It’s been 20 seasons since the Cubs lost the NL Championship to the Marlins after an ill-fated eight-run rally by Florida in the top half of the 8th inning in Game 6. Many things went wrong in that game, including a near-interference call on Cubs fan Stave Bartman as Moisés Alou tried to catch a foul ball just beyond Chicago’s bullpen. Dusty Baker relied on starter Mark Prior for a little too long and shortstop Alex Gonzalez botched a potential inning-ending double play off the bat of Miguel Cabrera.
The Cubs lost 8-3 and then 9-6 in Game 7 at Wrigley Field, after which the Marlins defeated the Yankees 4-2 in the 2003 World Series. The Cubs waited another 13 years and survived a near-similar meltdown to get their rings in 2016.
A lot of fans blamed Bartman, who remained seated while FOX repeatedly alternated between broadcasting live shots of him and showing an unprecedented amount of replays of the incident. That media overkill made Bartman a target inside and away from the ballpark. He had to be led away by security for his own safety and required a police escort once outside the park. Afterward, then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich suggested Bartman join a witness protection program, while then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush offered him asylum.
The Marlins, the class organization that they are, considered a promotion for their April 28-30 series with the Cubs called “Steve Bartman Appreciation Weekend.” Miami claimed the release of the graphic was an error and there were never serious talks about the promotion. That didn’t stop their social media campaign, however, and the team sent an email to season ticket holders and team followers promoting the event.
So I just got this email from the @Marlins ticket office. Apparently they are having “Bartman Appreciation Weekend” when the #Cubs come to town. All Steve Bartman has ever asked is to be left alone. Whatever it takes to try to sell tickets to your ballpark. Stay classy Miami! pic.twitter.com/fFR4Jcf5sJ
— Crawly's Cubs Kingdom (@crawlyscubs) April 14, 2023
The Marlins have averaged 9,783 fans per game since 2018, and that doesn’t include 2020 when the pandemic prevented fans from attending. In 2021, when attendance was limited to 25% capacity for most of the season, Miami nearly matched that average. You can see why the organization resorts to shameful types of promotion. Don’t forget, unofficial Marlins Man mascot Laurence Leavy was turned away by Derek Jeter in 2018 because Jeter allegedly wanted Leavy to sign a 10-year lease on his seats. Leavy was prepared to pay in advance for four years worth of seats for a tidy sum of $200,000 dollars. The Marlins suck at creating and keeping a fanbase.
To Bartman’s credit, he never tried to capitalize on his infamous incident. He simply asked that people respect his privacy and move on. Miami could instead celebrate Cabrera, who is retiring after this season, for its “Flashback Friday” promotion. Better yet, why not just honor the entire 2003 team? Humiliating a then 26-year-old who got a little too caught up in the moment of the game smacks of indignity.
Midwest Farm Report
Ian Happ signed his extension last week and all eyes turned to the Cubs’ minor league rosters for all the wrong reasons. Chicago has a plethora of promising outfielders and supply definitely outpaces demand right now. Pete Crow-Armstrong gets the bulk of the accolades because he’s closest to the bigs, but I’ve always felt Owen Caissie is the team’s best outfield prospect. Caissie had a career night earlier this week.
In case you missed it … Cubs prospect Owen Caissie hit not one, not two, but three homers last night in Double-A.
— CHGO Cubs (@CHGO_Cubs) April 13, 2023
The sky’s the limit for the 20-year-old right fielder. He has 30-homer/100-RBI potential, knows how to get on base, and can steal a bag or two. He hit another home run and a triple in an encore performance Thursday night. He’s no Mike Trout — nobody is — but Caissie could be the next best thing as I see it. He has a very high ceiling and still has a long way to go to reach it despite his already-impressive resume. I mean, he never played a night game, either professionally or as an amateur, until last season. His tools, however, are both projectable and loud.
Like Trout, he turns screaming line drives into home runs thanks to near-elite rotational power. But the comparison ends there. Caissie is more like an amalgam of Carlos Correa (approach), Charlie Blackmon (swing), and Todd Helton (quickness and strength). The sum of those parts could one day be a major league star, though he’s at least three years away. He is more appropriately Happ’s heir apparent.
Of the Cubs’ top five outfield prospects, I hope Caissie is the least likely to be dealt. If he continues on his current development path, I see no reason why Jed Hoyer would want to trade him. Then again, Fernando Tatis Jr., Dansby Swanson, Darrell Evans, and Hall of Famer Fred McGriff were all traded as minor leaguers. Cubs fans still feel the sting of Dylan Cease playing for the White Sox. Let’s hope Caissie is a keeper.
Big League Chew
The Cubs lost 2-1 to the Dodgers on Saturday thanks to some questionable decisions by Davis Ross, but pay no attention. Friday’s 8-2 win offered a glimpse at how good this team can be. Justin Steele was dominant in his start and Chicago hit five home runs. Suffice it to say, the return of Seiya Suzuki really buoyed the lineup.
“[Suzuki] just makes our lineup longer,” Happ said. “Splits up our lefties nicely and just gives us that extra length. His at-bats are always really good and consistent. For him to hit a homer, to start that way is really awesome.”
Happ knows something about hitting. He had a monster night himself, going 4-for-4 with a double and long fly of his own. His slash line after the win was a sizzling .395/.481/1.109. Thanks to Happer and his pals, the Cubs would be 10-3 if Ross could simply stop micromanaging his team into needless defeats. I’m not ready to put the skipper on a leash but I’m getting close.
Nevertheless, these Cubs are a much better team than any of us may have imagined. Despite a hiccup or three, the glimpses of Chicago’s potential represent a style of baseball to which we are not accustomed. The new Northside M.O. is stellar pitching, timely hitting, a little bit of swagger, and unbridled enthusiasm. How do you not love that?
A sextet of underrated albums comprises today’s list.
- The Distance by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. Ask any diehard Seger fan and they’ll tell you this is the Detroit rocker’s musical equivalent of pinching a loaf. Slick production will do that to a base of heartland fans, and the fact that its biggest hit wasn’t written by Seger doesn’t help. The best reviews call this effort “solid” but I think it’s one of Bob’s best. “Even Now” is an underrated gem, and you don’t have to ride a Harley-Davidson to love “Roll Me Away.” Every single song on this album is great despite the label’s heavy-handed influence.
- Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones Ltd. by The Monkees. A pop-psych delight produced by former Turtles drummer Chip Douglas. I also refer to it as a serenade for “the weekend squire who just came out to mow his lawn.” PAC&J was a ground-breaking album by a band who couldn’t escape their collective TV persona, and therefore never got the industry cred they deserved. This is a great effort, and one I listen to regularly. Micky, Davy, Peter, and Mike played their own instruments on this LP. Harry Nilsson, Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, and Michael Martin Murphey contributed as songwriters. “Goin’ Down” is a great track, but I prefer “Star Collector” and “The Door Into Summer.” The entire album is representative of the 1960s Laurel Canyon scene at its finest.
- The Dreaming by Kate Bush. A fan favorite but a commercial failure, Bush’s fourth release is a daring and dense pop extravaganza. Bush went out of the way to tune out the zeitgeist, and the radio ignored her. The critics made no attempts to understand the concept, and her label tried to prevent its release. That checks every single box of the underrated album manifesto. I doubt many of you will love this album as much as I do, but that’s okay. It’s nothing like “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God” but it’s certainly much more mature. “There Goes a Tenner” is a fantastic track.
- Love Over Gold by Dire Straits. This is the moment when Mark Knopfler & Company became masters of noir storytelling against a backdrop of jazz-inspired production. “Private Investigations” is a perfect example. The 14-minute opener “Telegraph Road” is the sprawling centerpiece, but its counterparts are equally strong. “Industrial Disease” remains one of my favorite songs of all time.
- Pirates by Rickie Lee Jones. If you needed a go-to breakup album in 1981, this was it. Unfortunately for Jones, it was the follow-up to her eponymous debut which was so good she landed on the cover of Rolling Stone. This LP is autobiographical, a tale of heroin addiction and Jones’ well-publicized separation from Tom Waits. After the split, Jones retreated to her mother’s house in Olympia, Washington. An old friend provided access to the music room at a nearby college for her to use after hours. There, on nights alone with a piano and a broken heart, she composed “We Belong Together” and “Living It Up.” The story behind “Skeletons” is as tragic as Jones’ personal struggles.
- Caravanserai by Santana. When Carlos Santana decided to explore his love for fusion, fans departed in droves. It was a giant leap for the guitarist, who singlehandedly created the rock-meets-salsa genre. You won’t find a hit single on this long player, but that doesn’t make it any less of a masterpiece. Instead, this is one of Santana’s best side trips, stunning in its introspective complexity. The link is your path to the entire, wonderful album. Light up and enjoy.
This Week’s Money Quote
- “Your seven-hole hitter becomes your eight-hole hitter and you’re just pushing everyone down. Yan Gomes is in the nine [hole] having that big day. It just lengthens the lineup. Seiya, the home run, that’s gotta feel good to get him going and get the first one out of the way.” – Ross