Tuesday, July 22, 2008

No Offense but...

Last night Rich Harden pitched outstanding, another 10 K's with only a loss to show for it. Harden made one mistake giving up a HR to Alex Romero, combined with no run support from the Cubs' offense resulting in a disappointing 2-0 defeat to the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. It really was a tough loss as the Cubs hit Randy Johnson hard, but the balls went either right at someone or the DBacks made excellent defensive plays. It's a very good thing that Alfonso Soriano is coming back this week - provided he has no set-backs - the Cubs need an offensive spark. It's games like last night and the two losses in Houston where his bat could make the difference between winning and losing.

Good to see Soriano back (fielding during bp)

Some observations from last night's festivities at Chase Field: Man, it was HOT - I don't mean outside - but inside the building. I suppose some seats are better than others in this regard, but maybe the DBacks are trying to cut down on the cooling expenses because it was downright uncomfortable. At least at Wrigley, when it's hot you have a chance of getting a cooling breeze.

Cedeno started at 2nd

The introduction of the Cubs starting line-up was a joke. The barely audible PA Announcer rattled thru the line-up so fast if you sneezed you would have missed it. Very disrespectful to the visiting team in my opinion. Of course the intros for the DBacks were of the over the top basketball/hockey like variety. Randddddddeeeeee Johnnnnn-sonnnnnn, yea we get it...nothing like trying to artificially pump up the unresponsive DBacks fans. This stadium has some great amenities, no doubt, but what a contrast from my recent experience at Wrigley. Chase Field is the anti-Wrigley with it's Las Vegas style eye-tormenting cluttered neon and advertising everywhere you look.

Fontenot and Theriot have a laugh during bp

A huge amount of Cubs fans were on hand (as usual) displaying much more enthusiasm than the mostly stoic DBacks fans. The Dbacks also have between-innings live commercials with separate announcers who are doing bits or promos from different areas of the ballpark. At one point they are on top of the dugout doing a "let's make a deal" type giveaway. A Cubs fan selects the box which turns out to have a pail of water in it. Of course, the skit ends with the pail of water being thrown onto the fans and, you guessed it, not water but confetti. This skit wasn't even funny when the Harlem Globetrotters did it ad nauseum in the 1970s and 80s. Sorry about the rant but these things things seem more annoying to me when the Cubs lose.

I'll be watching tonight's game on WGN from the cool, comfort of my couch.

Things are looking up with Soriano back soon

Go Cubs~

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Back Where It Started

Sitting here watching the Cubs and Dempster on MLB TV trying to get a win in Houston, bases full of Astros with the Cubs up 3-0 in the 5th inning. Dempster just K'd Backe for out 2, wow Backe is pissed on the called third strike. Ramirez just caught the 3d out and the Cubs escape a bases loaded no out situation.

It would be nice to get a win today and start winning some road games; the Cubs come to AZ tomorrow and I will be at the game. I will post my photos from Monday's Cubs/DBacks game on Tuesday morning. It should be an interesting game with Randy Johnson facing off against Rich Harden. Alfonso Soriano is going to play tomorrow with the Mesa Cubs and then back with the big boys on Wednesday or Thursday. Soriano's return this week should be a shot in the arm for the Cubs' offense.

Theriot just drove in Fontenot, Cubs 4 Astros 0, bye bye Backe. Back here on Tuesday morning with a report and photos from tomorrow night's game.

Go Cubs~

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pops and Me go to Wrigley

What a great trip to Chicago in spite of the crappy game we saw against the Reds on Thursday but the Cubs came back on Friday beating the Giants 3-1 in a thriller. As I mentioned in the last blog my dad and I went along with the Hohokams on their annual trip, which meant we saw two games at Wrigley Field (last Thursday and Friday).

Hey-hey, I'm at Wrigley

Those two games were vastly different experiences for us and not just because of the outcomes. In the Cubs 12-7 loss to the Reds we were in the center field suite, it's a nice set-up with lots of room and fantastic catered food and drink. The trouble is you are in this hermetically sealed room with no feel for actually being at a ballgame and no outside seating. It's more like a small bar with a great view but you can barley even hear the 40 thousand plus fans when they cheer after something exciting happens. Sure we stayed dry when it rained that day but I felt disconnected from Wrigley Field and the fans. The fact that the game lasted three hours and fifteen minutes and the Reds blasted Cubs pitchers for 7 HR's didn't help.

A day earlier we were in the hermetically sealed black box

After Thursdays black box experience Friday was like being at another completely different ballpark, we had seats in section 122 behind home plate slightly towards the first base side. I looked at the starting lineup for the Cubs on Friday and saw Daryle Ward, Reed Johnson, and Mark DeRosa manning the outfield with Marquis the starting pitcher and was a bit apprehensive, then remembered the Cubs were facing the Giants. The game was a pitchers duel with Jason Marquis shutting down the Giants, the Cubs didn't break thru until the 8th when Aramis Ramirez hit a game winning 3 run HR. The game was even better for my dad and me because we sat for one inning in the first row behind the Cubs dugout; (courtesy of a friend of the Hohokams) those are simply amazing seats. We were also treated like kings over at Bernie's Bar before the game, a huge thank you to all those who made that happen.

A-Ram as seen from the front row

A-Ram takes a curtain call after 8th inning HR

The other hero of Fridays win Jason Marquis

If you've never been to a Friday day game at Wrigley, put it on your list of things to do in life, it's baseball meets Disney World. I know all games at Wrigley are special but Fridays just rock! This was my dad's first time ever at Wrigley; he's a fun loving guy from Irish American roots who has been known to bend an elbow on occasion. For him Wrigleyville was as if he'd found Shangri-La.

I've been to many of the bars around Wrigley but hadn't been to Murphy's Bleachers so that was a must this time. We stopped into Murphy's prior to Thursday's game only to hear the song "Friends and Family" playing on the sound system. While it certainly is a cool song and one Cubs fans can relate to, it has special meaning for me as my cousin Tracy played guitar in the band (Trick Turner) that made and recorded the song. Several years back I put the song on a mix CD that gets played at Hohokam every spring training. Murphy's is a very cool pub and much bigger inside than it looks from the outside. At Murphy's we met and chatted with some very nice ladies who had come to the game with there senior center, they had tales about bringing the kids to "ladies day" back when and were keen on swapping other Cubs stories.

Murphy's Bleachers after Thursday rain

Pops and I got the chance to go on the field prior to Thursday's game as the Hohokam group had their photo taken; I had one of the Hohokams take a shot of me and my dad on the field. That day ended up being a gathering of many of the Hohokam Stadium spring training crew at Wrigley as Stadium Manager Dave Dunne and Hohokam organist George Kiefer along with me and about 25 Hohokams all were in attendance. Robert Brinton the Hohokam Groups newly elected "Big Ho" (how's that for a title) talked with Len Kasper and Bob Brenly on WGN about spring training during the 3d inning of Thursdays game. Len Kasper was gracious enough to mention that we were at the ballpark and that my dad was attending his first game at Wrigley. The excitement and level of electricity in and around Wrigley was unbelievable, especially sitting in the stands on Friday...you just knew that one of the players was going to come through and the Cubs would win it.

Pops and me on the hallowed Wrigley sod

So here we are at the All-Star break with the Cubs sporting the best record in baseball (tied with Angels) with Soriano due back soon and Rich Harden in the rotation...it should be one hell of a second half. Being a Cubs fan the optimism is always somewhat guarded but I'll tell you what, I plan on being back at Wrigley to see the Cubs play this October! Enjoy tonight's Cubs game...er...uh...I mean All-Star game. T

Took this shot of Mike Fontenot while sitting in the front row

Monday, July 07, 2008

Speeding to the All-Star Break

Great game from Cubs pitcher Sean Marshall yesterday, a series win on the road against the Cardinals is always fun, too bad the Cubs let one get away missing the sweep. At any rate extending the Cubs lead over those birds in the standings is huge. Now if the Cubs can follow up with a strong home stand at Wrigley before the All-Star break it will be a very successful first half indeed.

It's fantastic to see a franchise record 7 Cubs on the NL All-Star squad. The Cubs are getting a lot of national media hype and deservedly so, expectations will only be raised from here -- having those 7 guys along with the rest of the ballclub playing like All-Stars come October is what really matters. The Cubs have talent and offensive prowess (especially when Soriano returns) and in my opinion have the right Manager in Lou Piniella to get the job done.

Rookie All-Star Kosuke Fukudome

Rookie All-Star Geovany Soto

With the Brewers closing in the standings and acquiring CC Sabathia the second half of the season in the Central division looks like a three horse race. It will be interesting to see what GM Jim Hendry pulls out of his bag of tricks to possibly get another starting pitcher for the Cubs.

Last week while driving across country back to AZ I was pulled over in a small town for speeding (less than 10 mph over limit) and then something unprecedented happened. The first thing the officer said to me after seeing my Cubs ball cap on the dash was "Are you a Cubs fan?" being in Nebraska I wasn't exactly sure why he was asking but I said "yes, I am". He then goes back to the squad car with my drivers license and registration, upon returning he says "I'm going to give you only a warning but please slow down". At that point I had to ask, "Are you a Cubs fan"? "All my life" he says, so we proceeded to chat about the Cubs for several minutes. I told him I do the Cubs spring training public address at Hohokam and he should come out for spring training, he said he plans to make the pilgrimage some day. Then off I went, thinking how cool it was to escape getting a ticket because I was a Cubs fan. Unfortunately the Highway Patrolman in Colorado wasn't a Cubs fan.

Now the part I am really excited about - this coming Thursday and Friday I will be at Wrigley Field when the Cubs take on the Reds and then the Giants! The trip is with the Mesa Hohokams and I am taking my Dad along so it should be a great time. I love the city of Chicago and can't wait to get some of that great authentic Chicago style pizza. It's a quick trip Wednesday to Saturday, I will post photos and blog about the trip upon returning. Wrigley Field here we come!