those great St. Louis Browns clubs (AA) and then of course as founder of Chicago’s entrant into the new rival American League, rather than cave to corporate shill, i.e., US Cellular, a tag with about as much cachet as a corn-dog n’ cola. Buuurp!

Nevertheless, I do hold the Pale Hose in higher regard than HFCS, most TV and fellow Evanstonian Peter Ueberroth who as Commissioner in ‘84 PS gave Cubs playoff chances, their first in 40 years (25 more than Padres existed), the short shrift in awarding the Garvey – Gwynn Padres home-field (SD 3-2), even as San Diego was five up in the loss column over the Sandburg – Sutcliffe North-siders, then strong-armed the Cubs into installing lights in the friendly confines.

Not very nice, Peter.

And not all too bright either, given that this baseball version of America’s Team was likely the favored opponent of neutralites around baseball nation who were eagerly anticipating the match-up with Sparky’s roaring Tigers (DET 4-1 SD).

But that sort of play was $OP for Pete in his two Directorships, the first selling the summer semi-Olympics in Los Angeles (Commies stay home after Corporates boycott Moscow (80)), then in steering MLB operations (Oct.1984-89), a procedure that would change the business of sport management forever.

..........Ueberroth.wc.USGov.thm.WrigleyWhile his baseball reign was a cup o’ coffee in Commissioner time, his directives have had staying power, becoming the template for sport leaders from coast to coast in both professional and semi-pro (NCAA) ranks.

The Ueber Principle: Maximization of profit potential (MPP). Nothing’s sacred, nothing’s off the table. Everything in the sport is either a billboard or bargaining chip in a profit scheme. If it doesn’t turn a buck, it’s out with the recyclables, Dude. Continuity, style, history, reflection, ‘Where’s the consumerism in those, Loser?’ Oy vey.

In a real sense, Pete’s tack was an outgrowth from Earl Butz’ game-plan for US farm families in the 70s, President Nixon & Ford’s landscape-changing Secretary of Agriculture: ‘Get big or get out!’ Sans the subsidies (anti-trust?), but ballparks no small contributor to the push on high-fructose corn syrup consumption.

And it’s not just greedy owners and media minions who push the UP, union rank n’ file (& Retainers) are at the front of the profit parade. When it comes to money in sport the enemies (owners) of my enemies (players) are friends. Cha-ching!

Ueberroth’s predecessor Bowie Kuhn (1969-84) was no Ernie Banks (“Let’s play two!”) and had his critics in owners (Finley / Steinbrenner) and players both (Flood / Mays & Mantle (casino ties)). But the Maryland native and former NL lawyer did exude a sporting spirit in maintaining a competitive field, backed the induction of Negro League greats into the Hall as their BoD resisted and had an awares of the corrupting influence that some forms of profiteering can have on a game‘s integrity (fantasy gamble, etc.). Cufflink with a conscience?

.....Kuhn.wc.MLB.1982.thmToday, those kind of views will make you a sauropod, flagged straight into the tar-pits. Gulp!

The games are no longer pastimes but merely vehicles for money-makers with smallest of pretense given to quaint notions of reflection & trust. No surprise then that most players now live by the Machiavellian (or Orson Wellesian (The War of the Worlds (radio ‘38))) credo: ‘Ends ($$) justify the means (PEDs),’ or, in present verbage, ‘Cheat if you can get away with it (smirk), even if you don’t (See: Lance, Braun, A-Rod, Lochte, Al-Jazeera 4, etc.) because you’ll get a Disney gig either way. Honk!

And the passengers taken for a ride in the vehicle? Young consumers, of course, the most malleable market who slurp celebrity n’ selling-points the media’s all too eager to pour (Goodell’s grim, rule change needed, officiating awful, etc.).

Hoping for Hatchlings

With the 2016 Cubs cruising to a Central crown, a 2nd straight post-season and most people’s pick to win their first Pennant in over 70 years, you might think I’d be giddy with good vibrations. And then you’d probably be new to sports.

.........Wrigley.wc.Jblesage.5.28.08.thmIf there’s one thing a well-weathered Wrigleyite is not, it is a chicken-counter, as in before those proverbial eggs get hatched. Hatchlings here being the necessary deeds & titles (playoff ticket punched, NLDS win, NLCS, etc) that must be in-hand for residence in Champion City.

The caution comes from generations of fan disappointment, starting with every Cubs contender post-1918, from Hippo Vaughn’s hopefuls, who had a higher BA (.210 v .186), scored more total runs (Red Sox’ Ruth top RBI man (2))) and lower ERA (2.18 v 2.30) than their ‘victorious’ Boston opponents, to last season’s NLCS fellows of fizzle (0-4 NYM) and 11 other post-season busts in between.

Wilson Watch: The New 61

But there is an achievement so impressive, so weighty that Bruins’ backers can, around late-August of every season, reflect upon with pride and satisfaction, one that’s not likely to be eclipsed anytime soon if ever, and that is Hall of Famer Hack Wilson’s eye-popping 1930 single-season tally of 191 RBIs.

This season, that satisfaction came earlier as the only challenges to the 191 were mounted by Ed Encarnacion (TOR) and Nolan Arenado (COL) who just hit the 100 RBI mark last week. With five weeks to go it’s safe to say, “forget about it.”

........Hack-wilson_bat.thmHack’s record will likely stand for another winter and is so frozen in place it’s gonna’ take a serious bump-up in greenhouse gas emissions and disappearance of at least one polar cap to melt the icy wall of invincibility that seems to surround the mark.

There are many tremendous single-season records in MLB’s annals that’ve been achieved, challenged and sometimes bested since it‘s first opening day in 1876.

A short list of some unique and still standing notables:

· Boston Beaneater Hugh Duffy bats .440, wins NL Triple Crown in 1894;
· Same season, Phillies’ Billy Hamilton crosses home plate 198 times;
· Christy Mathewson wins 31 (1.27) and tosses 3 CG-SOs in 1905 Series;
· Ed Walsh wins 40 in ‘08 (1.42 / 464 IN / 42 CG) as Sox team bats .224;
· Ruth’s 1921: 177r, .378ba, 16tp, .846slg, 17sb, 145bb, 59hr and 171rbi;
· Indians’ Joe Sewell strikes out a mere four times in 608 at-bats in 1925;
· Rogers Hornsby wins 2nd Triple Crown in 1925 batting .403 (.401 ‘22);
· AL Leader in HR, R, SLG & OB%, Ted Williams hits .406 in style (41);
· Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson breaks MLB color barrier, wins ROY in ‘47;
· A’s Bill Fischer pitches 84.1 straight innings w/out issuing a walk in ‘62;
· B. Gibson (22-9 / 1.12) & D. McLain (31-6 / 28 CG) go pitch crazy in 1968;
· O. Hershiser throws 59 scoreless innings en route to ‘88 Series win (A’s).

Some sportologists try to sell the theory that the ‘streak’ is baseball’s grandest feat for its high stress and unassailability. And to that I say, poppycock, Doc.

.......Barrow.Ruth.Frazee.McInnis.wc.1918.TSN.282kSuch marks may prove invincible once sanctioned but anything subject to official scoring (Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio’s 56) or personal discretion (Cal Ripken’s 2632) will, upon closer inspection, reveal weak-links in their chains of greatness.

Ever since Yankees’ GM Ed Barrow snatched the Babe from Beantown (‘19), fans have thrilled at power-ball. Goodbye spitters, dead-ball hitters and “Hit ‘em where they ain‘t” (Keeler),..hello lively ball, home run call and “Holy cow, he did it (Rizzuto)!”

In supplanting Ruth’s 60 single-season homer mark (‘27) in 1961, Maris’ number became the biggest jewel in the crown of baseball exploits and holy grail every big bopper in the game wanted to grasp. If the stars aligned, both homer marks did invite serious challenges: Foxx (58 / ‘32); Wilson (56 / ‘30); Greenberg (58 / ’38); Kiner (54 / ‘49); Griffey (56 / ‘97).

But it was the possibility which made them enticing and then easy prey for the performance-enhancing slugs.

Juicers blew by the iconic 61 like it suddenly didn’t exist, as fans & media went ga-ga over Mark & Sammy (’98). The hypocrites could fill every park in the land.

.......Sisler.Ruth.Cobb.10.4.24.wc.929k.LoCSome of the great bat marks felled in recent years:

Maris’ 61, SS – HR (‘61), bested by Mark McGwire & Sammy Sosa (‘98), then Barry Bonds’ 73 (‘01);
Hank Aaron’s 755 career HR (‘76), overtaken by San Francisco Giants Bonds’ 762 total in 2007;
George Sisler’s SS – 257 hits (‘20), surpassed by Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki in 2004 with 262 safeties.

Baseball’s governors have a sticky-wicket on their manicured hands: What does Elias Sports Bureau do about Bonds tainted tallies (73 / 762)? Does Ichiro get a pass? Not bold-decision makers and, as noted, focused on coin rather than history, Manfred & Co. will likely continue on the ‘do-nothing’ path and leave the mess for future generations to resolve. Guardians of the game? Ugh.

What the major league game clearly needs is an injection of some Kenesaw Mountain Landisonium to give baseball back its courage and clarity, in play, ownership, management, media coverage and record-keeping, a bedrock component since 1876 . Get Pfizer on that one, STAT.

As such, Roger’s fabled 61 will never regain its former luster, leaving one, last, great, untouched single-season, power mark, free from the grimy fingerprints left by drug-cheats, calling-cards ignored by baseball’s cops on the beat (MLB & collectors in media) who seem only interested in making their pension.

......Hack.Wilson.Goudey.wc.1933.thmWilson’s gargantuan RBI record has stood the test of time (86 years) and serves as testament to what a man on a team stamped Good Dugout Seal-of-Approval can achieve w/out body armor, cortisone, PEDs and $30M-a-year (K).

The 191 is the new standard for power prowess, benchmark for immortality. It’s the new 61. But you won’t hear that on Disney (ESPN) or MLB Network.

Had Hack painted his masterpiece with a New York brush (NYG 1923-25) instead of Chicago, epicenter of trains, Great Lakes traffic, commodities & Midwest flair, Gotham City scribes would’ve immortalized Wilson’s fantastic feat in poetry & prose (See; Franklin Pierce Adams). As it stands, the media mecca of America will never pay homage to a record set by a Second City sultan.

Another reason Hack’s 191 is marginalized: So few have challenged it.

There were Gehrig (184 / ‘31), Greenberg (183 / ‘37) & Foxx (175 / ‘38), but even with today’s advantages in armor, medicine, nite n’ lites, travel-zip, more games, AL-DH, Denver and lower mound, 153 (T. Davis / ’62) and 165 (M. Ramirez / ’99) are closest anyone’s gotten in over 60y. Tigers Miguel Cabrera stood at 130 with five weeks+ left in the 2012 season and finished with a thud (139).

RBIs need three things: Base-runners, a team-mentality and general health.

......MeetingGods.wc.1630.Poelenburch.RPG-Mauritshuis.3mRuth ushered in homer-ball but Depression era players were frugal fellows, never forgetting the purpose behind batting: Score runs, win games! Today’s Home Run Derby mindset sneers at OBP and then, when the table is set, too many batters ( & Mgrs) fixate on the long ball.

Maybe the Sporting Gods guard the 191 as an emblem to an era. Good riddance to segregation and the fixola (1919) which was embedding but honoring the days free of nightly walk-off bunny-hop hysteria, Gatorade® drench, shave cream pie-in-the-face routine, drag pants, body armor, late-game World Series snooze (Zzzz), drug cheats (PEDs), tinker-bells (in rule change), sabrmetrics nor hanger-ons who hope for Hall call. Only records most 30s guys cared about spun on a Victrola.

And maybe Cubs finally take the Pennant again this season, maybe they don’t.

What’s certain now and likely to remain certain for the foreseeable future is that practically no one remembers who won the Pennants or World Series two years ago but nearly every baseball fan worth their weight in salted peanuts n’ franks knows the name of the man who holds major league baseball’s single-season runs-batted-in mark. “Hackidu” it’s you! That aught tell you something about the sacrosanct status of records, Mr. Manfred. So get crackin!’

.....canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo Credit: H.Wilson-R.Hornsby, Chicago Cubs; H.Wilson; C.Comiskey, BPL, 1910, wc.cca; P.Ueberroth, wc, Wrigley, US.Gov; B.Kuhn, wc, 1982, MLB; Wrigley.Field, Jblesage, wc, 5.28.8; H.Wilson; E.Barrow, B.Ruth, H.Frazee, S.McInnis, wc, 1918, TSN; G.Sisler, B.Ruth, T.Cobb, LoC, wc, 10.4.24; Wilson, Goudey, wc, 1933; Meeting.Gods, wc, 1630, Poelenburch, RPG-Mauritshuis; Canned-corn
Posted: 8.24.16 @ 2:17pm EST; Copyright © 2016

MLB16 Chin Music: What If Cubs Do Win a World Series, Again?

19 Feb

These are different days in the land of bruins, “big shoulders” and manually-operated scoreboards.

If you’d been pulling a Rip Van Winkle and just awoke from your Washington Irving-like slumber you might not recognize the goings on at Wrigley Field.

.....CubsLogo.1914.Wjmummert.wc.thmOh, the renovations at the century old structure (1914), originally named Weeghman Park and home to the Federal League champion Whales, haven’t changed it a whole lot. It still retains that certain brick & steel-beam charm but with more lights, seats, eats for the adults and bells & whistles for the Xbox® set.

And they best be careful what they do with that playing surface. It’s where Cubs’ great Charlie Grimm (d. 1983) had his ashes spread (Wikipedia). Hallowed ground, indeed.

The new mood amongst the faithful isn’t so much more upbeat as Cubs fans have always been the glass-half full sort, as it is more…expectant, an air of confidence they‘ve not had at the ‘friendly confines’ for quite some time.

...........Epstein.9.8.10.wc.S.Slingsby.thmEven the ivy, what’s left, looks more hopeful, if a bit nervy.

The hirings of wunderkind executive Theo Epstein (2011 (5y)) and then prized manager Joe Maddon (2015) were the table-setters to a hoped-for celebratory feast (WS win), marking the first major investments by the Ricketts family who purchased controlling share of World Cubs in 2009.

Ricketts tugged tight on those purse strings in early going to get team’s financial house in order in wake of Tribune’s economic plight (a prior ownership that had on occasion, like Wrigleys, made serious investments in winning) and some hefty contracts weighing on the books. But they’ve loosened those strings a bit with mind’s eye for pennants and championship banners. At least that’s the notion.

Though off-season signings of Jason Heyward (.268 (RF)) and ringholders Ben Zobrist (.265 (2d)) and moundsmen John Lackey (165-127) showed the Cubs are in a mood for winning now, the cultivation & keeping of young, homegrown (Bryant) or trade-acquired talent (Rondon / Rizzo), as opposed to free agency, seems the tack the Cubs’ braintrust favors.

..........Maddon.wc.4.14.14.MD.K.Allison.thmConfidence wasn’t always such a rare commodity in Chicago’s National League exchange. No sir-ee, Bob.

The Cubs today are butt of the longest running joke on championship futility. But because subject-history has been trampled flat by current trend-setters (See; the Prez, etc.) in favor of math, science, more math (sabrmetrics), most folks have no idea about Chicago’s glory days of yore.

The name Chicago had struck fear into the hearts of foes in the 1880s (White Stockings) when Cap Anson, John Clarkson and King “Hook-Slide” Kelly were busting balls, then again in the early 20th when the greatest pitching staff ever assembled was mowing ‘em down at West Side Park (Grounds) while the fielding exploits of Steinfeldt to “Tinker to Evers to Chance” were driving New Yorkers to despair and alternatively inspiring some to pen poems (F.P. Adams) in honor of the brawny & brainy Bruins.

That’s saying something in an age when players, managers, umpires, bowler-wearing fans, even kid vendors were tough as nails. ‘Put ‘em up, panty-waist!’

.........Chance.wc.1909.ATC.LoC.thmThough their last World Series win (1908), 2d of the 1st back-to-back dynasty in modern history, was over a century ago, collecting pennants is no small achievement. From 1929 to 1945 the Cubs collected Senior circuit banners like nobody‘s business, appearing in 5 and taking Tigers to 7 in their last.

It’s that near 40-year period from 1946 to just before the magical season of 1984 as Ryno, Rick, Jim Frey, Don Zimmer, Harry Caray & Co. finally broke the post-season drought, when the seed for a weeping willow of woe was sown & cultivated by a succession of sorries.

Since that bittersweet ‘84 when Cubs were still ‘day-timers only’ and Ueberroth made the money-call to gave their playoff opponents the Padres (3-2) home-field even as Chicago had the top mark, the Northsiders have made the PS six times, including the NLCS in 2003 (FL 4-3). Not exactly a source for Midwest bragging rights but a far cry from the futility the bear Cubs had suffered for what seemed an eternity. It’s been moving in the right direction, anyway.

........Bryant.4.27.15.MBD.Chicago.thm.wcBut hold off on stocking that celebratory champagne just yet. These Cubs have a few burs in their fur that need attention.

Last season’s team BA (.244 – 13th NL (KC .269 (2d AL)) and strikeout totals (1518 – 15 (KC 973 – 1st)) are unacceptable lines for a championship caliber club. And no off-season acquisitions look likely to change that worrisome state.

Encouraging marks were the OB% (.321 – 5 (KC .322 – 7)) and favorable run production (689 – 6th (KC 724 – 6)) with Rizzo (94), Bryant (87) and Fowler (102), all mainstays who look to have a nose for the plate when they manage to get on base, not made easier with that woeful whiff total.

Some stern instruction in fundamentals seems in order for Chicago’s bat-control and the glove work, another necessity if Chicago seeks a place among MLB elite. Cubs sat in bottom bracket on team fielding (.982 – 12 (KC .985 – 3)) and errors (111 – 12th (KC 88 – 6)). The signing of 3-time gold glover Heyward will help.

.......Arrieta.wc.DSCN0048.thm..6.24.14As for the moundsmen, Bruins have their ace in re-signed 2015 Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta (R) while both Jon Lester (L (10)) and newly acquired John Lackey (R (13)) will provide innings and a wealth of craft.

Jon had a disappointing first year in the Senior Circuit, posting 11-12, in opposite of king’s ransom he’d negotiated. Lackey pitched alike his first half-season with the Cards (3-3 / 4.30 (‘14)) and picked-it-up in 2015 (13-10 / 2.77). All three stars gave mixed performances in their post-season outings last October.

Jake’s 2-1 record is misleading. The Missouri native pitched a gem in WC win vs PIT but averaged a hefty 6.50 ERA (1-1) and 4 runs in limited outings vs STL [W] and NYM [L]. Jon, known for his playoff prowess from Beantown days (‘07-13) pitched pedestrian in his two starts (0-2 / 4.50) and served up 3 dingers in 13i.

Fourth starter Jason Hamel, also in his 2d decade, went 10-7 (3.74), faltered in the PS too (2g-7h-7r (3hr)) but figures back in the rotation as Kyle Hendricks (3.95) and Adam Warren (3.29 (NYY-Castro)) may duel for the fifth spot.

.......Wrigley.wc.Jblesage.5.28.08.thmCubs’ closer is Venezuela-born Héctor Rondón (30sv / 1.67). Indians signee at 16 (‘04), Cubs took Rondón in “2012 Rule 5 Draft.” He came with an injury-history, a TJS in 2010 and elbow bang the next year (Wikipedia) but has been tooling along fine for Chicago since 2014. His showing in last season’s PS was mixed as well, shutting the door on STL (NLDS) in G2 & 4 after a shaky outing in G3 and only one hit surrendered in two, non-lead closer stints vs Mets (NLCS (0-4)).

Returning for mid-relief are Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, Clayton Richard & Travis Wood who in 2015 provided the bulk of innings for the Northsiders (100ip). “Sweet Trav (Overboard ’87)” was a 2013 All-Star but gave up 11 “tatters (G.Scott)” last year while Grimm posted a nifty 1.99e in just under 50i of work.

But a message to Wrigley regulars: Careful what you wish, you just might get it.

......Inherit.Tracy.wc.1960.UA.thmWith progress comes a cost, a quid pro quo of sorts. When you gain something you also lose something. For the Cubs and their followers, if they do hoist the World Series trophy, that price may be the ‘lovable’ they’ve been serving up since 1945. Spencer Tracy (“Henry Drummond”) spoke to this yin-yang thing in Stanley Kramer’s highly acclaimed Scopes Monkey Trial movie, Inherit the Wind (‘60):

Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it.
Sometimes I think there’s a man who sits behind a counter and says, ‘All right, you can have a telephone but you lose privacy and the charm of distance.
Madam, you may vote but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder puff or your petticoat. And Mister, you may conquer the air but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.’”

The faithful, the Ricketts, sports media, all may’ve failed to give enough thought to exactly what it will mean to the Cozy World of Confine if the Cubs actually do get to and then win a World Series, this year or any for that matter.

............whatIf.maryeoriginals.wc.5.4.14.thmRed, white & blue Bruins have built so much out of “nothing” it’s become the “cool(est) hand” in all of sport. Everybody likes the Cubs. The undying love they engender in their fans nationwide is admired on par with Yankees’ prowess. And the nobody’s, who cares what they think? What do titles get you anyway? A run-o-the-mill championship package from Sports Illustrated and higher ticket prices, that’s what.

Cubbies are cool to a ♫ tune ♫ of a $1.8 billion valuation (Forbes). Near chicken-feed to what your friendly neighborhood pharmaceutical draws in a fiscal year but not too shabby for so-called ‘losers,’ eh?

If “Cubs win” in the WS they become just like all the other champions today: Fairly forgettable. Pop Quiz: Who won the Series in 2014? Yeah, “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Balderdash.

Fenway faithful understand of what I write, how winning changes things.

Finally breaking the drought (2004 (1918 (v Cubs))) to take a World Series title again can be cathartic for those who still hold the pain from the good chances that got away (‘67, ‘75, ‘86).

....Chicago.MI.Ave.wc.4.9.11.L.Fuss.thmBut it’s a different mood in Boston these days. Success is sweet but it can be a pretty girl with a fickle heart once the winning becomes an expectant: Warm in clover, cold when the chips are down.

And that’s hyperbole. A ticker-tape parade on Michigan Ave. in October, so thick with confetti “The Fugitive” could elude the coppers for days would be a beautiful sight. Even the lordly Cardinals’ fans, those who love the game, might nod in grudging appreciation, as long as it‘s not the Cubs who again bump ‘em from the PS (See; 2015 DS) on their way to the Series. Ouch.

Ready to rain on those parade preparations are other baseball clubs with their own aspirations to glory.

For starters, there’s the reigning champ Royals, newer version of Miami’s “No-name” NFL bunch back in the 70s. Joe got the loot but Ned Yost got the hoot (ring). These guys just might want a dynasty for the KC-side of Missouri.

Then there’s the Giants, winners of three Series the past six seasons, staggered every even-numbered year which means they’re due in 2016.

....FDR.wc.cca.E.Goldensky.1933.thumbAdd in the usual contenders like the Cardinals, Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, new-comers in the Pirates, Astros, Blue Jays and last year’s NL pennant takers the Mets and there are Seven Ways from Sundown (‘60) that could keep the Cubs frustrated.

Progress, like time, marches on. If Cubs don’t win the World Series sometime soon it’s just proof the Sporting Gods are stark, raving lunatics, or they simply know better. That’s why they’re deities.

A man who knew a thing or two about progress was at the Allied controls when the spring Cubs were about to embark on a season that’d take them to what was to be their last fall classic (‘45), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945 (Warm Springs, GA)):

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much (Yankees & Cardinals), but whether we provide enough for those who have too little (Royals (2015) and Cubs (?)).”

Hooray for progress! Play ball!

...canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: Cubs, wc-cca, 1957-78, Sportslogo; CubsLogo, wc, Wjmummert, 1914; Epstein, wc, 9.8.10, S.Slingsby; Maddon, 4.14.14, wc, K.Allison, MD; Chance, wc, ATC, 1909, LoC; Bryant, 4.27.15, MBD, wc, Chicago; Arrieta, wc, DSCN0048, 6.24.14, Wrigley, wc, Jblesage, 5.28.08; InherittheWind, Tracy, UA, 1960, wc; WhatIf, wc, maryoriginals, 5.4.14; Chicago-street-sign-MI-CHI-Ave, wc, 4.9.11, L.Fuss; FDR-girl, wc, 02-41, top college; FDR, wc, E.Goldensky, 1933; Canned-corn.
Posted: 2.19.16 @ 12:10p, edit (title) 10.22.16 @ 2:34p ET; Copyright © 2016
Stat / bio sources: Baseball-reference, Rotoworld & Wikipedia