Hey Bleed Cubbie Blue. It’s been a while. Did I miss anything?
Where were we when I was last around? Some of you may have tuned in for my look back at the 1969 Cubs. If you did, thanks for doing so. For me, that was a tribute to my parents who fostered my love for the Cubs and who passed on so many memories of that team. I’m sure for some of you, that season is a painful memory and you didn’t want to take that journey with me. I assure you that the next Historical Heroes and Goats series will be a very different creature and might look at some fun times.
If you didn’t follow Historical Heroes and Goats, then I probably haven’t spoken to you since the 2019 season was ending with a thud. 2019 was a disappointing season that fell apart. That team was trying to keep itself in contention and struggling to do so at times until it was absolutely decimated by injuries down the stretch. As I recall, at one point the entire regular infield was unavailable to play. The upside? Things have changed so dramatically over the last five plus years that missing the playoffs was a fairly large disappointment. This organization expects to be playing for a championship when the post season rolls around each year. What a pleasant development that is for the team many of us grew up watching.
Following that disappointment, I didn’t breathlessly follow the offseason. I hope you’ll bear with me as I get up to speed on who some of these guys are. Indeed, I’ve watched parts of the two exhibition games against the White Sox (thanks to the Sox broadcast as I’m one of those Cubs fans who didn’t have access to the Marquee Network content at that time). Certainly, when they reached into the minors there are reasons I wasn’t intimately familiar with all of those names. But, I’ve followed Josh Timmers’ work for years and so I did know who most of those guys were, even if I’d never seen some of them before. But there were a lot of names of guys who were competing for spots in the bullpen who I’ve seriously never heard of before.
And so it was, that I was a little farther removed from Cubs baseball in the offseason than I have been in recent years. That’s when COVID-19 happened and shut down the baseball season (and just about everything else). Like most of you, I followed the ups and downs of the negotiations and at times wondered if there would even be baseball.
Here’s the deal with that. At times, I wondered if there SHOULD be baseball. This country and the world around it is still dealing with a pandemic of truly unprecedented proportions, at least for modern life. This country in many ways is not in good shape. Is it time for baseball?
My first answer was “Heck, no.” There are bigger fish to fry. Things more important than a bunch of grown men playing a game. I wouldn’t imagine that I’m the only one who thought that way. I haven’t been around BCB much and so perhaps less than at any time in the last few years, I don’t have the pulse of the emotion around here. But I suspect there are more than a few of you who think that we should just turn the page and look to 2021.
Those of you who know me know that I try to think through as many sides of an issue as possible. What is the counter argument? Why should we be playing baseball? I think a return to normalcy is good for all of us. There is so much trouble in the world today that an escape from reality might be just what the doctor ordered.
For me, the nearest world event that had a similar impact to COVID-19 this year was the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The aftermath of that event was the last time I felt like the fabric of the United States changed. I’m sure they may have been other events that can be argued that occurred, but for me that is the one I’d point to. I remember vividly, I wasn’t a die hard Saturday Night Live viewer, but I did watch from time to time. And I remember that SNL was one of the first truly national events after 9/11. I remember the cold open that night featuring NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani flanked by NYC police, fire, and port authority members.
That monologue ended with Lorne Michaels asking an important question: “Can we be funny? (Why start now?)” So I’ll ask here: Can we cheer?
Maybe, if we can return to cheering, we can begin to heal just a little bit as people. If you are here, you surely root for the same baseball team I do. So we have that in common. Can we respect each other’s differences and appreciate the things we have in common? Can we put aside our differences and move our arguments to those about who’s leading off? Who’s batting cleanup? Who should be pitching the seventh inning? If that call the ump made last night was a good one?
Can we remember our animosity for Ryan Braun and for the Cardinals? Those are things we can share in (and of course, it is fine if you don’t have animosity for them, but I think we all recognize that most Cubs fans do).
That’s what I plan to do. For better or for worse, when that Cubs game comes on every day, I’m putting aside worries about the pandemic. For the time when that game is going on, I’m just going to be a Cubs fan. All of our hopes and worries can come back all too quickly once the final out is recorded. But for that short amount of time, I’m going to root for our boys in blue and hope that they can in some way pull things together, reach the postseason and maybe do some damage after they get there.
I hope you’ll join me. I think it’s safe to have a little bit of fun (and probably a little bit of Cubbie frustration too). I hope you do too. It’s good to be back.
Heroes and Goats Primer
So what is it that we do here? Well, I’m going to attempt to bring you a new piece after each and every game. Most days you’ll expect to see this piece by 10 a.m. CT the day after the game. When my schedule or Al’s or the Cubs’ throws a curveball, one of us will try to let you know when to expect the next article.
In our piece, we’ll look at who the Heroes and the Goats were for the game. Those decisions are not subjective. We use the WPA charts that Fangraphs posts the morning after every game. The three players with the highest WPA scores for the Cubs will be in order the Super Hero, the Hero and the Sidekick. The three players with the lowest WPA scores for the Cubs will then be the Billy Goat, the Goat and the Kid. It’s a fairly simple mechanism and that’s how we’ll determine things. VERY rarely, there will be a tie that I feel should be broken. If I do that, I’ll let you know. The longer I’ve done this, the less I do that. Ties are generally fine (until you get a small army of guys with the same score in a blowout).
To be clear: The Heroes and Goats for each game are strictly by the numbers. There is no subjective judgment involved.
You’ll also get on a daily basis the WPA Play of the Game. That too is an objective finding. Fangraphs lists all of their plays and the impact on the game. The biggest one will be the Play of the Game. I will also post the other team’s biggest impact play of the game. As an example, if Anthony Rizzo hits a walk-off homer and that is the WPA Play of the Game, then I’ll post the Brewers Play of the Game for the play that contributed most to the likelihood of them winning the game (by WPA). So that play will either be a positive Brewer event or a negative Cubs event (like Daniel Descalso bouncing into a double play... yes, I played favorites).
At the top of each piece, you’ll get some commentary from me. My motto? Don’t get too high, don’t get too low. So if the Cubs have won three in a row, I’m probably going to tell you that all good things come to an end and don’t start printing World Series tickets yet. When they get crushed, I’ll tell you that they are surely going to bounce back tomorrow. Is that always how it will go? No. I’m a fan first and foremost. I get frustrated, I get angry. I get happy, I even get carried away sometimes. That’s all part of the fun of the experience. And more than anything, that’s what I want this space to be... fun.
I’m also going to post a poll every day. Ok, I’ll surely forget at least once, as I do every season. Please don’t think I’ll take offense if you notice that I forgot. The poll is going to ask who the Cubs Hero of the game was more days than not. Feel free to offer up someone I didn’t suggest. This whole writing experience becomes a whole lot more fun when you guys engage me in the comments. I usually try to take a little different tone and a little different angle from the one Al has in his game recaps, which are generally the primary location for discussing the game. But, we might sometimes go a different direction here. I’m much more likely to see your comment if it is here than there. Come in, make yourself at home. Tell me what’s on your mind. Just promise that in a worst case scenario, we’ll agree to disagree and not call each other names or disparage each other (or the players and staff).
From time to time, I’ll update you on the cumulative standings for Heroes and Goats. You see, we assign point values to the daily results. Super Hero gets +3, Hero +2 and Sidekick +1. Similarly the negative results are scored -1 to -3 with Billy Goat being the worst. At the end of the year, I’ll dub someone the H&G Player of the Year. Anthony Rizzo has won that award multiple times (2014, 2015, 2017, 2019). He also has the Cubs Heroes & Goats record of 65.5, set in 2015. If I’m still writing this series when Rizzo retires or otherwise leaves the Cubs, rest assured this will become the Rizzo Award.
Amusingly, one of my resolutions for 2020 is to be a little less verbose. And yet, here I am, closing in on 2000 words in my first effort of the season. We’ll see how that goes. Anyway, I’ll say it again. Welcome back! Let’s work together to try to squeeze every possible ounce of enjoyment of this Cubs season. Let’s make sure to check the real-life issues at the door and just talk about the Cubs here. Please always feel free to offer me opportunities to improve either in the comments or by reaching out to me via email. I will always welcome your constructive feedback. I also post stories to Twitter where I am @colbylives. I certainly welcome a follow. You might see there that I do follow real-life issues and I do have opinions. I pledge here that from the start to the finish of the Cubs season, I will only like or retweet Cubs related content. That’s my respect to any of you who follow me and I hope you’ll respect that I have my own opinions and views even if they aren’t the ones that you share.
I think maybe, just maybe, it’s okay to cheer again. Go Cubs! Let’s try to win ’em all.
Who will be the H&G Cubs Player of the Year?
This poll is closed
Anthony Rizzo (duh!)
Other (suggestions welcomed in the comments)