Saturday, July 23, 2011

Two Days at Wrigley Field

Cubs vs Marlins on July 16, 2011
For many years I have traveled to Chicago's Wrigley Field and have seen all different types of baseball played by the home team Chicago Cubs. I feel I've seen the best - 1984 against storied rival St. Louis where Ryne Sandberg hit two home runs in his last two at bats to extend the game until the Cubs could win it in the 11th -  but following a game against the Marlins last Saturday, I think I've seen the worst.

Not many expected great things out of the Cubs entering the 2011 season, and the team has lived up to those expectations. Until today the Cubs had not won three straight game. And a week ago it was the third of a four-game series with another team destined for last place in their division. And it was one of the most boring days I've experienced at the Friendly Confines.

To begin with, a pattern that is occurring in many major league ballparks is the omission of music when the opposing batter reaches the plate. I'm sure it is to avoid "psyching up" that batter, but this has got to come to an end.. Baseball is a "pace" game. A slow pace and fans lose their interest. The quicker the pace and the fans remain attentive. But in this older ballpark where there is no replay board, no booming sound system and it is very reminiscent of how the game was played in the early 20th century, but with a bad ball team, fans of the North Side team could use a jolt in a game which finds their home town heroes down three after one inning and go onto lose 11-3.

The Cubs are a hard team to like right now. And it is for little things they do between and outside the lines. One example is shown in the above photo. Against the Fish, everyone from Florida was out of the dugout and at attention during the National Anthem. The Cubs were not fully represented. Not a reason they lost the game, but a sign that some things aren't expected out of them.

Aside from former Cub and current front office member of the Florida Marlins, Andre Dawson throwing out the first pitch and singing "Take Me Out to The Ballgame," the day would have been miserable.
Cubs v Phillies on July 18, 2011
Two nights later I may have been treated to the best Cubs home game. With your favorite team twenty games under 500, playing the best in the National League and facing the best pitcher in the game, my attention turns from cheering on the Cubs to appreciating the talent they will be facing. But on this night and in this series the feeling was more of an intra-divisional game with the Cardinals and not a team that comes to Chicago once a year. Early in the night the fans from Pennsylvania outnumbered the home team's. The size of the opponent's crowd was more like that when the Cardinals come to town, and not the fan base of a team outside of the NL Central.
Groups, families and interested fans wearing red streamed into the ballpark. The chant of "Let's Go Phillies" at times was stronger than that of "Let's Go Cubs." For every Philadelphia hit, a loud roar eminated from the stands.

And these fans have every right to follow and strongly support their team. Philadelphia Manager, Charlie Manuel has this team playing the right way. Above first baseman, Ryan Howard shows why he is among the best at his position. Every hit, Howard hustled to first, took the throw and wrapped both hands around his glove. This is a drastic difference from Cubs left fielder, Alfonso Soriano. On the same night Soriano was charged with an error after a lack of hustle caused him to charge a foul ball which found his bobbling the pop fly which he dropped.

Later in the game with the Phillies again in the field, the Cubs had runners in scoring position. Without having to meet at the mound, the infielders of Chase Utley, Michael Martinez, Jimmy Rollins and Howard each communicated through hand signals and were ready to position themselves for the next batter. The only communication with the Cubs infielders came with second baseman, Darwin Barney and Shortstop, Starlin Castro.

There are reasons a team finishes so far out of first place. These are only a few. Until the likes of Soriano and Ramirez find another place to play, Cub fans can have little to look forward to.

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