Thursday, September 17, 2009

On a Clear Day You Can See Milwaukee

The earth shook, the brilliant blue sky gasped, and Cubs fans near and far hung their heads in disbelief. This has not been the most salutary of seasons on the north side of Chicago, but when Prince Fielder triples--stop and digest that for a moment: Prince Fielder tripled--against you, the season is well and truly lost. I had thought that Baseball Prospectus's recent inclusion of the Cubs in their year-ending series "Kiss 'Em Goodbye" had been just a touch premature, but not after today's 7-4 loss to the Brewers.

In fairness, the World's Largest Vegetarian, as he was dubbed by my one and only, does triple about twice a year. Heck, he's got seven lifetime. But it's a disheartening sight all the same--which, thanks to some corporately provided tickets, we witnessed from much better seats than we had had last time, in May, when we had slogged out to the far reaches of the upper left-field deck. Back then, though, the season was young, Lou Piniella seemed to still give a crap, and the Cubs were surely bound for Chavez Ravine and Fenway Park in October instead of Pebble Beach.

In the event, Fielder was stranded at third, and anyway the real damage had already been inflicted the inning before, when Jody "My Batting Average Is the Numerical Representation of Valentine's Day" Gerut hit a grand slam off Randy Wells. Wells had started the game with ten or so consecutive pitches outside of the strike zone, so it's not surprising he got lit up by someone. But Jody Gerut? Soon enough we were being treated to a tour of the lesser monuments of the Cubs bullpen and the continued perplexing behavior of Milton Bradley, who abruptly took himself out of the game for no immediately evident reason after singling in the bottom of the sixth. It's OK, Milton, you weren't the only one who kind of just wanted to go home today.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"See Ya Saturday" (or maybe not)

On the day after Labor Day, my friend Peter and I saw the last game of the year for the Brooklyn Cyclones. Of course, we didn't know that at the time. After the 3-1 loss to the Mahoning Valley Scappers, cable-TV comedian King Henry told the departing fans, "See ya Saturday." However, the season ticker holders made their good-byes like they weren't going to see each other again until next summer. (Photo of his highness by PaulMiles.) The New York-Penn League affiliate of the Mets started with 16 wins and 2 losses, a franchise record, and held first place for most of the season. However, they limped into post-season as the wild card, despite once having an 8.5 game lead over its crosstown rival, the Staten Island Yankees. There wasn't much optimism after Tuesday's game and rightly so, it turned out. The Cyclones lost the second game of the division play-off, also by a score of 3-1, somewhere outside of Youngstown the following evening. In a three-game series, every game is a must-win after you lose the first one.

At least the local fans didn't have to see the visiting team celebrate on the field, as they did in 2007 (above). Even more painful to watch were the Auburn Doubledays fans who made the trip down from the Finger Lakes and cheered their team on from a rented suite (below). There was crying in the stands that night. One couple got into an embarrassing public argument, with him finding tears a bit much and her screaming that his stoicism (not that she referenced any Greek philosophers) proved he wasn't a real fan. The Cyclones have made the post-season in six of their nine years but have so far failed to capture the championship. (The league named the team a "co-champion" when it ended the season early in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.)

Despite the loss, Peter and I had an enjoyable evening. We started at Nathan's, of course, where I confirmed for myself that the lobster roll is a delicious alternative to hot dogs. There were few people at the Coney Island snack bar and that turned out to be the case at KeySpan Park as well. I doubt there was half the announced 2,649 paid attendance actually in the stands. I don't know why it is but the Cyclones, who attract large crowds all season, don't draw in the post-season. It was comfortably cool, even right off the ocean. Both pitchers were sharp, as were several of the eleven total hits. Jason Kipnis hit a home run in the fourth inning for Mahoning Valley that landed with a clang in the empty bleachers. Right off the bat, Nick Santomauro's homer for Brooklyn in the seventh sounded like it would go out of the park. But the Cyclones infield was sloppy, beyond the two errors in the box score, and that gave the Scrappers the opportunity to win the game.

MiLB Reports: Game Recap Box Score

We had good seats, about ten rows behind the Cyclones dugout--not bad for a walk-up. From there we got an eyeful of the "Beach Bums," a dance/cheer squad, whose bums were indeed on display in their blue stretch gym shorts. (Does baseball really need this?) One did a front walkover for the total number of strike-outs, after each strike-out, on top of the dug-out. The nine strike-outs for the home team had the blood rushing to her head. The ladies also participated in the obligatory t-shirt toss. Peter had a laugh when one landed in the lap of a young Chasidim, dressed simply and traditionally as the ultra-orthodox do. His face seemed to say, "When and where will I ever wear this?"