I Saw 100

I got up at 6:30 yesterday morning knowing full well that after working two of my three current day jobs that I was going to drive three hours to Chicago, take the park ‘n’ ride bus to Wrigley, see my last Cubs game of the year, drive three hours home, and be up at 6:30 this morning and it might all possibly be for loss number 100.

Well, it was.

I’m running on four hours of sleep and pretty much just trying to get this written so I can go take a nap so I have no idea how coherent it might be. But I’m going to give it a shot.

I’ve never experienced the Cubs losing 100 games in a season. I find it to be a bummer. I’d much rather my team win. And they didn’t. I was really kind of hoping they’d pull off the sweep and avoid the 100. It’d mean nothing. Many people have pointed out that losing 99 is no different than losing 100, but it would have been something of salvage. A tiny morale boost in the midst of a tough season. It would have been nice.

But it didn’t happen. That’s a stone drag.

But it could be worse.

How?

Well, look at it like this. The Cubs will continue they’re rebuilding in 2013 in the NL Central. The Astros will continue their rebuilding in 2013 in AL West. Who would you rather suffer with? I thought so.

The thing about 100 losses is that it puts a team and its fans in an interesting position. How does management respond to this? How does the coaching staff? How do the players? How do the fans?

Now, I can hardly manage a fantasy team so I’m hardly qualified to speculate on what management should or shouldn’t do, will or won’t do, but I’m going to guess that Jed Hoyer’s not bullshitting when he says they’ll be looking at affordable, serviceable starting pitching. That seems like a pretty good place to start.

The coaches probably like being employed, even by a losing team, so I bet they’ve come up with all sorts of good things they want the players to work on. And the players probably have their own ideas about how they should improve, unless Darwin Barney is the only one that doesn’t like complacency (I’m willing to bet money that at least one other guy on the team doesn’t like complacency either).

And the fans? Well, the fans will continue to bitch and moan and whine and go out on ledges and nail themselves to crosses and rail against certain players, the coaches, the management, the owners, etc., and remind the world about how much better the team would be if they were in charge because, well, that’s what fans do.

A few of them, however, will be left standing at the end of another long season of possibly sub-.500 ball (but not another 100 losses; I don’t know that this team has it in them to do it again), sad to see another fall encroach upon their summer fun even if their team was dreadful because they tend to focus on the short term–this game, this inning, this pitch–rather than the long term. Because that’s what fans do, too.

Here’s the thing, kids. I’m all about the journey. Sure, I want to win. I like winning. I can’t wait for a Cubs World Series win. It’s going to be sweet. But I’m just as interested in the trip as I am the destination. 100 losses is part of the trip. The sucky part of the trip to be sure, but in order to fully appreciate the end win, the whole journey should be experienced.  Zen, no?

At least that’s how I look at it.

But, of course, I’m sleepy.

Observations on a Tiff

It’s like an aggressive Where’s Waldo picture.

When the Cubs and Nationals “brawled” last week many fans immediately got on their high horses to give their opinions on the whole thing. And that’s fine. I, on the other hand, tried to get down as close as I could to the action so I could see what was going on.

Baseball fights fascinate me. Most of the time it looks like a typical “guy fight” (some pushing, some shoving, a few crappy punches maybe, and a whole lot of yow-yowin’). The cause doesn’t interest me as much as who does what during the confrontation. Who’s first out of the dugout? Who leads the charge from the bullpen? Who’s playing peacekeeper? Who’s looking for a piece of the action.

I must have watched this tiff forty times (and paused 140 times) to get an idea of what was going on. And since this bruhaha had two bench clearings and three separate altercations, there was a lot to see.

Round One:

-The Cubs in the dugout really weren’t paying much attention to Jamie Quirk yelling at Bo Porter.

-When Bo Porter stopped at the top of the dugout stairs, the first guys to Dale Sveum’s side were Tony Campana, Luis Valbuena, Wellington Castillo, and Jeff Samardzija.

-James Russell led the charge from the bullpen.

-Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro strolled over to the confrontation. Alfonso Soriano and Brett Jackson hustled.

-Jeff Beliveau peeking over the bullpen fence at the fuss cracks me up every time I see it.

Round Two:

-Joe Mather, Campana, Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt, Samardzija, and Anthony Recker were first out of the dugout after Lendy Castillo went inside on Bryce Harper.

-Russell again led the charge from the bullpen. Carlos Marmol and Manny Corpas were laughing and nudging each other as they ran in. Franklin Font runs pretty damn fast while wearing shin guards.

-Even Lester Strode ran in! (PS. I love Lester.)

Round Three:

-Corpas was part of the reason round three started. Anthony Rizzo tried to play peacemaker.

-Russell, Samardzija, Recker, and Blake Parker were right on the front line.

-Barney kind of got sucked into the crowd at one point, but they spit him out unharmed. Same thing happened to Rizzo.

-Some guys moved to the back of the crowd, some guys couldn’t get close enough. Chris Volstad, Campana, and Wood were three looking to get in on it. Travis Wood looked like this wasn’t his first rodeo. (I’m sure he and his mullet have seen many bar brawls.) (That was a joke.)

-Bryan LaHair was one of the peacekeepers.

-A Nats player had a hold of the front of Samardzija’s jersey and was swinging from it like a monkey when everyone was doing their share of shoving and I’m not sure Shark noticed.

-Some how Kurt Suzuki managed to keep a towel around his neck the whole time despite being in the thick of things at one point. (I wasn’t going to keep this strictly Cubs, but that really impressed me.)

-Dale Sveum and Dave McKay looked pretty calm throughout the whole thing. Pat Listach must have rowdy kids. He looked like a dad breaking things up. James Rowson was right in the thick of things, pulling guys apart and separating them.

-Many of the guys had a look of “WTF?” on their faces. Those guys were more to the back of the most pit. Several players (David DeJesus was one) didn’t seem to get too excited.

I was kind of impressed with the way the Cubs came together. Everyone answered the fight bell (okay, the second time Soriano jogged in, but he really needs to preserve his wheels) and while tempers flared, there were enough cooler heads to keep things from getting too out of hand. Everybody seemed to feel the need to protect his teammates. Nobody was left to hang. I appreciate that.

Yes, I realize this is unpopular opinion. But then, isn’t every opinion I have about baseball/the Cubs unpopular?

Yeah. Put away your surprise face.

Casino Night

Wednesday night, by virtue of the fine people at Wrigleyville Magazine, I and my friend Harry attended The Dempster Family Foundation Casino Night. It’s a fundraiser to help raise money to help those with 22q disorder, a chromosomal disorder. It’s very classy, very expensive, and very fun.

The first hour was the VIP experience where we got to mingle with the players, past and present, and other athletes and local celebs. I admit that I did more people watching than mingling. I’m not a good mingler anyway, but put me in that situation and I was a little overwhelmed. It’s an interesting experience to be waiting in line at the bar with Bryan LaHair or have to scootch past Matt Garza or Dale Sveum to get somewhere. Just surreal. And a little intimidating when the players would group together for conversation. It’s daunting for a not good mingler to approach that.

We moved to the gaming room at 7 where the players and others worked the tables. There was also an auction, a silent auction, and a raffle. Since Harry and I knew we wouldn’t be able to participate in the big stuff (there were things that sold at the auction for 20 grand), we each bought mystery bags. We also got little goodie bags as we left the VIP room with a t-shirt and shot glass.

John Vincent and Crystal Bowersox both performed sets. I never head Crystal Bowersox before and I have to say, I quite enjoyed her.

Theo Epstein was a hit at the blackjack table as he would intentionally bust his hand at times by pulling a card, then throwing it away. Ian Stewart’s table seemed pretty popular, too. Harry and I played at a less popular table and our dealer, a lovely woman, was a tough one! But we still managed to leave the table winners, always managing to come back from the brink of bust.

We were two of the stragglers reluctant to clear out at the end of the night. I was pretty impressed with the guys that stayed the whole time. Chris Volstad, Paul Maholm, James Russell, Darwin Barney, Kerry Wood, even Theo Epstein were still around after the lights came on (obviously, Ryan Dempster was still around).

It was a great night for a great cause and I know I’m not doing it any justice (I’m writing this on four hours sleep and a three hour drive).

Just take my word for it. I’m thrilled to have experienced it.