Throughout my life, I’ve had two constant passions. One is baseball, which I have been watching and/or playing since I can remember. The other is music.
It may be confirmation bias, but I feel like baseball and music go hand in hand. The Cubs host the annual charity event “Hot Stove Cool Music,” which features local baseball-music crossovers including Len Kasper, Matt Spiegel and Peter Gammons lending their musical chops.
Kasper constantly discusses music during Cubs broadcasts. Spiegel performs in the band Tributosaurus in addition to his 670 The Score duties. The excellent WXRT DJ Lin Brehmer is a huge Cubs fan. The list goes on.
With the 2014 Cubs year at an end, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the year’s highlights, setting them to music.
Jan. 22: Cubs lose out on signing Masahiro Tanaka
“I Lost You” by The Walkmen
My first highlight comes before the regular season even began. After tons of rumors about whether or not the Cubs were in on singing highly-touted Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, the Evil Empire predictably swooped in and made the right-hander an offer he could not refuse.
Tanaka signed a seven-year deal worth $155 million with the Yankees. The Cubs reportedly finished second in the bidding, offering six years and $120 million.
Free agent pitchers who are 25 years old are very rare, so the Cubs felt they needed to make an attempt at signing him. But they weren’t going to contend in 2014, and that may have played a part in Tanaka’s ultimate decision.
Tanaka missed more than two months of the season with an elbow injury, but pitched very well when he was healthy. He finished the season with a 2.77 ERA (3.04 FIP) and 141 strikeouts in 136.1 innings.
Sure would’ve been nice to be looking at a 2015 Cubs starting rotation with Tanaka.
For the song, I went with one of my favorite bands, The Walkmen. “I Lost You” comes from the You & Me, one of my top all-time albums. So great from top to bottom.
If you haven’t heard of The Walkmen, don’t get your hopes up for any upcoming live shows or new albums anytime soon. They went on an indefinite hiatus in late 2013.
May 22: Cubs “moving forward” with Wrigley renovations
“There’s No Home For You Here” by The White Stripes
On May 22, Cubs owner and chairman Tom Ricketts announced in a video that the Cubs would be moving forward with the Wrigley Field renovations. Throughout the video, Ricketts points out some of the areas of the ballpark that are sub-par, such as having to bring down a net in the clubhouse for upcoming pinch-hitters to warm up.
He then brings up the rooftops, and basically says the Cubs are fed up trying to work things out with them. This was the moment the Cubs let us know that they were moving forward with the renovation, and the rooftops really couldn’t do anything about it.
Next year we can expect to see some new signage, as well as a large video scoreboard in left field. Excited to see what it looks like.
The White Stripes’ “There No Home For You Here” sums up the Cubs’ attitude toward the rooftops pretty nicely:
“Completely baffled by a backward indication
That an inspired word will come across your tongue
Hands moving upward to propel the situation
Have simply halted
And now the conversation’s done”
July 4: Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel traded to A’s for Addison Russell and Billy McKinney
“The Last Time” by The Rolling Stones
The Cubs made a shocking trade with the Oakland A’s this summer. Not because it involved Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel (both were expected to be dealt at some point), but because both were included in the same deal. And that it occurred weeks before the trade deadline.
To top off the surprise, the Cubs acquired Addison Russell, a shortstop, as the main piece in return. Leading up to trade season, everyone assumed the Cubs would be looking for top pitching for Samardzija or maybe another Jake Arrieta-type.
But apparently Russell, the A’s top prospect, was too good to pass up for the Cubs.
After the deal was made, Theo Epstein expressed hope that the Cubs wouldn’t be in the market for these types of trades in the future. “We certainly hope that this is the last year that we’ll be obvious sellers at the trade deadline,” Epstein said July 5.
I’m sure all Cubs fans feel the same way. I know I’m hoping the team will be looking next season to add a piece to help propel them into the playoffs.
A for the song, I must say I’m not a huge Rolling Stones fan (I know, what’s wrong with me, right?). But “The Last Time” is one of their tunes that I always enjoy hearing.
July 29-30: Cubs beat Rockies in record-long game
“Stay Up Late” by The Talking Heads
The Cubs set a length of game record when they beat the Rockies 4-3 at Wrigley Field in 16 innings.
I was actually at this game, though I left after the seventh inning, at which point it had already been going on for 3.5 hours. I stayed up and watched a couple more innings before retiring to bed at a late hour.
My only regret in leaving early was that I missed the chance to see Cubs catcher John Baker take the mound in the 16th. He pitched a scoreless inning, then ended up scoring the winning run in the bottom half of the 16th. Very cool.
The Talking Heads is one band I would pay a lot of money to go see if they ever reunited. It will probably never happen though, so I’m not holding my breath.
If you don’t listen to a lot of Talking Heads, you should probably change that.
Aug. 19: Tarp Gate
“Heavy Water” by Foals
With a 2-0 lead against the Giants in the bottom of the fifth, the Aug. 19 game was delayed more than four hours after the grounds crew couldn’t get the heavy, water-logged tarp on the field properly.
The rain itself didn’t last very long, but certain areas of the field took on too much water, and the game couldn’t continue no matter how much Diamond Dry the grounds crew used.
The game was initially called and ruled a Cubs win because enough innings had been played to make it an official game. The Giants, however, won an appeal to have the game continue; the Cubs still ended up winning the resumed game.
If you ever get a chance to see Foals in person, I would recommend it. When I saw them play at Metro in Chicago a few years ago, the lead singer spent the encore climbing the light fixtures on the side of the stage. He made it all the way to the top, all the while never missing a beat with the lyrics. A very cool moment.
Aug. 27: Jorge Soler homers in debut at-bat
“Baby Missiles” by The War on Drugs
Going back-to-back with Luis Valbuena, Jorge Soler launched a missile into the seats for the first MLB hit of his career.
The Cubs ended up losing the game to the Reds 7-5 because of some shaky pitching by starter Jacob Turner, but that didn’t detract from the awesomeness that was Soler’s homer.
“Baby Missiles” comes off The War On Drugs’ album Slave Ambient. I was a little late to the party with this band, as I’ve only recently gotten into them.
But now I’m hooked. These guys are rock-n-roll at its finest.
Aug. 29: Alcantara, Soler homer in win against Cardinals
“The Kids Are Alright” by The Who
The Cubs were down 2-1 against Shelby Miller and the Cardinals on Aug. 29, when Jorge Soler stepped up to the plate and blasted a home run to tie the game in the seventh inning.
One inning later, Javier Baez knocked in two with a double and Soler did it again – another bomb that gave the Cubs the lead. Arismendy Alcantara added a solo shot to propel the Cubs to an eventual 7-2 win.
It was a great win. I felt like it was a window into the near-future: the Cardinals would soon be having to deal with this kind of firepower – and more once Kris Bryant comes aboard – for a long time.
Maybe not the best song by The Who, but “The Kids Are Alright” gets the job done. Simple, catchy pop-rock song.
Sept. 30: “Our goal is the NL Central title next year”
“Wishful Thinking” by Wilco
In his 2014 post-mortem presser, Theo Epstein set some lofty goals for 2015. It was probably the most confident I’ve heard him since taking over the Cubs. It’s exciting to think about things finally coming together, as the kids are beginning to reach the major leagues and the payroll is at a flexible level for signing free agents.
Epstein says the goal is to win the Central next year? I can get behind that. I don’t think it’s a sure-thing, obviously. A lot will depend on what kind of free agents are brought in this winter. Will Castro and Rizzo continue to improve or at least maintain? Will Javier Baez be able to make consistent contact?
Here’s hoping that the annual “wishful thinking” of Cubs fans will be closer to reality in 2015.
Really a big fan of Wilco’s A Ghost is Born album (on which “Wishful Thinking” appears). I know it’s controversial among Wilco fans, but I like it better than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Nov. 4: Joe Maddon is named new Cubs manager
“Joe’s Waltz” by The Dodos
In the matter of about a week, Cubs fans learned that Joe Maddon had opted out of his contract with Tampa Bay (“Oh, so he’s going to the Dodgers, right?”) and then would be managing in Chicago.
It was crazy, and still almost doesn’t seem real. One of the best managers in the game will be manning the Cubs dugout for the next five years.
The song “Joe’s Waltz” starts off a bit slow, but stick with it. The Dodos are a fun two-piece band that mixes fast acoustic guitar riffs with intricate drum beats. This song explodes at the end with lead singer Meric Long repeatedly asking: “You need help? You need help?”
Joe is here now. He’s here to help.
Dec. 15: Cubs sign Jon Lester
“Shake Your Rump” by Beastie Boys
In the most significant Cubs free-agent signing in years (maybe ever?), the Cubs inked left-handed ace pitcher Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million deal.
Things really came full circle for the Cubs after losing out on Masahiro Tanaka in January. They targeted the best free-agent pitcher available, and they got him.
This move, along with the acquisition of manager Joe Maddon, really ignites the interest — and expectations — for 2015. I guess Theo Epstein’s talk of winning the NL Central doesn’t seem as far-fetched anymore.
While by no means guaranteed contenders, the Cubs definitely will give fans a lot more to look forward to next year.
The song choice for this one was tough. I could’ve gone in a number of directions. I initially wanted to go with Ween’s “I’ll Be Your Jonny On the Spot,” but thought Ween may be a little too weird for a Cubs blog.
Next I considered “John, I’m Only Dancing” by David Bowie, but it’s not my favorite Bowie tune. A few other possibilities included the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band” and Less Than Jake’s “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts.”
But ultimately I went with a not-very-literal connection in the Beastie Boys’ “Shake Your Rump,” mainly because the signing of Lester is cause for a celebratory dance. It’s OK to be excited for the signing. Let’s enjoy it.
So those are my top highlights from 2014. Got any others you want to add, or do you have alternate songs to go with these highlights?