The Twins are in Chicago all this week, but are now moving over to Wrigley Field for a rare in-Chicago series against the Cubs. In preparation, I asked Al Yellon, the site leader at our sister SB Nation Cubs site, a few questions about the Cubs and Chicago.
Q: How great was it when the Cubs won the World Series in 2016?
A: It was the culmination of a lifetime dream for every single Cubs fan. “Great” doesn’t begin to describe the emotions we all felt when it happened, something that for a long, long time we felt might never happen. When it did I thought not only about my many years as a Cubs fan having not ever seen it, but of all the people, generations worth, who lived and died without ever seeing the Cubs win the World Series. Even now, a year and a half later, there are times it doesn’t feel real. But then, I have an entire new wardrobe of “CUBS WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS 2016” merchandise, so it must have.
Q: Has Wrigley Field been a lot more crowded since the World Series win?
A: Not really. Wrigley Field has been packed most years for the last couple of decades, as it’s a tourist attraction as well as the home of a baseball team. In fact, attendance actually dropped in 2017 because ticket prices were raised through the roof. The Cubs apparently felt they could make more money by selling fewer tickets at higher prices. That has continued for much of this year, of course, as Twins fans well know, attendance was down early this year because of the horrendous weather in the midwest.
Q: The Twins were very actively trying to sign Yu Darvish last off season, but he signed with the Cubs. How do you and/or most Cubs fans feel about that signing?
A: So far, Darvish has been a huge disappointment, not pitching well and now on the disabled list. He hasn’t endeared himself to Cubs fans with some of his cryptic statements on when he might return.
But then I remember that Jon Lester had a rough first couple of months when he signed with the Cubs in 2015, and I think Darvish will be all right.
Q: Why do you think there are so many Cubs fans in the Twin Cities?
A: Wisconsin used to be a place filled with Cubs fans because there was no major league baseball in Milwaukee or the Twin Cities before the 1950s. Some of those families still raised their kids to become Cubs fans. That, plus maybe the relocation of Chicagoans to the Twin Cities, and the influence of three decades worth of Cubs broadcasts on WGN-TV when it was a national superstation, probably accounts for this.
Q: Who is the best player on the Cubs RIGHT NOW?
A: Without question, Javier Baez. Baez is having the season we’d all dreamed he’d have, hitting for power, stealing bases and playing amazing defense. What’s best about Javy is his complete lack of fear in making plays in the field or on the bases. Sometimes a player will have a slight hesitation when doing things like that and will fail. Baez never hesitates when trying to steal (he’s stolen home this year on a straight steal) or making a defensive play. That’s what makes him great, and such a pleasure to watch every day. Sometimes I wish he’d walk a bit more -- he went two months this year without drawing an unintentional walk -- but that aggressiveness is part of what makes him so good.
Q: Who is your favorite Cub ever? Why?
A: Billy Williams, and I say this without hesitation. While many Cubs fans of that era loved Ernie Banks for his sunny disposition and great play, or Ron Santo for his passion on the field, I liked Billy’s quiet consistency, setting a consecutive-games record (since broken) and hitting home runs and playing good defense, that eventually got him into the Hall of Fame. He just turned 80 and is still one of the most beloved Cubs of all time.
Q: What question do you wish I had asked you, but I didn’t, and what is your answer?
A: What’s the best place in Wrigleyville for Twins fans to hang out this weekend?
Answer: There are a lot of new bars and restaurants open now in the area around Wrigley, and Twins fans who haven’t been there since the team’s last visit in 2009 will be surprised at the transformation. But one of the old standbys is probably still best: Murphy’s, right across the street from the bleacher entrance at the corner of Waveland & Sheffield. I expect tons of Twins fans around all weekend.
Thank you again to Al Yellon for answering my questions (which were sort of stupid, I know, but I was running on about three hours of sleep after traveling most of the day. Bite me.) You can read Al’s stuff over at Bleed Cubbie Blue and follow him on Twitter at @bleedcubbieblue.