By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) I'd be remiss if I didn't bid farewell to Carlos Marmol.
Goodbye to one of the most interesting Chicago athletes to watch of recent vintage. His career arc went from shaky starter to incredibly dominant reliever to smoldering toxicity, and for most of it he was appointment viewing because he was like a rocket built by North Korea—you were frightened mostly because you weren't sure where it was going and eventually figured out it was just going to be somewhere between sad and laughable.
On to your correspondence.
Even with all the mental errors and the struggles Starlin Castro has had this year, it's doubtful the Cubs general manager is looking elsewhere for a shortstop. We're still talking about a guy who has been an All-Star the past two seasons and has a combined 390 hits in those years. You don't give that up for cheap, even if the Hoyer/Theo Epstein motto is considering future performance and not past.
I'm confident a) that Castro will bounce back—and after being sat down last week by Dale Sveum for the first time in two years he's responded better at the plate—even if that doesn't happen until next season and b) that Hoyer and Epstein consider Castro part of the future plan and see these last few months as more an anomaly rather than signs of something more permanent.
"He's just in a slump right now," Hoyer said a month ago. "He's not a guy that we really worry about. He's such an unbelievably gifted hitter. I'm pretty confident that he's gonna have a .350-.400 batting average month and he'll even out his stats a bit. He is 23 years old. Sometimes we forget how young he is because he was up in the big leagues at 20. I think he does need to improve his plate discipline over time. I think he will. I think he's going to grow into a lot more power. I think Starlin's a big part of our future and he'll figure out the on-base thing."
Baseball. Glorious, fantabulous Chicago baseball. And crying. Lots of crying. Abandon all hope, ye who enter games of July and August.
Nobody. Why does a city's sports need celebrity representation outside of the members of the organization themselves? Nine times of out ten the celebrity sports fan is a sports idiot who is taking advantage of being able to get tickets we can't. Go ask John Cusack right now who the backup catcher for the Cubs is, and I'll bet he can't tell you (or if the White Sox were playing well and he was acting as a fan of them instead, he wouldn't know who Hector Gimenez is either). And that's okay. I'm not asking celebrities to be students of the game and dedicated statisticians. But I'm also not asking them to be the face of a fanbase—one in the case of a city as big and diverse as Chicago cannot be encapsulated in one person anyway.
To be fair, some aren't actively mugging for the cameras. Belushi is an exception. The camera will find Cusack, Joe Mantegna, or Ashton Kutcher, and people like that will get invited to throw out first pitches and sing The Stretch and shoot a puck at intermission, but most let it end there. They usually don't try to take away from the game or share the players' success (again, Belushi is an exception).
But I couldn't care less what movie stars or musicians like the teams I like. Sure, we like being around people who like the same stuff we do, but I don't plan on conversing with Vince Vaughn anytime soon (since he seemingly won't read my screenplay that I know he got in the mail with my headshots). And if somebody needs a celebrity to root for the same team as they do for validation, he or she has bigger issues.
Hockey has long been my favorite sport to watch in person, even though it's the sport I can talk about the least without sounding completely stupid. If you're a student of the game, I'm sure the live experience offers some benefits. If not and you're trying to consume the game rather than just follow everyone else's lead in cheering or yelling or farting or whatever it is true hockey people do, the live experience might hinder you, especially if you're not in a seat that provides a good game vantage. The "oooh, look at me" crowd down near the ice at the United Center is likely missing much of the game just because of sheer angles.
I'm cool watching a game on TV, too, and especially with HD that does a pretty good job of capturing the game nowadays. Cameras don't get faked out like they do in football so often (though they may be smeared in feces and susceptible to bug infestation) or have "Pierre Cam," and the puck is no longer difficult to follow on screen for someone who isn't completely new to watching hockey. And not that every one is brilliant, but being able to hear a professional analyst and play-by-play guy is usually helpful.
Ultimately, as with any question regarding hockey stuff, I'm sure you'll get a different explanation from each fan as far as preference.
I meant to put the following tweet in my piece on Monday and brain farted, but it's too good not to share anyway.
And here's your Angry Penn State Fan of the Week:
From: Christopher Frenie
Subject: Penn State
I owe you an apology. Like many of the incurably stupid, you seem to confuse the concept of being entitled to your own opinion to being entitled to your own facts. Facts are not fungible. I didn't realize that someone writing for such a revered publication would make that mistake. As a peace offering, I would like to pay for you to be sterilized. Yes, this may mean that future generations receive slightly less piping hot pizza, but I've discussed it with the rest of civilized, thinking society and we have agreed that it is a risk with which we are all willing to live.
Thanks for emailing, tweeting, and reading. If your question did not get answered this time, that does not necessarily mean I am ignoring it. It may be saved for the next mailbag. Hopefully you're a slightly better person now than you were ten minutes ago. If not, your loss.
Want your questions answered in a future Mailbag? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to @TimBaffoe with the hashtag #TFMB. No question, sports or otherwise, is off limits (with certain logistical exceptions, e.g. lots of naughty words or you type in Portuguese or you solicit my death). If you email, please include a signature.
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