Chicago Cubs Fans Truly Appreciate Series Win

When I saw the Chicago Cubs win the NLCS, I quickly looked up ticket and airline prices. My eyes almost fell out of my head when I saw that standing room only tickets started at $1500-2000. I kept looking though and eventually found a ticket I could afford. So on Saturday, October 29th, I flew to Chicago to see Game 4 of the 2016 World Series (albeit from a rooftop across the street from Wrigley). Although I’m not a Cubs fan, I had to be there. Only a Red Sox fan could appreciate the pain Chicago Cubs fans truly had endured for so long. Or so I thought.

Cubs fans stuffed the airplane to Chicago. Hats, jerseys, and t-shirts with the CubsChicago Cubs Fans truly emblem adorned fans. An airline attendant told me he could tell that most of them weren’t true fans because their apparel looked too new (Thank God I was wearing a well-worn Cubs hat). As I embarked into Chicago via the subway, I talked to hordes of Cubs fans from Arizona, North Carolina, and Louisiana. A man from South Carolina told me he was a diehard fan who flew in just for the day. “I’m not even going to the game,” he told me. “I’m just going to watch the game in a bar and fly out later tonight.” That’s true determination.

I arrived at a very crowded Wrigley Field at 10am that morning. Lines for bars surrounding 1060 West Addison stretched around the block. Those waiting seemed unfazed by the $100-200 cover charge. After spending most of my budget on a ticket and airfare, I declined to stand in line for 2-3 hours. I eventually found a bar two blocks away charging $10 to get in. I didn’t want to pay anything, but my need for cold beer and a bathroom overwhelmed my self-protest.

Being a Red Sox Fan Doesn’t Mean You Understand Chicago Cubs Fans

While I sipped on a Molson Canadian and talked to a group of fans from Nebraska I pondered something. Although I’m a Red Sox fan who understands the pain of waiting 80+ years for a World Series win, I don’t think I can understand what this means for Chicago. I went there thinking that I’d easily relate to them. To a certain degree, I do. But in talking to fans from around the nation, I saw they were different from Red Sox fans. The Red Sox came close to victory more than once. The Cubs, however, hadn’t seen a World Series since 1945. Red Sox fans grimace when they think about Bill Buckner, but Chicago will always wince when they think about Steve Bartman. Red Sox pain lasted 86 years. But Chicago Cubs fans truly understand that pain because it lasted well over a century.

Or Maybe Chicago Cubs Fans Truly Relate to Red Sox Fans

Tony Rossi, a Boston native living in Chicago, can’t get enough of the Cubs and baseball. “What I love about the Cubs is that they offer a baseball experience very similar to that of the Red Sox,” Rossi told me. “You catch a game and it’s all about baseball. Wrigley and Fenway keep it about baseball.”

One thing’s for sure. Cubs and Red Sox fans get along with each other pretty well because of the drought both fan bases experienced. For Red Sox fans like Rossi living in Chicago, home is only a block away. “Being a Red Sox fan in Chicago, I miss being able to go to Fenway as much as I used to. Living up the street from Wrigley Field has helped.”

No October Dramatics, One Fitting Goodbye for David Ortiz

We romanticized about the notion as we watched David Ortiz’s final season.

At 40, in his final season with the Red Sox, Big Papi would not only get the regular-season MVP after a 38-homer, 127-RBI regular season, he would carry the Yawkey Way Kids to one final World Series championship, slugging home runs into the cold, October night.David Ortiz But that’s the danger of romanticized notions. The downfall of hope and faith. We romanticize all the time. It makes us smile. Gives us hope the world can turn out just as we like it.

But it’s self-indulgent. Fictions of our own hearts. The ending we choose rarely plays out. It certainly didn’t this October with Ortiz and the Sox. Ortiz was supposed to lead the Red Sox to their fourth World Series this century and coast off into a sunset as beautiful as the advertisements for resorts in his native country. In reality, it was all romantic notions.

Cleveland swept the Red Sox out of the American League Divisional Series, finishing off the job Monday night, Oct. 10, at Fenway Park in a 4-3 win. Papi was hardly a factor in the series — one hit, one RBI, no homers. We wanted another Hollywood Ortiz script. Instead we got cold, hard reality: good pitching beats good hitting.

Nothing wrong with reality. We’re little creatures on this earth with big dreams that sometimes fall short. Reality for the game of baseball is that most of the time, the ball does not land safely between the nine defensive players on the diamond. Most of the time, the wind knocks down the ball seemingly destined to go over the wall. Not all nine players are in sync on one night.

David Ortiz: In the Finale, He’s Human

In the final playoff series of his career, Ortiz finally proved he was human all along, a little creature in this big world just like us. His performance kept our romanticized notions trapped in our hearts, stowed away for later use for another Boston star.

There were no home runs on this October night, only an RBI sacrifice fly and a walk in Papi’s final at-bat. Nothing poetic there. Papi, the Yankees killer, Senor Octubre, upstaged in his final professional baseball game by old friend Coco Crisp, whose two-run homer into the Monster seats was the difference. How unceremonious for Papi.

But did this story have a bitter ending? Was this that heartbreaking? Maybe the real victory in this Red Sox season simply was being able to HAVE hope one last time in October. Hope that Ortiz put the ball into the visitor’s bullpen to tie the game. Hope that Papi’s troops would rally around him.

Maybe just having David Ortiz around for three more games in October was the perfect ending. Maybe watching him rise from the Sox dugout after Game 3 ended to cries of “Papi!” “Papi!” throughout Fenway Park for a final curtain call on the pitcher’s mound was all we really needed.

David Ortiz got a proper goodbye to Boston in a place he called home for 14 magical years. No words, just a two-plus-minute, teary salute to the home crowd. No dramatic October home runs to celebrate.

Just one epic, fitting goodbye. Maybe that was our perfect ending after all.

ALDS Pitching Match-Ups

The importance of pitching in the postseason has been abused to the point that it is now clichéd. The focus of the Red Sox-Indians ALDS pitching will be no different. So much has been made about the starting rotation for both teams that it is tough to find a more crucial factor in this series. Plenty of question marks occupy the starting slots for these two division winners, which is why it’s imperative to take a deeper look at each game.

Game One ALDS Pitching Match-Up

Game One seems like a rare postseason mismatch, at least on paper. Going for the RedALDS Pitching Sox is Cy Young-frontrunner Rick Porcello, toting along his ML-leading 22 wins. Porcello has nary had trouble with the Tribe in his career. The Indians may have home-field advantage, but that shouldn’t faze Porcello either. In the past three seasons, he has two wins there with an ERA of 0.90. On the other hand, Trevor Bauer’s numbers don’t quite stack up. Bauer has had his struggles this year, which includes a stint in the bullpen, culminating in a 12-8 record with a 4.26 ERA. This year, Bauer is 0-1 with an ERA of 9.00 against the Red Sox. Also, the normal Red Sox lineup (with Travis Shaw and Brock Holt) is hitting .455 against Bauer in his career, that per Boston Sports Info on Twitter. Give the advantage to Boston in Game One.

Game Two ALDS Pitching Match-Up

Friday will bring about quite an intriguing match-up in Game Two. The Red Sox turn to their 217 million dollar man, David Price. While Price has picked it up in the second half, his frightening postseason numbers still lurk in the shadows. In eight postseason starts, Price has a 2-7 record and a 5.12 ERA. In 63.1 postseason innings, he’s allowed 12 home runs, 11 walks, and about a hit per inning. For Cleveland, there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding their former Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber. Kluber did win 18 games again this year, but he has had a nagging groin hinder the last month of his season. Kluber has won 10 games at home this year, but also has a 4.38 ERA against Boston in 2016. When Kluber is on, he’s on, no matter the situation. Price’s uncertainties outweighs Kluber’s, advantage Cleveland.

Game Three ALDS Pitching Match-Up

To conclude a massive day in Boston sports sunday, the Red Sox will host Game Three. Clay Buchholz will go to the hill for Boston and Josh Tomlin for the Indians. This is part of the “roll the dice” mantra for the Red Sox after starting Porcello and Price. Buchholz has been sharp in the second half with a 5-1 record and a 3.22 ERA. Tomlin doesn’t offer much deception outside of his fastball and has proved to be hittable this season. He hasn’t started much lately (only three in September), and has a 4.76 ERA at Fenway the past three years. Coming home in a tie series, the upper hand will go the Red Sox here.

Games Four-Five ALDS Pitching

Game Four on Monday brings a dilemma to Terry Francona’s Indians. It appears as if they’ll start their “ace” Trevor Bauer on four days rest. With Eduardo Rodriguez going for the Red Sox, there will be plenty of crooked numbers on the left field scoreboard. They will surely be playing long ball at Fenway in Game Four (if necessary.) With that, give me the league’s best offense in a shootout. Advantage Red Sox.

While I don’t think Game Five will necessarily happen, it’s definitely a toss-up. It is always hard to pick a winner-take-all game like that. If we are to look at the raw statistics though, it looks like no contest. Picking against Rick Porcello at all the past few months would have been foolish. Also, Cleveland still does not know what to expect from a laboring Corey Kluber. If it gets to that, I don’t care where it’s being played, give me the Red Sox.

Obviously, there are plenty of other factors to think about in this series. Bullpens, switch-hitters, and a struggling Mike Napoli are not to be forgotten. But if we’re purely going on starting pitching, this is the Red Sox’s series to lose.

State Officials Considering A David Ortiz Bridge

It’s no secret that David Ortiz will leave a lasting legacy in Boston after he hangs up his spikes for the final time. In his honor, he has received gifts all year. He’s gotten everything from cigars to paintings to giant tubs of peanut butter. But could a part of the city soon bear his name? That is yet to be decided, however, the rumors of a possible David Ortiz Bridge (more specifically the David Prtiz (‘Big Papi’) Bridge) outside Fenway Park are circling.

The Brookline Avenue bridge has been a staple for Red Sox fans for decades. It connectsDavid Ortiz Bridge Newbury Street to Landsdowne Street and thousands of fans go across it every game day after coming from the Kenmore “T” station. The proposal, led by politicians like Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, would forever link Ortiz to that part of the Fenway experience.

As critical as I’ve been with some of the gifts Ortiz has gotten this year, there’s no doubt this one would be fair. Look, this bridge is a landmark of Fenway’s ambiance. Littered with hawkers, devout Christians, and regretful drivers, the bridge provides fan camaraderie on their way to the ballpark. I’ll be damned if we live in a world where Fenway’s main street is allowed to be named after Tom Yawkey, the main cause of a so-called “curse”, but David Ortiz can not have a bridge!

Ted Williams has his own tunnel in the city, so it’s fitting David Ortiz should get a similar landmark. While maybe a better pure hitter than Ortiz, Williams did not leave the legacy on the organization that Ortiz will. Playing for a franchise once deemed forever unfit for championships, Ortiz has won three and is going for four. While unmistakably harder to get to the post season, Williams went there just once. He hit just .200 in the 1946 World Series and went home empty-handed.

Is The Legacy Enough For A David Ortiz Bridge?

To say David Ortiz is the greatest clutch hitter of all-time is no longer a hot take. Just put his post season heroics in perspective and it’s even more earth-shattering. Consider his two walk-off hits in the 2004 ALCS and his clutch grand slam in the 2013 ALCS. Ortiz has resurrected the Red Sox in the midst of two World Series runs. He essentially brought them back from the dead both times with a few swings of the bat. Obviously, Teddy Ballgame had less chances, but it’s hard to cite a time where he saved a meaningful season.

To continue with the Ted Williams comparison, Ortiz’s impact off the field was equally as strong. Williams was a giant advocate for the Red Cross and the Jimmy Fund, maybe the best in team history. Ortiz has his own children’s fund, benefiting kids both in Boston and his home of the Dominican Republic. He has become a mainstay at the Boston Children’s Hospital and has even hit home runs for sick children. It was only fitting that Ortiz was handed the microphone to rally Boston after the Marathon bombings. Looking back, it seems Ortiz has always delivered, no matter the circumstance.

So, there is a good chance this name change will happen. The next generation will walk to Fenway, buy a Yawkey Way Report program and yell obscenities at opposing fans. That won’t change. It’ll just be done on the David Ortiz bridge. There will be infinitely more meaning for all those times Dennis Eckersley said Ortiz “went bridge.” He will be forever a part of Fenway and all will be right with the Fenway experience.

Baseball Fan Charges Field During Game

Last Sunday, August 28th, at the last minute, I went to the Red Sox game against the Kansas City Royals. It was an 8:05 game, an hour later than most night games. It seemed from the start that it was going to be a strange night at Fenway. The fans seemed more excited than usual. I looked for a full moon in the sky (there wasn’t one). I noticed that more beach balls than usual circulated among the crowd. I’m personally not a fan of beach balls. They distract the players and annoy to fans, but whatever. What really irks me though is when a baseball fan charges the field during a game.

As I settled in to watch the game from right field, an impulsive baseball fan ran onto thestupid baseball fan field wearing a “Harambe 69” jersey. For those who don’t know, Harambe is the name of the gorilla shot and killed in a Cincinnati Zoo a few months ago. A small child managed to climb into Harambe’s enclosure, making him a potential target for the gorilla. Fearing for the child’s life, zoo keepers decided to shoot and kill Harambe. A public outcry that included allegations of animal cruelty followed. Unfortunately, a pseudo campaign to honor Harambe also emerged. The mock tributes include allegations ranging from Hillary Clinton’s involvement in the shooting, to making Harambe an icon who died for our sins. The fake tributes are purely stupid.

The less than intelligent fan bearing the Harambe tribute jersey made it to center field before security tackled him to the ground. Thinking it was funny at the time, the look on his face after his arrest suggested otherwise. The only funny part of the incident was seeing members of the Kansas City Royals bullpen high-five the security guard who tackled the smuck as he returned to his post. Charging the field is just stupid. It holds up the game. More importantly, with the threat of mass killings, it scares players and puts security and police alike on edge.

When a Baseball Fan Charges The Field, It Does More Damage Than He Thinks

With recent tragic events like the shooting at the nightclub in Orlando, it’s easy to understand why a player might get startled when a baseball fan charges the field. So when a baseball fan charges the field looking for attention, the stunt not only scares players but breaks their concentration. The game has to stop so that security can escort the brainless fan off the field. Afterwards, the player has to refocus his attention on the game. It slows the game down, it hurts the home team, and annoys other fans. Most field runners later regret it.

I’m sure most fans don’t think about doing something so stupid as to run onto the field. But if you do, just remember that a short amount of attention and notoriety can turn into a lifetime of shame and hardship. With a criminal record, it’ll be harder to get a job. That’s after you’ve spent a ton of money on lawyers and court appearances.

Are Baseball Games Longer Than Ever?

Last June my friend Charles and I saw the Red Sox play the Baltimore Orioles. A fierce pitching duel unfolded between the O’s Chris Tillman and the Sox David Price, who struck out eleven in eight innings. Unfortunately, the Red Sox still lost 3-2. Throughout the game, Charles, a baseball writer, and I talked about the strong pitching. However, we were the only ones who appreciated it. Looking around, people seemed more interested in their Jason Varitek bobbleheads and their iPhones than the game. With baseball games longer than they were thirty years ago, are people losing interest?

It’s true that baseball games are tedious to watch. The art of hitting is appreciated by onlyBaseball Games Longer the most diehard baseball fan, but it can make baseball games longer. Hitting foul ball after foul ball gets old for fans and I can’t say I haven’t felt that way, too. So why are baseball games longer than ever? Aside from corporate reasons, it’s a combination of manager strategy, pitcher duels, injuries, instant replays, and most of all, pitching changes.

According to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is well aware of the complaints. In fact, Commissioner Manfred is considering limiting their use. “I am in favor of something like that,” Manfred said. “…You know the problem with relief pitchers is that they’re so good. I’ve got nothing against relief pitchers, but they do two things to the game: The pitching changes themselves slow the game down, and our relief pitchers…they actually rob action out of the end of the game, the last few innings of the game.”

Personally, I hate it when relief pitchers come in during a game. The Yankees Joe Girardi’s platooning strategy, a Yankee manager favorite dating back to when Casey Stengel ran the team, is particularly infuriating. Why can’t the manager wait until the end of the inning? Because sometimes he doesn’t have a choice, especially when the pitcher’s poor performance is running up the opposing score. So the managers brings in a relief pitcher to stop the runs (if he’s good). That’s great for the team, but is it what the fans came out to see? Unless you’re a real die-hard fan, probably not. On the other hand, managers will tell you they’re not there to entertain fans. They’re there to win games, and if that means slowing the game down to win then so be it.

With Baseball Games Longer, How Do You Keep It interesting?

According to Forbes.com, the average length of a baseball game in 1981 was 2 hours and 33 minutes. Last season, according to the New York Post, the New York Mets completed games faster than any other team in baseball with an average time of 2 hours and 46 minutes. Last year MLB tried stop clocks. Personally, I thought they helped a lot. Turns out I’m in the minority regarding that thought.

This issue isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon. To limit relievers, or anything else for that matter, would jeopardize the integrity of the game. Maybe it’s not the game that’s changed though. Maybe it’s people’s inability to focus. People’s attention spans aren’t nearly as long as they used to be, especially when iPhones and texting make us crave instant gratification more than ever.

Personally, I think the pace of baseball games would pick up faster by doing two things. The opposing team should take the field immediately following the third out, which would cut the game down by 20 minutes. Secondly, limit relief pitching, but only for Joe Girardi (Seriously, he does it too much!).