Kris Bryant fills the Chicago River with baseballs

Kris Bryant, with his BP pitcher Juan Cabreja, survey the outfield. Which is actually the Chicago River.

As far as PR stunts go, this one wasn’t bad.

Kris Bryant of the Cubs put on his jersey and took batting practice on the lawn at River Point Plaza. With Chicagoans lined up along the Lake Street Bridge, Wacker Drive, and the Chicago Riverwalk, he took swings and launched fly balls into the Chicago River with River Point tower providing the backdrop. This was a Red Bull event, so there was plenty of pomp and circumstance, including reps with backpack coolers handing out energy drinks, and a hyperbole-obsessed MC who let the crowd know at least 174 times that this kind of thing had never been done before.

I was there, and I took some pictures and video from a distance.

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Heading into 2017 with an unburdened mind

Kris Bryant Championship Belt

I did *not* miss a smiling Kris Bryant as he wore the Championship Belt at the Cubs victory parade.

I thought I’d never admit this. Seriously. I didn’t want anyone to know. I was fully prepared to go to my grave with nary a soul finding out the truth behind one of the greatest moments in human history. But I need to get it out in the open, and let the healing begin.

I missed the final out of the 2016 World Series. You know, the one the Chicago Cubs won.

I missed Kris Bryant’s smiling, slipping throw to first. I missed Anthony Rizzo tucking the ball into his back pocket. I missed Ben Zobrist skipping in from left field like a child who just found a shiny nickle. I missed Addison Russell and Javy Baez meet in midair like a couple of Cirque du Soleil acrobats.

I missed it all.

There was a pitching change. Carl Edwards, Jr. was coming off the mound. Mike Montgomery was coming in to pitch. I needed to use the restroom. So I did what you do when you have to go: I went. I thought I had time while Montgomery warmed up.

I did not.

I was away from every television Moe’s Cantina had to offer. And the sound I dreaded, happened. First, a nervous cheer, then a quick crescendo into pandemonium.  And I knew the crowd wasn’t cheering for a commercial. I ran to the sink, did a less-than-thorough washing of the hands, and ran out into the restaurant in the hopes I hadn’t really missed the culmination of 46 years of Cubs fandom.

No such luck. I had missed it. And you know what? It bothers me. A lot. I feel shame.

Sure, we still got to celebrate, once I found Jen and assured her I hadn’t spontaneously combusted in the heat of the moment. And I got to watch, half-crying, half-laughing, as the Cubs players celebrated on the field. But I missed The Last Out. And I’ve still not quite forgiven myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In The Year The Cubs Finally Seem Ready, Wrigley Field Is Not

My brief article on Wrigley construction, as it appears on The Chicago Architecture Blog, with a few extra photos:

 

In The Year The Cubs Finally Seem Ready, Wrigley Is Not When I wandered around Wrigley Field (1060 West Addison Street) last fall, just after our beloved bleachers were reduced to scrap, I marveled at the task at hand, impressed such destruction could be rebuilt in time for Opening Day 2015. Well, send me to Triple AAA and call me naïve. Because sure enough, as you no doubt are aware by now, nary a fan shall catch a home run ball within the Friendly Confines until at least May. In The Year The Cubs Finally Seem Ready, Wrigley Is Not

In mid-January, someone at Lovable Losers HQ (Hey, I’m a Cub fan, and therefore allowed to mock my own fandom. Use that term loosely though, and I will fight you) looked out the window and realized the work wasn’t going to be done in time. And even then, the Cubs’ revised projected completion schedule turned out to be too optimistic.

Once thought doable in its entirety by the end of May, only the left-field portion of the stands will be ready for butts in seats by then, with right field completion coming some time in June. Which means someone in accounting is fretting over lost beer sales for close to half the season.

Keep in mind, this isn’t about just the bleachers. The entire $375-million project will take roughly the next 4 years to complete. Is all this worth the effort? I suppose that’s up to each of us individually.

As a Cub fan, I love it. I’ve been to new ballparks in Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, and they’re glorious places to watch baseball. But I’ll always love Wrigley, too. And anything that improves its appearance and ambiance is fine by me. And, as Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said himself, if you’re only going to fix up the old girl once every 100 years, you might as well take the time to do it right.

To get an idea of how much work remains, I took a recent stroll around the outfield perimeter. It may be, it could be, it is! loud, dusty, and very, very busy. No wonder the city struck out the Cubs’ request to labor 24/7. No neighborhood wants that going on at all hours.

The night Len Kasper mentioned Jorge Soler, Anthony Rizzo, and me during the Cubs broadcast

Cubs vs Brewers, 9/26/14 Miller Park Scoreboard

 

Moments after extolling the virtues of Milwaukee’s attendance, Len inexplicably asked JD if he knew how much Miller Parked weighed. Yes, Miller Park is a stadium, and Len asked how much it weighed.

I then sent an equally inane tweet to Len and JD, obviously stunning Len…

Click the link to see the video (Thank you, Elizabeth Nystedt!)  You will need to crank the volume.

 

http://goo.gl/4embGQ

 

The Tweet

A Cub Fan tries to Kerry On

There was a time when I wrote, on these very same pages, of my love for Kerry Wood. Take a look, and I’ll see you when you get back.

Oh, hey! Great to see you again.

Unless you’ve been scaling Everest this month, you know Kerry Wood announced his retirement from baseball. It took many in Cubs Nation by surprise. I wasn’t one of those shocked by the news. He struggled coming out of the pen in 2012. His command was off. I watched him pitch and thought he looked like a man who didn’t have his “stuff” anymore. He was frustrated. I didn’t want to see him like this. I especially didn’t want to hear the Wrigley Field “faithful” booing him.

And so it was, on the morning of May 18, 2012, news of Kerry’s retirement hit the internet. And hit it hard. Forget the upcoming elections. Never mind the big NATO weekend. Don’t even think about the Preakness. Everyone in Chicago was talking about Kerry Wood. And I was uncomfortably glad. Good for Kerry. But then…

The Cubs announced Kerry’s plans to retire…after his next appearance. My whole view changed. Why would he be pitching again? Was I wrong in assuming he was leaving the game because his performance hadn’t been up to his own standards? I struggled to keep the warm fuzzy Cub fan on my right shoulder and the hard jaded jerk on my left shoulder from strangling each other. The Fan wanted the big send-off; The Jerk kept quoting Chuck Noll, that if you think you might not be able to get the job done, it’s time to get on with your life’s work.

I can write this blog post now because I was wrong about the last baseball appearance in Kerry Wood’s career. He came in from the bullpen, the crowd roared, he struck out a batter, handed the ball to his (fill-in) manager, and walked into the arms of his son, whilst the crowd roared again. But what if things hadn’t worked out so well? What if Kerry had come in and walked a guy or two, or maybe given up a couple of hits? or runs? What if Jamie Quirk had given him every opportunity to get that last batter out, yet Woodie couldn’t locate his pitches? After all, that is how his season had started. And wasn’t that the reason he was walking away from the game? in May?

One can easily make the case that the way this team is going, letting Kerry Wood pitch one last game isn’t going to hurt them. Heck, letting the Reuschel Brothers pitch one last time probably wouldn’t have much of an effect on this season for the Cubs. And I won’t argue that with you. But this could have been a disastrous ending, one that none of us would have wanted to see. Who knows what Kerry would have flung into the stands if his grand exit from the game had gone awry. Thankfully, it didn’t. He did it his way, and we all got a little misty in the process.

I hope Kerry doesn’t walk into the sunset. I hope he goes to the booth, or to the front office, or wherever the Cubs think he could so some good. Like me, he’s a Cub man for life. This city needs him. I need him. And I’m glad we all got to cheer for him one last time. I’m glad it was a great end to a good career, and not a Cub end to a man who deserved better.

Gratuitous Zambrano post

Big Z can’t leave town without me throwing in my two cents.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: No one was more fun to watch on the baseball diamond, when he was having fun playing baseball, than Carlos Zambrano. Whether swinging from his heels, pointing skyward on his way back to the dugout,  or  hustling on the bases, the man played his heart out. And I’m happy to say, those are the moments I’ll remember most.

But there were other moments too. Moments no one likes to see, or read about. Some of them we over-reacted to, and some we weren’t sure how to react. Remember that one kid in school who your teacher didn’t know how to handle or control, and may have been slightly afraid of? That was Carlos as a Cub.

Is that why fans fell out of love with him? Did he fall out of love with us? Remember when we booed him for pitching a bad game? Do you recall our criticism for running hard to first base? Running hard to first base! I know he’s a pitcher, but all the flack Aramis got for not sprinting all-out, and we actually knocked Z’s hustle! Clubhouse cancer? I don’t buy that for a second. Have a look at some of the photos my friend Lizzy blogged. Does this look like a bad teammate? I don’t think so. He looks like a guy I would always want on my side. Especially when he had his stuff working.

I’ll miss Carlos Zambrano. Admittedly, not the dugout dust-ups. You push and shove your friends and co-workers, but you don’t send them to the hospital. I know we made a lot of jokes about “going to dinner”, but you don’t hang out with the rival manager the night you get sent home early for losing your cool on the field. It wasn’t about having a meal folks. Get real. I won’t miss the uncoachable times when he wouldn’t put down the Red Bull and pick up some Gatorade for the sake of his own performance. What I’ll miss are his talent, his effort, his desire to be great, and that smile.

I will miss having #38 as a Cub. Like I miss Aramis. And Sammy. And Gracie. Great Cubs, guys I knew I could always root for, who were always worth watching, even when we were down 9-2, or 18.5 games out of first. Was it time for Z to go? Yeah, I think it probably was. I was ready to welcome him back, because I’d still rather have him pitching for me than to me. But I’ll fall in love with another pitcher soon (I guess it won’t be Andrew Cashner though), and then another, and another. They won’t be a Z though. And that makes me sad.

Just think of the fun Marlins fans are gonna have.

So. We’re rebuilding.

The trading of Sean Marshall reportedly begins the tearing down and reconstructing of the Cubs. Sean took the ball like the consummate professional for 6 seasons in Chicago. Never complaining about his role, never sulking in the pen. He pitched, and pitched well.

I am not a forward-looking Cub fan. I don’t have the ability to see the long-term effects of losing or trading my favorite players. I can’t quote statistics that tell what a guy is worth. I don’t want to hear about WAR (what is it good for? Seriously. I have no idea what it means.) I don’t study players from other teams to the point that I know who we might like to have in the future, and who we don’t. But I do know when I hate a trade. And I hate this one. Maybe it’s in the best interest of the team, but I’m not the type to think that way. I like my players, not theirs.

I know where this is leading. The people arguing for this move, the stat heads, the Baseball Prospectus crowd, they’ll go on and on about the merits of this deal. How, three years from now, when Sean Marshall is pitching 3 innings per week and this new guy is all young and easier to sign, this will be the right move for the Cubs. And that’s all well and good. Just do me a favor; If you’re in favor of trades like this, if you’re for the rebuilding,  don’t whine and moan about how bad the Cubs play during the process. Don’t cheer for the tear down, yet still criticize the team on the field. You can’t have it both ways.

Goodbye Sean. I won’t root against you, except for when you play against us. But you’re a Red now, so I can’t cheer for you either. Thank you for being a great Cub. And sorry about that whole “Once a Cub, always a Cub” thing. No one can escape that.