Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who knew Chicago’s off-field activity would be more interesting than Series?

I am a fan of professional baseball, and by all rights the high point of the sport in the United States should be beginning on Wednesday.
Does once having to endure Bump mean it's their turn?

The World Series – by which the champions of the American and National leagues take each other on in a best-of-seven series; with the winner gaining the bragging rights to call themselves the best ballclub on Planet Earth.

SO WHY IS it that what baseball talk there is these days seems to center around everything except the World Series itself. Are the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals really that boring a match-up?

It would seem so. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the off-field activity coming from Chicago is much more intriguing than anything we’re going to see in the next week to 10 days.

First we had the departure of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to the Miami Marlins, quitting before anybody could get around to terminating him with one year left on his contract. The fact that the White Sox replaced him with a managerial rookie in the form of one-time third baseman Robin Ventura only increases the sense of drama.

What are they thinking on the Sout’ Side? (They’re not.) Are the next few seasons doomed to be mediocre ones? (Most likely) Will the White Sox be repeating the Detroit Tigers’ mistake when they made former popular player Alan Trammell their manager?

LET’S HOPE WE don’t see a 119-loss season in Chicago (unless it’s on the North Side) anytime soon!

Is Ventura the Trammell manager sequel?
But the Chicago Cubs seem to be escalating the picture with the drama we’re enduring over when Theo Epstein gets to become the team’s general manager. For it seems his current employer, the Boston Red Sox, isn’t eager to let him go.

It’s not that they want to retain him. They gladly want him out. It’s just that Red Sox ownership seems determined to prove how little class they have – and how unworthy they were of those two championships the team won in the past decade.

They want history to record that Theo Epstein was tossed out on his keister for gross incompetence in his management of the team. They’re already trying to hang that same tag on the now-former field manager, Terry Francona.

HAVING THEO GET a better paying job with the Cubs would result in history recording that he dumped on the Boston faithful. Perhaps just like Ozzie, in leaving before he could be fired.

But he would leave, nonetheless, on his own terms.

So what will it take for the Cubs to “buy off” Boston to get them to release Epstein from the final year of his own contract? It’s not like the Chicago Cubs minor league system has top-notch ballplayers who could be sent to Boston (although I would presume that any Cubs minor leaguer would be glad to be a part of the Red Sox system).

Will the Red Sox be petty enough to refuse to release Epstein? Which leads to the conspiracy theories about the Cubs picking an “interim” general manager for one season while they wait for their dream executive.

WILL ALL THIS negativity come back to bite Boston on the tushy? Will there be a bad karma created? Will we someday be talking of the “Curse of Theo” as the reason why the Red Sox don’t win anything?

Insofar as the latter question is concerned, I’m more inclined to think that the reason the Red Sox won’t win anything in the near future is because the New York Yankees are just a better ballclub overall.

The off-field action isn’t even limited to the Chicago ballclubs. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., (a St. Louis Cardinals fan) was one of several political people who this week made a point of asking Major League Baseball to officially ban chewing tobacco from the game.

It already is against the rules for ballplayers with minor league affiliates to try to imitate Nellie Fox. Now, they want all ballplayers to set an example and give up tobacco. “Unfortunately, as these young fans root for their favorite team and players, they also will watch their on-field heroes use smokeless tobacco products,” Durbin and three other senators wrote in a letter to baseball Executive Director Michael Weiner.

PERSONALLY, I THINK Fox (the one-time star second baseman for the White Sox) is the perfect lesson, since his death from skin cancer was aggravated by his tobacco use. He is an example of what can be bad about tobacco products.
Check out Nellie's left cheek

Then again, I couldn’t help but notice that Fox’ last job in baseball was as a coach with the Texas Rangers. I doubt that team remembers that it once had Nellie on their staff. But it is a tie to the two unglamorous ballclubs that managed to win their league championships (that dream of a New York Yankees versus Philadelphia Phillies World Series died weeks ago).

So what do I think of the 2011 take on the World Series? I suppose I’m rooting for the Rangers, since I’m an American League fan and usually back their champion to win the whole thing.

Besides, I have a step-brother who is a hard-core Cardinals fan. And if I have to listen to him all winter going on and on about a Cardinals’ victory, that will make the next few months absolutely unbearable.


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