Thursday, October 22, 2015


It was weird having October baseball that mattered.

I was afraid this was going to be a difficult post to write.  It's been a rough few weeks at work.  I just finished a stretch where I worked 16 out of 17 days, including a 10 days in a row.  I'm worn the hell out, and I didn't want to finish Hell's Olympics by watching the Cubs lose in the playoffs.  I watched most of the game last night, fading in and out on the couch (I know it's the playoffs, but I'd slept like shit the night before, and had been effectively awake since 3 AM).  I watched.  I felt bad for the folks (like Sloth) who'd gone to Wrigley.  Still, even with the loss, I find myself singularly optimistic.

There have been a couple of seasons in the past few that I couldn't have cared any less, when we got to September, let alone October.  Rebuilding is hard.  I had faith, though, seeing not only who was coming up through the minor league system locally (the Cubs' AA team plays about an hour north of here), but seeing changes in how the game was played.  It might sound odd, but little things that always seemed to be the Cubs downfall (a lack of fundamentals on defense, an inability to work counts, a lack of knowledge of the hitter's role in certain situations) were also apparent with the AA club.  What I was seeing through Epstein and Hoyer's draft classes and training philosophies was a couple or three classes of smarter baseball players making their way up to Chicago.  After the Tennessee Smokies had a fun 2013 and 2014, I was thinking 2015 might start to be an interesting year, as guys like Soler, Baez and most definitely Kris Bryant made their way up to Wrigley.

(A minor aside...I got to see Kyle Schwarber early in the season up with the Smokies.  Got to see him smack one of the longest home runs I've ever seen, major or minor league, during batting practice.  It looked like he'd told the batting practice pitcher to give him a little heat.  He hit one that looked like it was hitting the top of its arc as it went over the hill immediately behind the right field fence at Kodak).

After the way they finished the 2014 season, I told people that 2015 would be a year the Cubs made life difficult for a couple teams in the Central.  That said, I had them pegged for a team that would finish somewhere in the 80-85 win corridor.  And I thought 81 wins was a realistic goal.  I had the Cardinals and Pirates figured for the class of the division.

It was a hell of a ride.  For the first time in years, baseball was fun.  Of course, I wish it hadn't finished up the way it did.  The Mets played a tremendous series of baseball when it mattered most.

I could see myself rooting for them in the Series.  Maybe.

While it sucks saying "wait 'til next year" one more time, it doesn't ring as hollow as it has in years past.  There were years (1989...1998) where the Cubs only got there as much from luck as by being good.  There were years where they were very good (1984, 2008), and should have been back years after, only to be hampered by injuries.

Still.  I'm excited for the future.  Let's see Epstein and Hoyer address a few needs.  Maybe throw a World Class Closer on the back end?  Let's have Kyle Schwarber take 20 thousand fly balls in the off season, and let him forget what it's like to be a catcher.  I'm even back on board the Starlin Castro train, if he's willing to stay at second base.  And I'm all in with Joe Maddon.

I'm not the type to say "Watch out for the Cubs, they're going to be World Beaters."  Too much can happen.  (Too much, by the way, kinda hit the Cardinals.  They were good, but they were a team that could have won 110 games this year, guys....)  I will tell you that the Cubs are going to be very good, and possibly for a long time.  And I think the NL Central will be a very interesting place to play.

It's October 22, 2015.  I'm ready for 2016 to be here, already.....

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Cubs Win....

I was working tonight.  Didn't get to see the game.  Got to fist pump a few times in the backroom, as I followed the stats on my phone.

This is a special team.

Don't know if they'll do it, but they've got the talent, and they're loose.

That means a lot, this time of year....

Thursday, October 08, 2015


I can't watch a sports show without a spot from the Native American Rights Fund.  NARF for short.  It's well intentioned, and worth looking into.  Still, I can't see the word "Narf" without thinking of Pinky and the Brain....

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Hockey Post

This was originally posted on Ye Olde Facebooke.  A group I follow, called Southern Hockey Problems, which generally laments the treatment of southern hockey fans by the northern folk, shared the following picture:

And I wrote the following:

I like this photo on a few levels.
First, the reminder that unaffiliated minor league hockey will be back soon makes me happy.
Second, that's a picture of long time SPHL journeyman enforcer Dennis Sicard and Knoxville Ice Bears coach Mike Craigen.
Sicard's one of those guys you love to hate. His job, plain and simple, for many years, was to act as a disruption. He's smaller than most of the other players (he's listed at 5'11," a number that I will tell you from having walked next to the man is Bull Shit. He's not even 5'11" on skates...). He runs his mouth. And he fights. A lot. And sometimes, he did it dirty. I had my problems with him, because while I'm not against players dropping gloves from time to time, it seemed to be the only thing Sicard was good for. The picture below, I like, because these two have history on the ice. Sicard, feeling that Craigen had sucker punched him during a game back in Craigen's playing days, shaved Craigen's numbers onto his head, and spent the rest of the season planning on getting even. Which he did. And then some.
I was kinda upset when I'd heard Knoxville had traded for him, to replace their long-time enforcer David Segal. Segal could and did scrap, but he also remained a leader out on the ice. Sicard? A fighter. And last year, Knoxville had guys like Corey Fulton and Brad Pawlowski, who had stepped up into Enforcer rolls. I didn't see that Knoxville needed a body like Sicard, who's entertaining, but ultimately plays a frustrating brand of hockey.
Which isn't to say I wasn't interested. I'm always curious about team dynamics. Especially when you bring a guy like Sicard with so much history on board. Hell, it had only been a couple weeks before that Sicard, taking umbrage to Ice Bears' defenseman Ryan Hill taking perceived liberties with Peoria's line, and wanting to get even for a scrap between two other players earlier on, had dropped the (legit) 6'4" hill like a toilet seat when they dropped gloves. Now, Sicard, with history between he and and Craigen, with history with a number of players on the roster, was now lacing them up along side. I know it's a job, and maybe they can not take that stuff personally. I don't know.
It hit me maybe a couple times in, seeing him play in Knoxville. 1.) He's capable of much, much more than simply fighting. And 2.) His reputation as a fighter and enforcer left of a lot of opposing players (and coaches) underestimating his potential as a goal-scorer.
He's like a wolverine, out there on the ice. He went out there, and played harder than just about everybody lacing them up, all year, after he arrived. He did fight, from time to time. I guess that's unavoidable, when that's your reputation. He got called for penalties that he didn't deserve, which sucked, but then, that's SPHL officiating for you--those guys are clownshoes, and they hold grudges just like players. But he also scored a lot.
The Ice Bears won the league championship last year. I don't think they would have done it, if they'd kept David Segal in his role. That pains me to say. Segal had lost a step or two, age and injuries taking their toll. Sicard stepped into a roll that others weren't (and maybe he himself wasn't) used to him playing. I can tell you that there was a coach and a defense or two that weren't ready for Sicard to be the one bringing the puck down the ice....the guy was a fighter, not a skater....often, they had no answer for him. It was Sicard who scored the goal that sent them to the playoffs.
I don't know that if there was anybody else happier holding up the President's Cup at the end of the Championship game last spring, than Dennis Sicard. He's played several season in the SPHL, with something like 8 or 9 teams in the league (3 or 4 of which are no longer even in operation, as is the carny atmosphere in the league). This was his first championship.
As much as I say I hate painting a story on an athletic competition, I guess I end up loving the drama as much as the next guy. Last season was a cool one. Looking forward to another....