Up Against the Wall

Up Against the Wall

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

In life, we are always seeking ways to get more out of what we have. Being multi-purpose is at the core of how many of the products we use are presented to us. New Shimmer being a floor wax and a desert topping comes to mind.

In sports this concept led to the abomination known as multi-use stadiums that dotted the landscape during the 1970s. As a kid growing up in Philadelphia, Veterans Stadium was all shiny and new. Who knew it would become a house of horrors that would torment me into my adulthood. And in reflection, as all the new football and baseball stadiums have been built around the country, one can now realize how truly awful the experience, regardless of the tragedy being played out on the field, of being at a cookie-cutters was.

Still, you can understand that the owner of a stadium needs to think outside-the-box of ways to keep it full, since as we know, that is the only way they get a return on their investment.

Here in Chicago, and specifically Wrigley Field, this thinking has led to some interesting events.

In its history, Wrigley has hosted a wide variety of events besides baseball. These have included among them: The Norge Ski Jump Competition, (Why does the word Norge conjure up another connotation? Not to mention be my second classic SNL reference in 300 words. Boo-Ya!! I cant stop!) rodeos, the Harlem Globetrotters, a Jake LaMotta boxing match and Bears football.

Recent years have seen such extravaganzas as the Winter Classic and college one-way football.

Seeing something different at Wrigley Field is cool because YOURE SEEING IT AT WRIGLEY FIELD!

Since 2005 this has included big-time concert acts.

I saw my first one there last year when Sir Paul McCartney took the center field stage. My first reaction was, Oh my god, its hotter than Hades! How can it be 95 degrees outside at nine oclock at night? My second was, Im sitting at Wrigley Field watching a freaking Beatle! For a lad from Philly this was pretty heady stuff. I mean, really, when I listened to my first Beatles song over forty years ago, how could I have imagined that this was in my future? Wow!

I took my next visit to the Frankie O Aging Rocker Time Vault last Friday when Roger Waters brought his latest production of his Pink Floyd classic The Wall to The Confines. Once again I was blown away by being able to see a performance of music that was a large part of my formative years, 33 years after its debut. That it was at Wrigley only made the experience over-the-top. That Waters was able to use modern technology to cutting-edge levels to present his opus visually and sound-wise made it one of the best rock shows I have ever witnessed.

Of course, in keeping with my twisted nature, or the fact that the several beverages I consumed enhanced my inner Frankie O, I couldnt help but notice the irony of Waters performance. The Wall tells the story of his feelings of abandonment and personal isolation as he dealt with the struggles of his life. For some reason, this tale of torment reminded me of the Cubs fans who are the usual inhabitants of Wrigley and their parallel fronts.

The entire set list oozed Cub:

In the Flesh? The feeling of the Cub faithful about when they are FINALLY going to be able to see for themselves the myth that is Anthony Rizzo.

The Thin Ice- This describes ownerships position in its dealings with local government officials (read: Da Mayor) in negotiations for public financing of Wrigley renovations.

Another Brick in the Wall, Parts I, II and III Is there anything more iconic in any stadium than the bricks and ivy of Wrigley?
Happiest Days of Our Lives- Im not sure if this is about a very distant, future event , not yet conceivable to the ticket buying faithful, or an homage to the back-to-back championships over a century ago.

Mother- Do I really need to explain this one? Mother do you think the Cubs will bust.

Goodbye Blue Sky- Or an expletive to this effect, uttered by many right fielders wondering where the fly ball hit their way during a day game disappeared to.

Young Lust- Im going to show some unusual restraint here and let you insert your own joke.
One of My Turns- Even for this album, this song is kind of a dark aberration, kind of like taking Chad Kreuters hat, dumping beer on Shane Victorino or getting pummeled on the mound by Randy Meyers.

Dont Leave Me Now- The plea to season ticket holders to keep the faith, and keep forking over the third highest ticket price in the majors, all while watching a team get nuked and be rebuilt from the ground up.

Goodbye Cruel World- Sadly we know this has been among the last thoughts of some Cubs fans that have left us without seeing their beloved team reach their own ultimate destination.

Hey You- A common reprimand heard in the stands from certain ushers that, since the said Kreuter incident, have seemed to lose their sense of humor.

Is There Anybody Out There?- Despite announced attendance numbers, something you can yell in the stadium during the last 2, and inevitably this years, August and September as Chicagoans turn their attention elsewhere, kind of like being at the Cell anytime this year.

Nobody Home- Why, I dont know, this reminds me of the ill-fated Todd Hundley era behind the plate.

Vera- Honestly? Ive got nothing.

Bring the Boys Back Home- For an organization that is now obsessed with the Money Ball way of doing things, this song represents my favorite old-school stat: BARISP. Beguile me with your Retrosheet Win Probability Added, and when my head stops spinning, Ill tell you that if you have a decent BARISP, you are going to score a TON of runs.

Comfortably Numb- Should be the theme song of the bleachers, especially back in the day.

The Show Must Go On- Im reminded of Mike Quade arguing with the umpiring crew for calling a rain delay while it was coming down sideways. Good times.

Run Like Hell- The baseball purist inside of me gets pure joy every time I see Tony Campana on the base paths.
Waiting For the Worms- What Im thinking as I look at the outfield this week after the removal of the stage. Looks like its time for another visit from the Sodfather.

Stop- Obvious enough. Its what fans want from the usual, Cubs Way of doing business. A century plus of not winning (Strange even typing that phrase) is more than enough. Its the main reason that team Theo has been given so much latitude with the fans. Although they might not be going to the ballpark as much, they are paying attention and filled with anticipation, just like my kids the night before Santa comes. Lets hope this regime is as generous with their gifts to the masses as the big fella in the red suit. (Not to be confused with the big fella with the generous pour wearing the red bow tie!)

The Trial- Just as obvious, this is what will happen in about 3 years if the Master Plan is not obvious for all to see.

Outside the Wall- The place where Waters and all Cubs fans are set free. The weight of the past can be is an incredible burden if we let it. The thought of better time will always get us through. At some point, Wait until next year has to come true.

Cubs not worrying about a thing after split with Marlins: 'We're right there'

Cubs not worrying about a thing after split with Marlins: 'We're right there'

MIAMI – Jon Jay walked into a quiet clubhouse late Sunday morning, turned right and headed directly toward the sound system in one corner of the room, plugging his phone into the sound system and playing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”

The Cubs outfielder whistled as he changed into his work clothes at Marlins Park, singing along to the lyrics with Anthony Rizzo a few lockers over: “Don’t worry, about a thing, ‘cause every little thing gonna be all right.” 

That’s what the Cubs keep telling themselves, because most of them have World Series rings and the National League Central is such a bad division.

“The biggest thing is to keep the floaties on until we get this thing right,” manager Joe Maddon said before a 4-2 loss left the Cubs treading water again at 38-37. “We’re solvent. We’re right there. We’re right next to first place.”

The Cubs will leave this tropical environment and jump into the deep end on Monday night for the start of a four-game showdown against the Washington Nationals in the nation’s capital.

Miami sunk the Cubs in the first inning when Addison Russell made a costly error on the routine groundball Miami leadoff guy Ichiro Suzuki chopped to shortstop, a mistake that helped create three unearned runs. Martin Prado drilled Mike Montgomery’s first-pitch fastball off the left-center field wall for a two-out double and a 3-0 lead. Montgomery (1-4, 2.03 ERA) lasted six innings and retired the last 10 batters he faced.

“Keep The Floaties On” sounds like an idea for Maddon’s next T-shirt. The 2017 Cubs haven’t been more than four games over .500 or two games under .500 at any point this season. The 2016 Cubs didn’t lose their 37th game until July 19 and spent 180 days in first place.

“That’s what was so special about it,” Rizzo said. “We boat-raced from Game 1 to Game 7 with a couple bumps in the road, but this is baseball. It’s not going to be all smooth-sailing every day. You got to work through things.”

As MLB addresses long game times, why Mark Buehrle’s zippy pace is worth highlighting

As MLB addresses long game times, why Mark Buehrle’s zippy pace is worth highlighting

Sometime in the future, near or far, Major League Baseball will probably begin using a pitch clock to penalize sluggish hitters and pitchers.

The sport without a clock will, someday, have a clock. ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian offered that as one of his predictions for what baseball could look like 20 years from now, which would be one of Rob Manfred’s signature reforms as commissioner. 

This kind of change wouldn’t be necessary, though, if more pitchers were like Mark Buehrle. 

“Buehrle was hyper,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “He wanted to go, go, go.”

No pitcher since 2007 — when Pitch F/X began calculating “pace” — worked faster than Buehrle, who averaged 16.7 seconds between pitches. Only 56 qualified pitchers since 2007 can be considered to work “fast,” i.e. with an average time between pitches of 20 seconds or fewer (it’s a list that includes fellow former White Sox left-handers John Danks and Chris Sale). And that’s only 12 percent of the 473 qualified pitchers in the last decade.

Buehrle’s 99-minute complete game against the Seattle Mariners in 2005 still is the only nine-inning contest to be completed in fewer than 100 minutes since 1984. There was that memorable 1:53 duel with Mark Mulder and the Oakland A’s in 2003, and both Buehrle’s perfect game and no hitter lasted 2:03. 

Of course, Buehrle didn’t just work quick, he pitched well while zipping through innings. Buehrle finished his career with a 3.81 ERA, made four All-Star teams and threw at least 200 innings every year from 2001-2014. He had a .572 career winning percentage, too, so Cooper knew about Buehrle would give the White Sox a chance to win in about six out of every 10 starts.

“But you also know it’s going to be about two hours and 10 minutes, too,” Cooper added. 

A given game’s length isn’t all about the pace of the pitcher, of course. Batters can slow things down by stepping out of the box and calling for time, and games can feel like a slog with replay delays and mid-inning pitching changes. 

Still, how quickly a pitcher works usually dictates the pace of a game and how long it takes to be completed. Cooper wondered why hitters didn’t step out more against Buehrle to disrupt his rhythm, but perhaps the answer is that everyone on the field gets caught up in the quick pace set by the pitcher. 

“Everybody tells me they were so happy when I pitched for a quick game, but every time I was on the bench in between my starts, it was a 3, 3 1/2 hour game and it wasn't very much fun,” Buehrle said. “I think some of these games do get too long. Pitchers take their time, hitters get out of the box. I don't get all that but that's just the way I worked. I just grabbed the ball and went.”

Maybe adding a pitch clock with penalties affecting the count will force pitchers and hitters to find a quicker rhythm. That was one of the hallmarks of Buehrle’s career, and those snappy starts are one of the reasons why No. 56 was such a popular player on 35th and Shields. 

Former manager Ozzie Guillen, in summing up Buehrle's mentality, also offered some free advice for fixing baseball's pace-of-play problem: “Just throw the ball, get people out and have fun.”