Zack’s Sack: A Wrigleyville Mailbag, Vol. 3

“Why are baseball fights bad?” — Jake B.

The most plainly bad thing about baseball fights is the outmoded masculine facade that they project. They’re almost always tipped off by someone who perceives a slight where there really isn’t one, or by some McCann-esque jerk who wants to keep professional baseball white and full of men who subscribe to his type of performative “respect” of the game. It’s a tired scenario played out by tired players and their tired notions.

As far as the fighting itself, there are some more fun theories as to why they suck. Batter and pitcher, the two players most likely to engage in fisticuffs, start far away from each other, and so the spontaneity of the hockey fight is lost. The charge of the pitcher’s mound is a poor trope that sets one player on the offensive right away, and it’s almost always the player who didn’t instigate the fight. There’s an imbalance there in terms of perceived “blame.”

The fighting itself is either half-hearted punches that don’t land, or the wildly violent wielding of weapons. Then, of course, there’s the bumbling hilarity of players emerging from dugouts and bullpens to join the action. It’s a perfunctory gesture that more often results in confusion and posturing than any purported catharsis. They’re bad philosophically and bad aesthetically.

“Which Sammy Sosa home run, objectively, is the best one?” — Nathan B.

They’re all the best, Nathan. 609 immaculate brush strokes to create a masterpiece of a career. But, I’m partial to these.

Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS, off Brad Penny, when Sosa hit the camera box to the left of the juniper bushes:

The one where he broke the window on Waveland. The one he parked onto a porch on Kenmore. His inside-the-parker at Three Rivers Stadium, when the outfielder dropped the ball and Sosa raced around the bases and slid headfirst into home. Oh, and these:

Skip ahead to the slow-motion replay at the end. Watch Sosa perfectly focus all of his sinewy power unto that ball, and immediately pump his fists after he exits his bunny hop. It’s a joy. An underrated aspect of numbers 61 and 62 are the currents of people chasing after it down Waveland. That stop sign in the first clip is holding on for dear life. There’s the preponderance of signs that we just don’t see anymore. Plus the shirtless guy at 0:39 in that video, wearing a… weird visor? A bad haircut?. That guy owns.

“Was the last season more of a seminal year for the Cubs than 2017 is?” — Mike G.

The Cubs’ last three seasons encapsulate three distinct phases of their development as an organization and as a major-league club, but it’s important not to overstate their separate qualities. 2015 was the premature success year that gave way to the feeling of inevitability present throughout 2016’s world-beating performance, and now we’re in the Empire Strikes Back portion of the program. 2015 was the transformative year in which the Cubs earnestly promoted prospects and signed free agents with the intent to win, and so I think that’s the “seminal” year in the traditional sense.

If we’re talking about which year will be the most emblematic of this era of Cubs-dom, it’s 2016 without a doubt. If the Cubs end up pushing deep into the playoffs again this season after struggling early, I personally think it will be much sweeter than if they had steamrolled the league again. The excitement of a divisional race is hard to pass up. Tweet me in a few years when I have time to write the history of this team, Mike.

“Should they demote Schwarber?” — Kazuto Y.


“Which Cub would be able to survive the longest at sea?” — Mary C.

This is sort of the same as choosing which Cub would be the best desert island companion, so we’re going for McGuyver skills. Zobrist or Heyward or Lester would be my choices. Zo is from Illinois, though, so I’d lean Lester because of his ocean-adjacent genesis. Not sure which Cub is the best at fishing. Maybe Baez’s lightning hands could catch some fish?

“Which current Cub has the best chance of replicating Glenallen Hill’s rooftop homer at Wrigley?” — Brennan C.

Frankly, I don’t think any player will ever replicate Hill’s 2000 blast. Even if they did, it would certainly not be matched for aesthetics: Hill’s tight pants and baggy jersey combo, his compact swing and immediate recoil, the wonder inspired by seeing it happen for the first time. It’s also funny to see him not quite rounding first base after the ball caroms off the concrete roof—you know he was admiring his shot, and the fact that it’s only implied makes it pretty funny. The only drawback is that windbreaker-wearing investment banker dude who ends up with the ball. Polar opposite of shirtless Sosa guy.

Forced to choose, I would pick Rizzo or Schwarber. They would have to clear the new right-field video board, but we’ve seen them both yank monster shots down the right-field line. Maybe Hill was onto something with his unorthodox swing, though. He barely moved his bat above his waist, and the path the bat takes to the ball is compact and low. Someone might need to replicate that to generate the backspin necessary for the ball to reach a roof.

“Are the Cubs bad because success goes to millennials’ heads too quickly?” — Nate Greabe, co-editor of BP Wrigleyville

I have it on good authority that Kyle Schwarber is indulging in avocado toast instead of working on his hitting. Disgraceful.

Lead photo courtesy Jerry Lai—USA Today Sports

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