Cubs misery spells cheaper souvenirs.

I’ve decided not to attend any games at Wrigley Field this year. At least, not until I can recognize that some effort has been put into fielding a good team. And certainly not while Dusty Baker is still their manager.

Here’s the way I look at it. The Cubs are bad. They’re playing about as bad of baseball as I can remember watching them play. If this was a bad movie, I wouldn’t pay money to go to the theater to watch it. I might catch it when it comes on television.

I’m not any less of a Cub fan. In fact, I hope people recognize how this might make me more of one. I’m sacrificing one of the things I love because I refuse to put money into the pocket of the organization that is helping to contribute to my having a lousy summer. I still root for them everyday. I still wear my Cubs hat with pride. I’m just not going to feed the Tribune Company any more of my money.

Sell the team, Tribune. Sell it to Mark Cuban, actually. We’ll be winning in a year.

Is it White Sox apathy? Or can a Cub fan really be sort of happy for them?

I’m guessing this will be my last post about the White Sox for awhile. They won. The World Series is over. Sadly, so is the baseball season.

It’s sort of hard to believe that I live in this city and am as big a baseball fan as there is but yet I don’t really care that the Sox won. I was really wondering how I’d react to this. As a monumental Cub fan, I didn’t know if I’d be jealous, angry, happy, sad, or what.

I realize now that I’m just apathetic.

No, I guess that’s too strong a word. Because it’s not like I didn’t care at all. I wanted to see them win for the sake of my parents, who both root for them.

And don’t get me wrong, I was pulling for the Sox. But I was pulling for them the same way I was pulling for the Red Sox last year. I don’t have anything invested in them, but it would be nice to see them win it. Oddly though, I could have said the same about the Astros.

I’m sure there are a lot of Sox hating Cub fans out there that are pissed off and angry. I’m sure there a lot of Cub fans who would say that I’m not a true Cub fan because I don’t despise the Sox. My dad is a Sox fan. So I grew up with a sentimental attachment to them. My heart is always with the Cubs, and as I said before, you may love the Cubs as much as me, but there’s no one out there who loves them more. But it’s impossible to discount sentimental factors here.

Ironically though, I probably have more reason to be a Sox fan than most of the fans that have jumped on the bandwagon in the last two months.

I remember going to a game at old Comiskey over 20 years ago. I believe we were sitting in the bleachers with my cousins and uncles from my dad’s side of the family when my dad took a hit from a pigeon square on the shoulder. I mean this pigeon just unloaded, and I was sitting right there and received some residual splashes. I cried like a little bitch. I guess I should have known then that I could never grow to love the White Sox, because they remind me of pigeon shit. But my point is that I was raised to root for the White Sox. But the Cubs were the team that I connected with.

My dad would come home from work early some summer afternoons and I’d be sitting and watching the pregame show with Harry Carey and my dad would ask if I wanted to go to the game. We’d hop on the el and get there shortly into the first inning and basically have our choice of seat. This was before the Cubs fan base exploded in 1984. This was in the days of Dave Kingman, Rick Ruschel, Ken Holtzman, Bobby Murcer, Bill Caudill, Bruce Sutter, Bill Buckner, Ivan DeJesus. I even remember Bobby Bonds as a Cub for a short time in 1981 (but that’s mostly because one of my first baseball mitts was a Bobby Bonds model). The thing is, my dad was a Cub fan, too. He’s one of the few people I know who is so even keeled and non-judgemental when it comes to any sort of favoritism, that his personality allows him to have a connection to both teams. When it comes down to it and the Cubs and Sox face off, I think he finds himself pulling for the Sox pretty hard, though.

A lot of it comes from my grandfather, his father-in-law. He was the biggest Cub fan I knew and ultimately the reason I grew to be the fan I am. But he was also such an amazing person that my dad, a lifelong Sox fan, grew an affinity with the Cubs based solely on his love, respect, and admiration for my grandfather.

So, although I wish it were the Cubs that just won the Series, I’m not jealous. Actually, not even in the least. I’m no more jealous then when the Red Sox won last year. I’m no more jealous than when the Yankees won any of their championships. The White Sox might as well be a team from Milwaukee, as far as I’m concerned. I’m happy for them, and for my dad. And I guess I’m even happy for my Uncle Joe, who I think might truly hate the Cubs. But alas, we can’t all be perfect.

Granted, this all might be a different story had the Cubs been in the playoffs this year. And don’t get me started on what it would be like to actually lose should the Cubs and Sox ever face off in the World Series.

But for the next year, the Chicago White Sox are the world champions of Major League Baseball. And they deserved it. They looked pretty phenomenal.

Take a cue from that, Cubbies, it’s time to step up and play like professionals.

And in one final note, I’d like the record to show that I actually picked the Sox to win their division way back before the season started. The proof is here in the yearly Negative Waves baseball preview. (Note that with the exception of the Astros, I also picked every other playoff team as well.) I wonder if anyone can find a single prognosticator that picked the White Sox to finish higher than third place, let alone win the division and beat the Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs.

And people wonder why I love baseball.

Now that was a baseball game last night. I don’t care who you’re rooting for, that was something to remember.

It’s funny, though, how many bandwagon fans there are springing up all over the place. Everywhere I go I see people walking with crisp new White Sox hats. Or t-shirts that are so new they still have the crease from the fold in the middle.

My friend Mike Beecher who lives in Houston told me a funny story. He’s a true White Sox fan and has been since I’ve known him. But here he is living in of all cities, Houston. So of course he’s surrounded by Astros fans, most of whom are jumping on the bandwagon. During the Astros/Cardinals series, a woman came up to him and told him that she was excited about that night’s game because Ausmus was pitching.

Brad Ausmus is a catcher.

People like this should be lined up with the people talking on a cell phone and waving at the camera. These people should then be bussed to a facility where they will be taunted and ridiculed for hours on end.

It’s okay to be excited for your local team, but don’t start talking shit unless you know what you’re talking about. It’s not that difficult.

But getting back to last night’s game, holy crap was that exciting. I’m not even necessarily pulling for the Sox, but I couldn’t help but be excited for them. I hope you didn’t miss it, because that was what postseason baseball is all about.

Cub fan and a Sox man.

Last night the Chicago White Sox clinched a trip to the World Series. This is seriously an amazing feat, considering they haven’t been there since 1959 and haven’t won one since 1917. But the side effect of this is that the Cubs are getting as much press for not getting there as the White Sox are. People keep wondering if Cub fans are upset that the Sox are the team bringing a Series to this city. Why are we focusing on what Cub fans think? Why aren’t we focusing on the fact that the Sox are where they are?

I’m a Cub fan. You may be as much a Cub fan as I am, but there’s no way you’re more of one. I cried in 1984 when they lost. I shed a tear again in 2003. I’ve taken pilrgimages to follow the team. I’ve had glorious summer days ruined because the Cubs have blown a lead going into the ninth inning of a game. When the Cubs and White Sox play their cross town series, I’m always hoping the Cubs rub the Sox so far in the dirt that they can taste Chinese food.

But now the fact of the matter is that the Cubs are at home, like me, watching the White Sox. I find it ridiculous that people think that because I’m a Cub fan I shouldn’t be rooting for the Sox. Who thinks this actually makes sense? If I were a Cub fan living in Utah or New Mexico or someplace, then that’s one thing. But I happen to be a Chicagoan. As I said in a previous post, I love Chicago. If the Sox can win this World Series, I’ll be ecstatic. That’s not to say that I’ll have the same enthusiasm as a true blue White Sox fan, but that goes without saying.

Plus, as a Cub fan, I can’t possibly root for the St. Louis Cardinals. I hate the Cardinals. And though I’m intrugued by the Houston Astros, I can’t root for them either. These are two teams who are in the Cubs division, and therefore are rivals. True rivals. The Cubs and White Sox aren’t rivals. They just compete for a fan base in the same city.

I’m sick of this crosstown rivalry thing that goes on between Cub and Sox fans. It’s fine to have an allegience to one team rather than the other, but for god’s sake, why does it seem that so much hate can be spurned based on our team affiliations.

So here I am, in late October, and I’m rooting for the White Sox to win the World Series. If they don’t win, I won’t be that upset. They’re not my team. Let’s say for a minute that the Texas Rangers were in the Series and were playing the Philadelphia Phillies. I’d be rooting for the Phillies because Mike Schmidt was my childhood hero and therefore I became a Philly fan. But if they lose, I won’t care.

Same goes for the White Sox.

Let’s take note for a second that one of the most beloved Cub fans of all time was the late, great Harry Carey. Let’s not forget that before working for the Cubs, he was the announcer for the White Sox. In fact, it was on the south side that he began singing the seventh inning stretch that we all revere to this day. And before working for the White Sox, he was with the St. Louis Cardinal organization. I figure that if a guy like Harry can put aside regional differences, so can I.

Harry 2^2

If he were still alive, I have little doubt he’d be pulling for the Sox.

(Holy cow, do I miss Harry.)

Stolen Game for the White Sox? Or Just Another Day in Pro Sports?

This post was originally going to be my column for the new issue of Negative Waves, but since we didn’t have enough content for a new issue, we’ve decided to postpone until next week. So, instead I’m posting this here.

Last night the Chicago White Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by a score of 2-1 on a double off the bat of third baseman Joe Crede that drove in pinch runner Pablo Ozuna from second base. For those of you who didn’t see the game, that play was preceded by one of the more controversial moments baseball has seen in awhile. It’s a play that will probably be talked about for some time. Especially if the White Sox win this series and go on to the World Series.

Let me recap what happened. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski struck out swinging at a breaking ball that was low and out of the strike zone. The swing was feeble and the pitch was good, clearly fooling Pierzynski. However, the controversy began when Angels catcher Josh Paul ran toward the dugout, flipping the ball back toward the pitchers mound.

The only problem was, the umpire hadn’t called Pierzynki out. He wheeled around in the batters box and alertly ran down to first base as a batter should when a catcher drops a third strike and first base is open. But the other big problem was that Paul actually caught the ball cleanly, it never touched the dirt, so Pierzynski shouldn’t have had the right to run to first.

As it happened, however, the umpire couldn’t tell that the ball was caught. He thought it hit the dirt. He made his motion indicating that the batter swung and missed the ball, and then made his motion indicating that the pitch was a strike. However, he never called the batter out.

Now here’s where all the controversy begins: everyone is confusing the umpire’s motion of calling the pitch a strike, with him calling the batter out. In fact, this is the same motion the umpire made on every single pitch throughout the game when a batter swung and missed a pitch. Regardless of whether or not it was strike one, strike two, or strike three, the umpire would motion to his right indicating a swing without contact, then close and pump his fist in front of him, indicating the pitch was a strike. He would make that same motion were it strike one in the first inning, as he did when it was strike three in the ninth inning.

So the issue that everyone is having is that it appears as though the ump is calling Pierzynski out. It appears that the inning is over. But he’s NOT calling him out. He is only calling a strike.

So the second issue that everyone is having is that this ball never actually touched the ground, therefore it should be a clean strike three and no play should be necessary at first base. This is absolutely true. The umpire missed that call. And that sucks. But umpires in every sport on every level miss a call on occasion. It’s part of the game and it’s unfortunate for the Angels that it had to happen in the bottom of the ninth inning and would eventually lead to the winning run crossing the plate.

However, I have to argue a few points here. First of all, when Josh Paul caught that ball, his mitt did hit the ground. Understand that Josh Paul was not the starting catcher. He’s a reserve catcher. (My friend Mike Beecher from Houston also claims to have once struck him out in a little league game as they both grew up in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.) But regardless of how long Paul had been in the game, when you catch a pitch that results in strike three and your glove hits the ground, you have to be aware that the umpire may not have the best vantage point to make the call correctly. To put it simply, he had to make the tag.

How many times do you watch a baseball game during the regular season and you see a catcher snag a ball on strike three and nonchalantly place a tag on the batter? Probably at least once a game. It even happens at times when it appears that the catcher fielded the ball cleanly. But yet the catcher touches the batter with the ball nonetheless, just to be safe. I imagine that this is something catchers are taught from a very early instructional level. It’s something that Josh Paul should have done instinctually, regardless of whether or not he knew he made the catch.

I will admit that it seems wrong to put the blame on a player who executed the play perfectly. He made the catch, Pierzynski was out. So Paul shouldn’t have to shoulder the blame. But had he made the simple motion that catchers do in their sleep, this whole situation would have been avoided.

Second of all, the Angels were in a situation where they left the door open for factors other than their play on the field to come into play. The game was 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth. They had opportunities to put runs on the board and they couldn’t. Granted, Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle threw a gem, giving up only five hits in the complete game, but still. If this exact scenario happens in the second inning, it may still be a big deal, but not nearly as much.

And credit has to be given to White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen for making the moves to put the Sox in a position to win this game. He pulled Pierzynski out of the game replacing him with the faster Ozuna. Guillen then ordered Ozuna to steal second, which he did successfully. Crede did the rest by blasting a double off the left field wall scoring Ozuna for the win.

The thing is, the Angels had two strikes on Crede, too. So blame the pitcher for serving up a split-fingered pitch that hung up a little too long. If they get Crede out then none of this matters. If anything, then the Sox are in a hole because they have their clutch hitting starting catcher out of the game.

Was the call a bad one? Yes! It was a clean third strike and Pierzynski should never have been on first. Is it the ump’s fault that the Angels lost that game? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Perhaps it’s his fault that the ninth inning was extended, but he’s not the one throwing the pitches. He simply couldn’t tell whether or not the ball hit the dirt. I mean if you watch the replay, that ball is less than half an inch off the ground. It’s almost impossible to call.

Josh Paul needs to make the tag.

Remember when Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls and that season the Bulls were beat by the New York Knicks in the playoffs? Do you remember the phantom foul that was called on Scottie Pippen, ultimately costing the Bulls the series? These sorts of things happen all the time. They are as much a part of the game as a homerun, or a touchdown, or a free throw. We as fans have to accept them and move on. Scottie didn’t foul that guy, but he was certainly close and shouldn’t have been. He should have known better. Paul should have known better.

It wasn’t Steve Bartman’s fault that the Cubs lost that game that night in 2003. Moises Alou is more to blame than Bartman for reacting the way he did. He’s a professional baseball player and should have known better than to act like that, rattling the other fans and his teammates. But if anyone is to blame for the loss of that game, it’s Alex Gonzalez for committing one of the most underrated errors in the history of post-season baseball. But the Cubs still had a chance to win and they didn’t. Things happen in sports all the time that people overreact to and want to blame their team’s shortcomings on. But it’s not that easy.

Put yourself in a position where you can’t get beat by the incidental things. Did the White Sox steal a game? Maybe. Should they feel bad about that win? Positively not.

There are probably more people out there who disagree with this than don’t, but the fact is, I’m right. Seriously though, whichever side of the fence you’re on, I think we can all agree that we’ll be hearing about this on sports radio for way too long. I’m already sick of it.