Sunday, July 24, 2011

No Hope

It has been coming for a while now, but this weekend signaled the final, swift closure on a false period where my little girl joined me for soccer outings in the region.

"I don't like soccer, daddy."

No Everton-D.C. United Saturday night, in spite of how excited I was about the scheduling of the friendly.

No Real Maryland - Fredericksburg Hotspur PDL season finale this evening. I'd planned to head to the game on my own, but being told by the little one that all she wanted to do is stay home with daddy isn't that bad an outcome.

Unfortunately, my change in personal fortune is due to baseball. The tide turned with an innocent trip to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs' Regency Furniture Stadium. One evening at the stadium -- and its playground, inflatable slide, bounce house, sand pits, and bumper boats -- combined with regular trips to the playground and Build-A-Bear at Nationals Stadium and the carousel and bounce house at the Bowie Baysox's Prince George's Stadium was enough to paint soccer in sharp contrast.

I grew up at Wrigley. Perhaps because of that I failed to fully appreciate the threat posed by these stadiums. These parks concede that baseball is boring (at least for long stretches of the three to four hours spent at the stadium).

The long, dull stretches of baseball games was something I appreciated as it was conducive to conversation or fixation on details about players that might otherwise have been missed or pondering important/spurious concepts under a beautiful sun. I disliked Comiskey, in part, because it tried to draw attention away from the competition on the field.

But William Louis Veeck has unquestionably won the war for baseball's soul.

The last soccer game I was able to take my daughter to was a Real Maryland match shortly after the birth of her little sister. My wife needed a break, so the trip was over my eldest's strongest objections. On the way into the stadium she looked up and said "I don't like soccer. Baseball has bouncies. Baseball is more better."

In almost any other year, this would not bother me terribly -- in point of fact, she asks to go to baseball games and this, in and of itself, is great. But it had to be this season.

When the Cubs were in town at the beginning of July, my daughter was asking to go to baseball games and I refused, holding out until the Thursday finale. We bought tickets outside the stadium and immediately went to the playground. It took a while to get to our seats, but shortly after sitting down I wanted to get back to the playground.

The Cubs won the game eventually (following the Nationals' epic collapse), but what we saw was horribly depressing baseball. I'm happy to say it was the most I've seen of this awful Cubs team in several months.

And when they are blowing plays or cut down trying to stretch singles into doubles while down seven runs, the thought I cannot evade is what Jim Hendry did to Ryne Sandberg. Hendry's done many remarkable things for the franchise at the helm, but the decision to go with Quade over Sandberg was pure ego -- there was no legitimate baseball justification for the choice -- and it is, finally, an offense that merits relieving him of his position.

Removing Hendy won't fix the Cubs problems. But for the reasons that Phil Rogers outlined in an inspired column in the Chicago Tribune on Friday, hiring Pat Gillick would not only restore competence to the front office, it might also facilitate the correction of the grave error made this last offseason.

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