The Annual Chicago Wager

As a Cardinal fan in Chicago, I spend a great deal of time listening to the constant complaining of area baseball fans throughout the year.  Both sides have their issues, but it breaks down like this-Cub fans complain about every other fan in the world while White Sox fans actually complain about their team.  Yes friends, that’s what happens in Chicago each and every year.  The fun part of this is part of the complaint Cub fans annually rant about is how they receive no respect as baseball fans.  And when it comes to listening to White Sox fans, their annual issue is we get no respect for being the great fans we are.  How do the fans of these teams compensate for these feelings of being wronged?  They make stupid best with each other about who will have the better record or more successful year?  Then they spend the offseason fighting over who actually won the bet.  This offseason I think the Cubs regressed, but so did the entire NL Central while the White Sox certainly didn’t make a major splash, they made improvements to their club overall.  I expect the Cubs to win the NL Central, with somewhere around 85-90 wins.  I expect to the White Sox to finish in the middle of the AL Central with somewhere around 85-90 to wins.  So I ask you, who will have the better and more impressive season?  They both will have about the same number of wins and the Cubs will have a much higher attendance figure.  But if they fizzle out in the first round again can you really make the case for them being the better team?   

Shocked…Shocked I say

Is anyone really amazed at the steroid era anymore?  I think most of us are pretty well imune to any player being named as a user of PED’s.  However in the last 24 hours, I have found one thing remarkably stunning-OWNERSHIP!  Wow, it’s as if they didn’t realize when they spent years looking the other way, players were actually doing things which any other logical fan would think to be wrong.  As these stories break, does anyone else feel for the players and have a general disdain for the owners who act is if they are the real victims in all this?

Pitching Nightmare

While I try and focus on the broad issues impacting the game, it is no secret the Cardinals are my team.  Sitting here tonight, about a month from reporting day, it is fair to say my concerns are deep.  The way things are going, there is some protection in the lineup and while the Cards are not going to lead the league in runs they will put up enough runs to remain competitive.

Unfortunately the concerns around the pitching staff are far more pressing.  Everyone knows Dave Duncan can take a down on his luck pitcher, and revive his career.  However you cannot keep counting on that to work.  Let’s just pretend though, that the starting rotation concerns are a larger issues in 2010.  I am still dreading the last 2 innings.  In 2008 it was painful to watch the Cards attempt to close a game and another season like that will simply not be acceptable.  Come October, if the Cubs are in the post-season because the Cardinals don’t understand the game last’s 9 innings, there will be reason for Cardinal Nation to be calling for heads to roll!

Moving On

With the Hall of Fame announcement just being handed down, it is now time to move on and focus on the upcoming season.  Don’t misunderstand me, I look forward to the HOF announcement as much as anyone-for no other reason than it fills a void in the baseball off-season calendar.  That being said, we are only about a month from P&C reporting day.

The truth is P&C’s reporting is tantamount to Kicker’s and Punter’s reporting early in the NFL.  The pitcher throws 78MPH fastballs, to a catcher with the number 93 on his back for two days, and then Baseball Tonight does a live remote from Phillie’s camp for the first morning of Pitcher’s Fielding Practice.  None the less, it is exciting.  Certainly we wouldn’t tune into to watch Robbie Gould nail 25 yard attempts for two days, but in baseball it symbolizes a new beginning.  Baseball provides the ultimate rebirth and a chance to succeed.

So even though the 2009 HOF class has been finalized, today really symbolizes the end of the 2008 season.  In many ways today is about moving forward and focusing on what is about to happen.  I know that’s how I look at today, and my enthusiasm for next month will only grow!

Hall of Fame???

Since tomorrow is going to be the most important day in the professional lives of at least one or two people, perhaps tonight dedicating a bit of prose to the Hall of Fame ballot is in order.  Certainly Rickey Henderson is going to be going in, and rightfully so (even though he has yet to actually formally retire).  Those of us who read blogs-on any topic-are at least reasonably informed on the goings on in the particular area, so it is not worth any of our time to discuss him. 

Going beyond the obvious though, there are certainly some interesting candidates.  A number of people will make the case for Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, both of whom could hit for power and came up with timely hitting more than most.  A few are going to push Tim Raines, who put together about as ood a 7 year stretch as there was during the Montreal days.  And of course with relief pitchers getting in the past few years, certainly the case can be made for Lee Smith who was the best player at his position for a number of years.

I choose to take up my annual cause as well, and that is seeking to gain admission for Bert Blyleven. It seems to me, that there is way to much weight being placed on the magic number of 300 wins when a pitcher like BB is not allowed in the HOF.  There are more important numbers than just wins and losses, but if we must focus on that, than make a case for 287 wins not being enough?  More than just his 287 wins, BB faced more hitters than all but 12 others, had 60 shutouts-leading the league 3 times, has 242 complete games, nearly 5000 IP, and more than 3700 strikeouts.  And friends if that is not enough, he was nearly perfect in 6 post-season decisions, helping win 2 World Series.  I do not expect BB to get elected to the HOF, but clearly the case is worth fighting for!

Unfortunately for all those reading, this post is not quit done, as I am also going to make a case-well not make a case, but raise a valid argument-for Mark Grace.  Let me be clear, Mark Grace will not be an HOF member this year, or any time soon.  But if I do my math right (and by all means correct me if I didn’t) Mark Grace led the 1990’s in hits.  This may not sound like much until you realize every player who has led a decade in hits, AND is eligible for the HOF, has been voted in.  That doesn’t automatically qualify Grace, but it clearly is worth looking into.

<<EDITOR’S NOTE:  I am tire, ergo I am skipping final proof…sorry!>>

The Network

It has been several days since my last post, and everyone ought to be thankful for that.  There have been numerous times when the computer has been open, the site logged in to, and thoughts racing.  However each time I was reluctant to share my thoughts on my topic of choice.  As the MLB Network is now up and running, there are clear issues with it.  That being said, thus far I am going to call it a big win!

The reason everyone ought to be thankful for my reluctance to post in the past few days, is because I intended all along to make my next post about this particular topic and until tonight I would have blasted the network.  The feeling was one of being cheated.  For several months baseball fans-and sports fans in general-have been hearing about the launch of the network as if it were bigger than the wheel.  I bought into the hype!

Had I posted this a few days back, as I mentioned, it would have been ugly.  That’s right…I bought into the hype!  A week later???  I am all about it!  I think the on-air talent has blended together well and now the network is starting to release some different programs.  So far…so good!  In my meaningless opinion, clearly sports fans are going to be the winners in this.  Here’s hoping MLB continues to develop additional programing! 

<<EDITORS NOTE:  It’s kind of late, so I am not going to proof this.  SORRY!>>

World Baseball Classic

In 2006 I was an outspoken critic of the WBC (I am sure you have figured out, nobody really cared about my opinion) who some-what came around when I realized quasi-meaningful baseball was on during work days.  Sitting here, nearly 3 years later, I am again a critic of the WBC.  Certainly I will watch the games, and most likely even enjoy them.  And when Team USA goes out early again, I will complain about the results. 

Blame can be laid at the feet of Major League Baseball, the Players Association, and even the media.  The union doesn’t do enough to encourage their members to participate and MLB takes an indirect approach instead of taking a hardline stance that players participate; ESPN and Foxsports, among other outlets, will spend the better part of the next few months talking up the WBC and focus their stories on it’s many flaws. 

What will receive little discussion over the next few months will be the lack of pride US fans take in events like this.  Let me be clear-Americans love America…but Americans (myself included) are much more interested in celebrating with their team in October, than celebrating for their country in March.  Rarely do I discuss my team-the Cardinals-but I promise you I have the same fears now I had several years back.  I would be totally distraught if the WBC lead to an injury for any player, particularly a Cardinal. 

Unfortunately all most people will hear and read about over the next several months is what players ARE NOT participating.  I say we need to celebrate those players who have said no, and praise their commitment to their team and their fans!  It isn’t a lack of national pride, but an influx of baseball pride!