Play Ball: Pete Wentz & Mountain Goats Talk Chicago Cubs' 2014 Season
What would it be like if the Cubs won the World Series? Chi-town experts weigh in.
April is upon us and that means the return of Major League Baseball. To preview the new season, Billboard.com spoke to a panel of baseball fans from around the music world for a team-by-team preview of their favorite squads.
The musicians: Since gaining stardom as the mouthpiece of Fall Out Boy, bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz has been a vocal fan of a lot of things: tattoos, vegetarianism, Panic! At the Disco. People don't often realize he's also a sports guy (he was an all-state soccer player in high school) and loves to rep his hometown Chicago Cubs.
For over a decade, John Darnielle has been one of the greatest lyricists in indie rock. Mountain Goats albums are routinely filled with poignant, virtuosic lyricism, so it's no surprise Darinelle has branched out into publishing realm. He profiled Black Sabbath's "Master of Reality" for the 33 1/3 series on classic albums and his debut novel "Wolf in White Van" comes out this September. He namechecks a Cubs World Series in in his 1995 song "Cubs in Five," as he rattles off things that'll likely never happen.
The team: Will the Cubs ever get it together? The Cubs haven't won the World Series since 1908 and they're in the early stages of yet another rebuilding process. The two biggest names on the team -- starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija and shortstop Starlin Castro -- are both coming off subpar seasons. It appears they'll have to spend several seasons turning over their roster before contending again. Nevertheless, these lovable losers are consistently among the most popular teams in Major League Baseball. Who knows what madness would ensue if they ever brought a World Series championship to Wrigley Field.
Previously in this series:
Dropkick Murphys Talk Boston Red Sox
Hold Steady & Baseball Project Talk Minnesota Twins
Jimmy Eat World Talk Arizona Diamondbacks
Yo La Tengo & So So Glos Talk New York Mets
New Found Glory Talks Miami Marlins
Asher Roth Talks Philadelphia Phillies
Asher Roth and the Baseball Project Talk San Francisco Giants
Joan Jett Talks Baltimore Orioles
Was Cubs fandom something your dad passed down to you?
Pete Wentz: Yeah I think so. We would go to Wrigley all the time, sit the crummy seats and watch games. My dad definitely went to the first night game at Wrigley. I went to the second or third. It was definitely a big deal.
My era of the Cubs, when I was rocking the jerseys and playing little league, was with Ryne Sandberg, Shawon Dunston and Andre Dawson, that era of the Cubs.
How did you become a Cubs fan?
John Darnielle: I was not a sports fan because I was a bookish kid. It used to feel like if you were the kind of kid who wasn't good at sports, you weren't allowed to like them -- which is ridiculous. There's a lot of people who like movies who can't make them!
When I was eight years old, I was reading my Weekly Reader in school. In the sports section, there was a Cubs fan who was auction ing his fanhood to another team because they had sucked for so long. He was asking other teams, "What would you give me? Season pass? A jersey?" I was outraged. That is bullshit! If that's your team, you stick with your team! They don't owe you shit! I had this moral sense of outrage. "I'm a Cubs fan!" And that's how I've been ever since.
The other thing that happened was, in the early days of cable, there were two teams that had channels that would let you watch their games wherever you lived -- the Mets and the Cubs. And I turned on cable one day, and there was Wrigley Field crystal clear.
How much do you follow the team?
PW: I follow the team pretty well. I’ll go to two or three games every summer. I like Castro. I think we’re in a rebuilding year. I think 2015 or 2016 will be our competitive year, depending on who gets called up how the team is built up.
And you've referenced baseball in your lyrics, like in the song title "Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet."
PW: I just read the Pete Rose autobiography and it was about the comparison of how he would sometimes slide into first base on singles and stuff and the way that he would set up shop outside the Baseball Hall of Fame and sign stuff when people were being inducted but he was not really welcome there. He should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame and there were moments when he could have been but he blew all those moments. He was given the chance to apologize but he didn't. I thought it was interesting and it fit the mood of the song.
There aren't too many big name guys on the Cubs, but one that comes to mind is shortstop Starlin Castro. Do you think he'll ever pull it together?
JD: He hasn't really delivered on the early promise, even though he's got a good bat. But the thing is, if you follow your Cubs front office, you have to assume if he gets hot, they'll unload him and get what they can for him. I don't know how much longer his contracts lasts. But that's what the Cubs tend to do. The Cubs got rid of Greg Maddux and then he went to Atlanta and won 20 games again and again. I kind of like when a young, promising guy doesn't break out big, because then they tend not to burn them out. Because Kerry Wood was a young, promising guy and he was worked like a horse and his arm never recovered from that rookie season.
And Samardzija is a good pitcher. He's an unsung guy. Plus, you like to think of how Harry Caray would have mispronounced his name.
How do you think the Cubs will fare this year?
JD: If they put a squad together that's competitive by the trading deadline and made a couple of good moves and spent some money, they could compete. They're not a bad team. But we know from how the front office has behaved historically, they won't get someone who actually might put them in contention.
My theory is the Cubs don't need to sell tickets. They're going to sell out their games no matter what happens… Wrigley Field, if you like baseball, it doesn't matter if they're playing a double-A team, you should go there because it's a beautiful place to see a ballgame. So the Cubs aren't going to spend the money they need to spend to win, because they don't have to win.
What do you think it would be like in Chicago if the Cubs won the World Series?
PW: I think that would be insane. Chicago would lose its mind. A, It’s been so long and B, the Cubs are a team people have in their DNA. It’s akin to when Boston won the World Series. There’s a culture of people who love the Cubs but like when the Cubs don’t win. I think the Cubs inspire a look into the future. There’s a lot of that culture in Chicago.
Do you think the Cubs will ever win a World Series in your lifetime?
JD: No. Let's be honest. But that will not stop me from predicting it to my friends on Facebook. And right now I'd like to contradict myself and say the Cubs will win the World Series in 2014. They will defeat Baltimore. Once they meet up with the fearsome power of the Cubs, the Cubs will emerge victorious in four straight games.
Check back on Billboard.com tomorrow when Mike Mills of R.E.M. and the Baseball Project previews the Atlanta Braves' 2014 season