Thank God that’s over.
Watching the Cardinals against the Red Sox was like watching the Bubonic Plague versus the Spanish Influenza. Which one do you root for? Well, the latter killed more people worldwide, but the former wiped out a greater percentage of the European population. I went with the Plague because the Middle Ages were more romantic.
Still, I’m glad to be done with it.
Which means, for Chicago baseball fans it’s yet again time look to the future. Opening Day! The only question is which opening day? 2015? 2016?
Five Chicago ballplayers played in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Star game last week. The Cubs were represented by Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler. The White Sox sent pitcher Chris Bassit and shortstop Marcus Semien.
Some nice things about the game: the stadium is located at Bullard Avenue and Buck O’Neill Way. Anytime I see Buck O’Neill’s name, I smile. I didn’t have to pony up the outrageous $7 they charge for general admission, either, as one of my fellow Cubs fans saw my hat and handed me an extra ticket. Losing has its perks.
More good news: It turns out the Astros have a prospect named Jonas Dufek. I really hope he makes the bigs, just so fans can chant “Doooo-feeeekkkkk!” as he comes in out of the bullpen.
As for the game, a 9-2 win for the West, it wasn’t even as close as the score suggests, and Kris Bryant didn’t much impress. Quite the opposite. Along with 6,528 other fans, I saw Bryant make two errors: a third-inning ground ball right between the pipes, with a man on third and one out. He was thinking throw to the plate and came up too soon, giving some credence to those who argue that 6’5” might be too tall for the hot corner. Later, he threw a routine grounder two yards to the first baseman’s right in the eighth. Can’t blame that one on his height.
But a mental error that will not make the box score just astounded me: on a strikeout in the fifth, the East’s catcher—Yankee prospect Peter O’Brien–sent a third strike around the horn and Bryant missed it. The ball sailed into left field. I have never seen that happen in a professional game at any level. Bryant might have thought there were still men on base, but the man on third that inning had just scored on a wild pitch.
Bryant did make one stellar defensive play, pirouetting to his right to snag a ground ball low and just inside the line, and he singled and scored the East’s second run. The other Cubs prospects? Jorge Soler was 1 for 1 with a single and a walk. Albert Almora replaced Soler in the sixth, flew out twice to right, and got to watch two late-inning homers soar over his head.
Good preparation for playing right field at Wrigley, that.
As for the White Sox, pitcher Chris Bassit got the first fly ball from Almora, and gave up the East’s first run on a hit batsman, groundout, and single. Marcus Semien came in to play short and went 0-2 and mercifully gloved the final out of the game.
None of these guys will make an impact on the 2014 Cubs or Sox. Both teams will probably struggle again next year.
For the Cubs least, there will be a distraction. The season will mark the 100th Anniversary of Wrigley Field, originally Weeghman Park of the Federal League’s Chicago Whales. The Cubs are going to lose a lot of games, so it’s good to pay attention to the ballpark, which probably isn’t to blame. It’s not clear when the Jumbotron is going to land, given the lawyering still going on, but that should provide another welcome distraction. Anything to avoid watching the actual baseball.
Which leads us back at one of the sadder events of the 2014 Cubs season: the last Old Style at Wrigley Field. As I understand it, the Cubs have signed an exclusive deal of some kind with Budweiser, and there will be no more Old Style vendors with their blue plastic trays wandering the stands, no more Old Style taps (all of which seemed to be right next to various men’s rooms. . . ).
On Closing Day back in September, I over-tipped one of the vendors in the first inning. “Come back with your last tray,” I told him and he agreed. In the 7th he was back, and, looking around for security, he told me I could keep the can.
I know with dead certainty that this was not the last Old Style sold at Wrigley. Other vendors were out there, and doubtless the last Old Styles were drained long after the game’s end, in the counting room where they shrink-wrap pallets of cash for loading with forklifts into armored cars. But it was my last Old Style at Wrigley . . . not good beer, but our beer.