Everything Has a Beginning

Everything has a beginning (the universe, serial TV shows, pie eating contests, etc..) which is good because it gives us a starting point with which to discuss and understand things. (aside: things that don’t have beginnings: circles, spheres, loops, life (for people who believe in reincarnation))

The Chicago Cubs began in 1876 as the Chicago White Stockings and went on to win 2 World Series (and counting?) and sixteen pennants. But the Cubs baseball team isn’t defined by its (mostly turn of the century) success, it’s the failures that matter. The long string of mostly uninterrupted failure that stretches from 1909 to the present not only haunts, but also distinguishes the franchise and its mighty yet tortured fan base. For the first 9 ½ years of my life none of this was important, and over the course of one long afternoon that began to change.

It could have been a Saturday, but most likely it was Sunday. It had the feel of an Autumn Sunday, when school had just started and Sundays had that looming dread; crisp air, shorter days and homework that still needed to be completed. My dad was getting drunk in the other room and I was bored out of my mind. My dad loved dragging my brothers and me to bars and parties where he could drink for hours and then drive us home in an enormous pale green Impala. (The rules of Parenting have changed considerably since then.) The only respite we had from adults mussing up our hair and asking us about school at this particular party was a 13 inch rabbit ear television showing the Cubs game. And I wasn’t a fan.

My parents are immigrants. While they fed, clothed and educated me in a satisfactory manner I’ll always feel as though my childhood was deprived and deficient. Apparently the 8 ways of reaching base without hitting the ball wasn’t on the immigration entrance exam because the only thing my parents knew about the Cubs was to avoid Wrigleyville on game days. I never played catch with my dad, my parents never skipped work to take me to a game, never got caught up in the excitement of the summer of ‘84 and the signing of Andre Dawson wasn’t even close to being discussed at the dinner table. To tell you the truth, I not only wasn’t a Cubs fan that epochal fall day, I had a mild distaste for the Cubs.

gummibears.jpgGrade school was hard. You’re really just not born with the ability to sit still and pay attention to old people drone on about nouns and adjectives. Looking back on the entire concept of education, it seems absurd to seat a bunch of paste eating, spit ball throwing kids in a room and expect them to care about long division. The only thing that got me through the day was the comfort in knowing I had a little something called the Disney Afternoon waiting for me when I got home from school. The Disney Afternoon was a block of cartoons that ran on WGN from 3-5pm every weekday until the Maury Povich era began and talk shows shoved everyone else out of the afternoon TV rotation. Before then, in that golden era of my most innocent youth, the Gummi Bears kicked things off at 3, then Duck Tales, followed by the Rescue Rangers with Tale Spin batting clean up. It was a solid lineup that always brought home the goods. Tragically (at the time) WGN also carried all the Cubs telecasts so whenever the Cubs were playing during the day (every home game), I came storming home expecting some Gummi Bears only to find Frank Dipino valiantly blowing another lead for the Cubs.

In retrospect the decision to intersperse cartoons with Cubs games was marketing genius. The Disney Afternoon was to Cubs Baseball what Joe Camel was to Cigarette smoking. (If the Cubs caused Cancer we’d all be Millionaires. Unfortunately, the Cubs only cause wildly baseless optimism and heart ache.)

The WGN media conglomerate indoctrinated a whole generation of impressionable Nickelodeon lacking youths into a lifetime of cubs servitude by literally baiting us with colorful and exciting, but ultimately flawed animated drawings then switching in a collection of colorful and exceptionally flawed baseball players. Darkwing Duck definitely would have bunted into a double play.

As a preadolescent none of this was apparent to you, you’d watch that Cubs game praying it would end early so you could catch some Tale Spin at the very least. Slowly you start to learn some of the players names, then you start to pay attention to the standings (if we sweep the four game series with the Braves we’ll only be 5 games under .500 and maybe make a season of this), you know the pitching rotation, then you learn who hits better at night, who hits better against left handers, who can’t hit the curve and slowly it all starts to matter.

Then one day your Dad drags you to an adult party, you’re miserable, scratching at the walls with boredom, and Harry offers a little much needed enthusiasm to an overcast day. Its always Harry who gets you first. The Cubs-Expos game in early October of 1987 had absolutely no playoff implications. This game was unimportant for a multitude of reasons, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to Harry. This was baseball and it didn’t matter who was playing or what they were playing for, we had a game and that’s worth getting excited about! The game was close, and I cared, and it got me through an excruciating Sunday. We won and there was no going back.

I Fear For You Felix

Felix Pie carries himself well. He has a self confident swagger that transcends his occupation. If you saw Felix ordering a French Cruller and coffee at the local Dunkin Donuts your first thought would be “whatever that man does for a living I’m certain he does it damn well!”

Felix ordering a quick breakfast at DD-

• Felix wouldn’t fumble for change when the cashier rings up his order, Felix would have crisp bills ready for the offering before its totaled

• Felix would pronounce Cappuccino properly

• Felix knows what he wants to order as soon as he enters the store, but he waits for the cashier to ask because he’s urgent but not rushed

• Felix’s coffee never spills, however, if you happened to be standing next to Felix and you spilled some on yourself, Felix would instantaneously whisk his hands across the stain, absorbing the liquid with his fingertips, cleansing the fabric with his palms then flicking his hands with such meteoric speed that the coffee absorbed in his fingertips vaporizes into a fragrant brown mist and floats away. Usually before you even notice that the level of coffee in your cup has dropped. The man is quick……., and courteous.

It’s fair to say that I am pretty excited about the Felix Pie era.
He plays center field like a bird of prey; he doesn’t catch those shots to the gap so much as swoop in and attack them. You can literally feel his energy in center as he waits for that looping liner to short right that has web gem written all over it.

His base running is hypnotic. He as has efficient swiftness about him where his legs just glide in perfect knee pumping symmetry with his arms in rhythm while his torso stays still. He doesn’t just run fast, he runs cool!

He throws the ball like nobody I’ve ever seen. He’s got a little bit of Andre Dawson in his throws; the way the ball pays no attention to gravity and travels in a flawless Euclidean line to its intended target. But Dawson’s throws always had a shotgun ‘pop’ to them, he’d rear back, there’d be a pause,‘click,’ then the ball would explode out of his arm. Felix’s ball moves more as a magnetic pulse, there’s no click and bang, his throws don’t even make a sound, they circumvent the air molecules by spontaneous vacuum and reach their destination with UFO like speed and ease. His throws aren’t just the stuff of Cooperstown they’re the basis for Nobel prizes.

His hitting…… (No grandiose praise, not yet)

I can’t remember a Cub's player I was this excited about since Mark Prior….

(No Cubs fan can read that last sentence without a pang of regret, the hurt of expectations that seemed really, really reasonable at the time.)

It wasn’t so long ago that Mark Prior drew a similar brand of evocative adoration. The ease and precision with which he went about dispatching sluggers. The command, the confidence, the magnificent future we projected onto him.

It’s all gone now. The Prior dream wasn’t extinguished quickly, it was a long drawn out affair that slowly eroded any comeback optimism that might have lurked in a quiet corner of your blue blooded heart. The news this spring that he was staying in Arizona for the start of the season raised few eye brows. It was the same old story. The news that he was slated for season ending shoulder surgery without making pitch number 1 for the 2007 cubs only hurt because it came on the heels of a 5-11 home stand and reinforces a very common strain of persecution complex amongst Cubs fans across the globe.

Are all of our franchise saviors destined for tragedy? i.e. Is Felix doomed?

Is he going be a bust like the much hyped Gary Scott?

Is he going to spark our imaginations for a year and then flame out beyond recognition like Jerome Walton?

Will he make a multi season ascent to every day player and then show a half season of all-star potential like Corey Patterson only to injure his knee and return the next season to swing at every high fastball and become such a petulant head case that even mentioning his name to any Cubs fan brings about a cursing rage that lasts into at least 3 innings.

Does it have to be this way?

The thing you have to understand, no, the thing you have to believe, is that it isn’t this way. Everybody brings up the Jerome Walton’s and the Corey Patterson’s when they talk about rookie call ups with oodles potential. Nobody ever brings up Mark Grace, Greg Maddux, or Carlos Zambrano.

It’s easier to remember the failures because pain and failure has a sticking quality that steady success doesn’t seem to have. But don’t put your baggage on Felix! There is no curse, no hex, and no tendon snapping paint in the Cubs clubhouse. Felix’s baseball career with the Cubs will rise and fall based on actions and skills totally (mostly) unrelated to the futile history of the Cubs.

But I’m human, and I can’t help but to fear for you Felix.

Bombastic Candor

Impressions on the weekend series with the White Sox, fair and balanced.

friday.JPG A dark cloud of fierce savagery envelops the city; mothers run frantically for safety clutching their shrieking babies, sirens wail in the background as icy-eyed men prowl the streets. The river bubbles with madness as the fair city of Chicago chooses sides and draw lines as the Cubs and Sox continue their epic battle for Baseball Supremacy. river.JPG

The green pasture of Wrigley Field sets the scene for the Friday afternoon start to the series. With the weaselly Pierzynski tethered to the bench for the opener, Toby Hall was presented with the perfect opportunity to showcase his infinite mediocrity. At the precise juncture of the game when all that was required of him was to make a few routine plays to close out the game, Mr. Hall committed a series of supreme botchery's. Vain attempt to catch the ball followed by vain attempt to throw the ball followed by another vain attempt to throw the ball, unearned run after unearned run pouring in as he stood at home plate watching in embarrassment as his teammates chased down another one of his errant throws. Failure of this magnitude does not go unrecognized.

For his transgressions a mighty and eternal curse shall follow Mr. Hall to his lonely, unmarked grave. May he spend the rest of his shame filled days living in caves and ditches, foraging for raccoon droppings and praying that no one should discover him and his feeble clan. For the curse is hereditary, handed down from generation to generation like heart disease or cystic fibrosis, so his children and his children’s children shall never know a moment that’s not overcast and filled with the perverse disgust of predetermined disappointment until their spineless tribe dies off due to excessive inbreeding and vitamin deficiency.
But those are the stakes, and Saturday’s game will provide another stage for hero’s to emerge and outcasts identified, for statues erected and effigies burned…

Saturday was a back and forth affair, the contest perpetually hanging in the balance, tipping towards one direction only to be redirected in the opposite direction a moment later. The game called out for a champion, a man of undeniable skill and baseball expertise to put his mark upon the game and tip the scales in his teams favor.

The pitiful cretins from the netherworld had seemingly swung momentum in their favor by hitting unanswered HR's in the 6th and 8th innings. The inbred and uncouth amongst the capacity Wrigley crowd were drooling with vengeful anticipation from yesterday’s embarrassment. As the Orc army stomped at the gates, the tortured fan base of Wrigley found themselves imagining seemingly improbable victory scenarios when an ill fated reliever of yesteryear jumped up in the right field bull-pen.
As the darkly clad forces of evil celebrated a Konerko homer and taunted the blue faithful, not a creature dared move from their plastic and steel domains (except maybe to get another beer before the cut off). The instinctive turning of the rally hat swept through the crowd as newly purchased blue talismans were inverted. sox_orcs.JPGThe tarnished ghost of a forgotten multi-vowelled reliever took his perch on the mound. Ryan Theriot took a called strike and the tension was broken as the next pitch was sliced into right field while Theriot darted instantaneously into third base.

Then something remarkable happened- Cubs fans shook off recent humiliation and roared to attention. Feeding off the energy of the crowd, Soriano drove his first pitch to score Theriot as the tying run. The crowd, still cheering for Soriano’s hit, could barely comprehend that Ramirez had just slapped the next pitch into the right field corner while a blue pinstriped blur raced around second base. Soriano flew past third and as he slid home to take the lead, Wrigley transmogrified. The Boo-birds were gone, no one needed Prior or Wood anymore, the Sosa wounds and NLCS scars were healed, and the rejuvenated heart of a team and its tortured fan base emerged.

The Cubs loaded the bases with another hit and a walk. Jacque Jones half-heartedly swung his bat at the on-deck circle while the Sox lefty reliever warmed-up. When the massive figure of baseball deity Derek Lee emerged from the dugout to pinch-hit, it dawned on Cubs and Sox fans alike, that they were in for a special at bat. The crowd roared in anticipation as Derek Lee, a creature of thunderous strength and benevolent nature, strode to the plate. After wailing comically at the first pitch, Mr. Lee eyed the next three pitches with the cool, calculated calmness of a gladiator called up from his secret mystical lair to slay the unrepentant demon beast that is the Sox franchise. The unfortunate lefty, Boone Logan, mistook his calmness for rustiness and tried, on that fifth pitch, to sneak a hittable pitch over the plate. Derrick_Lee_Grand_Slam.jpgWith one mighty swing of the bat Derek elevated the mood and decibel level of the Wrigley faithful to hysterical new heights while simultaneously casting the dirty Sox down into the dark, rat infested, feces strewn hole where vindictive losers rightfully reside.

With a three game sweep of the Sox on the line, the weather and mood for the Sunday final stood in marked contrast to the previous two games. A raw, blustery day with a dark unrelenting breeze shivering in from the east, it wasn’t a good day for baseball. The forces of evil were in full force in Wrigleyville that day. Puppies were stolen, boxes of flowers kicked over, beers spilled, elderly mocked, and A.J. slapped a ball into the bleachers for a grand slam to highlight an eight run 7th. The Cubs managed to get four of those runs back in the bottom of the eighth setting the stage for a possible rally in the 9th.
Then that great big gob a goo the Sox use as a closer, Bobby Jenks, waddled and jiggled towards the pitchers mound leaving a trail of ooze and Twinkie wrappers in his wake. The beauty of Wrigley field stood in stark contrast with that amorphous blob that stationed itself on the pitchers mound. Jenks took advantage of the donut jelly and fried chicken grease seeping from his every pore to squeeze some baseballs past the cub’s bats and salvage a game for the roustabouts in grey.

The war is never won but only prolonged and strengthened with every battle. Eternal and everlasting victory was never even an option, but a wound was inflicted and despite the inevitable healing the scars will always remain. June 22nd -24th awaits.

Cubs Karma

Don’t relax.
Don’t ease off a bit.
Don’t rest on your laurels.
Don’t start looking forward to the playoffs.
Don’t take anything for granted.
Take deep breathes.
Focus your energy and perform within yourself.
We are in a pennant race and its going to take your best effort to pull this one out.


This advice is not directed at the Cubs players, coaches or management. This is for you, the fan.

You matter.

Yes, you. Your actions, your knowledge, your thoughts, and your beliefs all have a direct effect on the Chicago Cubs and their chances of getting into the playoffs and yes, winning a World Series.


It’s called Cubs Karma. Don’t beat yourself up about the little drought we’ve had between championships, there’s a lot about Cubs Karma that we don’t know. This is what we do know:

Cubs Karma is not a religious belief system, hypothetical theorem or ultra slick lounge bar on Clark Street.

Cubs Karma is a barely visible, hyper-kinetic mass that hovers over most of the continental United States. Cubs Karma is sort of like the Ozone layer but more important.

Cubs Karma comes in two forms, positive and negative. Positive karma reduces the number of years until the Cubs win a World Series, negative increase the number of years until we raise a championship banner on the north side.


Only Cub Fans can add or detract to the sum total of Cubs Karma, here are the details of how your actions effect Cubs Karma.

Negative Karma:

  • Letting an opposing fan go un-heckled
  • Complaining about the cold
  • Ordering a margarita
  • Booing the Cubs, unless obviously deserved
  • Doing the Wave
  • Thunder sticks, stay away from thunder sticks
  • Suggesting that you care about the team on the south side
  • Reading or writing articles by John Kass or other Cubs hating journalists that are really just upset that their newspaper company won't exist soon.
  • Rally Monkeys
  • Drinking the blood of new born Eskimo's when it’s not a full moon

Positive Karma

  • Always take Cubs tickets when offered
  • Always get a few extra beers at last call
  • Don't leave the game early
  • Explain to opposing players the numerous reasons why they should not reproduce
  • Heckling the opposing team with timely humor
  • Don't go home after a game until you've visited at least 3 bars
  • Sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ at the appropriate time
  • Always know the inning/score; know the count more that 50% of the time
  • Always give caught foul balls to kids sitting near you
  • Always be able to name at least 2 random Cubs from the 80's and 90's (see: Frank DiPino and Derrick May)
  • Rally Hats

Go forth and make the best of your opportunity to bring unshackled joy and raw jubilation to our tortured fan base.

(Just kidding about the Eskimo blood, drink up whenever you need that extra boost, regardless of lunar phase)

Chicago Cubs Playoff Baseball!

It’s been a great regular season. We started the season with eight weeks of abysmal to mediocre baseball (good for lowering expectations) with a dugout dust up timed to be the perfect prelude to a rest of the season run of sound pitching (rare), solid defense (very rare), and outstanding bullpen work (unheard of).

No matter what transpires during the playoffs this has been a rewarding season. But we’re looking for more. Nobody wants to jinx it, yet we’re all wondering, how far can the Cubs go? Is this the year?

Prospects for victory:

  • ESPN’s panel of experts predict the Cubs will prevail over the Diamondbacks, eight experts to two.
  • margarita.JPG
    Bad Experts aren’t always wrong, but when they come together to agree on something like this it smells trouble

  • Vegas has the Cubs favored to get to the world series
  • margarita.JPG
    Bad. Cubs fans aren’t known to hedge their bets, we like to put our money where are heart is, to vest ourselves emotionally and financially. Heavy betting from our large fan base skews the line. A skewed line doesn’t bother me but if the Cubs have to beat the Diamondbacks, Phillies/Rockies AND Vegas to get to the World Series, that worries me because Vegas doesn’t like to lose.
  • The Cubs finished up the season hot, aside from a late season stumble in Florida the Cubs have been on a torrid pace since late June.
  • even.JPG
    Even. We’re not playing the Reds anymore.

  • We’re Due!
  • margarita.JPG
    Bad. We’re past due; it's never made a difference before.

  • Lou Pinella
  • oldcan.jpgGood!
    He’s been simply masterful in every respect. I’ve never seen a coach handle all the disparate aspects of the jobs with such skill. The entertainment value would have been worth it even if the Cubs didn’t win the division. The befuddled, slightly sleepy look on his face when a relief pitcher comes into a game and walks the first two batters he faces; the jog/walk out to the field to argue a close play followed by tempered dialog:

    Lou: ‘I thought he was safe’
    Ump: ‘Nope, he was out’
    Lou: ‘oh, well oh, you’re sure about that?’
    Ump: ‘Positive, anything else?’
    Lou: ‘Nah I’m good, just going to catch my breath for a second here’
    Ump: ‘We’re trying to play a game’
    Lou: ‘I’m leaving. You’ll give us the next one right?’

    That and every Carlos Zambrano interview always get me laughing. Entertainment value aside this Cubs team has a decent chance at making some noise in the playoffs, and if they don’t it won’t be because Sweet Lou plays his cards wrong.

  • Carlos Marmol

  • oldcan.jpgGood!

    Marmol has been the MVP of the Cubs so far. No doubt about it. Since he established himself as an integral part of the Cubs bullpen in early June the Cubs started winning all those one run games we were losing the first two months of the season. He pitches two innings most outings and can pitch back to back games, “I can pitch every day, I never get tired.” (!!) He’s our version of Mariano Rivera (late 90’s model.) Appreciate this man, recognize his greatness, love him!

  • Ghosts of October Past

  • Let's investigate….

    1. We already got pasted by the Marlins in some key games, lucky for us we’re still standing. Good bye failures of 2003.

    2. The New York Mets had an epic late season collapse that put a fork in their playoff hopes. I wasn’t around in ’69 but I’d be willing to bet my bottom dollar that Ron Santo had a private chuckle when their September fade was final. Good bye failures of ‘69

    3. The Padres lost an exciting game 163 to the mountain people when their ‘lights out’ closer (Trevor Hoffman) blew his second game in 3 days. Bye bye memories of Steve Garvey, bye bye failures of ’84

    4. The Detroit Tigers could never recover from the devastating loss of Neifi Perez for the season (due to his need for speed), steadily losing ground to the Indians before finishing a full 6 games out of the wild card spot. Detroit beat the Cubs last time they made the series in 1945, they also have the distinction of being the only team to lose a world series to the Cubs , twice (1907, ’08), so I’m not sure if this means anything

    5. The Cubs have also lost some pre WWII series to the Yankees, A’s (in Philadelphia then), Red and White Sox. But that's all pretty much off the radar for most Cubs fans and for the Octogenarians who were around back then, they’ve probably witnessed enough tragedy and heart ache to know that getting swept by the Yankees in 1932 doesn’t make too much difference now.



5 Reasons to Wait Till Next Year

Well ladies and gents - We will be assigning blame to the appropriate scape goats shortly, but for now lets take our mind off the latest swift decomposition of our Cubbies. Here are the Top 5 things to look forward to Next Year:

5) Seasoned Lou
I am not sure how much tastier he could get. Chances are he will have forgotten everyones names by Spring Training but the point is he will have a solid base and will probably figure most of them out by May.

4) ARod (maybe?)
Thank you baseball gods and ESPN for reminding Steinbrenner that he is an impulsive and totally insane man just like when he was young. ARod = Reggie Jackson and hopefully the only man ARod ever loved (Pinella) can convince the future all time HR champ to come to Chicago. ARod might not have the best reputation as a clutch performer but he would absolutely feast on the sub par NL central pitching. And if he doesn't come through in the playoffs, judging from this years Cubs playoff bats, he'll have plenty of company.

3) Mark Cuban (maybe?)
He said he was going to make a run at the Cubs, he has deep enough pockets to outbid most anyone else, he likes sitting in the Bleachers, and he has turned other sports teams into championship contenders. The tantalizing thought of Zambrano, Pinella and Cuban bringing their unique forms of energetic psychosis to the same ball club brings a silly grin to my face and probably keeps Bud Selig up at night. Bud will probably go out of his way to squash it, but when he does he will have the Tortured Fan Base to deal with.

2) Triple digits! Look for Willard Scott to congratulate the Cubs World Series drought on making it to the century mark. What an achievement.

1) Blue skies, green ivy, girls roaming the stands in tank tops, Old Style in wax cups and another season of hope. Its not easy being a Cubs fan, but it sure can be fun

They Call Him (The Big) Z

A lot of words come to mind when the name Carlos Zambrano is mentioned, aggressive, combustible, exuberant, moody, untamed, but literate has never been one of them. Until now.

You might have missed it but sometime last October Chicago’s Pilsen Neighborhood closed down some streets and celebrated “Carlos Zambrano Day” in honor of his biography, titled “The Big Z. The Carlos Zambrano Story

This was too juicy to resist. The enigmatic long misunderstood Zambrano was going to allow us, the reader, inside his mad world. Carlos would take us someplace special, mysteries would be revealed, universal truths exposed and love, happiness and inter-planetary peace would abound. Carlos would set us free!

I had high expectations. The opening line did not let me down:

eagle.jpg“The life of Carlos Zambrano is that of an eagle that flies in the middle of a storm and, facing opposing winds, ascends powerfully until it reaches the top of the mountains”

Carlos was born and raised in Venezuela
His family was very poor
He has a brother named Yormis
He was not good at baseball and nobody thought he was a good athlete
Carlos became a pretty good pitcher
Carlos went running a lot and would work on his pitching
Carlos got signed by the Cubs
Carlos was nervous about leaving his family
Carlos signed a massive, massive contract
Carlos and his family are not poor anymore
We are all God’s children
The End
(Bible quotes and praise for God heavily interspersed throughout)

Aside from the fact that this book is a thinly veiled piece of religious propaganda, there are some choice quotes that make the overall reading selectively enjoyable. Kind of like the bacon and liver dish my Mom would whip up back in the day, just enough bacon and sauce to make the liver tolerable. Of course she never charged me $15 for the privilege.

With that being said, TFB is tossing the liver aside and offering you all bacon and sauce, Dinner's up!


Carlos Biography Quotes:

“When I threw about 50 balls at him and he did not even hit so much as a foul, I realized that he did not have natural skill”
Carlos’s first baseball coach on his initial impressions of pre-teen Z

“One time all the children got together and made a sign on his bedroom door that read: “The Captain.” When the Father saw it he got very angry.”
Carlos’ brother Victor on his Father’s strictness

“I would see her and say things like ‘There is that chubby girl coming this way.’ Anything. But people would make jokes and bug me, even the leader of the brigade made fun of me about it, and I would respond, ‘Don’t joke about me and that girl because she is very ugly.”

“We started talking and kissed on the cheek and we left there as boyfriend and girlfriend. Six months later we kissed on the lips for the first time.”
Carlos recalling his courtship of his wife Ismari:

“I am going to honestly tell you the key: the first one is God.”

“That I would be signed before that “lunatic” because he didn’t play baseball. Even worse, there was a rumor going around that, once he was signed and the Americans actually saw him, they ripped up the contract in his face because they thought he was crazy.”
Zambrano’s trainer in Venezuela Julio Figueroa, on comments he received when working with Carlos

“I often talk to myself, and I remembered saying, ’Carlos Zambrano, here you are, and all you have left to do is ride this horse.”
Carlos recalling his thoughts before his first Major league game

“That was also something that God did…”
Carlos on his proficiency in English

I was so excited and I screamed. Can you imagine? I had subdued “the biggest one.” I then made some emotional gestures, not to him, but to myself-gestures showing the excitement of having subdued a big man in baseball. I thought, ‘Wow, how could I have subdued Barry Bonds?”

Carlos, on his emotional outburst following his getting Barry Bonds to ground out back in 2002

An Open Letter to the Chicago Tribune

I am a proud American and to paraphrase Homer Simpson- I like my beer cold and my sportswriters biased.


It was not that long ago that the great Mike Royko graced the inside of the Tribune's front page and provided us with a daily tidbit of insight into our world as Chicagoans. Royko popularized the famous Ex-Cub factor, at one point worked at Wrigley, loved the Cubs, and most importantly felt our pain. The great sportswriters of the Tribune managed to find ways to find the silver lining in the worst Cubbie seasons. There were occasional howls of dissent from the sports section but they mostly fell in line as you would expect when a good hearted editor swooped in and corrected their opinions.


When the Tribune writes a front page story with a misleading headline about a Democratic politician it is totally in line with their tradition as a republican mouth-piece. However, when they start allowing their silly sportswriters to bash Cubs fans and desecrate our Wrigley Field this has gone too far. As an ordained Cubs Adorer Concerned About the Future of the Franchise (CACAFF) I hereby cast out the Tribune from our ilk. Concerned sportswriters may apply for re-admittance to the CACAFF after showing sufficient humility and love for the Cubs (even if forced against their will like the good old days).


You are no longer the trusted friend who would bring us the Cubs, Steve Stone, Harry Carey, and Disney Afternoon through your benevolent superstation. With the impending breakup of the Tribune Empire into so many shards there is extreme danger in our midst.

TribuneTowerofDoom.JPGAs the Empire of the Tribune Tower is crumbling before our eyes we see the minions begin to sense a power void. I can only imagine the chaos at the Tower...the copywriters are feasting on Medill intern remains while the editors divide their soon to be worthless fiefdoms amongst the now powerless writers.

Will Wrigley be ruined? Will the Cubs win the _orld _eries? Will the north side be forever altered by the Dark Lord of Sam Zell and some equally scary Illinois State Agency? Most importantly where will we turn for good old fashioned pro-Cubs sports writing?

Harden vs C.C


You have to admit, if they were shooting American League pitchers out of one of those t-shirt cannons and you ended up with Harden and the guy next to you got Sabathia, you’d be jealous.

C.C is not just a good pitcher, he’s an icon. Something of a cross between Fernando Valenzuela, Flavor Flav and Abraham Lincoln. The proof:

• C.C has his own web site (No web site for Soriano, Theriot, Lee, Ramirez, Wood (his charity Bowling tournament has a site but that doesn’t count), or Zambrano (most surprising). (Samardzija does have a web site which I suppose puts him on “Icon” track.)

• C.C called a press conference to change the spelling of his first name to CC, removing those pesky periods. This is serious Prince, P Diddy, Madonna territory here! Red flag, upper echelon, high grade ICON. (Note: I anticipate that in the next 1 to 2 years he’ll change it again to C.C (pronounced “C point C”) and I’m just trying to stay ahead of the curve.)

• With his slanted cap and massive figure, when C.C is on the mound you don’t have to check the back of his jersey to know it.

It’s unfair to put Harden on a pedestal next to C.C but when you have division rivals entering the second half of a pennant race each picking up a big name starting pitcher within two days of each other comparisons are going to be made.


Harden doesn’t really stack up but he’s no slouch either. While lacking the recognize-ability and mound presence of C.C, when Rich needs a strikeout he’s manages to fire a few bullet train butter flies towards the plate and 9 times out of 10 the ump is pointing a dizzy and discombobulated batter back to his dugout. Steve Trachsel he is not.

Still, the beer makers got an Ace, we got a #2. On top of that C.C can go the distance where Harden is unlikely to go past the seventh inning the rest of this season. This makes a huge difference for the rapidly imploding Cubs Bullpen.

So does C.C tip the balance in the NL Central enough for the Miller Lites to regain the magic of the Paul Molitor/Robin Yount era of the early 80’s?

Anybody 6’7” 290 lbs is bound to tip the balance in some direction, and that is exactly the point.

C.C is a big dude. C.C probably displaces a lot of water in the bath tub. In grade school you might have called him big boned’d but that’s not what you really meant.

To put it another way and quote Homer Simpson,

“The only guys who wear Hawaiian shirts are gay guys and big fat party animals.”

If C.C was wearing a Hawaiian shirt you wouldn’t have to guess which category he would fall under.

C.C might be able to muscle through all that excess baggage for now but nobody has ever spent any decent length of time in Wisconsin and lost weight. I can already imagine the mayhem of C.C and Prince Fielder fighting over cheese curds and sausages at the pre-game buffet. He’s a dozen butter burgers away from entering Bartolo Colon/Wilson Alvarez territory and that does not bode well for a late season burst from C.C and the Bernie’s.


So if C.C blazes through the Cubs lineup this evening and you’re feeling a little down just imagine an even bigger boned’d C.C laboriously waddling toward the mound in September struggling to fit into his XXXXL jersey launching 55 ft balls towards the general vicinity of home plate. Advantage Cubs.


Out with the old, in with the Nucleus

flying-monkey.jpgLast week a flock of flying monkeys swirled up from the charred brick dungeon deep below the Tribune Tower. The menacing screech of these avian-primates sending word that the dark lord Sam Zell is one step closer to releasing our beloved franchise from his cold bony hands.

This is good news for 2 reasons:

1. The Cubs have been in ownership limbo for long enough. Everything has been in stand still mode since the Tribune buyout. Could you imagine if Lou decided he had enough of Soriano’s disappearing-reappearing bat and decided to quit? What top flight manager could the Cubs attract with such an unstable situation? boneyhands.jpg
2. The Cubs were never going to win the World Series with Sam Zell as owner. Powerful forces were at work ensuring any Cubs title hopes would be thwarted. It is widely understood that any drought breaking championship win by the North sider's would instantly ensure everybody even loosely associated with the club, from the owner down to the bathroom attendant, a place in Cub’s lore. Their own float in the parade and another line in their obituary. They would be remembered forever. But, the exact minute the Cub’s get that final out, the owners place in history set, the resale value of the franchise drops a couple hundred million!

Think about it. It’s not just the Cubs that are for sale, it’s not just Wrigley Field that is being sold, and not just 25% of Comcast sports net. What’s also being sold is the opportunity to have your name toasted in bars all over the world, to be famous, to be revered, to be immortalized. $700 million for the Cubs and Wrigley, $200 million to live forever.


You might not have realized the premium placed on this potential honor, but you can be sure anyone with a vested interest in getting the Cubs sold for the highest price realized this. The top of that list has Sam Zell’s name on it in big John Hancock size print.

Just below is Bud Selig’s name, and below that every other owner of a Major League Baseball team. (If the Cubs house goes for 900 million, all the other houses in MLB village are looking more expensive.) The people on that list are rich and more than capable of ensuring that they get richer.

So a sale to just about anyone at all would be great news. I don’t know much about Mr. Tom Ricketts and his fantastically rich family, except that they share a surname with a vitamin-D deficiency that is the scourge of many developing countries. As long as none of them are directly responsible for the creation and perpetuation of the disease then I think they’ll be fine owners.

Wild Speculations: Definitive Answers to Impossible Questions

With the recent inauguration of Barack Obama, Illinois has the honor of being birthplace to one president (Ronald Reagan) and primary residence to three others who earned their political chops within our borders (Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Obama). This is a remarkable honor, and yet I am transfixed by one detail, one fact, one smug reality.


On January 20th, 2009 the United States of America inaugurated the first black president in the +230 year history of this nation, and even more improbable, the first White Sox fan. The odds that a White Sox fan would be president are so infinitesimally small that it is quite literally incomprehensible. The odds are not quite zero, but as they say in calculus, it is a number approaching zero. Don’t believe me? Just try these numbers on for size:

• There can’t be more than 4 million actual Sox fans and that’s probably a high estimate
• 40% of Sox fans are under 35 and not yet eligible to run for US president
• 15% of Sox fans are foreign born and not eligible to be US president
• 98% of Sox fans have the communication skills of a Streets and San foreman (sentences littered with grunts, snorts, creative curse words and semi-logical points punctuated with specks of spit arcing wildly in multiple directions. (Think Mayor Daley at any news conference))


• Of the remaining Sox Fans, approximately 0% have an outlook on life that is positive and attractive enough for a broad majority of Americans to willfully choose him (or her) as a national leader

It is not just audacious, it defies all reason. It’s more improbable than Charlie Bucket getting the golden ticket in Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory with just two Wonka bar purchases!


Nonetheless, the most current president of the United States is a White Sox fan, this is indisputable. But what is very, very, very disputable is the question of another local president and his MLB allegiance.

Yes, I am going to explore the issue of which baseball team Abraham Lincoln would have rooted for regardless of the fact that baseball did not even have codified rules or a professional league until a good 10-15 years after his tragic death.

The question, as posed, is which team Abraham Lincoln would root for if he was resurrected (Jesus style) and lived among us in these modern times.


Assuming he would stick to his geographic roots and live in central Illinois, the teams in the running would be the Cardinals, Sox and Cubs.

St. Louis Cardinals, case for:
Springfield is nominally Card country, it’s less than a 2 hour drive to St. Louis and the dusty farmer scene of Springfield jibes more with the dirty river town lifestyle in St. Louis.

Case against:

I can’t for the life of me figure out what, if anything, the Cardinals stand for. Being bland, boring and overweight? Politely applauding Tony La Russa as he over-manages another game? Deriving your entire self worth from your proximity to Albert Pujols' hitting prowess? Being a Cardinals fan isn’t something you consciously choose, it’s like hereditary heart disease you’re just born with it.

Plus Missouri was a slave state back in Abe’s day and Stephen Douglas carried the state in the 1860 election.


Chicago White Sox, case for:

• Abe is known to wear a black hat on occasion
• He’s also said to have been a bit moody

Case against:

Intelligent, articulate and thoughtful people do not gravitate toward the ball club at 35th and Shields. Abe Lincoln presided over the bloodiest war in American history, but at heart he was a man of peace, Sox fans at heart are brawlers prone to fits of mindless violence.

Chicago Cubs, case for:

1. Log Cabin = Wrigley Field
Rustic charm has universal appeal despite lack of modern comforts, equally primitive toilet system

2. Boys in Blue = Chicago Cubs = Union Soldiers
The color blue resonates deeply with Lincoln as that was the color of the uniforms the Union soldiers wore

3. General Ulysses S Grant = Lou Pinella
This is self-evident. Both are born leaders blessed with innate strategic brilliance despite obvious shortcomings in other areas of their lives. TFB goes so far as to say that this year’s Cubs season will be analogous to Grants battle of Shiloh; surprising, violent, huge casualties, yet ultimately victorious.


4. But most seriously
Lincoln did not live the coddled life of privilege; his mother died when he was nine of “milk sickness” (whatever that is/was), his dear older sister Sarah died about a decade later while giving birth, his first love died of typhoid fever, his second engagement turned him down flat (ouch!), when he finally found a willing partner in Mary Todd three of their four sons died before making it out of their teens.

Even his successes had depressing results in that his very election to the office of President precipitated nearly half of the nation to secede before he was even sworn in and almost immediately called to lead the nation out of the “bloodiest war” in US history.

Lincoln was a man who knew pain and loss intimately. A man who allegedly suffered from clinical depression for most of his adult life, yet was able to get out of bed each and every morning and face the day with a new sense of hope and belief against all odds that this new day will be better than the previous.


The Cubs legacy of heart break and sorrow is trivial compared to the troubles Abraham routinely encountered throughout his life. But if there is any team with a history and a culture that Lincoln would appreciate and identify with, and a fan base so tortured yet blissfully resilient, the Cubs are the one.

-Aside #1: Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his Baseball sympathies are conveniently ignored in this post because the whole issue is entirely too depressing but again necessitates the Abraham Lincoln as Cubs fan argument.
-Aside #2: While researching presidents for this post I found out that Richard Nixon was a Quaker. This really challenges my preconceptions of what Quakers are all about but on another note it raises the delicious possibility of coming across a box of Quaker Oats with Nixon’s ugly mug on the front.