Monday, September 19, 2011

So with all the talk of “Scrappy” players on and commentor - philoe beddoe (and I hope his orangutan) wonderful“All-Time Crype Team” I wanted to start the Chicago Cub’s “All-Time Scrappy Team.”

Chicago Cubs “All-Time Scrappy Team”

So what does it mean to be “scrappy?” According to Merriam Webster:

scrap·py - adj
1. Consisting of disorganized, untidy, or incomplete parts.
2. Determined, argumentative, or pugnacious.

I think Merriam Webster is perfect in the definition and really describes what a “scrappy” player looks like (especially the incomplete part definition), but let me refine toward baseball terms

scrap·py - adj
1. A Chicago Cub player that demonstrates hustle, shows flashes of potential, often speedy, but lacks the stats to be an everyday player.
2. A Cub player that becomes a fan favorite, and one that fans adamantly want to be named a starter, regardless of supporting stats.
3. Typically caucasian or appears caucasian from a distance. (sad but true)
4. Even in failure, and documented stats to support failure, maintains status as a fan favorite.
5. Becomes an unrecognizable player to anyone outside of Cub Nation

So for this inaugural “All-Time Scrappy Team” I select the first player I remember getting this kind of Scrappy Love.
Doug Dascenzo

From Wikipedia:
Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 12th round of the 1985 MLB amateur draft, Dascenzo would make his Major League Baseball debut with theChicago Cubs on September 2, 1988, and appear in his final game on September 29, 1996.

Dascenzo began his Major League career by playing in a then-National League record 241 consecutive games without making an error. The streak spanned from his debut in 1988 to the 1991 season when he committed his first error in a game on August 25.
During the 1990 and 1991 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Dascenzo made a total of four appearances as a relief pitcher. He pitched for a total of five innings, giving up three hits, two bases on balls, and achieving two strike outs.

Dascenzo ended his career as a member of the San Diego Padres organization after the 1996 season and took a job with the team as a roving minor league instructor. He made his managerial debut with the Padres' Northwest League affiliate, the Eugene Emeralds, in 2006 where he guided the Ems to a 43-33 finish. He was promoted to manage the Fort Wayne Wizards in the Midwest League in 2007. He led the team to the Midwest League championship in the 2009 season, after they swept the Burlington Bees, 3-0.[1]

On December 1, 2009, Dascenzo was named the manager of the Double-A San Antonio Missions of the Texas League.

A look at his career stats and his season as a “starter” shows what a “scrappy” player looks like:

Career Stats – 7 Seasons
1992 Season

What I remember the most about Dascenzo was that he actually pitched a couple of innings, and I watched half of those games since only pitched 4 games and 5 innings between the 1990 and 91 seasons; however, what I didn’t realize is that he was nearly perfect!

In those 5 IP, Doug had zero earned runs, 5 hits, 2 BB, 2 SO, for a WHIP of 1.000.

Outside of his pitching, I don’t have a ton of memories; however, I can remember friends and family at the time really wanting to see him be an everyday player from the moment he arrived, and as his stats show— he’s just not an everyday starter.  

So why do I remember him?  It has to be the power of Scrappy Love.  These scrappy players are not failed prospects, yet they continue to be in the collective consciousness of Cub fans.  

So if you have any insight on Dougie, or a suggestion for a future member of the “All-Scrappy Team” please let me know.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Summer is Over - No Oberon in the Fridge

So yesterday was the official end of summer, at least in my book.  

Why? Because I had my last Oberon of 2011. The last couple of years I've bought a couple of cases in August and when I have the last one in September I officially call it the end of summer.  So I thought that a review of a beer that never disappoints and always makes summer more enjoyable, needed a review.

According the to Bell's website:
Bell's Oberon is a wheat ale fermented with Bell's signature house ale yeast, mixing a spicy hop character with mildly fruity aromas. The addition of wheat malt lends a smooth mouthfeel, making it a classic summer beer.
I first discovered Oberon in 2004 in Urbana, Illinois, a friend and I would frequently walk to the nearby "hole-in-the-wall" that had $1 pints and free pool from 3-6pm but was never busy-- easy to say we took advantage.  One day they had just gotten a keg of Oberon from their distributor for the same price as a keg of High Life (what we had been drinking), so we enjoyed that keg for a couple of weeks since none of the other regular barflys even touched anything not named Miller.  From that point on I always checked to see if Oberon was on tap and started my affair with Michigan brews.

Bell's Oberon is best enjoyed in a glass, since the pour allows one to appreciate the cloudy golden/orange hue and considerable carbonation that leaves a fluffly white two finger head combined with wonderful lacing and hints of sediment.  But that's just the presentation, the real joy is in the taste. 

At first sip one notices the sweetness of citrus and wheat, but those first flavors are then nicely blended with noticeable hops and more complex fruit tones.  I've always tasted some grapefruit after a few drinks, but it is the slight hop tones that produce a slight sourness that becomes noticeable about half-way through the pint and is a main reason why this beer is stable of summer in my fridge.   It's refreshing for a wheat beer to not be overly sweet with the citrus and wheat tones, but to be complex in its flavors and mouthfeel.

This beer is easy to drink, completely refreshing and the best beer to drink outside on a summer day.  Oberon should be easy to find since Bells has a wide distribution network, but you'll have to wait until next summer to find it since its only brewed during the summer.  

Remember - Support Michigan's Struggling Economy: Drink Michigan Beer!

For more information and reviews on Bell's Oberon check out the following:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Stories You May Have Missed

For this post I thought I’d share some of the best stories I’ve heard surrounding 9/11, specifically the stories that may have missed our national attention.  I’m not one for overly patriotic stories but appreciate the narratives of individuals that were directly impacted by the events of 9/11 or the accounts of what might have been on that dramatic day ten years ago if chance didn’t played her hand in a very dramatic manner.  What is impressive about a majority of these accounts is how simple, everyday actions have profound effects on individuals.  The stories we tell, the actions we take, and the people we interact with have a direct impact on the course of an individual’s life. 

We are strangers that impact each other in even stranger ways

  •  The first story that caught my eye was a report about how a Michael Cuddyer minor league home run saved a teammates life.  I never thought about how a large amount of minor league seasons end right around 9/11 and that something as insignificant as a home run can save a life—the butterfly effect in motion. 
  • Today in New York City, Paul Simon sang “The Sound of Silence” during a public gathering to remember 9/11.  There is not a better song to sing for the memories of that day.  A haunting song, a masterful performance—it’s amazing how a song can describe everything we feel and think about something.  Please listen and don’t be ashamed of the tears that will come.
  • Salon has a rememberace from a 22 year old who recounts what she went through at age 12 when the towers fell and the fear that haunted her classmates and her for the subsequent years.   It’s hard to imagine the toll that would take on a 12 year old living in NYC.
  • Last week on CBS Sunday Morning I heard the story of Michael Lomonaco, the  executive chef at Windows on the World, the restaurant that occupied the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  He was in the building when the first plane hit, but had decided not to go to his office that morning— chance, fate, or luck it’s still on his mind.  It was this story that prompted me to write my thoughts and share them on this blog.

I know there are more stories to hear and I hope that if you read this and have a story that should be heard, please leave a comment. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my contribution to the 9/11 discussion, and again please feel free to comment and share your thoughts, opinions, and stories—I know people are reading, I haven’t visited this site 400+ times, so leave a comment and let me know what you think of The MichiganGoat Rambler.
Enjoy the rest of your day and keep the stories going, stories are what really separate us from animals.

Remembering 10 Years Ago

I hesitate to add my voice to flood of 9/11 remembrances, but when I consider what’s happened in the ten years since 9/11/2001, I feel compelled to share my story of the most polarizing national event in my adult life.  9/11 will be the event my children will ask, “Do you remember where you at?” as the Kennedy assassination was to my parents. I believe in the power of stories, so oblige me if you will.

I was working on my first undergraduate degree at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.  I had just recently broken up with my girlfriend of three years and living with my younger sister who just started her undergraduate work.  I had spent the evening doing what one would expect of a twenty-something the previous night—drinking until 4am, trying to get in some coed’s pants, and walking home alone around 5am.
I don’t know what time I received the call but I remember being shocked by hearing my recent ex-girlfriends voice on the phone.  It is even more interesting since this was before I had a cell phone (yes kids there were days before having cell phones) and I didn’t even have caller ID (yes kids there was a time the phone would ring and you’d have no idea who was on the other line).  I fuzzily remember her asking me “Are you watching this?”  I thought maybe it was already the evening and she wanted to talk about something funny on the TV, but I was even more shocked that she called me after a few weeks of no conversation and started the conversation with such a strange statement.  She informed me that a plane hit the World Trade Centers and everyone was freaking out, but what she really wanted to find out was if my sister was okay.

Why was she concerned about my sister?  Well that is the real story and my six-degree connection to the WTC.  My sister had been dating a friend from her high school who just joined the Merchant Marines and was transferred to NYC.  While my ex and I were together, my sister was planning a trip to visit her boyfriend in NYC and was excited about being able to go to the top of the WTC— in fact it was the thing she was most excited about.  My ex knew she was planning the trip to happen during the few weeks since we separated and was concerned that she was in NYC.

As fate and providence provides, my sister was there just a week before 9/11 and had shared her pictures of the WTC and regaled me with the stories of the view from the WTC.  It still gives me shivers to think that my sister passed by offices and people that in a few weeks would be devastated by the horror of 9/11.  It’s eerie when one thinks about all the people we pass by in life and what happens to all those near contacts.
The rest of the day I was glued to my TV, I watched in disbelief as the second plane hit, as the towers fell, and as the world changed.  I had multiple calls from family and friends as we discussed what had happened and how the US would respond— there was so much uncertainty that day, so much speculation, and so much fear and anger everywhere. 

The next memorable call came from my sister— since there were no cell phones or ability to text I had no idea where she was and my parents kept calling me asking me if I heard from her.  She was on campus and just had her afternoon classes cancelled, but the busses were cancelled and needed me to pick her up so she could get home.  In order to reach me she had to wait 30 minutes to use the payphone and had to borrow change in order to make the call—again no cell phones, can you imagine that kids?  I got my exhausted, un-showered, hungover self off the couch and started to make the 3 mile drive to pick up my sister.  It took 45 minutes to get through the insane traffic and I watched hundreds of cars lined up at the gas stations and watched as the price went up to $6-$7 dollars a gallon— I was lucky enough to fill up my truck the previous day for a nostalgic $1 and change per gallon (yes kids gas use to be around a $1 a gallon).
The remainder of the day was bit of a blur, I know I went back to sleep and that evening went over to some friends to drink and talk about everything that happened. 

But that is just the story of that specific day, what really hard to wrap my head around is how much I’ve gone through in the ten years that followed:
  • Took a job that transferred me to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
  •  Accepted a second transfer to Athens, Ohio
  •  Bought my first house
  • Left that company, sold my house, and moved back to Indiana
  • Lived with my parents, went back to school, and became a certified teacher
  • Got married, bought a house, and had my greatest achievement—my daughter
  • Sold my second house, moved to Michigan
  • Went through a divorce 
  • Changing careers, again

In the past ten years, I’ve lived in four states, had three careers, owned two homes, had twelve different addresses, been through a marriage and divorce, and became a father.

Life is a complex journey, the world continues, and the memories, pain, and effect of 9/11/2001 will be with us forever.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Who's On First?

So the biggest question, on the field, for the Cubs in 2012 is who is going to play first base.  It’s basically a question over whether to pay the cash to get Fielder/Pujols OR find a 2-3 year stop gap and wait for an internal candidate to arrive or sign a FA a couple of years from now.  There is a third option that the Cubs could trade for a first baseman, but since I am no GM and my soothsaying skills are weak I’ll be ignoring potential trade possibilities— even if I may believe that is the best option.

So according to MLBTradeRumors the first base free agent class is as follows (with my editorial comments included):

1.       Lance Berkman (36) – having a resurgenant year and the Cubs should have signed him over Pena, but he will not sign another affordable 1-2yr deal.  He’s going to hope that someone will give him a 30-40M deal.  If he can’t find that then maybe he could be affordable at a 2yr/15M max type of deal, but I don’t see him settling for that on a team that is a couple of years away. Not to mention he is a douche that eats turd sandwiches.

2.       Russell Branyan (36) NO THANK YOU

3.       Jorge Cantu (30) – NOPE

4.       Michael Cuddyer (33) – He is interesting candidate.  He has had a solid season and can play both 1B or RF and has even started at 2B a couple of times.  The versatility he provides cannot be overlooked, but he is 33 and will start to decline but could be a decent 2-3 year candidate—especially when the Cubs are considering bringing back Carlos Pena.

5.       Prince Fielder (28) – Personally, I just don’t think the Cubs can pass up on a 1B player with the impact that Prince can add to your offense.  The number that stands out to me is his above .400 OBP for the last three years.  Imagine a power hitting first baseman that can get on base 40% of the time.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a batter that not only hits for power, but is patient and doesn’t strike out in key situations?  The real issue with Fielder is how much does he want for how long?  I see a 5yr/125M contract being about right since there aren’t many teams that can afford that price, but he could want more and I don’t think a longer contract is a smart move— perhaps a couple of club/mutual option years with a 4-5M buyout would be necessary.  Regardless I hope he will accept a contract without a no-trade clause or at least a limited clause since his bat will always be attractive as a DH.  The other concern that everybody brings up is his weight; however, I’m not as concerned by that as many other.  He is a ton of muscle and some people can just pull off “fat” and still be quite effective for many years.  It’s not like he got “fat,” he has always been big, and it’s a risk I believe is worth taking.  It is unacceptable for the Cubs to not make a serious run to sign him, but they need to set limits and have a “B” plan in case he can’t be signed.

6.       Ross Gload (36) NOT A CHANCE

7.       Brad Hawpe (33) --  NEVER EVER EVER

8.       Eric Hinske (34) – BARELY WORTH MENTIONING

9.       Casey Kotchman (29) – very interesting candidate— he is significantly out performing his career numbers this year, but he is still young enough to be entering his prime.  I’m not sure what he will want in terms of a contract, but if he is cheaper than Pena he would be a decent stopgap until we land a top free agent, trade for a better option, or develop an internal candidate.

10.   Mark Kotsay (36) TOO OLD TO CONSIDER

11.   Derrek Lee (36) – This ex-Cub ain’t coming back, but he’d be better than many on this list. I wish him the best— thanks for the memories.

12.   Xavier Nady (33) – This ex-Cub ain’t coming back and NOOOOOOO

13.   Lyle Overbay (35) HA, Is this a JOKE!

14.   Carlos Pena (34) – I’ll come back to him, but I hope you see what I see: He should be our last option.

15.   Wily Mo Pena (30) – I didn’t even know he was still playing, or that he is just 30, but not worth considering

16.   Albert Pujols (32) – The machine would look good in Cubbie Blue and I’d love to see the Card fans cry if he came over, but I just don’t think he’s leaving the Card and/or will want too much for too long.  I’m not even considering him as a possibility

Stats Breakdown

Let’s take a look at the players worth considering in some key offensive and basic defensive categories:


So what stands out here?  PENA IS HITTING .158 WITH RISP!  Why are we even considering bringing back a player that is that poor with RISP?  If the Cubs are not going to get Fielder they can do better than that with Cuddyer, Kotchman, or dare I say Bryan LaHair.  Yes Pena is an awesome guy, yes he has leadership skills, yes he is very likeable, BUT he cannot hit on a team that needs to be competitive.  If he could play multiple positions I’d be all about bringing him back as a utility player, but .158 when it counts is just unacceptable for a player who expects to get 8-10M a year.

Hope this helps give everyone more insight on what’s available and especially why Pena should not be considered unless the other players mentioned are unavailable. 

Talk, argue, discuss among yourselves it will be a fun off season.

And if you have never seen the Abbott and Costello skit "Who's On First" you need to hit your head against a wall and punish yourself, but here you go: