Piffcast: The Thirteenth – Jessica Kleinschmidt and The Winter Soldier

Making her return to The Piffcast is FanDuel sportswriter Jessica Kleinschmidt! With Chicago being the hottest town in baseball at the moment, we ask Jessica to settle a few Cubs/White Sox arguments for their respective fanbases that will likely come up before the Crosstown Cup series. We also cast our own version of the Space Jam sequel, but with Major League Baseball players. Find out if your favorites make the cut! (27:21 mark, if you’d like to jump ahead)

Now that Captain America: Civil War is finally here, TJ and I (WITHOUT ANY SPOILERS) discuss what the movie got right compared to Batman v. Superman. I also reveal where it ranks in my “Favorite Movies of 2016 so far” list.

Feel free to react as you listen on Facebook or Twitter. Subscribe on iTunes here and listen to our past Piffcast episodes

The 2015 Cubs from a White Sox Fan’s Perspective

I’m jealous, but I’m not.

On the one hand, the Chicago Cubs are in a one-game playoff game tonight in Pittsburgh. A year ago, the San Francisco Giants played in the Wild Card game, beat the Pirates, and went on to win the World Series. The Giants rode their ace, Madison Bumgarner, all the way to Game 7 against the Kansas City Royals and so much champagne was had after. The Cubs have a chance to do the same thing tonight with the best pitcher in baseball this season, Jake Arrieta.

The fact that the Cubs are built to sustain a run of opportunities like tonight for years to come, that their manager is a baseball genius with one of the cooler demeanors in the sport, and that every postgame is a party for their club makes me jealous. I’m jealous of the fun personalities on the team and how hard it is to find someone worth disliking. Is there anyone?

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I’m not jealous of the nerves and emotions Cubs fans have been going through since Sunday. Hard to imagine that a 97-win season’s fate is being left to one game, on the road, against another one of the league’s best pitchers, Gerrit Cole, and arguably the best bullpen in baseball. I’ve been there before…2008, Game 163 between the White Sox and Minnesota Twins, John Danks vs. Nick Blackburn, decided in the bottom of the 7th off a Jim Thome home run…the only run scored in the game.

Jim Thome Game 163

I’m also not jealous that despite having baseball’s 3rd best record, the two better records belong to two teams in their division. It’s not like the Pirates and Cardinals are going away anytime soon either.

The Cubs are ahead of schedule though. You would be lying if you told me that you expected a team with as many rookies playing as the Cubs have would be where they are this evening. Cubs president Theo Epstein tempered their expectations to fans and media alike, anticipating a season of growth toward 2016. They grew alright. They grew in a hurry.

I’m jealous that the Cubs were able to trade Jeff Samardzija to Oakland for Addison Russell, and all the White Sox got back was a 4.96 ERA and an 11-13 record from someone who started on opening day. While the Cubs were promoting their rising prospects to the Major League, the White Sox were trying to “win now” signing a closer, a number of back-end bullpen pitchers, Melky Cabrera, and another left handed DH on the wrong end of his career named Adam (LaRoche). While Cabrera turned out to be as advertised, the rest of White Sox GM Rick Hahn’s winter acquisitions weren’t. Then after 4 seasons of a .458 win percentage, White Sox brass somehow felt Robin Ventura was still worth keeping. On the other end of town, the Cubs fired manager Rick Renteria after one season simply because Joe Maddon was available.

The contrast between the two organizations is pretty glaring. One is the biggest surprise in the National League and the other is the biggest disappointment in the American League. One organization was able to gut their club, go through multiple bad seasons in order to acquire high draft picks and international assets, and are now reaping the benefits of a lot of patience. The other organization and their fan base still dealt with the multiple years of losing, but not on purpose. Rather than take advantage of chances to stock up for the future, the White Sox burned it on older free agents and loyalty to declining veterans.

This isn’t meant to be an open “It sucks to be a Sox” letter. Far from it. I still had fun supporting my team this year. White Sox fans celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the 2005 World Series team. Chris Sale was electric, breaking the single-season franchise record for strikeouts. Jose Abreu became the 2nd player in baseball history to hit 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in his first two seasons. And young talents like Carlos Rodon and Trayce Thompson emerged as bright spots for next season. Things were just a lot more fun on the north side and I have no problem admitting that.

I attended 3 games at Wrigley Field this season. There’s this unbelievably cool feeling that overcomes you climbing the stairwell to see the scene of the field and the scoreboard. The stadium was packed and the fans seemed to hang on to every pitch of consequence. I don’t know if it’s the crowd having an effect on the players or the other way around but the energy is certainly shared between two, and it was so romantic to experience. That Brad Pitt/Billy Beane line in Moneyball certainly applied.

U.S. Cellular Field wasn’t necessarily void of those feelings, as many would lead you to believe. In the 8 games I went to this summer, they only lost once (maybe I should have gone to more games). There were 2 different occasions that made me forget about the team’s record and their struggles. Both were Sale starts and both ended with late inning dramatics for the win. The first came against reigning AL CY Young winner Corey Kluber and the second was against former White Sox great Mark Buehrle. The ballpark was nowhere near as full as a Cubs game this year (keep your attendance jokes. I don’t care), but you couldn’t tell with how loud it got after every strikeout and base hit. Ultimately there weren’t many games like that, but that’s baseball for you.

At no point did I actively root against the Cubs, unless they were playing the White Sox. Being in two different leagues, neither team has any effect on the other’s chances to go to the playoffs. I care way more about what happens to the Tigers, Royals, and Twins than I do the Cubs because they are actual division rivals. Do I feel left out not wearing Cubby blue while living in the northwest suburbs? Not really. Admiring from afar as an objective baseball fan is fine enough, and I still think “Go Cubs Go” is the worst.*ducks*

…while I’m at it, I also put ketchup on my hotdogs. *ducks again*

I do genuinely hope Cubs fans are enjoying this ride. I was lucky to do so with a 99-win team 10 years ago, where everyone on the roster contributed with big moments…similar to this Cubs team. If things don’t go their way tonight, the season was still one of the organization’s best in the last century. “There’s always next year” has a totally different feel to it when you have Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Lester, Arrieta and Maddon returning to your dugout. Live in the moment and don’t even think about BS curses. My hope is that both teams are competitive for years to come and the prospects of a crosstown World Series become way more than a pipe dream. 

Have fun tonight, Cubs fans.

Sincerely,

Michael Piff

PS. Please don’t flip my car when you win it all.

Mad Men of MLB

They premiered the same night…

The “Final Episodes” of Mad Men and the 2015 Major League baseball season.  Both gave us the feel of nostalgia, with some new little twists as well…

ESPN with their K-Zone and Roger with his Mustache.

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The both have served as our pastime. They have captured American history in their own ways. They have kept us at the edge of our seats with drama unlike any other. They are also both HEAVILY sponsored.

As we say “goodbye” to one and “hello” to the other, let’s compare further and identify the true “Mad Men” of MLB.

Pete Campbell / Bryce Harper, Nationals

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Pete Campbell and Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals ascended to stardom very quickly in their own way. Harper has an NL Rookie of the Year and a couple of All-Star games to his name while Pete has “Partner” as a title and Clearasil. While both are very successful, they’re also polarizing and even hated by fans. Although they may rub people the wrong way, you will rarely see them with their heads down due to a wealth of confidence…unless Pete’s in trouble.

Don Draper / Derek Jeter, Yankees

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Derek Jeter may be retired, but Don Draper began his farewell tour last year too. They were the faces of their organizations and legends of their craft. While Don and Jeter may not have been putting out their best work at times, they were still perennial all-stars. They also could field a pretty strong batting lineup with both of their dating histories. And they both could sell ANYTHING

Peggy Olson / Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

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Peggy Olson was Don’s protege and Troy Tulowitzki has taken the reigns as the best shortstop in the league post-Jeter. The time is now for both of them. Tulowitzki has been held back by injuries while Peggy was held back by sexism in her industry. And as they show off their talents, they have become hot commodities to other teams as well.

Roger Sterling / Tony La Russa

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I attended Tony La Russa’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony last summer, and listening to him talk about his days as both a player and a manager reminded me of the war stories Roger Sterling tells to his clients. Neither one can stay away from the game as Roger continues to sell whatever he can while La Russa just recently took a job as chief baseball officer for the Diamondbacks. Neither one minds a midday cocktail either.

Joan Harris / Jose Abreu, White Sox

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On the outside, Jose Abreu is a 6’2, 260 pound Cuban baseball Jedi and Joan is a redhead with curves like a Formula One track. These two have a lot more in common than you’d think…They both joined the majors late in their careers but made an instant impact when they got there. Joan spent years in the secretary ranks and jumped to partner while Abreu went from playing for the Cuban national team for years to MLB All-Star and unanimous AL Rookie of the Year. They also have the savviness and experience to adjust on the fly and last for a long time to come.

Ken Cosgrove / Billy Hamilton, Reds

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I think we all have our favorite characters from TV shows that are no more than supporting to the story, and won’t even appear in some episodes. Ken Cosgrove is exactly one of those characters for me because he is the “Mr. Hustle” for the Sterling Cooper agency. The same can be said about Billy Hamilton of Cincinnati, whose 56 stolen bases in his first full season ranked him 2nd in the majors. Hamilton’s OBP isn’t the best for a leadoff man (.290), neither is Cosgrove’s, but he makes the opponent pay when he gets his chances.

Betty Francis / Max Scherzer, Nationals

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I guess this could be said about many of Scott Boras’s clients, but Betty Francis (formerly Draper) is a money chaser. Max Scherzer was one of the last high priority free agents to sign this past winter because he was waiting on the 7 year, $210 million deal that Washington happened to have lying around. And he gets to count his cash like Scrooge McDuck when he isn’t pitching every 5th day in the league’s deepest rotation. So another name that we call Betty applies to Scherzer…Frontrunner. However, there’s a reason they got to where they are now…

Megan Draper / Mike Trout, Angels

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Out with the Betty, in with the new…Megan Draper, I mean. Megan was Don’s MVS (most valuable secretary), so much so that he put a ring on it. Megan also took advantage of the opportunity quickly, much like Mike Trout when he hit the big leagues. Both were under-appreciated at first, as Trout was working for an MVP nod and Megan continuously auditioned for TV roles. Both got what they wanted and both are California dreaming.

Stan Rizzo / Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

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Besides the obvious (last name), both actually have a lot in common. Both Stan and Anthony had rough starts to their careers. Anthony only hit .141 in his first Major League stint with the Padres, and Stan was a sexist jerk…Both have improved immensely and serve as glue guys for their respective teams. Stan grew a beard, found recreational drugs, became best buds with Peggy and is no longer a jerk. Anthony has become an All-Star and isn’t afraid to mix it up with opponents to defend his teammates. Yep, glue guys.

Agree? Disagree? Have some more Player/Character comparisons? Let me know on Twitter @Mike_PiFF03.