Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Look at the 2009 MLB Season - "Berra & Gerhig: Together, They Got Baseball Right"

Yogi Berra was no Einstein but the man coined more one-liner's in his day as a ball player for the Yankees than any other bag-runner to-date.

"Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical."

His agility, cat-like reflexes behind the plate, and strength with a bat made up for his lack of book smarts. The only logic hidden behind his now infamous coined phrases was that he meant every word said. Baseball is a physical game that takes a quick mind to win games. So forget that Yogi may have said it's ninety percent mental and fifty percent physical -- he got it right in theory.

Berra appeared in 14 World Series, won 10, and played for a Yankees squad during the team's most consistent winning period in major league history.

Does History Seal a Team's Fate?

I wonder what mental games consumer ball players during their time on a given team. If you're drafted to the Kansas City Royals or Washington Nationals are you going to come into work everyday with a chip on your shoulder? If you work for the Yankees or Red Sox will you don your team's logo wherever you go with immense pride? Before 2004, how did it feel to be a Red Sox player? And how about those Cubs, what's it feel like to go into work knowing your team hasn't won for over 100 years? You know that your fans, as die-hard as they are, want nothing more than a World Series win. But what those fans also know is they should expect the best while assuming the worst is going to happen.

Milton Bradley's: The Cub's Newest (Scape)Goat

Milton Bradley is an example of the mental game of baseball taking it's toll on a player's psyche.

It's important to remember -- these ball players aren't playing the game for the sole purpose of making the fans happy. They have lives too.

Chicago Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley has had a season-long struggle with his teammates, coaching staff, and Cubbie faithful. Bradley was suspended by General Manager Jim Hendry for the rest of the season following Sunday night's extra-inning 6-3 win over N.L. Central rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, for detrimental conduct toward the Cubs organization.

To a fan or reporter, it may be easy to call Bradley's behavior over the past season a result of a mental-game he enforced upon himself while playing a team notorious for losing. Remember Steve Bartman from Game 5 of 2003 NLCS? Every Cubs fan pointed fingers, called him the scapegoat, and blamed him for the Cubs collapse that season. Bradley has turned into the 2009 goat.

Milton Bradley is not being subjected to racism. He's experiencing fanism," Tim Terchek of Wilmette, Ill. said in The Chicago Tribune online." Fanisim occurs when an overpaid pro plays badly and then cops a poor attitude, he continued. "Boos, in this case, are not racial taunts. They're an expression of extreme disappointment over the behavior of a bad performer."

A team that remains notorious for losing can't be easy to play for, no matter how much potential for post-season glory they might have. Look at this years Mets squad. The Nationals are bad but the Mets are the paupers to the Yankees prince-like prestige in the Empire state.

Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen ... To the Disabled List

"The Nationals have a brighter future than the Mets," New York Post Reporter, Kevin Kernan reported Sunday after a 3-2 Nationals win over the Mets. "It doesn't get any worse than that."

Washington has the worst record in baseball at 51-97. As dismal as that number is, Nationals fans have a future to look forward to -- the appeal of having a team on the road to recovery for eager free agents and young draft picks. Every member of the 2009 Mets starting line-up saw at least one stint on the disabled list.

What happens to a player when their teammates drop like flies? The once optimistic future cultivated during day dreams while spring train turn into a harsh reality -- there will be no ring on my finger for the foreseeable future.

A Match-Up for the Ages

The teams that do stand a chance for October glory are the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies and the 2009 American League Champion New York Yankees.

There hasn’t been a World Series this exciting since the Red Sox ended their drought during the 2004 season.

Think about it: This is the first season of baseball being played in the New Yankee Stadium. The Yankees haven’t won a World Series in yet this century and now must battle to the end against the defending world champions with the hope of doing their city proud while honoring Babe Ruth’s memory in the new house that Jeter appears to be building.

Both teams have the pitching (the best example is Game 1 – Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia we’re wonderful). Both have a superstar line-up of hitters. It just doesn’t get any better.

The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth

This season, the Empire State witnessed yet another historical baseball moment-in-the-making. Derek Jeter became the all-time hits leader as a member of the Yankees (2,722), passing Lou Gerhig on September 11, 2009.

The record may have been broken but the memory of Gerhig lives on in the depths of baseball fan’s hearts ranging from all walks of the MLB division spectrum.

Gehrig knew he was lucky. He played along side some of the best sluggers, aces, and managers the game has ever known. Hell – his number “4” was the first to be retired in MLB history.

But on July 4, 1939, Gerhig opened up his heart to every person standing on the field, sitting in the dugout, or staring in awe from their seats:

"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.”

If every player looked at the game the way Gerhig did, the game would be better for all involved. Individual players would play with an inspired mindset. Entire teams would have the confidence of the 1929 World Champion Yankees. The game would be -- dare I say it -- fun again! Fans could tip their hats at the men who sport their uniforms with pride for the sake of the game and not for personal monetary gain. All it takes is one player. I dare someone to step-up to the plate, assume a strong and steady stance, and take baseball into its future by citing its past.

Cool, Calm, & Collected: Cliff Lee Makes Baseball Look Easy

The biggest losers of Monday night's World Series Game 1 were, despite popular belief, not the New York Yankees.

In what is sure to be the lowest scoring game in the series due to a power-pitching match-up between the phenomenal Cliff Lee and dominant C.C. Sabathia, the biggest losers of Game 1 were the Cleveland Indians.

No other pitcher in baseball history has posted a lower ERA than Cliff Lee. The Phillies Ace has a 0.54 ERA in 33 1/3 innings during the post season, beating the previous all-time record-holder/World Series opponent, Mariano Rivera, who posted as low as a 0.77 ERA.

The Tribe can only shake their heads and stare at their feet while baring the grunt of the heart wrenching mental defeat that goes along with trading two previous team members to the teams representing all of baseball in the 2009 World Series.

It must not be forgotten that despite Chase Utley's record-setting homeruns, Sabathia pitched a good game. His Yanks on the other hand did not produce any runs until the bottom of the 9th, leaving the big man to fend for himself on the mound.

Game 1 will be remembered for years to come not because of who the Indians let get away, but for how effortless Lee made World Series pitching look in what Senior Reporter Jayson Stark calls "the city where October legends are born."

The guy didn't even break a sweat. He just went out there and played baseball -- that's what the post-season is all about.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Regular Guys Looking To Rock: Meet Midnight Spin

Whoever said that your average, run-of-the-mill, American male with a musical instrument attached to his hip like a security blanket can't rock n' roll from dusk 'til dawn was sorely mistaken.

Midnight Spin makes playing straight-ahead rock with an individual twist look easy and fun -- not to mention it's pleasing to the ear.

If energy were the name of the club playing game, Midnight Spin's got the Olympic Gold more than once over. Their Velvet Lounge show was packed. Sure -- most D.C. natives know that The Velvet Lounge tends to pack the place to capacity on weekends due to location and reputation, but the Friday Midnight Spin was in the house the line to get into the place was near a 15- to 20-minute wait at its longest.

Who wants to stand in a line that long at a small neighborhood bar known for live local music? Midnight Spin's fans.

The band might hail from New York but their roots run deep with D.C.-metro area blood.

Lead singer Mike Corbett and drummer Dan Scull have known each other since they were kids. The two Maryland natives have been rockin' away since their younger years when they were just a couple of wide-eyed lil' guys looking to play the same instruments as the timeless musicians who came before them on the American Billboard charts.

Once they obtained their college degrees, a change was in order. The pair decided to drop everything and head to New York to start a new band. One fresh and raring to go in the great fight for rockstardom.

Along the way, they picked up bassist Ben Waters (Dan's friend from college) and pianist Jeremy Cohen, who started standing in on a few shows (quickly becoming integral to the band's sound).

Instrument-wise, the band was complete. The standard rock band instrumentation of guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard to round out any background noise is all any band needs to create a sound all their own. Midnight Spin wanted more than the standard. They wanted to create a line-up and sound that will grab the attention American ears as far as the eye can see. So they turned to Craig's List.

"Jim's the wild card," Corbett said. Guitar player Jim Terranova responded to an ad taken out by Midnight Spin on Craig's List.

"It was one of those weird things," Terranova said. "It just ended up working out. It was as if we had all been friends for years once we started playing together."

Here's a secret (shh ... don't tell the band ...): You can't tell that you haven't known each other for years. Your show is that seamless.

From covers to originals, Midnight Spin can play it all and make any song sound like they wrote it in a garage 10 years ago with the hopes of making it big.

Midnight Spin's return to D.C. for their first club show is due to what Corbett calls an "unofficial demand" to come home and play for family and close friends from over the years.

I'd have to say that their homecoming was well received for a few reasons:
  1. The place was packed when they started
  2. The line (at its longest) was 20-minutes deep
  3. The floor, holding up hundreds of dancing fans, shook all-night long
  4. Fans shouted "ENCORE!" long enough to get the sound guys to agree
  5. The room cleared out when their set was over, leaving very few folks to watch the two bands going on after them
There is no longer any excuse for not heading to to check out the band whose songs are sure to be stuck in your head for hours on end. Go soon or forever hold your peace, folks. Do it.

[Photo Credit: Top of page Guitar Play Jim Terranova, Drummer Dan Scull, and Lead Singer/Guitar Player Mike Corbett. Mid-Page: Keyboard Player Jeremy Cohen and Guitar Player Jim Terranova. Bottom left: Guitar Player Jim Terranova and Lead Singer/Guitar Player Mike Corbett. By Rachel Levitin, 2009.]

[Video Credit: Lead Singer/Guitar Player Mike Corbett, Guitar Player Jim Terranova, Bass Player Ben Waters, Keyboard Player Jeremy Cohen, Drummer Dan Scull. By Rachel Levitin, 2009.]

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Chicago to DC POV Presents ... Midnight Spin (The Preview)

Don't know who Midnight Spin is? Well that's a shame. You're missing out on one of the East Coast's "Best Band That You Probably Haven't Heard Of Yet"! But fear not Chicago to DC readers, you're no longer out of the musical loop!

Check out this LIVE video from their D.C. show at The Velvet Lounge and stay tuned for LIVE interviews with the band, pictures from their set, and much more!

[Video Credit: Lead Singer/Guitar Player Mike Corbett, Guitar Player Jim Terranova, Bass Player Ben Waters, Keyboard Player Jeremy Cohen, Drummer Dan Scull. By Rachel Levitin, 2009.]

Friday Night at The Velvet Lounge

Wanna know more about the hardest rockin' bunch to hit the Eastern Seaboard this fall? Stay tuned as The Chicago to DC POV introduces New York's Midnight Spin to all of cyberspace via the multi-media experience!

LIVE original songs!
LIVE interviews with the band!
LIVE messages to fans!

And a reel of photos worth a once-over ... or five.

Get ready, it's gonna be good.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

When You Give a Short Girl an Umbrella, She's Gonna Want a Door Prize: A Rainy Day in D.C.

There are two words in the English language that -- if combined -- irritate me beyond belief.

I'm short, not vertically challenged. Don't you forget it.

To say that someone is "vertically challenged" implies that the individual in question has a physical trait that inhibits day-to-day life. While I must applaud whoever it is that coined the politically correct terminology, I find myself pleading for people to stop using it at once.

Short people are not disadvantaged due to height. Now you know.

I don't mind being closer to the ground most folks. My day is full of aerodynamic stunts in between strangers on the subway and pleasant strolls under foliage danging from trees above head. The one instance my height does bother me is when it rains and I have to use an umbrella.

Think about it. You're of an average height and weight and on your way to work when all of a sudden ...


You feel a pain on your side by your rib cage.


Where did that pesky punch come from? Low and behold, a short person holding up an umbrella.

I'd like to take this time to apologize to any average sized and tall people I've unintentionally pissed off due to my umbrella roughing up their respective sides. It was never my intent to whack you in the ribs with a silver prodding device. In fact, the situation is quite the contrary.

Here's a message for the sidewalk commuter: I do not want to poke you. I do not want to prod you. I do not want to hurt you. I just want to walk. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you in the past, I'll try not to get in your way during future days.

With that said, D.C. folks do not know how to handle the rain (or any inclement weather for that matter). I could blame it on my Midwestern roots but I'd rather blame the incompetent citizens that occupy this city and the surrounding metropolitan area for calling in the National Guard for a few measly inches of precipitation(Point of Clarification: This is a metaphor of course, D.C. doesn't actually send in the National Guard for rain or light snow.)

One friend of mine believes that on days like this, you should get a prize just for showing up at work on what she's deemed to be "crappy weather days". I agree. A door prize would be nice -- especially if you have to walk around all day hanging your head in defeat due to the overwhelming guilt leftover from side-checking a tall person with your umbrella all morning.

My height was never an issue. To be honest, I forget that I'm not as tall as the rest of my friends or the world at-large. I might not know what it feels like to look over people's heads on a consistent basis, but I do know that showing up at concerts early due to height-related vision obstructions can result in not only a front row view but autographs after the show (thank you Linkin Park via 2000 for that one).

Short people get a bad rap. Stereotypes have us labeled as somewhat self-deprecating or a punchline to a dirty joke. Let me clarify: short people are in no way like the fine folks featured in MGM's silver screen classic "The Wizard of Oz". We're not cutesy, ballet-dancing, lollipop guild workers singing to a ruby shoe wearing, pig-tailed donning girl from Kansas. We're your average, everyday person with likes, dislikes, and troubles. We're simply looking to make our way in this world the best we know how.

Rainy days might make me angry but nothing turns that cloud from gray to sunny blue like Huey Lewis & The News singing "Power of Love". I'll tell ya -- when that came on my iPod shuffle this morning at the bus stop, the sun behind the clouds never looked brighter and Michael J. Fox never looked better skate boarding to school holding on for dear life behind a pick-up truck.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Tainted" - LIVE from The Red & The Black in D.C. - 10/5/09

I'm particularly proud of the last :58 seconds of this video. It's all from playing trumpet.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Chicago Eliminated - So What Else is New?

Chicago lost the Olympic bid for the 2016 games this morning during the first round of voting held by the International Olympic Committee. All this blogger can say is "ouch".

The IOC crushed the spirits of millions of Chicagoians eager and excited for the global games to stake it's claim in the Windy City.

It also makes the Obama's trip to Copenhagen look like a complete waste of time (which -- since Chicago lost -- was). Time to focus on the important stuff, Mr. President. How about that economy we've heard so much about? Or, you know, those wars we've been fighting for years that have no end in sight? Yeah, it might be a good idea to tend to those items listed on your agenda.

Granted, this here Chicago native would have loved nothing more than to boost my city's ego to epic proportions but President Obama is not the President of the United City of Chicago -- he's the President of the United States.

It's not like we didn't see the loss of the bid coming though. Anytime the words "Chicago" and "sports" unite, it's almost inevitable that it will result in a no-win situation (some might say the White Sox winning the 2005 World Series is an excuse but this blogger begs to differ). The Cubs never win big. The Bulls haven't been TRULY good since the Jordan era. If anyone happens to keep track of the Chicago Fire -- or Major League Soccer for that matter -- then good for them, but they haven't done much of anything either. And those Blackhawks? Don't even get me started.

Chicago's gotta face it: You're a great city full of mouth-watering, artery-clogging food with a good view of the water and a winter that even the thickest skinned find hard to muster -- but those are the reasons we love you. The sports thing is just something to keep your residents entertained. Sorry to say, you just don't have what it takes.

As for the Olympic bid, all this blogger can say is what all Cubs fans know all to well, "'Til next year" or rather -- next time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

At Least The Cubs Are Dependable

It's official -- the Chicago Cubs have RSVP'd to post-season play. They will not be attending.

Let the expected mumbling and grumbling of the entire North Side commence. Good thing I'm not there, I wouldn't be able to handle the whining.

Look at this way: at least the Cubs are dependable. You know what they're going to do. It's been boiled down to a science.

  1. Pick up a semi-big name of a free agent during the off-season and propose that this is the exact change needed to make it all the way this year.
  2. Report to spring training refreshed because this means a new season is under way. That means you know reassure your fans and your players that the clean slate is upon us.
  3. After a spring training full of mixed results, Opening Day comes and goes -- sometimes it's a win, sometimes it's a loss, either way it's not that bad because there are still 161 games left to play.
  4. April's slow. It always is.
  5. May has a decent slew of wins but also injuries.
  6. June/July = More injuries, some wins, the All-Star Break ... at this point, if wins to losses isn't above .500 then the rest of the season ain't gonna be pretty.
  7. August is the last chance to prove the Cubs can hack it. September is always a weak month, no matter what. If the Cubs can't get anything done in August, it's time to pack up the bags and call it quits.
  8. Play-offs or no play-offs ... the choke comes. And that's that. The cycle starts again.
I'm okay with the fact that the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. I love the team that much. They're always around when you need them. Even in the off-season. They're here all year.

There is no other story in baseball history like the Cubs. The Redsox claim they "understand our woes". They're lying. They don't. They could never understand what it's like to wear a Cubs uniform or be a Cubs fan. Not a chance. Let me tell you why.

It's not all about the World Series drought or the Curse. It's not about wins and loses. It's not about holding grudges against our biggest enemies on the field. It's about the love of all things Cubs baseball.

The Cubs are ours. We've been through everything together. It's just like having the same best friend since you were 4-years-old. You grew up together. You know each others faults but understand that you're working on fixing them, because at the end of the day -- you're still just human. We've studied our "family" history as if it were a religion. The in's and out's of every step our people have ever taken have been documented, analyzed, and reviewed to attempt and prevent history repeating itself. But like the rest of the people surrounding us, history does continue to repeat itself and we live with that.

And ... why do we live with that? Because we love the Cubs.

I mean, hell. It could be worse. We could be the Nationals.