It’s Tough Being a Cubs’ Fan…

We as Cubs’ fans have learned through the years that it’s tough being a fan of our beloved team. From the longest non-championship drought in sports history, the countless number of losing seasons, the humiliating defeats, the bitter taste of the 2003 NLDS; the list is endless. But on personal level, the toughest part of being a Cubs’ fan is the constant trash talking.

I’m not talking about the meaningless banter of “the Cubs suck” or “the Cubs’ fans are losers.” I’m referring to the trash talking that is based on facts, especially from fans of winning teams.

Being that I live in Kentucky, I unfortunately work with a lot of fans from the NL Central. Fans of the Cardinals and Reds are strongly represented throughout my work place and I am not a closet Cubs fan, which comes at a price.

The typical water cooler sports talk involves the latest news of our teams, which I unfortunately am very limited with reporting positive news of the Cubs. But I have enlightened others to the performance of the starting pitchers, the play of a few players and the development of the AAA players. But the razing quickly ensues.

Comments like: “the Cubs have been rebuilding for 103 years,” “the last time the Cubs won the World Series [insert factual information from the early 1900’s here],”the Cardinals have won 11 World Series since the Cubs won their last,” etc. There is nothing I can retort with and all these statements are true facts!

But, as I have for the past 20 plus years being a Cubs fan, I remain loyal, faithful, committed and hopeful of our Cubs. I take the jabs on the chin and appreciate the clever, thoughtfulness of some comments, and keep on trucking. This is why Cubs fans are the best fans in the world.

So while the Cubs may lose 100 plus games this season and cause us to hang our heads in humility, I’ll continue to support our Cubs and patiently wait for the Cubs to end this amazingly embarrassing losing streak.

In Theo we trust!

Advertisements

My Cubs’ Pledge

I have read many discussions of pledges Cubs’ fans will make for the 2012 season through the Master Card “Priceless Chicago” campaign. But an article written by Sarah Spain (Sports Center Anchor for Chicago’s ESPN1000 and a reporter for ESPNChicago.com) inspired me to make a pledge as well.

Spain’s article, Fans tie on-field success with off-field antics, makes a personal pledge to run a mile for every Cubs’ win by the end of the season. This pledge encourages her to regain the status of being a runner after being laid off due to injury. I suggested to Spain that she incorporate a charity fund-raiser; some monetary donation for the miles she runs, etc. But if I’m willing to make a suggestion for a pledge, shouldn’t I be willing to do the same?

For every Cubs’ win during the 2012 season, I pledge to:

1) Run 1 mile. I will complete these miles from the end of the Cubs’ season to the beginning of the 2013 season.

2) Donate $2/win to the following charities: the Wood Family Foundation, Dempster Family Foundation and a charity of Paul Maholm’s choosing.

3) If by some miracle the Cubs’ win the World Series, I will donate $500 to each of the above charities.

I encourage all of you to make a pledge of some sort to the Cubs’ 2012 season. Further, I encourage fellow Cubs’ fans to support these charities by making some sort of donation (either on your own or through my pledge).

If the Cubs’ end this terrible 103 season streak, my bank account will be a little lighter…

Go Cubs, Go!

Changes the Cubs Must Make… Now!

Cubs’ fans know, just as the previous 103 seasons, this is likely not the year.  Expectations of ending the longest drought of a professional sports team without a championship is unlikely to occur during the 2012 MLB season. However, amassing countless number of losses is greatly unacceptable. Many fans would be grateful if the Cubs finish one game above .500, but doubt this will likely happen (read Bullpen Brian’s post of the subject here). I simply ask the Cubs to be contenders in each game, playing one game at a time and giving the fans the best possible lineup from our club for each game. Here are my two suggestions to Dale Sveum and the Cubs’ ownership that need to change now!

Improve the Bullpen

Every game when the Cubs have a lead and Wood comes in as the setup man and/or Marmol comes in as the closer to get the win, Cubs’ fans will be holding their collective breathes all season long; I’m sure the organization and coaching staff will do the same. The issue is these two pitchers are the veterans of the bullpen. If, and when, one of them struggles, the depth of experience within the pen is cut in half. And if both of these pitchers struggle as we’ve seen in the first two games of the season…!?

The Cubs recently called up Rodrigo Lopez, a 10-year veteran righty who made his season debut last night (2IP, 0H, 0ER, 1K, 1BB) and also have Shawn Camp, an 8-year veteran righty who is 0-1 in relief appearances this season (3.1IP, 7H, 3ER, 3K, 0BB). But both pitchers are 36 years-old, likely nearing the end of their careers and are not a longterm solution.

The Cubs have three active relief pitchers with a combined three years of experience in Lendy Castillo (23), Rafael Dolis (24) and James Russell (26). The three relief pitchers have combined for 6.1IP, 1H, 1ER, 5BB, 4K, 1.00ERA, 0.86WHIP. The trio has promising numbers, well, at least better than Wood and Marmol have performed so far this season. If the Cubs’ organization is not going to pursue options outside of the organization, then Sveum should focus on developing these pitchers throughout the season to establish potential setup men and/or a future closer.

Reorder the Batting Lineup

Many analyst/fans agree Starlin Castro is a great player and possible future star at shortstop, but he is in wo-way shape or form a #3 power hitter. I believe the theory behind Sveum placing Castro third in the batting order is in belief if the first two batters get on base and Castro can duplicate his batting average from 2011 (.307: 207 of 674), than the Cubs will ultimately score runs often. However, my arguments for moving Castro back to first in the order are as follows:

1) The third position in the batting lineup should be a guy who can physically handle the position, but more importantly, mentally affect the game. He should rattle the nerves of an average pitcher from the opposing team, while also giving you the potential for late game heroics. Castro does not have this effect. He only hit 10 home-runs in 2011 with 674 AB. The power to hit balls out of Wrigley with the wind blowing in is not there and the intimidation he projects is less than many batters in the same position (as seen in the 9th inning against the Brewers).

2) Castro had 24 stolen bases throughout 2011 and has the speed to improve on this number for 2012. Granted Castro has four stolen bases within the first week of the season, his attempts will be limited throughout the season if even one batter ahead of him reaches base. With the aggressive base running Sveum wants to use, Castro could easily be in scoring position before the second batter even leaves the box. This would greatly improve the potential for runs being scored within the first inning and thereafter. He would also intimidate pitchers by his on-base presences and potential for stealing bases.

3) With his .307 batting average from 2011, Castro is bound to reach base. Soriano has hit 20+ home-runs in each of his last 10 seasons and is currently batting a .353 with four RBIs. Soriano has the power and presences needed that a #3 hitter HAS to have. He intimidates pitchers and can change the outcome of a game with one swing of his bat. He has the experience and confidence to bat in that position with runners in scoring position.

As I stated, realistic Cubs’ fans don’t hold high expectations for this season, however, that doesn’t mean a high number of losses this season will be easily tolerated. This fan would like to see the perviously mentioned changes to occur sooner than later, especially the reshuffling of the batting order.

What are your thoughts?

What’s Good After Week One?

As we come to the closing of the first week in the 2012 MLB season, many Cubs’ fans are disheartened by the team’s performance thus far.  Realistically, the Cubs’ record should be 3-2; however, after two blown leads by the bullpen occurring twice in the 8th inning, the Cubs sit at 1-4.  But I’m here to provide support to my fellow fans, and hopefully give a glimmer of hope for the direction the organization is headed.  Let’s look at the areas in which the team has performed well in after week one:

Starting Pitching:

  • Granted, the efforts of Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm are still fresh in everyone’s mind, the Cubs rotation has looked decent.  Dempster, Garza and Samardzija have pitched strong performances in their season debuts, protecting the team’s late game leads to only have the bullpen give it away. Here are the numbers compared to the league:
    • Strike Outs: 1st (31)
    • WHIP: 4th (0.96)
    • HR: 5th (5)
    • IP: 6th (31.1)
    • OPP AVG: 7th (.196)
    • Runs:  9th (15)
    • ERA: 15th (3.73)

Aggressive Base Running:

  • Besides the gaff by Mather representing the tying run during the season opener by being thrown out at home, the Cubs have been running the bases smarter and harder. The Cubs led the league in triples (3) and are ranked 17th in doubles (6). Fans have noticed the hustle down the first base line by Cubs’ batters, even when the play is a routine out; we are very appreciative of the efforts.
  • After finishing the 2011 season ranked 28th in the MLB in Stolen Bases (69), the Cubs are currently ranked 2nd with 5. At this point, the Cubs are averaging one stolen base per game and are on pace to amass 162 stolen bases for the season.

Defensive Play:

  • From Ian Stewart’s throw from his knees to Soriano laying out to in left field, the Cubs have looked better defensively.  They are tied second in the league for fewest errors committed (2), tied fifth in the league for base runners caught stealing (2), and are tied seventh in the league for fielding percentage (.989).  Every fielder is making smart throws, hitting the cutoff man and moving around the diamond effectively in support of each position.

So Cubs’ fans, not everything is terrible with start of this season. Yes, the team has only one win, but remember, this team is rebuilding and moving in the right direction. The on field play proves this. Just like the show, the numbers never lie…

10 Things We Know After Tonight’s Game

Few things we know are for certain going into tomorrow’s 10 April 2012 series of MLB games:

1) The Brewers are a fundamentally sound ball club at the plate: advancing runners, sacrifice flies and scoring on squeeze bunts down the line.

2) Sveum is going to use the season in order to develop the young players of this ball club; winning isn’t as important at this point.

3) DeJesus’ arm will be sore after throwing at least four cross-field throws to 3rd and home plate from right field.

4) Soriano was unable to chase down fly balls that a younger left fielder would have been able to snag. What we are not certain of is why: is it age, past hamstring problems, other injuries or commitment issues?

5) Maybe it was the intra-division rivalry, but Braun faced negative reactions during his first game away from the safety of his home field. This will likely continue throughout the season.

6) Cubs’ fans are mixed about Ramirez’s return to Wrigley, and the errors continue as seen in during bottom of the 9th.

7) This young Cubs team is full of fighters who will not quit, even when down four runs in the bottom of the 9th (as many fans felt differently during the past few seasons).

8) Axford is not invincible.

9) Whoever tracks the attendance record for Cubs home games may not be the best attendance record keeper in the MLB. The reported attendance was 38,136. I watched from home, but there seemed to be a lot of empty seats for only having 3,000 less in attendance from the home opener.

10) Cubs’ fans are diehard and will tweet all game long and thereafter!

It was another loss, but this loss stung much less than the previous two and I’m left with a feeling of hope for the remainder of this series.

I am One Lucky Cubs Fan

An early post I wrote recanted my first Cubs game at Wrigley Field this past September. I was lucky to have such an experience. The organization had set the bar pretty high, how could any game ever compare to this?

I recently gave into joining the Twitter community, after having ‘bucked’ the system for the past year or so. I began by following Cubs players, following Kerry Wood, Ian Stewart, David DeJesus, Paul Maholm and others. Paul tweeted he would host a trivia giveaway on 22 March 2012. The last question Paul asked was who had he [Paul] hit his only career home run off of and where. He also stated the first correct answer would win two tickets for the Cubs home opener. Within seconds I answered. This is the response I received:

I arrived to the game at the game early to pick-up my tickets. I fully expected for the seats to be in the upper section of the stadium, which would have been fine as they were free tickets, but the tickets had a surprise of their own:

We went into the stadium and found our seats, which were on section up from home plate; a great view:

As we’re sitting, waiting for the opening day ceremonies to begin, I check my phone and notice I have a direct message from Paul. He said he was about to come onto the field and would look for me; I figured a friendly wave, head nod or something to that effect. A few minutes later, a gentlemen in a suit approaches us, ask if I am Josh and says Mr. Maholm would like to meet us. We are ushered to a sectioned area and Paul is already there waiting. We shake hands, exchange pleasantries; I wish him luck during the season, he thanks me for my service:

Unfortunately, I have only been to two games at Wrigley Field. However, both games have been experiences that I will never forget. The Cubs’ players and organization have been great to this fan. I’m not sure how many other organizations are the same way, but for these experiences I am grateful!