Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cubs vs. Marlins..

I’m writing about this just an hour after seeing Kevin Gregg give up back to back jacks to give the Marlins the victory. I wasn’t even surprised by it honestly, I expected it. The power of Kevin Gregg. I can’t wait for the BJ Ryan era to begin, even though he was so terrible with Toronto that they waived him. (Then again the same thing was said about Reed Johnson and that turned out well for us.) But this is about Saturday Night’s roller coaster ride of a game, pardon me for being late, but, I just felt the game had to be written about. So now the story begins.

At the beginning of the year, I stated that I didn’t want to go to see the Cubs when they came to town this year. I go every year they come to town, and it gets worse every year. When I first started making these trips years ago, you could expect attendance in the 30,000’s, with about 25,000 cheering for the Cubs. Dolphin/LandShark/Joe Robbie/Pro Player whatever the stadium’s name was that year was like Tropical Wrigley Field. This made the game enjoyable because even if the Cubs lost, it was mainly Cubs fans there, and the Marlins fans that were there were pretty lo key, happy about their team, just happy that they got a victory.

Then came 2003, Bartman, well not him, more Gonzalez, Alou losing his cool, Dusty not taking Prior out before the inning began but getting let off the hook by Bartman, then throwing the poor guy under the bus by not admitting to his mistake. What’s worse was, it was against the team that was my hometown team. At the beginning of the 2003 NLCS, I took the diplomatic approach, if the Marlins won, I’d cheer for them in the World Series, and I did because they were playing the Yankees and I hate the Yankees because of my feelings towards New York fans plus the whole Miami-New York sports rivalry that no one ever talks about even though it’s given us God knows how many memorable Dolphins-Jets tilts (Monday Night Miracle, Marino averaging something like 6 touchdowns and 450 yards against the Jets in the 80’s but since the Dolphins didn’t have a halfway decent defense the score always averaged something like 52-48 Jets) the Heat/Knicks rivalry which will be reinvigorated if Wade stays with the Heat and the Knicks find a way to stay competitive and sign LeBron next year, and of course the fact that the Mets always seem to fall apart down the stretch every season and the Marlins are involved in one way or another.

But that way of thinking went out the window in the years after. Suddenly, Marlins fans that didn’t go to games showed up for Cubs games. By appearances, it wasn’t so much to cheer the Marlins, but to rag on the Cubs. Hey, I’m all for that, as fans you can do this, just, they showed up in their Jeff Conine and Livan Hernandez jerseys, couldn’t name 10 players on the Marlins’ roster, still thinks Sammy Sosa is with the Cubs and Mark Prior is that night’s starting pitcher. (Fans, I can’t emphasize this enough, go to games, cheer your team, boo the opposition, but if you’re going to do this, know who you’re cheering, know who you’re booing.)

Of course, all some of these moron’s know is “1908”, “Billy Goat”, “Bartman”, and “Curse” (I’ve already discussed the whole “curse” thing, how the only curse is inept management, as well as the whole Bartman thing, not getting into it again, just go here and you’ll get a full explanation.) And, I’m sorry if I offend the Marlins fans I know, and many of them know what they’re talking about with baseball, its that, I get the feeling that they don’t go to every game and do this. Truth is, yeah, the Cubs haven’t won a championship in 100 years, but, the Astros, Padres, Rockies, Brewers and Nationals have never won World Series Championships, hell the Nationals have never been to the world series, and let’s face it, they’re the Nationals (Washington, First in War, First in Peace, but always last in the National League East). The Pirates have been the model for baseball ineptitude in the last 15 years, the Marlins have the Mets number (the same fans do know this and let the Mets know this, again, not against this, the Miami/New York thing), realistically, the Marlins fans can go after just about any team in the National League except for the Phillies and that’s only because the Phillies are defending Champions. But, they go after the Cubs. (I know it’s because a lot of my fellow Cubs fans like to get loud and obnoxious while drunk, sorry about that.)

Again, if these were knowledgeable baseball fans that did it in a respectful way, I’d be fine with it, but last season I pretty much said screw it. After the Cubs lost to the fish last year, as my dad and I were walking down the ramps at then Dolphin Stadium, some lady decked in full Marlins regalia kept walking in front of us holding up a 1908 sign with pictures of Bartman and a Billy Goat on it. No big deal if she’s holding it up during the game between innings and not blocking anyone’s view of the game, but a huge deal when you’re walking right in front of people on an incline and you’re screaming your guts out. White Sox fans wouldn’t even stoop that low. She wasn’t only being an obnoxious little bitch, but she was posing a safety hazard, we almost walked into her about three or four times.

During the game wasn’t much better, it wasn’t only the fans doing it, but the team itself on the Jumbotron. Every Cubs at bat was greeted with the sound of a Billy Goat. Even the team’s marketing campaign in the last few years has been very antagonistic towards fans of other teams. It’s clever yes, but also not too smart in the sense that usually, its fans of the other teams that are your bread and butter. Let’s be honest here Marlins fans, from 1998 until recently when the new ballpark started construction, you weren’t drawing fans unless the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, or Cubs were coming to town. That’s undisputed; check out the attendance figures for those games in comparison to games against other teams, even other marquis teams like the Dodgers, Giants and Phillies. The last thing you want to do is antagonize other fan bases to the point where they say screw it; I’m not giving that team my money. I really felt that way, after all, they got their stadium, baseball is in Miami to stay, I don’t have to worry about this being the last time I get to see the Cubs in person until I make that move to Chicago that I’ve been contemplating since I was six, I don’t have to give this team my money anymore to see my team.

But my dad got tickets, and I just said screw it, I’m easy, I decided to go, hopefully things will have changed, hopefully the Marlins fans would be a bit less obnoxious, and, hopefully, the Cubs would win.

Well, the Marlins fans were a bit subdued from previous years, but I think the fact that the Cubs jumped out to a 6-0 lead early had something to do with that. At the time I texted my friend (and fellow Cubs fan from Illinois) Liz and told her “I haven’t had so much fun at a Cubs game in years” which was true. (Also true, it was the two year anniversary of my first Wrigley Field game, and yes, I keep track of crap like that. All baseball fans, regardless of the team they root for, must visit Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and Dodger Stadium at least once in their life. Old Yankee Stadium was on that list but New Yankee Stadium isn’t because it was the history of Old Yankee Stadium that puts it at that level.) Well, that text was, in hindsight, a mistake. The game was NOT fun after that. The Marlins kept inching their way back, seriously, if this team had a halfway decent manager, they’d be on their way to October, especially with the shrewd Nick Johnson deal. One run an inning, it felt like one of those slow deaths. Then Marmol came into the game with the score at 6-5, one night after he had a huge meltdown, loaded the bases, yet got out of it. Top of the 9th, finally they get some runs. Theriot (the cubs MVP this year, I’m not arguing this) who didn’t even start the game, doubles home two runs to make the score 8-5. I’m feeling good as a Cubs fan, but, you can’t, not when your closer is Kevin Gregg, former Marlins closer, the guy that my cousin laughed when he heard the Cubs traded for him, a man whose nickname form this point on will be the walking blown save.

Gregg gets two quick outs, and then comes Ronny Paulino. Home run. 8-6. Then Coghlan came up, single. Nick Johnson comes up, double. Then up comes Emilio Bonafacio, now known as the much maligned Emilio Bonafacio. He was only batting 3rd because he replaced Hanley, who was injured by a Zambrano pitch earlier in the game. Triple! Incredible, tie game. Thankfully Jorge Cantu, who had been the Marlins’ most clutch hitter all season, grounded out. (He had a terrible game, 2 errors.) Tie game going into extras, I left to smoke a cigarette.

That was the best move, because then, Derrek Lee launched a homerun to start off the 10th. Had I not left, there’d be no home run, other Cubs fans around me believed the same thing about them. When you’re that swept up into fandom, you believe these things, no matter how stupid they may seem. I come back, see Ramirez is hit in the elbow and he’s dizzy. Great, just what we need, first we lost Zambrano after only 3 innings (the main reason why we blew a 6 run lead) due to back stiffness, now Aramis is out.

The bottom of the 10th I was bracing for the worst, but, the worst didn’t come to pass. Cubs got the win. Walking out, there were no obnoxious Marlins fans trying to trip us, no one talking crap. I would’ve loved to have seen the reaction of a bunch of Marlins fans leaving with a dejected look on their faces, trying to think of what to say. Didn’t come to pass. All I heard was a cacophony of “Go Cubs Go” from fellow Cubs fans, and a smattering of compliments of my Harry Carrey T-shirt that says “Cub Fan, Bud Man.” (Another note about that shirt, for every 3 compliments from fellow Cubs fans I’ve heard about the shirt, I get some people thinking that by Bud it means the other type of Bud that can alter you. It’s my favorite double entendre t-shirt, and it’s not even meant to be one!)

Of course, one day later, I saw Kevin Gregg blow another save, only this time it leads to a Cubs loss. They won the season series against the Marlins 4-3 thanks to a 3-1 series win at Wrigley in May, but lost this series 2-1. We’re a half game behind St. Louis, and still have had yet to be fully healthy. Yes, Kevin Gregg is probably going to be the man to lead us to choke down the stretch, and no, I don’t think they have it this year, they won’t win it all. But still an enjoyable game.

Other notes from this weekend’s series.

-Cubs/Marlins is a full rivalry. No one really knows how much these two teams are linked. It’s not just 03, but also the fact that many past/current Cubs and many past/current Marlins were at one time playing for the opposite team. In fact, just take a look at the link between the two teams and what players played for both.

Andre Dawson

Moises Alou

Antonio Alfonseca

Ryan Dempster

Derrek Lee

Juan Pierre

Matt Clement

Julian Tavarez

Kevin Gregg

Luis Gonzalez

Hee Sop Choi

Sergio Mitre

Lenny Harris

And I know I’m leaving off a few players from that list. Even more interesting is that some of the players that were in the Cubs system but became Marlins…

Dontrelle Willis (traded alongside Julian Tavarez for Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca)

Ricky Nolasco (traded alongside Sergio Mitre for Juan Pierre)

Again, I know I’m leaving some players off the list. Fact is the Marlins and Cubs front offices have a great relationship. Since 2002, there have been four trades between the two teams, and the Marlins have gotten the better of the deal in two of them, and the other two being a wash. (Marlins got the better of the deal in Nolasco and Mitre for Pierre because Pierre was terrible in his one year with the Cubs and went on to sign with the Dodgers where he found his ability to run and hit again while Nolasco is a key part to their rotation, and in the Kevin Gregg deal only because of addition by subtraction, the DLee-Choi deal was a wash because the Marlins spun Choi off to acquire Encarnacion, Lo Duca, and Guillermo Mota and the D-Train and Alfonseca for Tavarez and Clement deal was a wash because the Marlins wouldn’t have gotten as far in 03 without D-Train, and the Cubs wouldn’t have gotten that far that year had it not been for Clement). And that’s without going into the many proposed deals the two almost made (like Mike Lowell for Bobby Hill and prospects in 2003, or this year’s rumored Jeremy Hermida deal.) Point being, if I’m the Cubs, I’m only making a trade with the Marlins if I have a chance at acquiring Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, or Ricky Nolasco, ironically the only three players the Marlins have who they would consider untouchable. (Last year I would’ve traded DLee and made a play for Mike Jacobs and Scott Olsen by the way. That doesn’t count though because none of them are Marlins anymore anyways.)

-Speaking of Derrek Lee, I’ve given him a lot of shit this year, but, had it not been for him, the Cubs would’ve lost that game. It’s like he knew what I said about him in the podcast and what I’ve been writing about him, and somehow knew I was going to be in attendance at the game, so he wanted to really stick it to me. So yesterday he goes 4 for 6 and was just a triple away from the cycle, had 3 ribbies and the game winning home run, then today he goes 1 for 4 and drives in another run. Overall for the series he goes 6 for 14 (that’s a .429 average) with a double, home run, and 4 ribbies. I’ll leave him alone until the next time he grounds into a double play with one out and the Cubs either trailing or tied, which should be sometime this week.

-Both teams seem to bring the most out of each other. These teams are different from the 03 versions of both squads. No Marlin from 03 is on this year’s team, and the only Cubs from 03 on this year’s team are Ramirez and Zambrano. Despite that, the matchups between the two teams are hot tickets in both Miami and at Wrigley every year, and both teams play each other to close, exciting games, and you can tell there is some bad blood between Marlins and Cubs fans. Doesn’t that make it a rivalry? Why isn’t it sold as such? I just have a feeling that these two teams will compete against each other in October again, maybe even this year, who knows. Fact is though, if the Marlins organization can stop their marketing plan of antagonizing fans of other teams and let actual Marlins fans do it, then it will be more fun than it is now. It’s not fun, and that’s the Marlins’ organizations fault. The do this to every team, and while it’s clever and funny, it’s also stupid. Let the fans be the ones to antagonize the other fans. (Plus, what if a massive fight occurs between a Marlins fan and a fan of the Mets or Cubs, whites to say the Cubs or Mets fan won’t name the Marlins in a potential suit saying that the Marlins themselves have some responsibility because they helped to rile up the fans into that type of frenzy. Do the Marlins need that negative publicity at this point? We’ll find out the next time the Mets come to town.)

-Finally, the new Marlins Ballpark is official, and it does look like it’s going to be nice. However for it to work, Miami needs to improve its infrastructure. I have some ideas of my own, and I’ll be pointing them out later. Until then, see you guys later, thanks for reading.

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