A League of Her Own

Take a Good Look in the Mirror, Cubs Fans

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Congratulations, Cubs fans. You've officially hit an all-time low.

Last night, you booed a 20-year old rookie in his Wrigley Field debut.

Never mind that this particular rookie hit the tar out of ball in Spring Training, hit a 3-run homer in his first major league at bat, and has done everything the Cubs have asked of him since he came to the organization. Never mind the pressure of being 20-years old and having 1,000,000 people hanging on your every play and every at bat. Never mind the fact that the Cubs were playing terrible baseball before this rookie got here.

If you make a mistake (or three) at Wrigley these days, prepare the be booed. 

Actually, that's probably not even accurate.

I've seen Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot muff a bakers's dozen of grounders this season, yet I've never seen the heros of short white guys everywhere booed. I've seen Derrek Lee flail away at the plate like a cephalopod, but have yet to hear boos for everyone's favorite player. I've seen Randy Wells give up 6 runs in two innings, but don't recall him getting booed off the field.

And yet, last night, you chose to boo a 20-year old rookie in his 4th major league game.

Shame on you

I'll admit, I'm not the biggest fan of the crowd at Wrigley these days. Whether it's dumping beer on opposing players, the boo birds that seem poised to attack at a moment's notice, or the few bad apples hurling racial slurs at players spoiling the whole damn bunch, Wrigley these days feels less like Wrigley and more like Yankee Stadium. Without all the championship banners.

I don't think I ever heard Cubs players booed before 2004.  Alas, with the excitement of 2003, a whole new breed of Cubs fans jumped on the proverbial bandwagon and into the bleachers at Wrigley. The good news was that the new fans expected to win and put (some) pressure on the organization to do so. The bad news was that a lot of them didn't have very nice manners.

There's been a lot of talk about rthe physical renovation of Wrigley as of late, which I'm in favor of. However, I'm even MORE in favor of an overhaul of the current fan base. To make it short and sweet: BE SMARTER ABOUT BASEBALL.

To that end, I have some tips for (75%) of the crowd frequenting Wrigley these days:

1) Stop liking players just because they look like you. It's okay to cheer for Mike Fontenot because you're also 5'8" with horrible mutton chop sideburns, but stop pretending he's an all-star. If you don't know why he's not an all-star, please do some research into what makes a player valuable.

2) Learn to differentiate between bad players and bad people. Is Milton Bradley a headcase who generally fails at life? Yes. Was Jim Hendry justified in giving him a chance because he's one of the most-disciplined hitters in baseball? Yes. Did Jake Fox seem like a great guy? Aboslutely. Was Lou right to hide him from opposing teams toward the end of the season to disguise the fact that he couldn't hit a fastball, thereby retaining his trade value? Abso-freaking-lutely. 

3) Accept that there is racism at Wrigley and stand against it.  Are you the guy who looks away and doesn't want to get involved when you hear someone call Marlon Byrd, Milton Bradley, or Derrek Lee the "N" word. WELL FREAKING GET INVOLVED. What kind of realistic chance do you think Cubs fans have of bringing big-name free agents (black or white) to Wrigley if we get a reputation was a fan base full of racists? Tell security, give the guy a piece of your mind, take a photo of him and post it on the internet with "racist" under it. But for GOD'S SAKE, don't just sit there and let these people represent us.

4) Learn when to boo and when not to  I'm not a boo-bird myself (unless we're playing the Cardinals), but I also don't believe it's never warranted. For example, Soriano dropping his 3rd ball in two game? Worth a boo. 20-year old rookie making 3 errors in his Wrigley debut? NOT WORTH A BOO. Neither is Aramis Ramirez struggling to get out of a slump, Carlos Marmol giving up a run, or Soriano missing a difficult play against the wall.

For crying out loud, booing loses its effectiveness if you do it all the time. Also, it makes you super--annoying. If you're going to boo, at least do it sparingly and pick your subject carefully.

5) Stop trying to trade Zambrano: I don't care what bright-orange would-be-sports-journalists say, he's not only the best pitcher on our team, but also one of our best hitters and a die-hard Cub who wears his emotions on his sleeve. He's does everything the Cubs ask him to do, including brain-dead moves like sending him to the bullpen. He loves the Cubs, the city of Chicago, and the fans. Embrace him.

6) Stop characterizing minority players as "lazy" and white players as "scrappy." I think this one is fairly self-explanatory. I've seen Ryan Theriot with a lazy "ole" move at a grounder just as often as I've seen Ramirez not run out a grounder. Take a step back from your prejudices and you'll see it, too. 

7) Stop letting sports radio sports columnists form your opinions of players Look, people who make their living in sports radio and by writing sports columns have to come up with something to talk about . .  even when there's nothing to talk about. Not only that, they're influenced by the same personal experiences and prejudices you are. Hell, least season Paul Sullivan admitted on television that he gives more favorable coverage to players who are nice to him.

Be a savvy enough fan to recognize that part of  the job of those who work in sports media is not only to report what's going on in sports, but to stir up controversy that invokes discussion, thereby gaining more readers/listeners. I enjoy sports radio and writing as much as anyone, but there's a difference between listening/reading and taking what is writen/said as the gospel truth.

These are merely some of the things bothering me about Cubs fans at Wrigley these days. But if we can get these under control, I think we'll be headed in the right direction. Let's all stop worrying so much about preserving the bricks and mortar that make up Wrigley Field, and worry more about preserving the reason so many players long to play in the Friendly Confines.

Be passionate. Be polite. Support your team.

 

 

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53 Comments

MB21 said:

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Good stuff, Julie.

AndCounting said:

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Hooray!

For the record, I'm all for booing bad calls by the umpire, Cardinals, and other people named Castro if they happen to be cruel dictators. Booing people who play for the team you root for, though, isn't cool. If a player did something similar to a teammate in public, he would be ridiculed, scorned, and all those other fancy lambasted-type words because it violates the concept of unity on a team. I don't understand why fans wouldn't adopt the same sense of decorum toward the team they want to win. There is no positive effect of booing your own team. To me, it shows you've given up as a fan, something we'd never excuse a ballplayer for doing.

JulieDiCaro said:

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I dunno. I was all for booing Korey Patterson when he struck out on three pitches for the 3,347th time, after having said that he saw no reason to do anything differently. To me, that's sending a message to a player that's being arrogant and selfish and hurting the team.

But what's the point of kicking someone when they're already down? You could tell that Soriano just wanted to crawl into a hole and die when he was dropping all those balls early in the season. Aramis looks like he'd like to be swallowed by the Earth every time he strikes out. I'm sure Castro was mortified last night. I don't get putting yourself in a position where you're discouraging a player on your team just because they made a mistake. It just makes no sense to me.

AndCounting said:

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There were times in the Todd Hundley era when I didn't feel bad about the boos he was receiving. But I just can't do it myself.

gravedigger said:

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Best post ever on the internets.

MB21 said:

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I don't think it sends the right message. Imagine being on the field and knowing you just did something pretty poorly. You already feel bad about it. Nobody felt worse about Castro's poor play last night than he did. He was about ready to cry and I'm willing to bet he did cry at some point. The fans berating him with boos is not a productive message.

Every player on the field is putting in more effort than the average fan would ever comprehend. Most of these guys are in excellent physical shape and they have to practice their skills so much to continue to be at the level they are at. Like us, some of the time they'll be caught napping on a play. It happens to all of us. The thing that separates athletes from the average person is that nearly every athlete is a perfectionist.

Has booing ever helped? I've not heard one athlete say that he appreciate it or that it helped him or the team. So people are booing because it's something they need to do. We know it doesn't help and we even know it hurts the team we're rooting for.

Every screw up we see on the field is a mistake. Booing will never be productive and can only hurt the team you're rooting for.

Ed Nickow said:

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Well said, Julie.

But you failed to mention another awful instance of booing at Wrigley, and that was when Soriano was introduced at the home opener. You were there, you heard it. It was embarrassing.

Fonzie might have earned it, given his lackluster performance during the first week of the season, but it was Opening Day for cryin' out loud. Time and place ... time and place.

I've often said that Cubs fans need short term memories just to stay sane. But did those boo-birds forget about Castro's debut on Friday so quickly. That was the only exciting game we've had in a week, and it was mostly because of Darlin' Starlin' Castro. I will remember that game as one of my favorites as a Cubs fan - and I've seen two no hitters in person (Holtzman and Zambrano).

Oh, and one other thing ... the Marlins did not score a run as a result of Starlin's mental lapse that led to the boos.

So ...

Give Starlin a break
What the hell were you doing
When you were twenty?

Dmband said:

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Good stuff Julie.

Not only does the team suck. Our fans suck too. This season sucks.

This is the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked.

This is gonna need to turn around, asap. Once the hawks hoist the cup (PLEASE!) this is going to be a LOOOOOOONG summer with really bad baseball on both sides of town.

JulieDiCaro said:

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Bad baseball on the south side of town makes my summer more bearable.

abe frohman said:

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HUZZAH!

smwojoz said:

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Fantastic piece. This is a must read.

Eric From The Dugs said:

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I've always been of the frame of mind that booing never helps anything, so never do it- unless it's someone from the opposing team I suppose.

I know there are times where what's going on the field is completely enraging, but I'd say it's up to the manager at that point to make the change. Yes, there are people and instances that "deserve it," but what's more important to you: giving a player their just desserts, or the Cubs performing well?

DKT said:

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Wonderful stuff, Julie.

Castro did not lobby to come up to the Major Leagues and was genuinely surprised by the call-up. I'm sure the butterflies are the size of vultures and it's all just hitting him of where he's at and what he's doing. It would be overwhelming for anyone, especially a 20-year old kid. Give him the breaks he deserves.

Gzeeb said:

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It seems to me that manners or how to act in public is no longer taught...If you add in stupid people & alcohol(which actually makes stupid people even stupider) you have a recipe for disaster..When I take my 14 year old to the Minor League games here in Tulsa there is always 5 or 10 drunken idiots in the stands...It's a sad state of affairs in all sports just not baseball....Hopefully it will change but I doubt it will any time soon.

JulieDiCaro said:

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Thanks for all the kudos, guys!

Teebob2000 said:

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>>"flail away at the plate like a cephalopod"

Internet metaphor of the week.

Cubs Psychologist said:

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Damn, Julie...That was beautiful. I might have to send this piece to Jesse Jackson. Good work.

Doc said:

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The Cubs really need to turn this thing around...and soon...because from what I have observed, if you pack 40,000 fans into the stands on a daily basis, this is going to be the result.

Maybe Cubs fans should just stop going to the games.

Anyway, I'll be leaving soon to head to Wrigley for tonight's game. I hope the rain goes away by then.

Doc said:

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Oh...very well done, Julie. I wish I was half the writer that you are.

JulieDiCaro said:

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pffffft. i'm not that great of a writer, i just know how to access my rage-y side.

Doc said:

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I don't have a rage-y side....

I am a rage-y whole. (That sounds disgusting.)

gravedigger said:

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Yes, yes it does.

JulieDiCaro said:

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And just because I'm still so mad:

Here's a 20-year old, he's not even done GROWING, physically or emotionally yet. His brain won't be fully mature until he's 25. He's a million miles from home, still learning the language, and has been annointed Cubs savior by people who know nothing about him.

If that had been my child, I would have started slugging people.

abe frohman said:

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Well, then Castro should not have promised every Cubs fan in the world that he was going to come up here and singlehandedly solve all of the Cubs' woes, both offensively and defensively. Duh.


Oh, wait. He didn't do that? That was all the sportswriters and radio guys and Cubs fans putting those expectations on him?
My bad.

Doc said:

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He should have spent a least a couple months with Sandburg at Iowa.

gravedigger said:

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And he looks like he's about 14.

Doc said:

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As far as lazy players...on the field he's been a disaster this year, but Ramirez is busting his ass off when running the bases this year...every time he hits a weak ground ball (which is quite often right now), watch how he runs it out. He's trying harder than anyone else is when a WAG is hit.

Max Power said:

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Good work, Red. I take full credit for your change of heart on these several issues -- I have a rough recollection of you writing previoiusly that players committing errors should not only be booed, but should have their houses egged.

Doc said:

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baahahahaha!!! you call her "Red"? That's excellent!

Defiant said:

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Great stuff, Julie! As a lifelong Cubs fan rooting from afar, it's easy for me to not see the state of the fan who actually occupies the stands of Wrigley Field. However, in these past years of measured success, Cubs fan has done a lot to show me just how idiotic the rank-and-file are, and how glad I am that I'm so far removed from them. I'll continue to support the Cubs, but Cubs fan, you've got to shake yourself!

JulieDiCaro said:

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I'm watching a Biography on Vivien Leigh . . that oughta chill me out a little. She's my favorite.

I just realized the rooftop game is in a week! We might have an extra ticket, if anyone wants it . . .

Cubs Psychologist said:

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Would love to have the ticket, but having a "thorascopy" done next week. Hopefully, they will give me enough meds to dope myself up if things don't get better. Should we start selling "Stay Classy Cubs Fans" t-shirts for Wrigley? Just an idea.

flyball said:

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oooh, is a "good luck" even enough to say? I hope everything goes well

flyball said:

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is that Tuesday? I would if I could, but I have a nervous breakdown scheduled for that night, sorry

flyball said:

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is he starting again today? maybe the fans will be all lvoing and huggy today

or at least will not take out their anger on Castro

thisyearcub said:

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How about getting involved with the booers? Let's point their sorry asses out and take pictures of them as well.

I go back to this: What is your booing accomplishing? Do you think the player does not realize that he messed up?

First of all, you look like a dumbass. Seriously. This guy, from the infamous "Milton forgets the out count" incident, pretty much epitomizes the dumbass booer. (0:30 seconds in).

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=5008757

I mean, seriously. You know what I boo? I boo your parenting. Get the fuck out of the stadium and go back to your WASPy life.

This video is from the same incident, only taken in the stands. Get a good look at these jokers and if you spot one this year, please do something about it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omG0GcqWoyY

/I'm TYC and I approved this message

Umbra said:

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Reed Johnson boos himself.

secdelahc said:

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You guys know I'm not against booing. I think it's a way to express frustration at the situation. Sure, I know it doesn't help the team either way. However, it should only be done in certain situations. I've only booed once at a Cubs game, during 2006 when Dempster blew his 1679th save in as many chances. Out of respect for the stadiums I go to, I rarely boo opposing players. Oh, but I do boo umpires. A lot. But booing a kid when he's making his debut? Ridiculous. This is why Cubs fans get a bad rap.

itsjenjen said:

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A think a lot of this booing controversy boils down to lack of respect for your fellow man. I'm generally not a proponent of booing, but especially when a player is trying his best and just happens to make a mistake. Geez, how often do I err in my life? Do I deserve to be chastised every time I screw up unintentionally? I don't deserve it, and neither do pro athletes.

JulieDiCaro said:

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My favorite Dalai Lama quote:

"Where you have the choice, be kind. There is always a choice."

MillsChC said:

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Maybe all the booing will remind the kid that it's not okay to lose his hustling after a misplayed ball, all while in your 4th game in the majors.

sloan peterson said:

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Great post that should be forwarded to every MLB team fan forum...

sloan peterson said:

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A story re: booing. When I was a little Sloan Peterson, I went to a Dodger's game with my dad and siblings. We had outfield seats and I remember being excited about seeing the outfielders. Tommy Davis was playing, ( this was a looong time ago) and he was not having a good day catching flyballs.The weather was cloudy, but like most players, Davis still had his sunglasses on. My father, deciding to show how clever he was yelled, "I hope the lights aren't keeping you awake" to Davis. Several fans thought my dad was clever,until Tommy Davis turned around and glaring at the stands asked whom had said that. No longer feeling clever my father slunk down in his seat and kept quiet the rest of the game. I never forgot that, and to this day, if I go to a game, I only boo the umpires if the call is bad......

LostinFla said:

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Why, as a Cub fan, would you boo a 20-yr old player with 3 games of ML experience, when he represents one of the few players on the current roster that you would WANT to be playing a major role for the Cubs in 5 years?

Edelweiss said:

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It is crappy of Cubs fans to boo the kid. They should be booing Piniella and Hendry for putting him in that position, but Castro is out there where they can reach him. It was Hendry who said they brought him up to improve the defense, and he should never have said that until there was evidence that this was the case. By saying that, he scapegoated Theriot and Fontenot, who were not the ones who lost games with their defense. It was Ramirez and some of the pitchers who lost games with bad throws. Castro can't change that,even if pitchers are considered infielders. By his statement, Piniella pitted Castro against Fontenot and Theriot, who are fan favorites. By the way, Fontenot would have to stand on two fat phone books to be 5'8", and he is the only player in MLB with his skin color. Castro will turn out to be a great player if Piniella doesn't destroy his confidence by throwing him to the lions too soon. When you bring someone in to improve the situation in an organization, you don't say that until it has been accomplished; otherwise there will be a lot of resentment, which could undermine the attempt.

Perkins said:

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I'm probably forgetting a couple of deserving entries, but I'm pretty sure this is the best thing you've ever posted on this site. Well done.

Mikrss said:

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If you have never heard a Cub booed before 2004 it's because you are either too young or have a hearing problem. Dave Kingman was booed, Goose Gossage was booed, Todd Hundley was booed (all white guys) and two years ago when Derrek Lee was grounding into double plays every 15 seconds he was booed.

Who has ever pretended that Mike Fontenot is an All Star ? He was, is and will always be a utility player and Fontenot was booed just last year when a bonehead attempt to score from 3rd blew up in his face and cost the Cubs a game. Jake Fox couldn't hit a fastball ? That is all he ever could hit, Fox was a career minor leaguer due to his inability to hit breaking pitches. Have you heard or read that Marlon Byrd or Derrek Lee were called the N word by Cub fans ? I haven't. Milton Bradley did complain about that, although he never told Lou or Hendry or stadium security prior to his complaints in the press. There have been players called racist names by drunken idiots and those drunken idiots are usually thrown out of the ballpark pretty damn quick.

You couldn't trade Zambrano and get much value, not with his contract and his declining numbers since signing that contract. Ted Lilly has been the Cubs most consistent/best pitcher the past three years not Zambrano. Zambrano does everything the Cubs ask him to do ? He wouldn't drink Gatorade to prevent cramps in his pitching hand or follow the advice of the trainer and do back exercises between starts. I haven't seen Theriot commit any plays I would characterize as lazy. Theriot has made bad plays and stupid plays, but lazy plays ?, not really.

You are correct in one regard, booing Starlin Castro is wrong. He is too good of a young prospect and he is trying hard. He shouldn't have been called up in the first place but Hendry and Lou are trying to save their jobs so they throw a 20 year from AA ball out there to save their sorry behinds.

Perkins said:

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Competitors have been booed in every sport known to man since before the Panhellenic Games in ancient Greece. However, one cannot deny that the frequency and volume of booing has increased at Wrigley Field in the last 6 years. Put simply, many Cubs fans are less fun to be around. The proximity to a World Series appearance the team enjoyed in 2003 has left many Cubs fans with what I would most generously term a sense of entitlement. Put simply, they have realized that the team doesn't have to suck, and their personalities have become correspondingly less relaxed.

Cubs fans may not directly believe Mike Fontenot to be an All-Star, but the adulation they bestow on short white players is well documented, and grossly disproportionate to those players' relative contributions. This is more severe in the case of Ryan Theriot, who is roughly average. Not good, but average.

As to the question of racism, that has been confirmed by Dusty Baker, Jacque Jones, and LaTroy Hawkins. Say what you will about performance, but the fact is that racism is never acceptable. Torii Hunter has explicitly stated that he would not accept a trade to the Cubs due to observed racism among the fans, and even Kerry Wood confirmed its existence in an interview last season. This isn't something only noticed by one or two people. It's real, and it's abhorrent.

Lilly has been worth exactly 10 WAR from 2007 to 2009, compared with 9.2 from Zambrano, and Lilly threw more innings. They're virtually in a dead heat, and Zambrano turned in his best season since 2005 last year. When you factor in his bat, which adds between 0.5 and 1.0 WAR to his value per year (on top of what he's worth on the mound), he's easily better than Lilly. That's not to say Lilly is a bad pitcher, but Zambrano is better. That Zambrano moved to the bullpen speaks volumes about his character. If I were in his position, losing a rotation spot to two demonstrably inferior pitchers (Silva and Gorzelanny), I would probably flip a shit to the media. Or flatly refuse to pitch in relief.

And Theriot may not be overtly lazy, but he is a master of what Alan Trammell calls "false hustle," and for which Trammell called him out last season. Theriot dives unnecessarily for balls he has no chance of getting to give the illusion that he's playing hard. Maybe not lazy, but certainly disingenuous. He's also a machine at making baserunning outs and dumb plays in the field.

Last season and this season so far have shown nothing flattering about Cubs fans as a whole, and one can say the same for the organization as a whole. Since last July or so, they have made it clear that they would rather pander to fans than win ballgames. It's hard to believe they're less than two years removed from being the best team in the NL.

Edelweiss said:

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The fact that Cubs fans love short white guys, but not so much big white guys probably means they love the underdog. with the North Side's ethnic makeup, a small Latino player might also be loved, and there are a few smaller black players, but not in Chicago. These fans see themselves in the little guys, the underdogs. Fontenot is the complete underdog. He is under 5'5", and can't weigh more than a buck fifty, no matter what the Media Guide says. He is also visually impaired, and has to learn to focus his eyes in every situation. He is more sensitive to the sun than anyone in MLB, including the gingers. With his condition, he shouldn't have been able to hit anything above T-Ball, but he managed to be one of the best college players of his peers. He may never be an all-star, but he is a hero to many people.

Perkins said:

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I guess I'm not as high on the underdog as most Americans are, but I'm the kind of guy who roots for the Empire. I'm certainly happy for players like Mike Fontenot, but I think they're also the type who make fans think they'd have any shot in hell of playing in MLB, as they don't realize that even Mike Fontenot is ridiculously more talented than nearly all baseball fans.

Edelweiss said:

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True, but just about all the talent he has was developed by him and his father. He calls it God-given talent, but the talent God gave him was between his ears.

Perkins said:

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And though this is probably obvious, my last comment was meant to be a reply to the one from Mikrss. I've been in Haiti for too long.

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