It Could Happen Tonight

MLB: World Series-Chicago Cubs at Cleveland IndiansThe fact that I am writing the words “the Cubs can win the World Series tonight” still does not seem real to me. This is a day I’ve thought about ever since I became old enough to understand baseball, the Cubs, and everything that comes with being a Cubs fan. To make it simple: today is the biggest day of my entire life, and I’m sure I’m not alone on this.

I can’t help but think about all those times I played this game out both in my head and in my backyard as a kid. Game 7, bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, two outs, and the winning run coming to the plate in front of a delirious Wrigley Field crowd. Obviously tonight’s game will be played in Cleveland, but still. The thought of the Cubs winning the World Series is one that has passed through my head on average of at least once a day for nearly the last 18 years of my life, and now here we are about 8 hours away from the first pitch of Game 7 of the World Series.

From the moment the Cubs recorded the 27th out in Game 6 Tuesday night, I’ve been trying so hard to not get caught up in the moment, to not think about what is at stake in Game 7. I have been rather unsuccessful thus far in blocking those thoughts from entering my brain, and therefore I am working on minimal sleep today.

Now I’ve got to be honest. I have never actually been able to picture the Cubs winning the World Series. I can’t get an image in my head of what it would look like if they storm the field and create a dogpile on the pitcher’s mound and hoist that trophy. As hard as I’ve tried, I just keep coming up empty. And honestly, I’m fine with that. I want to see it actually unfold in real life, not in my head.

I also can’t help but think about everything that has preceded this day.

My dad’s parents, my grandparents, and my great grandma were all diehard Cubs fans who came and went without ever seeing their team win it all. One of my uncles, who passed away far too soon and whom I never had the opportunity to meet, was also a diehard Cubs fan and was even drafted by the Cubs out of college to pitch and play the outfield; a dream come true. He never saw the Cubs make the World Series.

Then there are people like my dad, one of my other uncles, and my dad’s friends who have suffered through over 50-60 years of disappointment with the Cubs. I can guarantee you they will all agree that waiting so long for a World Series title was well worth it if the Cubs can pull it off tonight.

And even I, almost 25 years old, can’t help but recall my earliest memories of being a Cubs fan and everything that has happened between then and now. From my first Cubs game at Wrigley Field against the Marlins in 1997, Sammy Sosa’s historic 1998 season, all the vacations that my dad and uncle took my brother and I on to see the Cubs play in different parks across the country (22 of them), the heartbreak that came with the 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2015 seasons, to now being one win away from winning it all. I can’t help but get emotional when thinking about everything that has led up to tonight’s game. And really, that’s kind of what this is all about. Years upon years of waiting for this moment while making memories along the way, and now it could all come to fruition in just a few hours.

I don’t know how I am going to make it through the rest of today knowing what is waiting for us at 7:00 CT tonight. But I do know this:

IF, and it’s a big if, the Cubs can pull off the impossible tonight and win the World Series for the first time since 1908, the scene that will unfold here in Chicago will be unlike anything this country has ever seen before with regards to a sports championship. The emotions and built-up stress in us fans will all be unleashed at once. Some people may go crazy and go out partying. Some people will celebrate by hugging each other. Others may break down into tears, and some might even go silent in disbelief. As for me, I don’t know what I would do if the Cubs were to win it. I’d probably lose my mind for a minute and go bouncing off the walls, but then I would likely regroup, sit down, maybe even shed a tear, and just soak it all in. It’s a moment you cannot prepare for.

So I guess I’ll leave it at this. Tonight is the biggest night in the history of Chicago sports. It’s a night we’ve dreamed of for what seems like forever. Watch the game with people who will at the very least appreciate this as much as you. And if they do win tonight, make sure to remember those who are no longer around to see it.

Tonight, the Chicago Cubs have a chance to win the World Series.

Time To Vent

MLB: NLCS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago CubsOkay, I know it’s been months since I’ve posted anything here, but I’ve been ultra busy with my new job. Please forgive me.

So what brought me out of my hole so randomly? The Cubs, of course. But I’m not here today to discuss what the Cubs have done so far or what they might do against Cleveland. No, I’m here to talk about something that has me extremely pissed off.

Fake Cubs fans.

Deep down I knew this would happen whenever the Cubs eventually made it to the World Series, and sure enough, it’s happening. EVERYONE is now claiming to be a Cubs fan. People who didn’t watch one regular season game, out of towners who have called themselves fans of other teams their whole lives (until now), and so on. Just like that, as soon as the Cubs won Game 6 of the NLCS, people from all corners of the country are jumping aboard the Cubs’ bandwagon.

If you want to be a bandwagon fan and cheer for the Cubs all of a sudden, that’s fine. It happens every year with every sport. Fans, albeit not true fans, of other teams will root for a different team if their team is performing poorly. So be it.

But DO NOT act like you have been a Cubs fan all along. Do not try and throw at me stats and other information about the Cubs while trying to look like you know everything about the team, the same team you didn’t give s*** about two weeks ago.

I’ve seen it first hand multiple times now in recent days, where people who have bad-mouthed the Cubs at every opportunity over the years are all of a sudden trying to get tickets to Cubs playoff games, or they’re walking around the office and downtown Chicago with a brand new Cubs shirt and hat on.

I’m sick of it, and I’m sure Cubs fans who are much older than me hate it even more. If you’re going to endlessly talk trash about the Cubs, don’t expect any respect from me or any other true Cubs fan when you all of a sudden show up wearing Cubs apparel as soon as they make it to the World Series for the first time in 71 years. You’re a fraud, and you shouldn’t be allowed within a mile of Wrigley Field during the World Series.

Alright, that’s out of my system now. Carry on with your day.

Oh, and by the way… Cubs in six.

Cubs living up to the hype

2015-11-07 13.59.52For the first time in a long time, we were expecting big things from the Cubs coming out of Spring Training this year. Talks of a division title and even, dare I say it, a World Series became common throughout the baseball world. Finally, us Cubs fans were seeing everything seem to perfectly align with their roster.

Here’s the thing: saying that the Cubs have the best lineup in baseball, (arguably) the best pitcher in baseball, and that they are likely the best overall team in baseball is easy. For the Cubs to then go out and perform well and live up to those expectations, however, is a completely different animal.

Not only do this year’s Cubs have the weight of a 108-year World Series title drought resting on their shoulders, but now they have the biggest expectations in franchise history joining that drought on their shoulders. Dealing with that kind of pressure directly out of Spring Training is no easy task, yet this Cubs team has embraced it.

Expectations for this year’s Cubs were/are incredibly high, and somehow they have met those expectations through the first full month of the season.

We knew the offense would be good, and possibly historically good with the additions of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist, as well as the re-signing of Dexter Fowler. So far, we’re seeing pretty much what we had expected.

Through 25 games the Cubs have scored 153 runs, which is good for a tie atop the entire league with St. Louis, and they lead the league with a 6.12 runs per game average. They rank second in the Majors with a .362 on-base percentage. Their 134 walks are 18 more than any other team in baseball. And how about their run differential of +89. The next closest team in that category is +40. In fact, the Cubs current run differential is the best baseball has seen through 25 games since 1905. Let that sink in.

Let’s not only focus on the offense though. The Cubs’ pitching is more than deserving of recognition.

The 2.29 team ERA of the Cubs is the best in baseball, as is their grand total of 57 earned runs allowed (64 runs including unearned). Also the best in the Major Leagues is their .195 batting average against. The next closest in that department is Washington at .215. And just for kicks, they have allowed the fewest hits in baseball (153), and the fewest total bases against (239). They are tied with Cleveland for the fourth fewest walks allowed.

So not only has the offense performed well, but the Cubs’ pitching has been just as good, if not better.

As for individual performances thus far, Dexter Fowler leads all of baseball in on-base percentage at a .473 clip and is tied for fourth with a 1.8 WAR. On the mound, Jake Arrieta is second in the MLB among starters with a 0.84 earned run average, and is tied for the league lead with 6 victories. His .142 batting average against is second best in baseball, and he was the first pitcher this year to throw a no-hitter; his second since last August. In the big picture, Arrieta is in the midst of one of the greatest stretches of starting pitching in Major League history.

The scary thing about this Cubs team is the fact that offensively, they haven’t hit their peak yet. Only two “everyday” players, Fowler and Bryant, have a batting average over .300, and only one other everyday player, Zobrist, has an average over .250. Jason Heyward, the prized free agent signing, has yet to hit a home run and has just a .211 average. When the weather in Chicago turns to summer and the temperature warms up, this offense has the potential to explode.

Expectations are one thing. Going out and meeting those expectations is another, and that is exactly what the Cubs, as a team, are doing. With a 5-game lead in the Central Division (7-game lead over St. Louis), the Cubs are in the best spot of any division-leading team in the game heading into the warmer months.

Sure there is still lots of time left in the season and virtually anything can still happen. However, there is no denying that the Cubs are scary-good this year with still lots of room to improve on the offensive side. This is shaping up to be an unforgettable summer and, hopefully, fall as well.

Quit the Arrieta accusations

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Arizona DiamondbacksIt has unfortunately become the “norm” for any breakout star in Major League Baseball to be accused of taking performance enhancing drugs. Whether the accusations are warranted or not, this has turned into a common trend in the MLB. The latest such instance involves Cubs pitcher, and reigning Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta.

Arrieta is in the midst of one of the greatest stretches of starting pitching the game has ever seen. In fact, if he does not allow an earned run in his next start, he will break Bob Gibson’s MLB record for the lowest earned run average over a 20 game period. This season, Jake Arrieta has picked up right where he left off last season. He is 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA and has already thrown one no-hitter; his second no-hitter since last August.

In recent days, however, people have begun questioning if Arrieta has cheated his way to such dominance. Stephen A. Smith of ESPN even brought up this speculation on “First Take” with Skip Bayless Wednesday afternoon.

Not that I have any proof that Jake Arrieta is telling the truth when he denies these claims, but I firmly believe him when he says he has never taken a PED. Anyone who has knowledge of his workout routine or diets knows quite well that this guy takes care of his body and works to achieve his physical figure and baseball statistics.

It is sad that no great baseball player can be left alone without being accused of cheating his way to greatness. And the blame for this falls squarely on the shoulders of past and even present MLB stars who have aggressively denied ever using PED’s, only to later test positive for using them. Players like Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, and Ryan Braun immediately come to mind as such players.

Jake Arrieta was one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball while coming up through the Orioles’ farm system. He has always had good stuff and great potential, but only since joining the Cubs has he lived up to those expectations. People like Stephen A. Smith look at Arrieta’s lack of production with Baltimore and sudden dominance with the Cubs and automatically assume that this guy is cheating. My question is why?

Sure, the recent history of top baseball players being found guilty of using PED’s has created a culture of speculation in Major League Baseball. But do some thinking before jumping to conclusions.

Like I said, Arrieta was regarded as a top pitching prospect while coming up with Baltimore. He struggled in his first couple of years in the big leagues and was eventually demoted back to Triple A. Then he was dealt to the Cubs where he began working with new pitching coach Chris Bosio, who is one of the best in the game at what he does, and the success started. Arrieta has always had good stuff, but now he has finally figured out how to put it all together. It’s not as though he was some no name player with minimal potential who went from below average to dominant. The potential has always been there.

The bottom line here is that it is sad that no player can go from mediocre to great in baseball anymore without being questioned about the use of performance enhancing drugs. And the ones to blame are the guys that have been caught already, as well as the other players, coaches, and management that let guys like Sosa, McGwire, and Bonds get away with cheating for as long as they did.

Again, I have no way of knowing for sure whether or not Jake Arrieta or any other player is using PED’s, but to see professional sports journalists go on national TV and make accusations against a guy, with nothing to base them on other than statistics, makes me sick.

Arrieta has always had incredible stuff, but finally figured out how to use it all effectively once joining the Cubs. So let’s please stop this PED nonsense and just enjoy arguably the best stretch of starting pitching in the history of the game.

Pete Rose belongs in the Hall

130107_gq_trout_aOn Monday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred decided to uphold Pete Rose’s banishment from Major League Baseball. Rose has been banned from the league since 1989 due to gambling on MLB games while still playing and managing. In recent years, the argument to reinstate Rose has gained steam, leading to Rose formally appealing his suspension to the new baseball commissioner.

Manfred cited Rose’s lack of effort to get away from gambling as one of the main reasons for upholding his ban. He currently still (legally) bets on games and lives in Las Vegas where he signs autographs for money to maintain an income.

Due to Manfred’s decision, Rose will remain on the active list of players banned from Major League Baseball, a list that the Baseball Hall of Fame also recognizes.

What some do not realize is that the Baseball Hall of Fame has a Board of Directors who can determine who is and is not eligible for the Hall of Fame regardless of a player’s affiliation with Major League Baseball. Therefore, the Board of Directors has the right to allow Rose eligibility for the Hall of Fame. However, in 1991 the Board voted to ban anyone on MLB’s permanently ineligible list from being allowed to appear on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. As long as Rose is banned from the Major Leagues, he will remain banned from the Hall of Fame barring a rule change.

While I am not about to defend Rose’s actions that led to his punishment, I will argue that he should be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Here’s why.

We are currently seeing players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, and multiple others appear on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. Some of these players, like Clemens, Palmerio, and McGwire have either admitted to or were caught using performance enhancing drugs, while the others remain suspect. These guys CHEATED to become better at baseball, but are still eligible for the Hall of Fame and continue to receive votes.

Pete Rose never took PED’s or cheated to become a better baseball player. He simply worked as hard as anyone and hustled as much as anyone to be the best player he could be. He finished his career as the all time hits leader in MLB history.

Betting on games that you play in or manage is wrong in every aspect and deserves severe punishment. However, when you look at the big picture and compare what Rose did to what guys like Clemens, Palmeiro and McGwire did, how can those guys remain eligible for Hall of Fame status and Rose cannot? They flat out cheated their way through baseball by using drugs that directly affected their performance on the field. Rose did not do anything close to that.

The Baseball Hall of Fame Board of Directors has the ability to give Pete Rose the chance to get voted into the HOF. It’s time that they allow baseball’s all time hits leader and one of the greatest players ever the chance to finally end up where he belongs simply for what he did on the field every game. As long as Pete Rose is left out of the Hall of Fame and PED users remain eligible for it, the Hall is not a legitimate club as far as I am concerned.

Cubs sign Zobrist, trade Castro

130107_gq_trout_aWell as is generally the case, where there is smoke, there’s fire. And on Tuesday, there was a lot of smoke rising up above the city of Nashville where the MLB Winter Meetings are taking place. Lots of rumors began popping up involving the Cubs in multiple capacities, and sure enough they made the headlines by the end of the day.

The Cubs had been linked to Jason Heyward throughout most of Tuesday, and they still are (we’ll get to that later), but Tuesday evening the focus shifted to Ben Zobrist. Zobrist, one of the game’s best, if not the best, utility men was reportedly nearing a final decision as to where he would ultimately sign. Recent reports all indicated that the Mets were the heavy front-runners, however the Cubs made a late push and signed Zobrist to a four year deal worth $56 million. It is worth noting that of all players Cubs manager Joe Maddon has ever managed at the big league level, no player has played more games for him than Ben Zobrist. Also add in the fact that Zobrist was born in Illinois and still has family in the area, and you begin to understand why he chose the Cubs (aside from the obvious reason of them being a contending team).

What Zobrist brings to the Cubs is versatility. He wants to play second base, and he will, but the fact that he can literally play any other position outside of catcher and pitcher gives Joe Maddon extreme flexibility with his lineup decisions. He is also great at getting on base, with a career .355 on base percentage, and bats from both sides of the plate. If the Cubs don’t end up signing an obvious leadoff hitter, you might want to pencil Zobrist into that spot in the lineup.

Aside from his physical abilities, Zobrist is a winner and a leader. He has played in two World Series now, having won one last year with the Royals, and is generally looked up to by younger teammates. The Cubs, a team with relatively little postseason experience in the field, will definitely benefit from having Zobrist in the lineup come crunch time next season.

So while signing Zobrist was a big move, it may not have even been the biggest news to come from the Cubs on Tuesday. Shortly after agreeing to a deal with Zobrist, the Cubs dealt Starlin Castro to the Yankees in exchange for 28 year old pitcher Adam Warren and veteran infielder Brendan Ryan. The Yankees will take on the remainder of Castro’s contract.

Warren, the main piece coming back to the Cubs in the trade, started 17 games for the Yankees last year and posted a 7-7 record with a solid 3.29 earned run average. He figures to be a number 5-6 starter and/or long reliever. This now gives the Cubs four pitchers who can pitch in relief and make spot starts when needed. Their bullpen depth, which was problematic at times last year, is quickly turning into a strength of the team.

Getting back to Castro, his departure was one that we were all somewhat anticipating for quite some time now. Despite getting off to a horrendous start in 2015, he became a completely new player once being moved to second base, which is where the Yankees plan to start him. While his bat and clubhouse presence will be missed, it was a move the Cubs had to make for two reasons. One, they needed to open up the second base position in order to sign Zobrist. Two, they needed to dump some salary to sign Zobrist. As Theo Epstein said Tuesday night, consider the Cubs’ transactions as a “Castro for Warren and Zobrist trade.”

Looking ahead now, the Cubs are still heavily linked to Jason Heyward as well as Denard Span and, if all else fails, Gerrardo Parra. All three are either center fielders or are capable of playing the position. If the Cubs could have it their way, the belief is they would sign Heyward today.

The Cubs had also shown interest in dealing for Shelby Miller, but the Braves reportedly had too high of an asking price. Tuesday night, the Braves and Diamondbacks agreed to a trade that sent Miller to Arizona, and Dansby Swanson (number one draft pick in 2015 MLB draft) and Ender Inciarte (among a couple other prospects) to Atlanta. Given what Atlanta got in return for Miller, it is clear now why no deal was made with the Cubs. The Braves got an almost unbelievable return in that trade. It’s likely their asking price was for something much more significant than Jorge Soler.

While the Cubs are definitely in the hunt for an outfielder, rumors of their pursuit of a good, young starter have died down a bit. It is unclear if the acquisition of Warren put a halt to that or not, so those rumors could potentially pick up again at some point.

A lot more could happen today and as we approach the weekend, and it should be fun.

Rumors heating up around the Cubs

St Louis Cardinals v Chicago CubsReports have surfaced today that the Cubs are zeroing in on the top free agent outfielder, Jason Heyward. After not signing David Price or Jordan Zimmerman, it appears that the Cubs are using the money they saved to try and lure Heyward into joining the North Side. We have already talked about why Heyward would be a great addition for the Cubs, but now it appears as though the Cubs are actively pursuing him.

Along with the reports of the Cubs chasing Heyward came the numbers 8 and 200 million, and yes, those are in reference to the type of contract he is reportedly seeking. Whether or not the Cubs are actually willing to pay him $200 million over eight years remains to be seen, but it gives us an indicator as to what Heyward is looking for. However, should the Cubs spend that kind of money on Heyward?

The answer is no. And honestly, no team should. Heyward has been a solid MLB player in his six seasons in the league, winning three Gold Gloves during that timeframe, but his offensive numbers are not worthy of $25 million per year. A more realistic contract would look something like six years and $108-$120 million, which if he would agree to, the Cubs should definitely sign him. In Heyward’s defense though, he is entering his prime years as he is just 26 years old, but $25 million per year is an awful lot of money for a guy who puts up just “decent” offensive numbers. The most logical reason for him supposedly asking for a contract worth $200 million is because there are lots of teams who would like to have him in their lineup. Look at it as a low supply, high demand situation.

In other Cubs news, Ken Rosenthal has reported that at least for the time being, the Cubs don’t appear to be in the Shelby Miller discussion. They are definitely interested in him, but it sounds more like the Braves are saying no to whatever the Cubs and multiple other teams are offering. At the same time, however, other reports indicate that Miller could be dealt soon, but no specific team has been definitively mentioned. This is without question a situation to keep an eye on.

Other than kicking the tires on Shelby Miller, rumors have the Cubs inquiring on a handful of other young pitchers. Carlos Carrasco (CLE), Danny Salazar (CLE), Alex Cobb (TB), and Matt Moore (TB) have all been mentioned as possible trade targets of the Cubs. All of the above are young and have loads of potential, but both Moore and Cobb have already had Tommy John surgery, which may or may not lower their appeal.

Simply put, things are heating up with the Cubs right now. With the Winter Meetings now well underway, it seems like only a matter of time before the Cubs strike a deal with another team and/or a big free agent, like Heyward.

Stay tuned.