Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Not E-4, but 4 E's

Comes a time that even the most optimistic of fans like me realize it’s not going to happen for the Cubs this year. Only a couple days after Theodore’s thrilling near no-hitter we get last nights train wreck…count-em four errors, two each by D-Lee and Tyler Colvin.

Two errors in the same inning for the first time in his career by sure handed mitt-master D-Lee, this has got to be a sign of the apocalypse for the 2010 Cubs. The coinciding appearance of a giant noodle outside Wrigley Field looks to be a perfect monument to this years club…’The Noodle’ when uncooked is brittle and snaps easily, when cooked, is soft, bland, and needs flavoring.

The ‘Noodle’ is actually a new advertising tie in for the Cubs with Kraft and along with this season’s addition of the Toyota sign behind the bleachers the Ricketts are making noticeable changes to the Wrigleyville landscape. According to Cubs executive vice-president of marketing Wally Hayward these new advertisements will “continue to generate incremental revenue for the ballclub so we can continue to help the performance on the field”. No word from Wally on when the noodle will get the Cubs back to .500.

With the new advertising revenue appearing not to have kicked in yet in regards to “on field performance”; Derrek Lee said of last night, “Tonight is not a big-league game…We played like a Single-A team”. At least in spring training you know what you’re paying for and the ticket prices are commensurate with the value. Paying Cubs/Wrigley prices for a Single-A performance…Ouch!
I've got a new advertising tie-in for the Cubs using existing sponsors; we’ll call it “Cap & Mac”. As fans exit Wrigley they are given a free box of Kraft Mac & Cheese and a bottle of Captain Morgan, it may not change the performance on the field but might help you forget about it a little easier.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

49 Years, it's Done...Next

Congrats to the Blackhawks! 

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

So What Do You Really Think?

Drum roll please...With the 16th overall pick in the first round the Chicago Cubs select...Hayden Simpson, RHP from DII Southern Arkansas. And the crowd goes wild! Sorry I meant to say, the angry mob goes berserk! Reading around the Cubs blogosphere it's very clear many fans would like to give this pick the same treatment an opponents HR ball gets at Wrigley. Of course many of those fans also felt the same about Carlos Silva when he showed up in Mesa last spring in less than ideal playing shape.

I'm not going to argue the merits of Simpson's potential or the main reason a lot of Cubs fans were unhappy with the pick (that the Cubs could have picked Simpson in the second or third round, maybe later) but rather comment on how cool it is for us fans to have these outlets and forums for our opinions via the Internet, twitter and new media. Fans have been paying the load for pro sports since they began, buying tickets, concessions, and merchandise. In the past we had few ways to communicate our feelings or displeasure with a team or sport, mainly by not attending events or not buying products. The fact that I/we can express opinions about our team to the world no matter how wrong or foolish they are is pretty sweet. And when we are right about a player or opinion, we have a digital record of our greatness.

Who among us would have predicted the type of season Carlos Silva is having? Sure he's one of the few Cubs pitchers who has benefited from some run support but 8-0, are you kidding me. As spring training 2010 finished I felt Big Z was ready to have a good year, maybe even a breakout type year and wrote about that here. Well, that obviously hasn't happened and quite frankly Z doesn't look like he has the fire or the same zip on his fastball. I'm not saying he won't find the fire or desire at some point this season but I won't hold my breath for it.

Big Z's season thus far is kind of a microcosm of the Cubs year, with moments when you think, maybe, just maybe, they might pull it together and do something. Many experts picked the Cubs to finish third in the division so I guess they're about where they should be, of course the current record is with A-Ram and D-Lee having miserable seasons at the plate. At 6.5 games out of first in the division I've got to think that if Lee and Ramirez were having typical hitting years that the team would have 3-5 more wins and be right in the hunt. I'm not giving up on this season yet but at some point the Cubs need a spark or some aggression and have to make a run before it becomes too late.
Mesa has come up with a plan to fund the proposed Cubs spring training complex and keep the boys in blue here in the desert. Another recent article talks about some of the financial issues facing the Cactus League. The local AZ squad and Colorado Rockies have named their new spring training complex (to open spring 2011) it will be called Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. There is also a video on this link page where former Cubs Hohokam Stadium Manager Dave Dunne talks about the new shared facility that he is helping to oversee as the new DBacks Spring Training Operations Manager.
Now let's head up to Wrigley North and start that run!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Blogging and Blackhawks

We had a few technical issues that stopped the presses here on the Boys of Spring blog, but those problems are now history and I'll be blogging regularly again. The blog I posted on May 12th didn’t appear until this past weekend when the technical difficulties were resolved, so if you missed it and want to find out some interesting stuff about baseball on Catalina Island, go back and check it out. Jim Vitti’s new book, “Chicago Cubs: Baseball on Catalina Island”, is a story all Cubs fans should enjoy.

Big Z back in the starting rotation this evening and, hopefully, this can help light a spark under the team. These last two games losing in the late innings to the Pirates have been very hard to stomach. To that I say, how about those Chicago Blackhawks! At least one Chicago team is winning against a Pennsylvania team and with the stakes much higher.
Monday's win over the Flyers was huge, taking a 2-0 series lead in the pursuit of ending the NHL's longest current Stanley Cup championship drought. That’s a near fifty year drought since the Blackhawks’ last Cup title in 1960-61. Fifty years...big deal. That's nothing. We're Cub fans.

Seriously though, getting the once proud franchise back on a competitive level is great to see and former Cubs President and marketing guru, John McDonough, has had a big hand in the Hawks revival. McDonough, the current Blackhawks President, brought back Tony Esposito, Stan Mikita, and Bobby Hull a few years ago as Ambassadors for the team. That was a great start in establishing a better relationship with fans and former players.
It wasn't long ago that many fans would have scratched their heads if the Golden Jet Hull had been named a Blackhawks Ambassador, mainly due to his Harry Caray like love for the taverns and a reputation as a bit of a wild man. I can personally vouch for the Hull's talents as both an ambassador and enthusiastic imbiber of fun and spirits, at least during the evening I hung out with him.
A little backstory, my family moved to Arizona when I was in high school. Before that I'd spent my entire life in the Midwest. I loved watching and playing most team sports including baseball, football, basketball, and yes, hockey. My love and knowledge of hockey would eventually come in handy when I would meet the Golden Jet.
Hall of Fame baseball star and longtime Cubs radio broadcaster Lou Boudreau held a charity golf tournament in Arizona every spring back in the 1980's and early 90's. Lou would always throw a big cocktail party for the participants and VIP's at the tourney. One of these parties was held at the picnic area outside Old Hohokam Park and, as the Cubs Hohokam announcer, I got an invite. Boudreau's tournament always brought out many baseball greats and former Cubs as well as a who's who of the Chicago sports scene.
So I was at the party, recently out of college and hanging with some of the athletic legends I worshiped as a child. After downing a courage giving beverage, my anxiety over walking among the sports stars and being the youngest person at the party subsided, and I started mingling. One of the first people I met and talked with was Hank Sauer, "The Mayor of Wrigley Field", who won the NL MVP with the Cubs in 1952. The evening was still young, in spite of my several relay hand-offs at the open bar, when I noticed him - one of my REAL sports idols -- the man with a 100+ mph slapshot. The Golden Jet himself. Bobby Hull. Unlike Sauer, who was done as a major leaguer before I was ever born, I had witnessed Bobby Hull's amazing skills on the ice until his long career finished in 1980.
I'm thinking, here’s a guy I want to meet just to tell him how much I enjoyed watching him play hockey. I walked up and introduced myself to Hull who at this time was about 10 years retired and in his early 50's. Then nervously trying to make conversation, I proceeded to rattle off a list of players names that he had played with or against back in his Blackhawk days. A few of the names were fairly obscure, so I think he then realized in spite of my age I was a true longtime fan. With that, the Golden Jet and I formed a quick kinship based on from what I could tell three things... hockey, Hull, and happy hour...not necessarily in that order.
We talked about many things including, him playing in the NHL with his brother, about former teammates and that crazy North Stars goaltender Gump Worsley, who played against Hull and his blistering slap shot at 42 years old WITHOUT a mask. When I asked him how fast his slapshot really was, he said it was consistently over 100 mph and once clocked at 118, according to Hull, that was not such a big deal as he could hit 96 on a backhander. Our conversation flowed as easily as the drinks from the bar and, in true ambassador fashion, the Golden Jet started introducing me to everyone he knew at the party as if I were one of his long lost pals.
Hull, at one point, good naturedly cracked one about his famous son Brett, who was making BIG money in the NHL at that time, for regularly getting alligator arms when it came time to pay the check at dinner...leaving "the old man" to take care of it. Yes sir, it was a fun evening hanging with the Golden Jet. And as the party started to break up, Bobby suggested that we head to a certain type of club where we can watch some...err...entertainment. Maybe I better save that story for another time.
Go Blackhawks ! Go Cubs!
The young Golden Jet