Chicago Cubs State of the Union: Mired in Mediocrity
By Robert Villarreal (MLB Reports Guest Cubs Writer): Follow @robmvillarreal
Follow The MLB Reports On Twiter Follow @mlbreports
It’s difficult to ask a Cubs fan to be patient.
The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908, and every year we’re reminded of the enormity of a centuries worth of atrocious baseball that we must all endure year in and year out.
But in 2009, a man named Sam Zell purchased the Tribune company and decided to sell off some of its parts, namely the Chicago Cubs.
Tom Ricketts, a Chicago native, stepped up and was able to realize a boyhood dream, to own his favorite team. But owning it wasn’t enough.
Cubs fans are hoping the hometown boy can help deliver a promise of a Title in the near future.
Junior Lake Highlights – Mature Lyrics So Parental Guidance is Advised
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The Stan Musial Award is given to the top player each year.
Friday November 23th, 2012
Note from Alex Mednick: I am going to be putting together a small project that accumulates all the best players of all time, and puts them together on teams according to their birthplace. For example, in this first edition I will be breaking down players from the United States of America into teams from the 1) Northeast, 2) Southeast, 3) Midwest, and 4) Southwest…(sorry, there really is not enough quality coming out of the northwest to compete with these teams…maybe I will put a Northwestern United States team in a later edition with less competitive teams). Later on I will bring you teams assembled from the all-time greats out Central and South American (Mexico, Venezuela, Panama, Panama Canal Zone, etc.) and the All-Caribbean Team (Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Curacao, etc). Also look forward to teams from Japan, Canada and the EU. Should be fun to sort of assemble an “Olympics” of Baseball. I love watching the World Baseball Classic and seeing players fight for their nations pride…but by grouping the teams by region, it might make the teams more competitive. Of course, this is all for the sake of speculation; Babe Ruth was a great player, but I don’t think he will be taking any at-bat’s soon. (Also, please note that I do not lend consideration to relief pitchers in this analysis). Read the rest of this entry
Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer): Follow @chuckbooth3024
In case you may have missed the standings of late, the Yankees and Rangers are in danger of choking away the AL East and AL West. If MLB had decided to not infiltrate this year’s extra Wild Card playoff birth, we could have been in line for another monumental collapse. Both of the Yankees and Rangers held sizable leads in their respective divisions over the Athletics and Orioles heading into the second half of the year. Now it has come down to Game 162 for each club to decide the divisions. If the perennial playoff teams of TEX and NYY end up losing their divisions, they still will have a playoff game against each other on Friday to see who moves on to the ALDS.
If you are a Yankees fan, you have to be elated the Raul Ibanez pulled a rabbit out of his hat last night, with a 2 run HR to tie the game vs the Red Sox-and then he won it with a single in the 12th. If the Yankees can win today versus the Red Sox, they will clinch the AL East division and best record in the American League. It is nice to have your own fate in your hands, but really it should not have come down to this. On July.18, the Yankees had a 10 game lead over the Orioles and were looking to cruise for the rest of the year. Ever since that day, the Orioles have ridden 16 straight extra inning wins to post a 46-24 (.657) stretch in which they have pulled to within 1 game of the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees have gone 37-33 (.529) in that same stretch. So it all comes down to the Yankees have a magic number of one. If New York wins, they clinch the division, if they lose and the Orioles lose, they win the division. If they lose and the Orioles win, it will force a one-game playoff Thursday in Baltimore in which the winner takes the AL East and the loser would play the AL West loser in the Wild Card Game Friday. The winner of the AL East will play the winner of the Wild Card game.
Chuck Booth: (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)- To be a closer in today’s baseball game takes quite the mental fortitude. There is a lot of psychological warfare one could do to himself in preventing a successful run at saving games. While I am of the mindset that the relief pitchers of yesteryear seemed to be relied on more for lengthier durations, this does not diminish this stat in any way. It is hard to acquire the 90-100% save rate that most teams are striving for in a pitching staff. In any given seasons the average save opportunities average from 45-65 chances to lock a game down. A lot of this also depends on what team you play for. There have been several phenomenal stretches put forth by closers of the game in recent vintage. Who could forget Canadian born Erig Gagne? This man once saved 85 straight games from 2002-2004. He is the all-time leader in that category and beat out John Franco’s previous record by an astounding 30 games. Another incredible run was Brad Lidge‘s incredible 2008 season where he did not blow a save opportunity out of 48 games both in the regular season and playoffs.
Sure these guys don’t log 120 innings anymore, or throw for 3 inning saves like Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage did for many years. By the way, we can all thank Tony La Russa for the invention of specialists pitchers (Rick Honeycutt, Jesse Orosco anyone?) and the one inning save closers. La Russa perfected this scenario with former starter Dennis Eckersley coming out of the pen for the Oakland A’s during their powerhouse days in the late 80′s. Eckersley was so dominant every team tried to duplicate their own bullpens to mock the A’s.
Before this time had come, relief pitchers were all mostly comprised of young pitchers trying to acclimatize themselves into the Major Leagues first, before earning a spot as a Starting Pitcher. For example, David Wells was once a relief pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays first and then was promoted to a starting pitcher after he proved he could pitch in the Major Leagues. In today’s baseball world, relief pitchers are now being drafted out of college and high school as relievers whereas they used to all come from the position of starting pitcher. It also used to be that relief pitchers were players that graduated to a starter and then could not find success as starters and were sent back to the bullpen once again to stay. When it came down to it, you had only a couple of chances to perform as a starter. Maybe it was because there were bigger than life characters like Gossage that make remember these pitchers in such favorable terms. Maybe it was because we never saw them interviewed on a social media platform like today’s athlete is and the mystery surrounded them made them more feared, or maybe it is because we tend to admire things more when they happened in the past. I still love the closers role in today’s game and nothing has more drama in a baseball game than trying to nail down the last 3 outs!
Friday April 6th, 2012
MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: As a big fan of baseball cards growing up (weren’t we all), one of my favorite memories was opening up my first pack of 1989 Donruss. For those of you that never saw that particular baseball card set, it is longer considered one of the ugliest cards of all time. The choice of colors was interesting to say the least. But for those that grew up with it, the cards were beautiful to us and we loved it! In that first pack of cards, I got a Gregg Olson “rated rookie”. The set featured many great rookie cards, including Griffey, Sheffield and Tom Gordon. But the Olson was my fave. The close-up on his wind-up. The intense competitor’s face. That card was forever burned in my mind. I became a huge Gregg Olson fan and watched his career from his MLB debut in 1988 and ROY season to follow in 1989. It all started though from that first pack of baseball cards. Thank you Donruss…wherever you are…
Being based in Toronto, I had the pleasure of watching Gregg Olson pitch on many occasions as a member of those Baltimore Orioles squads. From 1989-1993, Gregg rang up 160 saves in one of the dominant runs I had ever seen from a MLB closer. The most saves at the time for a closer under 27-years of age. In 1989, Gregg won the AL Rookie of the Year award and finished 6th in CY Young voting. He was named an AL All-Star in 1990 (the only All-Star game nod in his career). Elbow issues unfortunately set back his career and Gregg did not get the chance to jump back into the closer’s role in 1998, while a member of the Diamondbacks. After 14 years in the big leagues and 217 career saves, Gregg Olson had a career that most players could only dream of. Had things played out differently health-wise, we would have seen him in Cooperstown one day, along with the other top closers of the modern-day, including Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera.
Known for his fastball and devastating curveball nicknamed “Uncle Charlie”, Gregg Olson was as good as they get in his prime. It was very difficult in my mind to see him outside of a Baltimore Orioles jersey, but so goes the business of baseball. Gregg ended up playing for 9 major league teams, with a playoff appearance with the aforementioned Diamondbacks coming in 1999. Today on MLB reports, we had a chance to catch up with the Baltimore Orioles Hall-of-Fame pitcher and talk some great baseball. Gregg was at home watching the Masters, but was kind enough to take some time for us. Following his retirement, Gregg Olson has been one busy cat. A Scout for the San Diego Padres. Published Author of the baseball book “We Got to Play Baseball”. Part Owner and President of “Toolshed Sports“- a leading manufacturer of high performance undergear. Gregg has his hands in many facets of the game of baseball! He spoke to us about all parts of his career, from getting drafted and playing with the Orioles to his current ventures and roles (and everything in-between). Gregg is a great personality to speak with. He is funny, sarcastic and extremely knowledgeable. He tells it like it us and doesn’t hold back. Much like the dominant closer in the 9th inning that went straight after top hitters in tight ballgames- Gregg Olson approaches life with the same vigour and intensity. One of my personal favorite baseball players of all-time, baseball fans are in for a treat as I spoke exclusively one-on-one with one of the greatest closers in MLB history. Today on MLB reports, I am proud to feature my conversation with the one and only, Gregg Olson:
Welcome to MLB reports Gregg. First question: A 1st round pick (4th overall) in 1988. Did you expect to go that high in the draft? Did you always know you would be heading to Baltimore?
I actually did. I was told that it was down to Andy Benes and myself for the 1st pick, so it was going to be 1-5. Baltimore wanted me- so it was either going to be San Diego or Baltimore.
It didn’t take you many games- only a handful until reaching the majors in 1988. How did you get the call? Tell us about that experience.
I really don’t remember how I was told. I had it in my contract that I would be there by September 1st. So it wasn’t a surprise. I do remember flying from Charlotte to Seattle with Curt Schilling (my roomie) for our first trip as big leaguers. Read the rest of this entry
Douglas ‘Chuck’ Booth (Baseball Writer @ChuckBooth3024 on Twitter) - My dad and I were not always Yankees fans. In the past blogs I had written that my favorite teams when I first started watching baseball were the Montreal Expos(because of Gary Carter) and my American League team was the Detroit Tigers (because of Lance Parrish). As a 7-year-old kid playing baseball, our team name was the Tigers. I remember that as I took my position behind home plate, the coach called me Lance Parrish. My dad was the assistant coach that year and would whip baseball’s at me to toughen me up. I asked him too, because I wanted to learn how to block them like #13. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday March 4th, 2012
MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: Ah to live the American Dream. Imagine the feeling of being able to sit in a room, filled with televisions. All of them are playing baseball. Not only that, but real life baseball players come to your pad to visit you and hang out. Welcome to the world of Mike O’Hara. Overnight, Mike went from Yankees fan to living in the MLB Fan Cave in New York. Along with his wingman Ryan Wagner (an Orioles fan), Mike was the inaugural winner of the MLB Fan Cave contest. Despite thousand of applicants, Mike was the lucky one to have his submission chosen. From Irish Punk Rocker to MLB employee. The job? Watch baseball. Tweet baseball. Blog baseball. Interview celebrities. Mike got to do it all. Truly an experience of a lifetime. Something that all baseball fans dream of…but few will ever experience.
With the 2012 MLB Fan Cave winners about to be selected, we took some time to speak to Mike today on his MLB Fan Cave memories. From getting the call to join the Cave, hanging out with Ryan, his favorite celebrities and future plans. We got to cover the whole gauntlet of experiences in this one. The feeling is a bittersweet one, at least from a fan’s perspective. While we are looking forward to all the changes to the Cave and the new hosts, we will have a void left now that Mike O’Hara has departed. He was with us throughout the 2011 season. A baseball fixture and icon. Now the characters in the Cave are changing, but the baseball love for Mike O’Hara remains as strong as ever. Mike was a great choice for the Cave. Well done MLB! He brought energy and life to the Cave. We have to remember, Mike and Ryan were working in the dark so to speak. They had to learn on the fly, as the whole MLB Fan Cave experience was new and developed around them. Mike helped blaze the trail for all future Cavemen and Cavewomen. The MLB Fan Cave is here to stay. But when we look back to remember its roots, the story will always begin with the name Mike O’Hara.
Today on MLB reports, we proudly present our good friend and newly anointed MLB Fan Cave Alumnus, Season One winner- Mike O’Hara:
How did you find out that you were first selected for the MLB Fan Cave? First reaction?
I was on tour, the band was playing Chicago…I got the call on St. Patrick’s Day morning. I was really excited to have booked the job, a bit confused as to what I would be doing exactly…but happy as heck to be working for Major League Baseball and moving back to New York City.
Did you know when you first came on board that you would have a sidekick? Did you have any input in Ryan’s selection?
I didn’t know I’d have a partner in the Cave…again, I wasn’t sure what the Cave was going to be. They kept saying it will be whatever you want to make it. When I got the call saying I was the “Caveman” they asked what I thought of Ryan becoming my “Wingman”. I had only met Wagner a few days before, he seemed like a good guy so I was all for it…heck, he spent that whole day auditioning right along with me, so I was glad I’d have someone to take the ride with. Ryan is a great guy and I’m glad to have worked with him.
Initial impression of Ryan Wagner? Friends throughout the process and did you live and work together?
I thought he was a good dude. He knew his sports and liked good music. I was curious as hell to hear about his days on tour with The Wizard of Oz…It seemed like a strangest trip anyone could take and he has a truck load of funny stories…including how they make the Witch melt…That one I can’t share with you. Apparently if you spill the beans flying monkeys show up at your door and throw you a beating “Goodfellas Style”.
Working together was pretty easy. We lived in the same building and were sharing an experience that nobody had ever gone through before. The great thing about working with another performer is that you know how to find your space and get a moment to yourself. Wags and I shot pool, played Bag O and even some late night wiffle ball…which we probably shouldn’t have…I blame Jon Rauch…long story. Bottom line is Ryan is a guy I will always know. We had a great time and became friends.
Ryan becoming the new PA for the Orioles…pretty exciting stuff eh?
I was so excited to hear that news. He loves the Orioles the way I love my Yankees, but Ryan also has a deep love for his hometown and bleeds B’more. I think it is a case of good things happening for good people. And I wish him a Bob Shepard-esq career as the voice of Camden Yards. He’ll do great.
Favorite part of the cave when you were there?
I’d have to say working with our writers and producers. It was a really creative space. On top of watching baseball, which was awesome, I was constantly writing and collaborating with two unbelievable friends and writers, Gideon “G Money” Evans and Dave “The Coach” Benson. From our EP Bobby “Brooklyn” Maurer, Endemol Producers, Editors and all the great PA’s and interns we had at Fan Cave I’ve made friends for life. And on top of that we had the wonderful folks at MLB. Jacqueline Parkes and her amazing team (Ann, DK, Felicia, Stephanie, Dana, Jason, Lance, Matt, Lauren, Jeff, Kim, Colin…) keep us feeling at home throughout the season. It was truly a family in many ways. Can’t beat that!
Favorite celebs that you met as part of the cave- baseball and non-baseball
Meeting Goose Gossage and Reggie Jackson was something I’ll never forget. Growing up a die-hard Yankee fan they were mythic heroes to me…Goose even named my dog Thurman. It was surreal. But whether it was sitting with DMC, cracking wise with Judah Frielander and Jim Breuer, or having Less Than Jake as our musical guest there were too many unbelievable guest and moments to mention. And the friendships I made with the players, Joba Chamberlain, Jeremy Guthrie, Jon Rauch, Jose Bautista…yeah, it was an amazing day every time I went to work.
Anything you would have differently looking back at the experience?
I am pretty focused and driven…I say if I could do anything over again, I would have tried to relax a bit more…I just wanted it to be such a hit that I would get tunnel vision and forget to stop and enjoy it all.
What was the feeling like leaving the cave? Anxiety or relief? Do you miss it?
I felt like it was time to go…turn over the keys to the next Caveman or woman and move on to whatever comes next. I miss it there, but more because I don’t get to see those great people everyday. A wise man said, “You never want to stay at the party too long.” I loved every minute of Fan Cave Season 1 and will never forget it.
What have you up been up to since MLB Fan Cave season one completed?
I have been auditioning for shows and touring a bit with The Mighty Regis. I hope that some of the stuff I did at Fan Cave will help open some doors, but either way I’ll keep looking for my pitch and swing away…sorry for the baseball metaphor…I watch a lot of baseball.
What is the future of Mike O’Hara?
I hope for some great things…I’d love to have a show that brings the worlds of Sports, Pop culture and Music together…that’s my goal. I guess we’ll see.
How are active are you in season 2- do you have input in selections at any stage?
I am a spectator. I’ll watch and cheer them on. I have no say in who, what or why, but I wish them all the best and to have as much fun as Wags and I did.
How many of the candidates have you met? Who are your faves?
I have gone back and forth on Twitter with a few of them and they all seem like fun-loving, qualified folks. To pick a favorite would be poor form…but it seems that the ladies brought their “A game”. So I would bet there is a solid female force in Fan Cave 2012.
What improvements would you/ did you suggest for the MLB Fan Cave?
I really didn’t offer any…that’s not my call and the MLB people have a clear vision of what the Cave will be year to year. I would only say…maybe put in a batting cage…it would cut down on late night wiffleball games…again Rauch did it.
When the MLB Fan Cave was first conceived, it appeared to be a dream come true for the hardcore baseball fans. Did the dream become a reality?
That’s a great question…I’m still chasing my dream but Fan Cave 2011 was as close to catching it as I’ve been. It’s like winning a World Series Championship I guess…once you get that feeling you want it every year. I can’t thank MLB enough for the opportunity to have been the Season 1 host.
How is your life different now, having been part of the MLB Fan Cave?
It’s great to say I worked for MLB….not too many people can say that. As of now only one other, Wags, can say they were the first to work at The Cave.
Final question: Final tips for all future MLB Fan Cave Dwellers?
Be who you are and make the Cave yours…the season is long, 2430 games…and the next thing you know…it’s over. Enjoy the ride!
***Thank you to Mike O’Hara for taking the time today to speak with us on MLB reports. You can follow Mike on Twitter (@mikeyoh21). On behalf of MLB fans everywhere, congrats on the stellar job you did as the first ever host of the MLB Fan Cave. We look forward to catching your next projects and will miss you greatly on the Cave. Best of luck Mikey Oh!***
Jonathan Hacohen is the Founder & Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
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