Good Bye, Dusty

Dusty Baker is out as the main man on the bench for the Cubs.

CHICAGO (AP) – Dusty Baker is out as the Chicago Cubs’ manager following a last-place finish and a failure to take the team to the World Series in his four-year tenure.

The Cubs made the announcement Monday, a day after team president Andy MacPhail resigned and the club finished with a 66-96 record.

“I wish we could have (got) it done but we didn’t,” Baker said. “You see four years come to pass very quickly.”

Baker was in the last season of his deal – worth over US$14 million – and had hoped to resurrect the franchise that hadn’t been in the World Series since 1945 and hadn’t won one since 1908. The Cubs got within five outs of the Series in 2003, but never came close after that.

He compiled a 322-326 record during his time in Chicago. [tsn]

It’s tough to be a fan here in Vancouver, but I think I followed the team nicely this season. However, this year has been so up and down, and I would probably say that it’s been more down than up. Baker isn’t the guy to completely blame here. He has had great guys come into the organization, but the amount of injuries has been the constant problem. Shortly after the all-star break, I didn’t keep up with the guys on TV as much as I did before that. Reading the wires and catching a few podcasts, I wasn’t missing a whole lot.

I’ll miss seeing Dusty on the bench. He’s a serious manager, but the emotions you get out of him was a part of the fun. So many managers are stone faced and almost robot-like. Baker would jump off the bench, smack his hands together, and give out a audible yell on a great play. Can’t forget that we won’t see his kid sitting on his lap as he gives post-game interviews anymore.

So long, Dusty. You did your best, and I was always a fan, no matter what the record was.

It’s just been one of those years

Cesar Izturis is now, officially, a Cub.

The Chicago Cubs on Tuesday placed shortstop Cesar Izturis on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring.

Izturis left Monday night’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies in the seventh inning with the injury.

Acquired in a trade-deadline deal that sent four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Izturis is batting .246 with one homer and 17 RBI in 49 games this season. [tsn]

Welcome to the the black hole, Cesar. Wrigley Field seems to be the place where talent is sucked out of your soul. Gremlins move at the speed of light to do all that they can in order to make sure that you are never healthy, and that is only after the evil overlord deems you to be having a decent season. You’re an even bigger target if the word “prospect” or “hope” is mentioned in reference to your name.

Minor league baseball in Vancouver

I had my first experience of catching a baseball game in Canada over the weekend. That was this past Friday, and we promptly caught a second one the next night. We got hooked up with some free, Vancouver Canadians box seats for Friday’s game, and we had such a good time that Rebecca scored us some more tickets for Saturday night’s game.

It was for the best that for our second trip out to Nat Bailey Stadium[wiki] was under the lights. Friday’s game was a 1:00 PM start time, and Rebecca is still treating a sunburn. I did ok, but one of my arms has a much worse famer tan than the other now. We’ll never head out to another day game without bringing the sunscreen with us.

I know that there is a matter of respect that must be payed when it comes to cheering for the local team, but I could not do it. You have to understand, the Boise Hawks are a branch of the Chicago Cubs farm system. Vancouverites, I apologize to you and this great city. My heart has forever been with the Cubs, and it will take a hell of a lot to get me to stop bleeding Cubbie blue.

Nat Bailey is a great, little ballpark with overpriced everything that you would come to expect with catching a professional baseball game. Beer was almost $7 for the good stuff, $6 for the suds and water. Hotdogs are four bucks a pop, but, like I said, it’s to be expected.

The seats are very hard to argue with. Hardly a bad seat in the place. Check out their website for more details on pricing, but it is very much a family friendly venue.

Just remember to tip the waitress in the event that you sit in a section with such a luxury. That thought didn’t really cross our minds until after paying the chick for our first round of Granville Island Pale Ale. After the second time, she ignored us while returning about five more times to the group of folks in the row directly behind us. Call it a lesson in etiquette, and I have a few choice names that I’d like to call that waitress.

Saturday’s game was particularly interesting. It was “Mexico Night”. I can’t recall how many times I heard the “Mexican Hat Dance” played, be it over the PA or by the classy-looking mariachi band that was wandering about the stadium before and during the game. They were also giving away a trip for two to Mexico that we didn’t win. That’s about as Mexican as it got.

We still had a lot of fun. It made me excited to see the Cubs logo on the sleeves of the Boise players. The chances of those guys getting up to Wrigley Field[wiki] are against them, but with the horrible year the Cubs have been enduring, I’m sure some of them might get scouted for a solution to the problem.

And of course, during each singing of Take Me Out to the Ball Game[wiki], I sang, “Let’s root, root, root for the Cubbies…” I then received an elbow in my side from Rebecca.

Check out the pics from the games on Flickr.

October came early this year

I knew the season wasn’t going well for the Cubs, but this is the nail in the coffin. Declare the season over and get ready for next season. Maybe Maddux[wiki] and Normar[wiki] can compile notes to write a book on the black hole that seems to hover over Wrigley Field[wiki].

The Chicago Cubs dealt Maddux to the Los Angeles Dodgers for infielder Cesar Izturis ahead of the 4 p.m. ET deadline, agent Scott Boras said.

Maddux waived his no-trade clause to join the Dodgers.

Maddux began the season with a 5-0 record but the 40-year-old has won just four games since. He is 9-11 with a 4.69 earned-run average in 22 starts.

Maddux started his career with the Cubs before leaving after the 1992 season as a free agent to join the Atlanta Braves. He spent 11 years with Atlanta, where he won four Cy Young Awards as the National League’s best pitcher, before rejoining the Cubs in 2004. [cbc]

Start warming up your chops now. Ready? Now say it with me… Next year is- ah just forget it.

Edit: I missed the news of Todd Walker being traded to the San Diego Padres[tsn] in exchange for a minor league pitcher.  Good luck, Todd.  You served us well, but why a minor league guy?  Rumor had it, we almost got Morgan Ensberg from Houston for Walker.

Some one hit the reset button

Carlos ZambranoI’m not one who gets full on into blogging about sports, but as a Cubs fan, it’s a little hard not to. And being all the way up in Vancouver, I think I’ve been doing a fairly good job paying attention to what’s been going on. Combining the powers of RSS feeds and podcasts, it’s easy to see that this season is turning more and more painful.

First, it was the broken wrist of Derek Lee. That should have clued all of us in as to what we were in store for. Wood and Prior have been nothing but a bag of problems, having something constantly dragging them down. I love them as pitchers, but kids, let this be a lesson to you. Being a pitcher can really mess your shoulder up, especially if you start throwing curve balls and junk at a young age.

Mark PriorI had a buddy growing up that could throw the most wicked curve, sinker, and slider, all at the age of fifteen. It was shortly after that age that I developed a disliking for organized sports in school, focusing more on the arts, but that other guy went on for just a few more seasons until struggles with tendinitis and reoccuring shoulder pain was common, all before we graduated high school.

When Woody and Prior are healthy, they are great, but this is another chapter in a growing list of problems for both of the guys. I’m not too sure that the Cubs should keep investing so much in the two of them if these problems keep happening. I don’t want to see them cut or traded, but at what point do you say enough is enough?

And to almost add even more crap onto what is turning into a crappy season, there’s Zambrano’s recent mishap.

In a bizarre accident, Zambrano’s right elbow was struck by the bat of a White Sox coach during the American League’s batting practice before Tuesday’s All-Star Game. […]

Zambrano was doing interviews with members of the Venezuelan media when he backed up into the swing of White Sox third base coach Joey Cora, who was hitting infield grounders.

The fungo bat slammed into Zambrano’s right elbow and he was taken to a local hospital, where X-rays were negative, according to a source close to the situation. The extent of the injury, and any effect it might have on Zambrano taking his turn in the rotation, is unknown. [mlb]

There’s talk of firing Dusty Baker, but is he really to blame? Look what they guy has to work with. People were starting to wonder about Juan Pierre and why the Cubs ever got him. Once Lee was back, he’s been producing some good numbers and the fans love him again, saying we need to sign him for next year already.

Cubs fan cryingEverything is seeming to be too little, too late. When certain things are going well, others aren’t. Listening to the CubsCast not long ago, they were going through a list of players from around the league that we should be watching out for in terms of next season. Next season?! Is it time to give up already?

Well, at 34-54, fifth place in the N.L. central, and 14.5 games out of first, there is a hell of a lot that needs to start going the right way. Never try to out guess the all-star break. It can do magical things to teams, good and bad. Let’s hope for good, eh? 

Free box seats to a Canadians game!

Rebecca’s mom is pretty awesome.  She scored us a couple of free tickets to a Vancouver Canadians game because she knew this boy from America would dig seeing a baseball game here in B.C.  To that I have to say, oh hell yes I would.

The Vancouver Canadians are the Single “A” Affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. We play in the Northwest League with seven other teams during the summer months each year. The team has a schedule of 76 games (38 home 38 away) and the season starts at the end of June each year. The team plays those 76 games in 79 days each year in a manner that can only be described as “traditional”. They make their way from stadium to stadium each game via bus, each player trying to hone their skills with the hopes of one day making it to the major leagues.  [canadiansbaseball]

I think we’ll try to make it out for a game against the Boise Hawks.  They are a Chicago Cubs affiliate afterall.

Wireless is a big deal to baseball, Cubs

A major milestone for baseball, the Chicago Cubs, and folks like me that dig it.

The Chicago Cubs and Motorola, Inc. will unveil the League’s first wireless bullpen communication system on June 13, 2006 at historic Wrigley Field, Major League Baseball’s second-oldest ballpark. Motorola developed the MOTOTALK(TM) system in cooperation with the Chicago Cubs, ushering in a new era for bullpen phone communication.  [tmcnet]

I’m all for new technology doing cool things, but this is a tad nutty for a new way to talk to the bullpen, not to mention that you could almost yell down to it from the dugout if you wanted to.

Installation of the new phone system is being treated as history-in-the-making. Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame will be in attendance to witness the first wireless call to the bullpen by Cubs Manager Dusty Baker or Houston Astros’ Manager Phil Garner, according to the press release. And following the game, the Motorola i580 phone will be taken to Cooperstown, home of baseball’s Hall of Fame, and placed on display.  [cnet]

Another season, another year

ZambranoNot everything has been dismal this season, but it hasn’t been that great either.  Wood and Prior are back on the mend, but I swear I’ve heard that story before.  Our big man, Lee, gets hurt just as the weight of the team tosses itself on his shoulders.  Pierre was the answer to our Patterson prayers only to have a weak start to the season.  And we bid farewell to a usually solid Harriston Jr., bringing in a bigger bat from Texas the hopes that the offense can be stronger.  I know for a fact that I’ve heard that story more than a few times.

All isn’t lost just yet.  The road to a respectable season is totally there, but the playoffs are turning into a crapshoot.  Sure, the all-star break hasn’t even gone by, but the way this year is panning out, it’s not looking very hopefull.  I’m not giving up, and you can bet that I am completely prepared to eat my words.

Lots of teams have risen to the challenge, battling their way back into contension.  How many times have we looked at this team only to think that there is no way we can’t have a great season this year?  And then, they start getting picked off one by one.  Injuries, slumps, and so on.  It’s the heartbreak of being a Cubs fan.  I wouldn’t want to be anything else.

It Might Be All Too True

The Onion posted a sports article recently that might actually be closer to the truth rather than the statirical humor we’ve all grown to love and enjoy. The headline reads, “Royals Hire Tom Emanski To Teach Them Fundamentals Of Baseball“.  Now we all know that The Onion runs news that is fake, but this one might just be pretty spot on.

I realize that being a Cubs fan, I don’t have a lot of room to talk right now.  However, the Royals haven’t had the best record for the last few seasons.  KC fans are some of the best fans out there, and I have family in the metro area that are a true example of this.  But if anyone sees my grandma, I never wrote this and I don’t know you.

Does Anyone Really Care?

Barry BondsI guess it would be fairly incorrect to ask if anyone cares that Barry Bonds is about to surpass Babe Ruth’s home run record. It’s obvious that people around the world are paying attention. I would doubt that they are waiting on the edge of their seats though.

And obviously, I care enough to mention this. But it is such an after thought. When Ichiro was going for his record of hits in a season, I was scanning the headlines and catching all the sports highlights that I could. Sosa and McGuire? The same thing. That was exciting. Bonds isn’t.

Is it the whole steroids thing? I think that’s pretty spot on. And I can’t say thank you enough to Juan Pierre of the Cubs for snagging the homer away from him last night.  Holy crap that was awesome.  Bonds is too much of a diva for my liking.  And being that Chicago is on a losing skid as is, I’d really like to see him not hit that mark against the Cubbies.