I'm a lifelong Cubs fan. Always will be. Why? Two reasons: 1) My late grandmother, a church-going, die-hard Cubs fan who never stopped believing, willl keep me out of heaven if I choose to love anything else.. 2) My biggest lessons in life--unconditional love, acceptance, and faith tested by fire--came in part because of this lifelong love affair with the Cubs.
As the Good Book says, faith is the substance of things not seen. Like a World Series Championship, maybe?
On the surface, there is little reason to have any faith, hope, or optmism. As of today, the Cubs (24-36) only today...snapped an eight-game losing streak. And that isn't even a franchise record...remember when they went 0-14 to start the 1997 season? Ask my broadcast partners, Les Grobstein and Steve Leventhal, whom I spar with every Saturday morning on the Weekend Sports Report, airing from 7-8 am Saturday mornings on WKRS-AM 1220/WKRS.com.
Did we lose faith in 1997? No. But we grieved...and hoped. And the next year, 1998...our faith was rewarded with rookie Kerry Wood, the Sosa-McGwire home run derby (well, it was good then!) and best of all, a wild card berth, earned in a one-game playoff with the San Francisco Giants. Never mind that we were swept by the Atlanta Braves in the Divisional Series.
That said, the facts of the Cubs' 2011 season are dismal. As their mercurial "ace" pitcher Carlos Zambrano said, "We stinks..."We're a Triple A team." Even broadcaster Bob Brenly called them a "dead-ass team." Or was that dead-last? Either way, they;re both right. The thing that amazes me about both Zambrano and Brenly is that they're still working for the Ricketts family.. No fines, suspensions, or calls for immediate dismissal. That wasn't the case a few years back, when Chip Caray and Steve Stone ripped into the slumping team in 2004. But that was the Tribune Corporation. In a family, we forgive and move on...right?
I suspect the lack of backlash from these otherwise fighting words is this: you really can't argue with the truth. Also, Cubs fans are just tired of having their hearts broken. No energy to be angry. So where is the hope? The positive? The way to pump energy back into the Friendly Confines?
Enough of the gloom of Cubs baseball. As the Bing Crosby song says..."You've got to accentuate the positive...eliminate the negative...latch on to the affirmative...and don't mess with Mr. In-between! " The optimist in me says, in the words of Howard Brown that "things can only get better." And until the Cubs work their way out of their bad season here are 10 positives we can hang on to until....next year. Can everyone say "Amen?"
1) No more fair-weather/bandwagon fans at Wrigley Field: In the most recent Divisional Playoff Years (2003, 2007, 2008) Wrigley Field had become packed with bandwagon-jumping drunken brawlers who helped earn our beloved field the reputation of the "largest beer garden in the world." No more. Only the die-hard Cub fan would put up with this team. Therefore, only the strong of heart have survived. In the month of April, the fan-o-meter showed an average attendance of just over 34,000, a precipitous drop from the 38,000+ fans the previous April
2) Fewer people at the park means: Shorter lines at the stalls and at concession stands...and the concession stands won't run out of bison dogs! (Note: they're a must-have if you've never had one. Dress it up Chicago-style for a unique treat.) Also, fewer parking hassles and post-game traffic jams. And...more beer for us..the real fans of the Chicago Cubs!
3) Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro: There's a silver lining in every cloud, as the 25 year old Barney, at second base and hitting .326 in April with 14 RBIs, was named May's Rookie of the Month...by the way, the first Cub to attain that honor since Geovany Soto in 2008. My hope is that shortstop Castro, the first major league ballplayer born in the 1990s and currently batting .301, with 3 HRs and 26 RBIs, will escape any curse associated with being on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
4) Marlon Byrd will be back: The center fielder was batting .308 with 11 RBIs and 3 HRs,before taking a ball in the eye socket from the Red Sox' Alfredo Aceves at Fenway Park on May 21. The latest "Word on Byrd" is that he may return by the All-Star break.
5) Ditto Alfonso Soriano Left fielder Soriano, who has 12 HRs, is currently on the DL with a quad injury, and MLB.com says he's scheduled begin rehab on Sunday. MLB.com reports. A best case scenario has him returning mid-to-late next week.
7) There's still time to boost attendance and fan enthusiasm by creating broadly diverse promotions and events: This is, after all, the "Token Female" column, and the Ricketts family, to their eternal credit, have proven their commitment to diversity by embracing the LGBT community.
For the next group of disenfranchised folks: How about reaching out to that most overlooked group: talented women baseball players who have never had a chance to display their talent at Wrigley Field? I have asked Jim Hendry in past years if he would consider recruiting a woman player. To no one's surprise, he expressed doubt. And I'm not suggesting he sign one now. But consider these options:
a) Invite Justine Siegal to throw batting practice at Wrigley Field: I understand that she was turned down at the Winter Meetings and at Spring Training by the Cubs' powers-that-be. But several GMs said yes, and the Baseball for All founder gathered great reviews for throwing Spring Training batting practice for the Indians, A's, Rays, Cardinals, Astros, and Mets. She would bring in the girls' Little League and adult women's baseball leagues. Also, the gratitude of millions of women who never had that chance.
b) Bring in the "Knuckleball Princess:" Eri Yoshada, the Japanese teen who became the first woman (at 16) to be signed to a major league baseball contract, was tested by fire in 2010 with the independent league Chico Outlaws. She couldn't be a lot worse than the Cubs' current bullpen. And she got her speed up considerably before injuries caused her 12+ ERA. She knew the words "I'll work harder," but apparently, she didn't know the words for "Take me out, Skip!"
c) Host a "Battle of the Sexes" with members of the Chicago Bandits. They're good. The team just played a "Battle of the Sexes" night at their brand-spankin-new Rosemont Stadium with the Will County Crackerjacks, a minor league baseball team. Bandits kicked the Jacks out of town, 6-2.
d) Host a "Meet the Recruits" Day: Hell, that's one way to get Wayne Gretzky into the ballpark. His son, Trevor, a power-hitting, left-handed first baseman, was drafted in the seventh round. Another "son of" might come in the form of 11th rounder Shawon Dunston, Jr., son of the Shawn-O-Meter, who was a #1 draft pick in 1982.
8) And remember...even if it's the wrong way, it's still record-setting. It's newsworthy. And you want to be a part of it! In 1899, the Cleveland Spiders lost 134 games in a 154-game season. Come see the record-setting 135th loss of the season....if they do that, they will beat the Detroit Tigers' 2003 119-43, which appears to be the most in a modern era.
9) Already...a comeback....As of this writing, the Cubs took the final game of their series with the Cincinatti Reds, 4-1! They are now 24-36 on the season.
10) Remember the the "worst to first" scenario" After finishing last in the N.L. Central with 66 wins in 2006, the Cubs re-tooled and went from "worst to first" in 2007. Couldn't the same happen in 2012?
Filed under: Uncategorized