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.


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.


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.

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.

Cubs Management Pre-101

The Cubs need a new manager. Again. Mike Quade successfully broke the pattern of 3-year tenures by crashing and burning his under-achieving 25 guys in less than one season.

So who’s next? There seem to be close to a dozen names floating around the greater Greater Chicago area (get it? Let’s be honest, Cubs territory covers a lot more of the city than that other team’s), in addition to the sentimental favorites that pop up every time there’s an opening a notch or so above hot dog vendor. So who do I want the next manager of the Cubs to be for the next 3 years,  plus another half season of lame duckedness?

I. Don’t. Care. Really, I don’t. Bad fan, good fan, whatever that makes me, I refuse to get caught up in this process. There are (at least, there better be) people much more qualified to make this decision than I. But I will say this: I like that we have new blood in the front office. I like that Theo Epstein isn’t likely to play to the hearts of those who would bring back every former Cub in some capacity. We don’t need Peanuts Lowrey managing the concession stands, or Dennis Lamp to be in charge of the lighting.

I want Theo and his team of nerdy-smart baseball people to pick the right candidate for the job. I don’t know who that is. Frankly, I don’t know enough about baseball to pick a manager. Most fans don’t. Thankfully, Mr. Epstein & Co. do. I trust the new brain trust enough to believe whomever they choose is the right man for the job.

Championships Galore. In Theo(ry)

It’s being reported this morning that Theo Epstein is leaving the Boston Red Sox to become the new General Manager for the Cubs. He may also be named Team President, get keys to the city as well as Wrigley Field, and his immediate family will begin appearing on undercover reality shows and Chicago billboards.

I have no problem whatsoever with this move. I just wish my excitement for it matched the energy coursing through the interwebs in Chicago. The players on the field still bear the ultimate responsibility for winning baseball games, not the man on the cell phone. Theo’s job, obviously, will be to get the right players into pinstripes. I worry about the amount of time that will take. Ok, I don’t really worry, because unlike the stereotypical fan that outsiders think all of us are, I don’t expect him to turn things around before all my leaves are raked.

Which brings me to my next fear about this move: Cub fans aren’t patient enough to give him adequate time. I still see daily rumblings about how the Ricketts family has yet to fulfill their campaign promises to bring us a trophy. (What, they weren’t elected? Oh yeah, I suppose they just bought their way into a luxury box right? Then why do we see Tom in the cheap seats all the time. hmmm?) The first slump of the spring will bring cries of “Why didn’t Theo get rid of this bum? What did the Ricketts hire him to do anyway?”

Maybe it’s more difficult for me to be optimistic than it is for other fans. I’ve mentioned before that only leads to heartbreak. I have to be careful with hope.

We all know who we’d like to see stay and go on our ball club; it won’t be that simple. I hope we can all stay calm and realize, it’s been awhile since we’ve had a parade on the north side, and if we don’t have one in 2012, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Let’s give it time.

I just hope he doesn’t get hurt. I hate long contracts.

It Was the Best Of….Ok, No It Wasn’t

The Cubs wrap up the 2011 season in San Diego tonight. Even for those of us who dearly miss baseball in the winter, this campaign can’t end soon enough. There have been precious few bright spots over the past 6 months. And try as I may to enjoy them, I can’t stop myself from dwelling on the negative. From the departure of Big Z, to the firing of our GM, to a season without a grand slam, we’ve had little to cheer about.

Gonna let them finish out the string, then decide how I feel, and what I wish for in 2012. I don’t even have plans to stay up and watch tonight; that should tell you how I feel about 2011.