Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Curse of Believing in Curses

So the Daily Herald's Mike Imrem wrote an article about trading Starlin Castro. Reasonable enough, right? It's an idea that's been floated on this very blog, no less. Unfortunately, the logic behind the argument is...less than sound.. Allow me to indulge myself and tackle this in a fashion that blatantly rips off Fire Joe Morgan.

The Cubs have to trade Starlin Castro for his sake and theirs.
Okay, that might be a little extreme, but trading Castro could be a very good idea. He’s young, cheap and talented, but his flaws might prevent him from developing much further. He’s a guy that would command a lot of talent in return, which the Cubs could use at roughly Every Single Position.

Let’s think about how we can explain this. Hmmm. OK, here goes.
Well, if the above isn’t enough: he walks less than someone who has entertained the thought of purchasing a Rascal scooter; he hasn’t shown much power and counting on him to develop some as he ages is risky; his value is tied to his batting average never ever dipping below .300, which is a Herculean task for non-Ichiros; his defense stands out as noticeably bad on a team that features Alfonso: Not Just Old Anymore, But Also With One Functioning Leg. Is that enough?

Castro is a threat to Wrigley Field the way emerald ash borer is to some suburbs.
He’s infected and infectious.
The Cubs’ curse that has spread through this franchise for decades has wrapped its hands around the young shortstop and can’t be expected to let go.
Tortured metaphor aside (if you think it’s bad now, wait -- things are about to get all 24 in here), there might be some value to this. The Cubs, historically, are an organization that hasn’t prioritized getting on base. While Epstein and Hoyer will hopefully change the culture, it might be too late for Castro to develop patience and foisting him off on someone else before everyone else figures that out could be a good idea. It’s not like he’s actually referring to a literal curs--

Kerry Wood was inflicted, too, and had to retire recently. Ryan Dempster is and has to be surgically removed via trade or free agency.
Oh! Okay, we’re into some Real Stupid territory here. Ryan Dempster is 0-3 with a 2.90 ERA. The Cubs are trading him because he'll get a good return due to being a good baseball player. Also, because they'd go 74-88 even with 1999 Pedro pitching every game. Kerry Wood’s curse was having a frisbee-esque breaking ball that happened to be impossible to throw without destroying your elbow, then being managed by Dusty Baker. The intolerable consequence of this curse is that Wood had to move to the bullpen and become a good reliever until he was 34, because no other relievers have dropped off a cliff before and all pitchers stay good through their mid 30s.

Apparently nothing can be done about Alfonso Soriano except to let him rot away to his roots in left field.
Ha! Like a tree. Remember, earlier, when he said the Cubs were literally cursed with an infestation like one that might affect a tree? That’s what this is playing off of, in case you missed it. (Alfonso Soriano, of course, wasn’t a product of money burning a hole in Jim Henrdy’s pocket; on any other team, paying a guy $136 million over 8 years at age 31 would have worked out fine! Cursed!)

Jeff Samardzija? Well, the Cubs can only hope that he is a mighty oak immune to the outbreak.
I’m going to gloss over the fact that some people don’t fit this narrative by weaving it into this hilariously topical analogy. Bryan LaHair is like a newly discovered redwood, super old but strong. Tony Campana and Darwin Barney? A pair of bonsai, tiny and flying under the radar of the destructive Mythical Curse That An Adult Believes Is Affecting A Baseball Team. David DeJesus is a cactus, or something.

Castro hasn’t been so fortunate, as events of the past week demonstrated.
First, a baserunning blunder. Then, forgetting the number of outs in an inning. Overall, suffering a bad case of brain cramps.
First, he made a mistake. Then, he made another mistake?! So many curses I feel like I’m listening to a Bob Saget stand-up routine! (which is, by the way, one of the few activities on this planet that is equally as enjoyable as watching the Cubs play baseball.)

These are baseball boo-boos that Castro likely rarely made in his native Dominican Republic, in the minor leagues or in his worst nightmares.
Can I say that something probably happened without looking it up if it makes my story easier? That’s in the AP stylebook, right? “Starlin Castro never once tripped on his shoelaces before coming to Chicago, I’d guess, in the reality that I’ve created. Explain that hypothetical scenario I just made up, curse-deniers!”

Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president in charge of curing all ills, is planting the seeds of a new culture and can’t risk having a daffy-odil seed in the mix.
INT - Cubs clubhouse, 2013. Hot-shot prospect Anthony Rizzo is getting ready for batting practice when he hears a voice calling from the rafters:
“Psst...Rizzo. Yeah, you.”
“...Starlin? But I thought you were--”
“Oh, they might have traded me, but they can never trade The Curse. Hey, don’t you ever get bored standing there, never swinging at those balls out of the strike zone? Is there really any fun in fielding your position competently? Why not, instead of being good at baseball like you have your whole career, let me persuade you to play poorly?”
“You know, now that you mention it, that does sound appealing...”
*evil laughter* *lightning bolt crashes*
--Excerpt from my screenplay, “The Phantom of the Wrigley” / What Mike Imrem thinks will happen in real life

One option Epstein has is to try to save Castro for the Cubs by drilling a hole in his trunk and injecting chemicals into his system.

The better option is to cut Castro down, load him on a truck and haul him off to another major-league parkway.
“Hey, Mike? This is your editor. Listen, loved the article, just had one question: do you mind if we cut the section where you graphically describe taking an axe to Starlin Castro and then feeding him to a woodchipper?”

History indicates that once a Cubs player is out of the Wrigley Field environment, he has a chance to recover from the curse.
A good guess is that’s what Epstein and his personnel posse lean toward, even if they won’t say so.
No, that actually happens to be a “bad guess.” A “good guess” is that Epstein, who went to Yale, won multiple championships with the Red Sox and happens to be a grown man who can function without a caretaker, doesn’t believe in a made-up thing that doesn’t exist. He probably chooses to run the team based on how the players play baseball instead. You might be trying to guess what An Idiot thinks, in which case: you nailed it!

On the surface, Castro is a tempting candidate to rehabilitate. He’s a quality hitter, eventually should add power and can evolve into a plus defender.
The only problem is that the Cubs have cursed him already as evidenced by his recent gaffes.
Oh my god, not only does he literally believe in a curse, but he thinks all that Starlin Castro’s actual flaws will be fixed! He wants to trade Starlin Castro, who he believes will turn into what would undoubtedly be an all-star calibre player year-in and year-out, SOLELY ON THE BASIS OF HIM BEING A CURSED HUMAN BEING. Mike Imrem, who is by all accounts above the age of nine, believes that a baseball player has a fantastical supernatural affliction that will cease to affect him as soon as he is on a different baseball team. This is a belief that he is not ashamed to vocalize. Next up: get rid of James Russell; he’s a witch!

So, yes, Starlin Castro has to be traded before miscalculating outs becomes contagious.
Daily Herald staff: I urge you to remove Mike Imrem from your organization, before being a fucking moron becomes contagious.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Attendance Issues? Why Do You Care?

It's no secret the Sox are having some problems getting people out to the ballpark.  Despite the first place standing and a team that's playing solid, if not considered good, baseball.

What bothers me is that people can't get enough of talking about it.  Whether it's on the radio, in the papers, in your office, or on the street, you are likely to hear people talk about the Sox poor attendance.

If you are in the White Sox front office this is concern number one.  Because it pays their bills.

But if you are a fan, why do you care?  The Sox have proven over the past 15+ years that when they have a team that has a chance to win, they will make the necessary moves to try and make it happen.  Paying the players has never come down to how many butts are in the seats.

Don't believe me?  Take a look at attendance number since 2000.  

The Sox have spanned from 1.67 million to 2.96 million over this time.  The big jump was obliviously during, and after the World Series season in 2005.

After the series, the Sox went out and signed Jim Thome.  But wouldn't you think that after the '06 season they would make a big move because they had a lot more butts in the chairs?  Nope.  The Sox barely made a move that off season  How bout in 2010.  Attendance was down about a 100,000 and the Sox go out and make a huge move to get Adam Dunn.

I've tried to find a correlation between big free agent signing and attendance, and I can't do it.

So that brings me back to my point.  If it doesn't affect the players on the field, why do you care that people aren't in the seats?

It can actually be a more enjoyable experience when the house is not packed to the brim.  You can buy a ticket on the day of the game, usually for a reasonable price ($5 tickets all week).  You can find a parking space, and be able to get out of it relatively easily when the game is over.  The lines at the concession stands are not outrageous... not to mention the bathrooms.  And the concourse is generally a bit more open and easier to navigate.

Stop complaining.  It's not all bad.  Don't be embarrassed that people are not in the seats.  Attendance numbers do not win baseball games.  Just keep cheering on the ball club and hoping they win.  If you can get out to a game, great, if not, that's okay.  Represent the Sox in your own way, and don't let anybody tell you that you are not a fan because you don't go to games.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hawk Shouldn't Apologize

Tonight Ken "Hawk" Harrelson is expected to make some sort of apology in regards to his blowup Thursday afternoon after Mark Wegner threw Jose Quintana out of the game.

I'll get to the apology and how ridiculous I feel this is, but I'll start by talking solely about Hawk and his "homer" style.

Like him or not Hawk Harrelson is a character.  And part of the character are his catch phrases, his stories, and his unbelievably over the top love for the team he broadcasts.

That's what Hawk is, that's what Hawk has been, that's what Hawk will always be.  

Personally, I'm not the biggest fan in the world of Hawk Harrelson, however, I do feel that it would be a shame if Hawk were to "tone it down" or even worse, no longer be the Sox play by play guy.

Hawk bothers me because of repetitiveness and lack of attention to the game at times.  Whether it's "quickly 0-2" every single time the count goes there, or "in my 7 decades of baseball", or even "don't stop now boys" Hawk has made habits of using certain sayings.  

I love catch phrases.  He Gone, Put it on the Board, Stretch, I use these in everyday situations.  But it's the "non catch phrases" as I'll call them that get to me.  We don't care about Carl Yastrzemski or Sandy Koufax.  We don't care that how the game was different (and often positioned as better) 50 years ago.  The count is quickly 0-2 but not quickly 2-0, or 1-1.  

That's what bothers me about Hawk.  But all in all, I do like that he's the voice of the Sox.  I believe the catch phrases give Sox fans a personality.  It bands Sox fans together, and you hear these phrases all the time at the ballpark.

But it's not only at the Cell.  You hear someone say "stretch" to someone reaching for a box of cereal in the grocery store, you are likely to say "get on back there" and instantly have a connection to a stranger that wouldn't have happened.  That's because of Hawk.

Hawk gives Sox fans a common vernacular.  It allows the 16 year old male fan to talk baseball with the 55 woman who's liked the Sox as long as she's lived.  These terms and this insane homerism become ingrained in Sox fans, and the passion pours from the TV speakers into our brains.  Hawk Harrelson's voice, is your voice as a Sox fan.

So when Hawk goes off on Mark Wegner, he's saying exactly what you are thinking.  I know when I saw the ejection I instantly jumped off my not-so-comfy couch and yelled "hey, that's not right."  Hawk may have said a little more than that, but I bet I would have to if someone was in my apartment here to listen (other than Wiglaf, but he doesn't talk back).

Hawk is not the standard broadcaster.  He's not doing national games, and therefore he's not supposed to be unbiased.  Hawk is Hawk because of stuff like this.  Hawk is famous for saying crazily homer stuff.  And not once has Hawk broken an FCC rule when he does it.  You can tell he's mad, but it's PG.  

So to make him apologize for this is outrageous.  Did he blast Mark Wegner a little too much?  For you and I, maybe, but deep down in Hawk's mind, no I don't think he thinks he did.  

The man is opinionated, and to make him apologize for his opinions, when you hired him to spew them during your teams broadcasts, is wrong.  And simply put, he shouldn't do it.  But he has to. 

So when you hear the apology tonight, just know, this wasn't his choice no matter how sincere he may sound.