This spring is really sad. I have for several years held this time of year with much excitement. I am usually counting down the days and hours until the first baseball game of the season starts. This year has been quite different for me.
Ever since I was in Junior High School, I have been a Cubs fan. As fruitless as it may seem, I still continued to cheer for my beloved Cubbies with the eternal hope of “next year”. People often ask, “How did you become a Cubs fan when you lived in MS?” Its simple, we had WGN, the Cubs played on WGN, and most afternoons when I’d come home from school to watch GI JOE or Transformers cartoons, the Cubs game was running into the time for the cartoons to start. When I was younger, I was mostly annoyed by the intrusion into my cartoons. Eventually, baseball grew on me and the Cubs became my source of baseball. We also had TBS which showed the Braves, but they never really caught my interest.
Last year I was really excited about my opportunity to follow the Cubs. Wendy had agreed to let me get the Baseball package as Salt Lake doesn’t have WGN and I wanted to watch my Cubs. Wendy and I also got to go to AZ for Spring Training. I have wanted to experience Spring Training for a long time, and my experience there was wonderful. I also had some mild hope during that March that the Cubs might at least be good that year. Wendy and I also went to Seattle to watch the Cubs play. Wendy had agreed that we would go to a new city each year to watch the Cubs play as I was no longer able to go to baseball games since I had moved from Denver.
As the season started, my experience with watching baseball was no good. I had ordered the MLB.TV package so I could stream the games over the internet. We had also bought a Roku box as it had been promised to deliver the MLB.TV games so I could watch it on our big new TV. For most of the first month, the Roku box was not updated so that it could deliver the baseball games, although they had said it would be ready to work in time for the season. I later went back and read where the site said “Available early April” which I assumed meant opening day. To add to the frustration, the games were not playing over the Internet on the computer like MLB had promised. My frustration was growing. Major League Baseball Advanced Media is the company contracted by Major League Baseball to run the Internet side of their business. This included the video and audio streams that I subscribed to. During the outage at the beginning of the season, their support forum website was full of people, who like me, were unable to watch the programs they had paid for. Their forum administrators all gave the same solutions to the problem and told everyone there was something wrong with customers computers that was causing the problems. Strangely enough, this online video product of theirs had been successful the previous season, but they had made changes to it that prevented it from being ready for the 2010 season. I had no other option to watch Cubs baseball, so I, rather frustratingly, waited it out so that it eventually began to work. Sony also , early in the season, announced that their PS3 would stream the baseball games. I had been investigating solutions for watching video on our TV. I had been leaning to a PS3 as it played blue rays and our DVD player needed to be replaced. I returned our Roku box and bought a PS3. Games began streaming on the PS3 without the issues of the Roku and the MLB.TV website. If you ask me, someone in that company dropped the ball. It’s not as if you don’t know that there is a deadline for when the product needs to be ready, and then they refused to accept blame for their service not working. And don’t get me started on the blackouts during Saturday for Fox game of the week, and blackouts for Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies games when the Cubs play them (somehow I am considered to be in both of their markets even though both are a days drive away and I only get Rockies games over cable).
It may have been more of a blessing than a curse that I wasn’t able to watch Cubs games at the beginning of the season. As the season progressed, the Cubs played pitifully poor, and then it got worse. It got to the point to where it was no longer fun for me to watch the games. When the Cubs were losing consecutive games to a team like the Pirates, there’s not even good baseball to watch. I decided that I was getting more enjoyment by doing other things than watching Cubs baseball, and I eventually, just stopped watching their games. The Cubs also traded away some of their veteran players. Fan favorite Derrick Lee was traded away to the Braves. They also traded away starting pitcher Ted Lilly, infielders Ryan Theriot, and Mike Fontenot. The team the Cubs were fielding was beginning to look more like a AAA team than a major league club. That added to my reasons not to watch their games.
The Cubs finished under .500. They got so bad that their manager, Lou Piniella, walked out on his contract and retired from baseball before the season ended. His public reason was to be able to spend time with his ailing mother, but during this offseason he took a job with the Yankees. I personally think he was just so embarassed by how badly the Cubs were playing that he just couldn’t take it any more.
As the post season came along, I began getting more interested in baseball as the post season always has exciting games in it. The Yankees didn’t win the World Series, so I was satisfied with how the post season ended.
Over the last few years I began to rely heavily on a podcast known as Cubscast to keep up with my Cubs news. I had noticed during the season that their podcasts had become less regular and at one point, stopped. Their message board was still active with fans, but there was no news as to why they had stopped releasing episodes. Cubscast was a podcast created by some Cubs fans as a way to interact with other Cubs fans. They didn’t make money off of it, but did it as a hobby and because they loved the Cubs. They finally released a final farewell episode to explain their absence. It was fairly interesting to hear their story. MLB Advanced Media, the same folks that run the Internet business for baseball, had sent them a cease and dessist order and threatened to sue them if they continued to make Cubscast podcasts. Their reason for the order, in my opinion, was based out of greed and not wanting someone else to profit off of their market. Never mind that fans were doing, at their own cost, advertising for baseball and creating an interest and promotion for their product.
This was some very disturbing news for me. It was my only link to other Cubs fans, and a fun source of news for me to find out what was happening with the club. As you can imagine, there’s not many Cubs fans here in Utah. At that point, I began to think really hard about not getting the baseball package again for nothing other than the purpose of protesting my dislike of their decision to shut down the Cubscast Podcast.
Over the Winter the Cubs made some moves to shed and acquire players. They also announced their decision to hire a new manager. Fan favorite and my childhood hero Ryne Sandberg was a leading candidate for the job. He didn’t get it, and I have already posted my rant about that decision. This only spurned my disgust with baseball that much more.
Along came Spring Training 2011. Wendy and I had such a great time the previous year in AZ that we decided to go back down again. The best part was that she was able to attend a Pediatric conference that met in the mornings. This meant her company paid for a large portion of our trip. The baseball games all started in the afternoon so the arrangement was perfect.
We went to four games while we were there. Two of them at Ho Ho Kam Park, spring training home for the Cubs, and two other games. One was at the Brewers stadium and the other was at the Giants park. I was super excited about getting to sit in the sunshine and watch baseball after a long dreary winter here in UT. I bought a couple of baseballs in hopes to get some autographs. I’ve heard fans say that players are more generous with autographs during spring training. We were there for the first game of Spring Training. I hoped that would mean that no one would be tired of giving autographs, and I would be able to get some good ones.
At the end of the first game we headed down to where the players leave the stadium, and fans gather to get autographs. The only people who came out were some minor league players that I didn’t recognize. I was disappointed, but one of the stadium workers told me that the starters usually leave around the 7th inning. The next game that we went to there, Wendy and I headed down to get autographs before the 7th inning started. We waited until they closed the park and only one of the starters came out, Starlin Castro. When he came out he had his headphones on and tried to ignore the 10 of us there asking for autographs. One of the fans pleaded, and he gave in. He told us he was busy and didn’t have time. I got his signature, but he only signed for a few of the fans there before he left. The rest of the players that came out were minor league players. Apparently, the other starters left out another exit to avoid the fans.
Excuse me, but your team sucks, you haven’t brought your fans a world series victory in over 100 years, you made 14 errors in the first 4 games of Spring Training, and it’s the FIRST week of Spring Training. Tell me exactly why your millions of dollars you are getting paid to play a child’s game doesn’t justify that you give a few fans an autograph, even just walk by so people can get a photograph of you up close. I’m sorry but there is nothing you are doing that is that important that you can’t throw your fans a bone of some kind. Baseball players have achieved this celebrity status that makes them think that they are more important than they really are. Give me some reason to support you. I am, after all, your customer and part of the reason that you have such a cushy lifestyle.
STRIKE THREE, YER OUT!
I might also add that there have been two players who were pulled over for DUI this spring. Oakland Athletics Coco Crisp and Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera. I’m sure my firsthand account of what kind of destruction of life that drunk drivers cause may make my opinion a little biased to this, but more players being selfish and driving under the influence does not help my view of these overpaid celebrities.
So what does all this mean for me this year. Normally, I am so excited that baseball begins in a few days, I’m pouring over stats and coming up with my rosters for fantasy teams. I’ve got reminders for when the first games are played so I can be sure to catch them. Not this year. I can’t get excited about wanting to play fantasy baseball, so I’m not going to do it. I don’t have the baseball package, so I won’t be watching the Cubs. If they show up on a Fox or ESPN game, I might watch. I don’t have my podcast, so I won’t be keeping up with Cubs news. ESPN Baseball Tonight should be renamed ESPN Phillies, Yankees, and Red Sox Tonight, so I won’t be doing much keeping up with baseball around the league. The Cubs’ roster is even worse than it was last year, so I’m not expecting them to even have a winning season this year. I really don’t even know what I will do for keeping up with baseball this year as I have just become very disgusted with how things have gone.
Congratulations Major League Baseball, you have managed to kill a die hard fan in the midst of slipping ratings and popularity. I’m sure I’ll be back some day, but you won’t be making any more money off me this year.