This kid is awesome.


I’m guessing this kid hates the trade deadline, too. If he reacts like this when his favorite player hands him a baseball, imagine how he’d react to hearing the player was traded.

Fukudome to the Indians. Hopefully there aren’t any little Cubs fans who love Fukudome as much as this kid loves Josh Beckett.

Fukudome wasn’t the answer for the Cubs. Helped us capture a division crown in ’08 and that was about it. A hard worker and a class act but statistically, he didn’t quite live up to the sales pitch. I wish you well in Cleveland, Fukudome. Another former Cub I’ll keep an eye in his post-Cubs career.

Go Cubs Go!

New today for Baseball Digest – Bump Wills Feature


There are many people in the world who share July 27th as the date they were born.

I’m not so sure any of them have as cool of a name as former Cub, Bump Wills. I wrote this article for today’s Baseball Digest. Happy birthday there, Bump. Check out the excerpt and then click the link to see the entire write-up.

Alex Rodriguez. Leo Durocher. Joe Tinker.

A future Hall of Famer, a current Hall of Famer and one of the greatest players to wear a Chicago Cubs uniform of all-time.

What do they all have in common? They were all born on today’s date, July 27. What else do they have in common? I decided not to focus today’s feature on any of them.

Those three names are well known. We know about A-Rod and how he quickly reached the 500 mark, and then not long after that, the 600 plateau in home run calculations. We know about the BALCO findings, and that he finally admitted to using substances in the early part of the new millenium. We know that he came up with Seattle, signed the largest contract in MLB with the Texas Rangers at 10 years/$252 million and then topped that with a 10 years/$272 million contract when he joined the New York Yankees. We know about his willingness to play third base because Jeter was already the captain and resident of the shortstop position with the Yankees and of course, we know about the ‘Cameron and the popcorn’ incident. (I like calling it an incident. Makes it seem like a big deal while of course, it was not).

Durocher? We know that he was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1994 by the veterans committee, won at least 500 games with three different teams, is listed tenth all-time in victories by a manager and finally put an end to the horrible ‘College of Coaches‘ idea that existed with P.K. Wrigley’s Chicago Cubs.

Speaking of the Chicago Cubs, baseball historians and poetry fans alike are well-versed in the likes of Joe Tinker. The man that leads off in the ‘Tinker to Evers to Chance’ poem helped lead the Chicago Cubs through their greatest decade and their last world championship in the early 1900′s.

The three of them have been celebrated time and time again. I have decided they’ve had their birthday cake and eaten, too. (In the case of Rodriguez, it may have even been fed to him by Cameron Diaz, Kate Hudson or some other Hollywood startlet). To truly celebrate a birthday in this space and recognize a player few know anything about and some know very little, we need to highlight the career of the deserving, yet relatively unknown.

I present to you: Elliot Taylor ‘Bump’ Wills.

Go Cubs Go!

VIDEO ARCHIVE: (1/6/10) The Hawk is in!


Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar are about to enjoy a day bestowed upon very few. After stellar MLB careers, numerous awards and endless accolades the two of them will find themselves inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Congratulations to Bert and Roberto. Honors definitely well deserved.

Andre Dawson finally received the call to the Hall, literally, on January 6, 2010. One of my favorite Cubs achieving the accomplishment was a thrill to me as it was long coming, much deserved and only the second time a Cub who spent their glory years in the thick of the decade I grew up in got the call to join the elite of the game. I was disappointed to hear later that the Hall would put Dawson in under the Expos cap despite the Hawk’s wishes, however, the honor is what matters and after the career Dawson had in Montreal, Chicago, Boston and Florida, the last appropriate place for him to call home was Cooperstown.

In honor of Hawk and the rest of the Cubs in the Hall, plus to commemorate Baseball Hall of Fame weekend, here is the video I shot on the day Dawson was elected to be a member of the HOF. Finding out the news at work, in the middle of a quiet training made it tough to contain myself as you’ll hear. I couldn’t wait to rant about it that evening. Check it out:

Congratulations to Bert and Roberto. Always a special day no matter who has received the call. Looking forward to it (along with potentially the first three game winning streak of the season for the Cubs. Great game by Wells today. A clutch start to prove he still belongs in the rotation was definitely needed. The win gave us the first series win after losing nine straight. I think it’s time to shed the ‘only MLB team without a three game win streak’ label next).

Go Cubs Go!

Cubs reach game 100. You know what that means? Syndication!


The magic number all television shows try to reach is 100. If you can churn out quality content or at the very least, quality ratings (the two almost always go hand in hand, except for Glee. Glee is a show with ratings I could never even begin to explain) for the networks to keep you around long enough, then you have a shot at accomplishing production of 100 episodes. The golden number.

Why is it so golden? Because if you reach 100 times on the air, each time with original content, then you qualify for networks to pick you up on syndication where you live on in re-runs forever and ever and ever. It’s how you maintain a legacy unlike the other shows that never made it. It’s how you become Seinfeld, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, The King of Queens or Frasier instead of say, The Paul Reiser Show. (Poor Paul Reiser. That show should have just ripped off Larry David’s formula since it called itself out on it anyway, lost the friends and just focused on Paul. I still think there’s a place for Paul Reiser on network television. Just needs to find a vehicle people are mad about again).

If footage of the Cubs’ 2011 season were simply various installments of a long-running television show, we would have just witnessed the 100th original episode airing today and the folks at RBC (Ricketts Broadcasting Company) could celebrate the opportunity to rank in millions upon millions in syndication money. The money the networks would pay to air the shows. The money the advertisers would pay to sell their products in reruns. It would all add up over time and today would have been a momentous occasion to be celebrated. Yes, a 4-2 win over the lowly Houston Astros in your 100th game of the season is something to smile about, too. But in this hypothetical world we’re talking about syndication here. The opportunity to re-live and enjoy some of our favorite moments in ‘Cubs 2011’ history over and over again until the end of time.

Take these classic episodes that can live on in re-run lore for years to come, for instance:

The Wrigley Bunch” – Marmol and Zambrano aren’t getting along. Zambrano blames the team’s problems on Marmol and Marmol, cast as the team’s middle reliever can’t get away from media statements that perhaps Marshall would better serve as the club’s closer. Marmol melts down with his now classic outburst of “Marshall, Marshall, Marshall!” A favorite moment among Cubs fans everywhere.

Different Folks” – Wells and Cashner go down with injuries and Quade is put in a rather uncomfortable situation of trying to replace his number four and five starters. Half a dozen new cast members are brought in and rotated to fill the roles. Among them, newcomer Casey Coleman is cast as the promising young replacement pitcher who struggles through outing after outing. While mostly a dramatic time in the series, Coleman does end up with one of the most memorable lines in the history of the series: “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout Riggins?”. T-shirt and toy companies pick up on the pop culture trail the line is blazing and kids all over Cubs nation are seen wearing the shirts and saying the line.

Family Tries” – The organization has a plan going into the draft. After much collaborating they decide it would be best to try and draft talent that will help the club in the future. A plan that most others would think to be obvious, however, for this comedic ensemble, nothing is obvious. They plan to draft the son of a famous, popular, successful athlete to come up through the ranks and become another great baseball player. The problem? They get the kid and sign him, only the former great athlete that produced this draft pick? Wayne Gretzky. Interesting strategy. Hilarious outcome.

T*R*E*N*D*S” – The one where Carlos Marmol blows a save. This will be a recurring theme appearing throughout the series and fans will recognize the storyline coming a mile away. The producers, not quite sure how to get it just right, will attempt the story nearly 10 times over the course of the 100 episodes. A heartwarming season where Zambrano consoles Marmol after new teen heart-throb, Ramon Ortiz does laps with Marmol to try and get his head right with a classic ‘I’ll be there for you’ highlights the story arc. Marmol ends up getting his act together in the end and the problem is once again solved in the thirty minute alloted story window.

Judge Quade” – Sassy, take no-guff, judge of talent, team manager Mike Quade is the focus of this highlight/Best Of show, one of the last to air before the 100th episode came to fruition. Blowouts with umpires with Quade judging their calls of outs around the bases, an argument with Ryan Dempster, starting pitcher and fundraiser extraordinaire at the top of the dugout steps as a result of Judge Quade judging it was time to take Demp out early and an animated conversation between Quade, team all-star Starlin Castro and second baseman Darwin Barney about how to judge balls in the sun based on previous case precedents are just part of the fun with this classic Cubs episode.

100 original airings of Cubs 2011 and there are sixty-two more to come. The hi-jinx, comedy, drama, mystery and despair is what has made the series one of the more interesting things to watch this year. Critics have complained the cast is too old and it’s time to bring in new talent. Time to write off the old. Producers are still dealing with how exactly the series is going to end and what exactly the story arc will be. Once they have figured it out, they should know better what type of casting will need to be done. Then again, depending on the talent available for the next part of the season, they might simply work around the cast and the script will take care of itself.

Cubs baseball was on the air 100 times already this season. Sixty-two more to go. The hypothetical allows the celebration of syndication and an incredible opportunity. In reality, we’re looking at fifth place in the Central (40-60) and hope that the second half makes up for the complications we’ve seen in the first half.

The Astros are a good team to have in town to re-work this Cubs 2011 script. I’ve seen the first 10o episodes and let me tell you, a rewrite might not be possible, but it sure could use a whole new direction. Tomorrow, hopefully, the re-work does in fact continue. Go Cubs Go!

“I’ll trade you my apple and box of Lunchables for your delicious chocolate pudding snack”


Alfonso Soriano. Marlon Byrd. Aramis Ramirez. Kosuke Fukudome. John Grabow. Carlos Marmol.

I hate the trade deadline. I seriously hate it.

Like a thirsty man lying in the middle of desert with vultures swarming all around him (or in our case, seagulls). You lie there fighting to stay alive while they flock in groups just waiting for you to finally give up.

Or like a meal during Sunday dinner when you’re sitting there eating your food, some of it just alright, some of it you’re not so sure about whether you want to eat it or not or maybe save it for later. Fat relatives who have already had their share, sitting there bored yet happy with their bellies full of delicious goodness, enjoying the best part of their day yet they still feel the need to lean over with their grubby paws and their silver forks asking that annoying question ‘are you done with that? can I have it?’ only without the decency to wait until you’ve decided you actually are done and finished with this year’s meal.

You know what? NO! I’m not done with it. Maybe I just want to play with food a little while longer if you don’t mind. What are you in such a rush for? You’re clearly happy with the meal you’ve eaten. Gloating in your head of the table chair at the meal you produced and amazingly effective you were in consuming it all and beating the rest of us to the finish line. Now you have the gall to sit there and try to take the best parts of my meal, or the scraps I’m not so sure whether I want any longer before I officially stop trying myself? That is just wrong.

Or like a kid sitting in his school cafeteria. Off in the corner while the cool kids celebrate their popularity and their yearbook signatures and their game winning kickball run they scored in recess a period earlier, for the third day in a row. Just sitting there with his misfit toy lunch of random, no name-brand pieces to eat except perhaps one delicious pride and joy in the entire brown bag lunch. Eating the rest of it because you have to, pieces that no one else would ever want and no one else in the room, all those hot lunch eaters got to avoid sitting in the position you’re in looking at the roster of so called ‘edible treats’ you’ve been dealt to ‘enjoy’ that day. Sitting there trying to decide when to call it a day with all of that so that you can get to the one piece that actually makes all of your lunches worth experiencing. And then those kids who have it all. Those kids who don’t want for anything, have the nerve to come over with what they’ve projected as scraps (probably even pieces they bullied from other kids) and try to deal with you to get your amazing, pudding snack.

“Hey, kid”, they say. “I’ll trade you this apple and a box of ‘Lunchables’ for your chocolate pudding, right here, right now.”

“What?!? An apple and a box of Lunchables for my chocolate pudding? Seriously? What am I going to do with an apple and a lunchable?”

“Kid, look”, they say. “We sit across from you in the same cafeteria day after day after day. We know what you bring to the table. We’ve seen your lunches all year and quite honestly, they’re mediocre at best.”

This doesn’t help at all.

“Look at our lunches”, they say. “Our lunches are amazing. Every thing about them, stellar. Your pudding is being wasted on a lunch that is hardly even average day in a day out. You add an apple and a box of Lunchables to your lunch and now we’re starting to get somewhere. You take your chocolate pudding and put it in my lunch bag? I have the best lunch in the cafeteria.”

It’s hard to argue with.

“Come on”, they say. “You’ve enjoyed the chocolate pudding long enough. You could use a new direction. Give me the pudding. Let me use it and help it hit it’s full potential as a contributor to the best lunch in school. You’re wasting what it brings to the table. Come on. Take the apple and lunchables. You may not like it now, but later I believe you’ll really come around to the idea. What do you say?”

“What do I say? Hmm….how about I say NO. Stop! I’m not done yet. Alright?!? I’m not done with the food on my plate so take your little greedy forks and back off. I’m not so sure I’m ready to stop putting up a fight so the vultures and look around for another body and see what they can pick off of them. And as for the chocolate pudding? What’s the rush?!? It’s July 21st. Technically I have another 10 days or so to enjoy my chocolate pudding before I can’t take your apple and Lunchables. I LIKE having my chocolate pudding. It’s what makes the lunch enjoyable. Sure the rest of it is below average, but it’s my lunch and my decision and I just may stick with it.

I know you need the chocolate pudding. I know what it could do for your lunch. Make you even cooler. Make what you bring to the table the best in the cafe. Well, I’m not so sure that I’m done with it yet. And I’m not so sure I don’t want to save it for later.

So back off. Give me some room. And let me think about this. I’m not so crazy about your stupid apple and box of Lunchables even though it may be better for me in the long run. And you fat relatives at the dinner table who already had enough to eat…same goes for you.

Everybody just chill out. I understand it looks like I have a lot for you to take. I understand why you want to take it. However, thing is. Maybe I’m not done yet. And maybe, just maybe…I want to save it for later.”

That’s what the trade deadline feels like to me.

I don’t like it.

Go Cubs Go!



I figured today would be a great opportunity to kick off a new feature on Prose and Ivy called, “The Beat”. Given that the Cubs (along with the rest of MLB) are off today, why not use the time to present you a little something different?

Last night’s All-Star Game featured 68 of the greatest players in the game today. 34 of them were admitted into the All-Star Game Rookie Class of 2011, making their first All-Star appearances. Starlin Castro was one of the rookie stand outs with two stolen bases and the recording of the game’s final out. While the game counted for home-field advantage in the World Series yet again, tomorrow the game results will once again reflect in the overall standings and the Cubs will begin their second-half of the season digging out of the hole they have created for themselves.

One of the surprise MLB teams of the first half and one of the squads the Cubs are chasing in the NL Central are the Pittsburgh Pirates. At one game behind the Brewers and Cardinals, the Pirates have accomplished what many thought was still a couple years away – contending in what is always a tight, competitive division. A great story, the Pirates are giving their fans a lot to cheer about and the impact the team is having as a surprise standout squad must be fun for those covering the team on a daily basis.

This article is to kick off a new feature here about beat reporters. Hence, I’ve named the feature “The Beat”. Writing about a major league baseball team day in and day out is a thrill for anyone with the means to communicate with a vast audience. However, beat reporters have access like no one else. They are with the team every day and are the connection between fan and organization. Social media is making the distance between the two grow smaller and smaller, with different blog platforms available and networks such as Facebook and Twitter. However, it’s the beat reporters that know the little nuances of the individual players and the team as a whole the best and have the inside scoop on the teams’ daily operations.

To go from blogger to beat reporter is a jump many bloggers dream of making. My interview for this first installment of “The Beat” is with Kristy Robinson who recently accomplished just that.

A Pittsburgh Pirates beat reporter for Ohio Valley Athletics, Kristy Robinson has what you call ‘a dream job’. I asked her about the opportunity she landed this season and what it’s been like for her to cover her favorite team at the professional level. Here is what she had to say:

Tell me about your experience writing an MLBlog. When did you start writing, how long did you keep it fresh with consistently original content and how did that opportunity lead to covering the Pittsburgh Pirates as a beat reporter for Ohio Valley Athletics?

KR: I started writing my MLBlog during January of 2010. I originally started it because I had just bought a season ticket with the Pirates and wanted to share my experience with that. After a few months, and people started reading it, I turned it over to be more informative. I’ve wanted to be a reporter for a long time and the response I got from it was incredible. I updated the site everyday, multiple times a day. I had such a great time writing on ‘Hands off my Pirates Booty’ and was sad I had to stop posting on that site. But I’m so grateful for that experience because Its lead me to where I am today.

I saved every penny I could and used it for a trip to Spring Training this March. I went for eight days and did coverage from the Major League camp to the Minor Leagues and provided everything I could get my hands on. That experience, and hard work, is what landed me the job I have today. When I heard about the opportunity with OVAthletics, I didn’t think I had a shot. I really didn’t have much experience, but I know you don’t get anywhere sitting on your behind. So I applied and my MLBlog impressed them, and that’s how I got the opportunity.
What type of material did you generally produce on your blog? What type of content do you feel caught the eye of people at OVAthletics, leading to this great opportunity?

KR: Since I didn’t have the access I have now, most of my posts on my blog were limited. I did recaps of the games, and did news and notes from what I saw while at PNC Park. If I used quotes for news that broke, I obviously had to credit the news source. I couldn’t get interviews, but I tried to provide as much insight and information that I could.

Like I said above, I really think my spring training trip is what landed me the job. I worked so hard while I was down there. I went to Pirate City when the players reported by 9:00 am, stayed there until noon, then went to the Pirates games at McKechnie Field. After the game, I’d head back to my hotel, post on everything from the day, grab a quick bite to eat and go to bed. I was fortunate to be able to get some interviews with the players while I was in Bradenton as well, so that helped make for some great reads.
What is a normal day like for a beat reporter? What is your day like at PNC when covering a Pirates game?
KR: I’m not sure what’s normal for everyone else. But for me, I arrive to PNC Park by 2 o’clock. I read over the game notes, prep for player interviews, and the pregame meeting with Manager Clint Hurdle. I try to map out what stories I’m looking to write on the day. I head down the clubhouse at 3:30 to talk to the players, then Hurdle is at 4:00. I absolutely love watching batting practice, so after Hurdle’s session is over, I go out on the field and watch BP for 15 or 20 minutes. There’s something about that sound of the crack of the bat that puts you in a good mood. Then I head up to the press box and finish the pregame notes, and try to write at least two stories, sometimes three if it’s a busy news day. Then from there, I watch the game and take notes. Once the game is over, I head down to the press conference room for Hurdle’s postgame session, then head into the clubhouse for players reactions. I head back upstairs and finish the recap, and sometimes another post if something big happened. I usually leave the ballpark by midnight. It makes for a long day, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Any lessons you’ve learned about covering a professional team that you unfortunately had to learn the hard way?
KR: Not really anything I can think of. But I’m still a rookie in this industry. I’ve still got a lot to learn.
Aside from your MLBlog, what other experience did you have that you feel led to this opportunity?
KR: I went to school for Broadcasting, so being a writer was new for me. I’m sure my love for the game, and knowledge of baseball and the Pirates were a big reason for the job.
Why do you believe the Pirates are proving to be contenders in the Central this year? What is that a member of the team knew, or a die-hard fan would know about them, but the average baseball fan would not have going into this season?

KR: The Pirates have a lot of talented players. Guys like Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Alex Presley, Jose Tabata (to name a few) are showing just how talented they are.The pitching staff has been huge this season. Charlie Morton has had a remarkable turnaround. Then guys like Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens have been really solid. Everyone in the ‘pen has been fantastic as well, Jose Veras, Tony Watson, Chris Resop, Joel Hanrahan. The team has been dealing with a lot of injuries this year too, and the young guys that have came up here have been tremendous stepping in.

I know going from 105 loses in 2010, to one game out of 1st place by the All-Star is a big jump, but every year there are several teams that surprise everybody. Last year it was the San Diego Padres, the Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants. Why can’t the Pirates be that team this year? There will continue to be people who don’t believe in this team, but definitely opened some eyes so far. It’s obviously a long season, but if they can continue to play like they did in the first half, it will be a fun division to watch.
How much impact do you believe Hurdle has had on the Pirates? Why do you believe he has been successful with a squad that other managers were unable to squeeze very many wins out of?
KR: Clint has made a HUGE impact on this team and it was noticeable it from day one in Bradenton. I know there are some people who don’t believe a Manager doesn’t make a difference, but I’m not one of them. When you walk into the Pirates clubhouse, it’s different. There is so much team chemistry. This team truly believes that they can beat anyone. No matter if it’s the Red Sox or the Astros. They are resilient, they play unselfish ball. They all want to win, and they don’t care who gets the credit for it. That wasn’t the mindset last year, and the years before that. Hurdle has used this line before when speaking about his impact on the team, and he says, “there’s a time to be a manager and there’s a time to be a couch.” That’s been key for these guys. Most of them are young and don’t have much major league experience. Hurdle knows when they need smacked on their backside and then when the mental side comes into play. He keeps these guys loose, having fun and taking each game one at a time. Hurdle just has this presence about him. When he speaks, you listen. He’s so knowledgeable about the game, and honest. I never leave a pregame session without a laugh, and learning something new. I respect him so much.
What is the Pirates organization like to work with on a daily basis?
KR: Honestly? A dream come true. I grew up watching the Pirates, and to be able to cover them, is special. Everyone in that organization, from the top to the bottom, has been very welcoming from day one and I’m so thankful for the opportunity. 
Was there an interview you conducted that stands out as a favorite in your time covering the team as a beat reporter? Was there an interview that stands out as an especially hard one to conduct (perhaps after a hard loss, injury news, etc)?

KR: My very first was was with Pirates catching prospect Tony Sanchez, so that one will always remain a favorite. One that really stands out was when Michael McKenry hit his first major league home run, a three-run shot, which lead to the win. After the game, I asked him how it felt to get his very first curtain call and he said, “That’s a little boy dream of mine. Who doesn’t like a curtain call? That was awesome. You see Cal Ripken’s and big name people do that. I got one and I’m 26-years-old and I have little over two months in the big leagues. That’s awesome.” His smile was up to his eyes. It was such a great moment, and reminds me why I love this game so much and why I want to cover those moments to fans.

Hard losses are always tough. I think talking to Evan Meek, after he was placed on the DL for the second time, was a tough one. He’s a good guy, and you hate to see them struggle.
What is your end-goal when it comes to sports writing? What type of opportunity do you hope your time with OVAthletics leads to in the future?
KR: My end goal is to get into sideline reporting or hosting. That’s been a dream of mine for a long time. But I honestly love the writing aspect of it as well. This is only my first year in the industry, and I realize I have a lot of mountains to climb before i get there, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Whether it’s writing, on-air reporting, or hosting, I just want to be a part of this wonderful game.
What advice would you give bloggers who are looking for opportunities to become a credentialed MLB beat reporter?
KR: Never give up. Never, ever. Keep working hard. There is no dream, or goal that you can’t reach if you work your butt off for.
Thanks to Kristy for taking the time to answer the questions over the All-Star break! Looking forward to seeing if we can catch your Pirates in the Central this year. If you want to follow Kristy on Twitter you can at @Kristy_Robinson. Hope you liked the new feature. Looking forward to tomorrow when the Cubs are back on the field. Go Cubs Go!

Starlin Castro: The Making of an MLB All-Star


The MLB All-Star game is at 8pm EST tonight on FOX and it’s time to celebrate Starlin Castro’s successful first half of the 2011 season and election by the fans as a member of the National League All-Star team.

Castro is the youngest Cubs player to ever represent the team in the summer classic. Not since Shawon Dunston has a shortstop represented the Cubs in the All-Star game and tonight, once Tulo is finally yanked from the game, Cubs fans will once again have a talented shortstop of their own on the field among the league’s best.

As far as I’m concerned, Tulo should not have even been in the running to start for the National League. The only two players that should have received votes to start for the NL team were Castro and Reyes. Reyes is having an unbelievable year and Castro is among the league leaders in many offensive categories. Reyes is blazing a comeback trail as one of the more exciting players to watch in the game and Castro is arguably THE most exciting young player in all of baseball. Tulo is a talented player, but is not having the season Reyes or Castro are having.

I’m excited for Castro and will be watching this evening waiting patiently for Bochy to pull the Tool and put in ‘All-Starlin’. There are so many MLB fans across the world that are hardly familiar with Castro, aside from the random highlight on MLB or ESPN, or his SI cover shot. It’s exciting they will finally get a chance to see what we as Cubs fans are treated to on a daily basis.

Dunston had an incredible arm and if he were playing today, I’m sure we’d find him on MANY web-gem segments on SportsCenter. Castro has the same potential to be lethal in the field as he is still young and working out defensive kinks. His offensive skills are improving all the time and I’m happy to hear he is aiming high. He was quoted as saying he’d like to be a hall of fame player. Good. He should feel that way and aim that high. Otherwise, why bother playing the game. It’s impressive to see a young player step up as a leader on the team as well. It takes a very special player to be able to stand out among the veterans and earn their respect based on the way you carry yourself on and off the field, day in and day out.

Castro blasted on to the MLB scene last year with a six RBI performance including an MLB debut 3-run home run in his first at-bat. He didn’t even play AAA ball, being called up from AA ball. This season he has been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, voted into the All-Star game and once again is competing for the NL batting title (currently in ninth place in the NL for AVG).

The sky is the limit for Castro. This will more than likely be the first of many trips to the All-Star stage. Let’s hope his enthusiasm, work ethic and outlook on the game don’t change. I don’t want to see a day where we hear Starlin Castro has decided to turn down an offer to play in the All-Star game. Especially considering the fact that he’ll probably be voted in by the fans year in and year out, not just simply as an NL manager selection. Ramirez turned down the opportunity this year, however I understand putting family first especially after hearing the offer so last minute.

I don’t foresee Castro being in that position for a long time. After MLB fans get a look at Castro on the grand stage, I’m sure many will submit their votes for him in the future and Reyes, Tulo and all other NL shortstops will be waiting to find out if it will be their number that is called to sub in for Castro, not the other way around. I hope Castro puts on a true display of his abilities tonight. I expect nothing less.

Congratulations on your first trip to the MLB All-Star game, Starlin. A great step in the right direction as we could very well be watching a hall of fame caliber career and plaque worthy player in the making.

Go Cubs Go!

Happy Belated Birthday, Andre Dawson


No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more or did it better than Andre Dawson. He’s the best I’ve ever seen. I watched him win an MVP for a last-place team in 1987 [with the Cubs], and it was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen in baseball. He did it the right way, the natural way, and he did it in the field and on the bases and in every way, and I hope he will stand up here someday.

That quote comes from Ryne Sandberg’s Hall of Fame induction speech, one of the key pieces of the ‘put Dawson in the Hall’ campaign, if you ask me.

A star with the Expos and a superstar with the Cubs, Hawk is one of my favorite Cubs of all-time.

Per Wikipedia: Dawson finished his career with 2,774 hits, 438 home runs, 314 stolen bases, and 1,591 RBI. He is one of only six players in major league history to record over 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases in his career (300-300 club); the other players to accomplish this are Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds, Reggie Sanders and Steve Finley. Dawson is also one of only three members of the 400 HR-300 SB club, along with Barry Bonds and Willie Mays.

Talk about being in excellent company (aside from Barry Bonds).

I believe the Cubs should retire number eight in honor of Dawson. His career slugging percentage of .507 while in a Cubs uniform is fourth all-time for the team. He won the MVP with the Cubs in 1987, a team that went 76-85, finishing last in the NL East. In tying in the All-Star festivities, Dawson also won the HR Derby in 1987. On every available platform imaginable, Dawson was showcased as a great Cub on and off the field. Every stage that is, except a World Series. I’m guessing it must have been incredibly bittersweet for Dawson for him to win his first and only ring with the Florida Marlins in 2003. To receive a ring after playing and being a part of the game for so many years, I’m sure that is an unreal feeling. However, for the Marlins to do it the way they did, plowing through the favored Cubs at Wrigley, highlighted by ‘The Bartman Game’…I’m sure Hawk deep down had some uncomfortable feelings in watching his then current team do in his old team that way.

Andre Dawson’s story is largely why I respect the organization as much as I do. If you read my writing on a regular basis, you know how much I respect the history of the team and classy way in which members of the team and front office handle themselves with the media, other organizations as well as the fan base. The Cubs held the same appeal to Dawson. After his final season in Montreal in 1986, Dawson was in need of a ballclub whose home field was natural grass and not turf, to give his ailing knees a long needed break. Think about how many teams back then played on natural grass. Only a handful played on astroturf. The league was practically a buffet of natural grass sites for Dawson to sign with as a free agent.

He selected Wrigley Field and the Cubs as his destination of choice.

After general manager Dallas Green turned initial talks down, Dawson and his agent approached him at the Cubs spring training facility in Mesa with a blank contract. Pay me what you will…I want to be a part of the Cubs’ organization. Green eventually came around and made a lowball offer. $500,000 salary plus $250,000 if he made the all-star team, started the all-star team or won the NL MVP.

Dawson accomplished all three. The fact that he reached all three goals is stunning in and of itself. However, I admire the fact that he wanted to be a part of the Cubs so badly, that he was willing to play for any amount. The list of people that would offer to do that for the Cubs is extremely short, however those people are the type of people you want to be a part of the organization. After locking himself into the Cubs fold, he then made sure that the Cubs weren’t let down including a stat line that showcased 49 HR’s for the season.

Winning an MVP with a losing ballclub, especially one that comes in last place is a special thing. There are many things in sports you sit around wondering if it will ever happen again. In today’s sports culture, I’m not so sure that it will. Nowadays, winning takes precedence. If you have two players who put up similar numbers and one of them is on a division winning team and the other is in last place, no dice last place player…the hardward is going to the division champ. Back then, it was more about the title of the award. Who was the most valuable player in the league? Who was producing the most? Period. And the answer was Andre Dawson.

When Dawson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he requested his plaque show him enshrined wearing a Cubs cap. I believe that the player should have the say as to which hat he wears in the Hall. I believe it will tell you a lot about the player and how he felt about his time spent with the various teams along his career’s timeline. Considering how successful Dawson was with Montreal, it says a lot about how he felt regarding his time with the Cubs. And using Boggs as an example as I have before, imagine if Wade Boggs went into the Hall wearing a Tampa Bay Devil Rays hat as he requested? What does that say for how he felt about the Red Sox once all was said and done?

Baseball is more than just numbers. Allowing players to choose the cap they want to wear in the Hall adds to the lore. Dawson wanted a Cubs hat. I believe he should have had his wish granted.

Yesterday, The Hawk turned 57. Look at the on-line stats and awards and you’ll find his resume to include 8 all-star appearances, 8 gold gloves, an MVP, 4 Silver Sluggers, a Rookie of the Year Award (1977), time with the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins; and stats that read: .274 AVG, 2,774 Hits, 438 HR, 1,591 RBI. Impressive to say the least.

Add in the intangibles and Dawson is easily one of the greatest to play the game. The game believes it and has inducted him justly. It’s time for the Cubs to throw a belated birthday present Dawson’s way and hang a new flag at Wrigley. #8: DAWSON. Happy belated birthday, Andre. Go Cubs Go!