By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
Was it somewhat scripted late last week that the 2016 Chicago Cubs “back in” to clinching the National League Central Division, then bring pandemonium to the Wrigley Field faithful the following day with a walk off win via a home run from a reliable replacement catcher?
Who knows, and at this point, who cares!
This forever Chicago Cubs fan — like millions of others — is thrilled the team has locked in a playoff spot with two-plus weeks of baseball left and boasts the best record in baseball.
But unlike many of my Cub fan colleagues, I’m going mute on predictions on October. But, I do have thoughts and observations to share about the season so far, and what I’ll be looking for in the post season.
So, as the legendary Cub public address announcer Pat Pieper would say, “Attention: Have your pencils and scorecards ready.”
- Madden Post Game Analysis. Yes, he does wacky things like make players dress in goofy outfits for road games and has brought in a magician as a strategy to build camaraderie and ease tensions during the 162-game season. But the true genius of Manager Joe Madden comes out in his post game commentaries. He’s eloquent, imminently quotable and always on target regarding what just transpired on the field. Win or lose, players know Joe already is thinking about how to get the best of his squad the next time the ump yells, “Play Ball!”
- Best Off-Season Move. The big contract to outfield star Jason Heyward? The late season signing of fireball closer Aroldis Chapman? Yes, both are integral to the team’s success to date, and both will be vital cogs in the post season. But my vote goes to the versatile Ben Zobrist. (Did you know he was born in Eureka, Illinois?) His stats are not off the charts, but in an 11-year pro baseball career, he has put up impressive numbers when at the plate and he plays solid infield and outfield positions. And, he played for the 2015 World Series winning Kansas City Royals, so he knows what it takes to play in crucial games in October. Sometimes, it’s the guy who isn’t in the headlines who makes the most impact.
- Who I’d Like to Meet for a Beer. A tough choice, so I’ll pick two: David Ross and Dexter
Fowler. Not much in depth analysis or statistics here, but I like a guy who’s cool with the nickname of “Grandpa Rossi.” And whether he smacks a lead off homer or grounds into a double play, Fowler gives it his all and looks like he’s having a good time. Shout out to Grandpa and Dex: I’ll always make time for a beer with you guys.
- From a Public Relations Perspective. Yes, I had to sneak in a thought on the brand that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have built under the Ricketts family ownership. (Actually, I tackled public relations and the Cubs in this 2013 post regarding plans to rebuild Wrigley Field.) The 2016 team has — fortunately — generated headlines for its performance on the field, rather than off the field. Yes, there have been injuries and that losing streak before the All Star break. And, oh yea, the Tommy LaStella meltdown. But all season there has been an absence of scandal and unnecessary drama. This squad contains players who are unselfish and only focus on winning, not personal stats. In a more colloquial perspective, the Cubs have received “good PR” all season because ownership and management put together a group of winners, not whiners.
In just more than an hour, the Cubs will take the field at Wrigley to conclude the weekend series with the Brewers. After yesterday’s “hangover” blowout loss, perhaps Madden’s guys will get back on track.
One milestone down. Three to go.