First day for pitchers and catchers. Perhaps the most optimistic day in the world. So let’s get optimistic….
It’s May 25th, 2017 and I am attending my first Cubs game of the year. Rather late start for me to say the least. I love April baseball, the crowds are usually thinner and the ones going are usually a little more die-hard. But given the Cubs have spent the last two years in the playoffs, the buzz is back, which means sellouts in April. ( Sold out for the season, as usual again…) Plus, last year’s playoffs really took a lot out of me. It wasn’t the gut punch that 2003 was or the stunner that the goose eggs of 2007 and 2008 were. No, the team played really, really well. But even though the Cubs have a great squad with a healthy 145 million dollar payroll, it’s not even half of what the Dodgers are paying, and that much money simply bought a team that couldn’t be beaten. Otherwise….
Anyway, I feel good about this squad, especially seeing as how they just swept the Cardinals. A lot of people thought it was wrong to trade Appel during the off-season. But I say good riddance. Guy was a pain in the ass and talked about his next contract since the day he got here. Yeah, he won a lot of games, but we endured a lot of headaches with him too and the players they got look like they’re really good. Besides, Maples is ready for the rotation. I argued this with many Cub fans, who liked how he dominated in the bullpen last year and was un-hittable in the playoffs. But it’s time, kid has too many pitches and I think he’ll be killer.
So I take my Brown-line train ride from Lincoln Square and get off at Southport like I do and head down Addison. Kinda sucks not having Wrigley materialize from the trees like it did in the past. The hotel blocks the view. But with the new traffic routes surrounding Wrigley the place is awash with people roaming the streets. It’s more like a concert than a baseball game. When I get to Addison and Clark I see the Hotel just flowing people into the street like a spigot. I try to remember the way it was. Yum Yum donuts and all but I can’t. But the hotel is so tastefully done that I have no complaints. Plus it’s sold out for the next three years. And seeing as how the Hard Rock has bought a roof top and made it a Hotel too, it obviously was the right thing to do.
I enter Wrigley and am amazed at how easy it is to move around in, despite being sold out. And while it’s not airy by any means it’s no longer a cattle call. I get to my seats. Well, they’re Tom Loxas’ seats. And once again the surrounding season ticket holders groan that it’s me sitting there instead of Tom. Tom forgave me for that incident in 2014, why can’t these people? Jeez. Besides Tom has a daughter at that age where he needs to be home and beat the snot out of any boy that approaches his house. Tom’s seats are near the bullpen and since David Price is pitching, I want to get there early to watch him warm up. Trading Baez and all those other prospects seemed crazy at the time. And the 5 year extension at 26 mil per seemed even crazier. But two Cy Youngs and three division titles kind of make it a moot point. Price warms up with such an ease and calmness, such a change from the intense, energetic way Shark does. But that’s what makes them the best 1-2 in the game.
Game starts. Price sets down the Padres an 6 pitches. Almora leads off with a double. Almora should probably hit in the middle of the order but he’s so darn smart, almost jeteresque, that leading him off is fine. My favorite player, Christian Villanueva, is up. I love this kid. Who knew the Dempster deal with Texas would be better than the Dempster deal with the Braves. This kid has such moxie. He’s gonna be the captain of the team. Everyone loves him. And his play has the younger generation saying he might be better than Santo. And as I say that he shoots a liner up up the first base line. 1-0 Cubs. Castro would homer, it’s 3-0 and you feel like this game is already in the bag.
I look around Wrigley and am amazed at how similar it looks even though it really doesn’t. The Pepsi sign fits in as easily as the Toyota sign. The new 1st base line private box/patio on top of the Balcony looks like a fun time, Even the walk way from the Bleachers to Murphy’s Rooftop, once a big bone of contention, looks pretty darn cool. The hard Rock Rooftop looks a bit overdone. It’s a little showy. But it’s a good place to house the ESPN crew and all the others. At since it’s daytime we don’t have to see all that neon.
Price mows through three more innings, and I head to the bathroom. I MAKE IT TO THE BATHROOM AND BACK WITHOUT MISSING AN INNING. First time in 35 years. I get a couple of $14.00 beers and head back to my seats. As I do I run into Kane County General Manager John Arguello, always good to see John. I try and get John to give me some stories about working with the Cubs in the Stats department for two years. But he refuses. Besides, those two years working under Theo got him the Kane County gig and he really seems to be enjoying life. Really glad he didn’t mention how I’ve run Cubs Den into the ground.
Cubs sock together two more runs. 5-0. Villanueva…AGAIN. Price went six, Whitenack pitched the 7th, this new guy will probably pitch the 8th before Shawon Dunston jr. comes on to close. Boy Theo was right about maximizing the closer’s position. This converted outfielder’s been a wet dream. From his three second sprint to to his 101 MPH fastball.
In fact, Theo’s been right about almost everything. Whether it was letting Rizzo go to sign for LA’s huge money, replacing Svuem with Girardi after the ’15 season, everything. That’s why this team is currently 32-14. That’s why there’s a calmness to the way Cub fans cheer this year. Yeah, they’ve been going bat-spit crazy because of 2 straight playoff years. But there’s an understanding this year. Everything is clicking. Off the field, on the field. This is the year. We say it every year but this year it’s different. Cub fans just…know. Despite everyone throwing 108-109 years in our face, Cub fans just know.. it’s going to happen this year. And everyone is just taking a deep breath and experiencing it, because it’s going to be the greatest year in our Cub fans lives, and when we talk about it, we don’t want to miss a single detail.
ODDS AND SODS….
So Heavy D, Dan Voglebach has lost 40 pounds, and while that’s good, It kinda ruins the fun.
There’s an 85-90% chance that he’ll be so lousy that it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. But I really would have liked to have seen the Giambino ( Jason Giambi) in blue pinstripes as a bat off the bench. Would have been a great big brother for Rizzo. not that he needs a big brother in any way. Plus he’s fun. I hope he has a good year.
Watched the Blues lose last night and saw an ad for Cardinal baseball and I just seethed. So damn good to have baseball back.
A lot of my friends will argue that Revolver is by far the Beatles best album. I’m not among them. But “She Said” is running through my head today so Revolver is your Beatles album of the week.
I like and respect Sahadev Sharma and Brett Taylor a lot. So I hope they take this as constructive criticism and not as a slap. Somewhere in that hour and a half slosh is a really smart, interesting podcast. Somewhere…Desperately needs an edit. UP & In got away with being over 90. you guys can’t.
Why isn’t Cubs Den doing a podcast? I feel like this should be a goal this year…
I still hate the Cubs outfield this year. C’mon Brett…..
I think it would be cool if Northwestern changed the field 3 out of the five times they played at Wrigley. Right field to home, left field to home. Right field to left field. But you can’t always get what you want.
Speaking of which, the Stones at Wrigley has to happen, doesn’t it?
Baseball’s back people. Yee ha!!!!!!!!
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