Cubs

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Wednesday, December 23rd

As a bartender, its in my job description to help out when needed. Whether thats to listen, take and process your order or offer advice, thats what I do, its a full service bar!

Well at this time Id like to offer some advice to some of those last minute shoppers out there. I know that it can get confusing and stressful shopping at this time of year, but I have an easy solution. TICKETS! How easy is that? You can get them online, pick the date and the sport.

One thing that I hope everyone realizes during the holidays is that, sometimes its fun to hang with the family. In fact, some would say these are the memories that last a lifetime. I couldnt agree more. As Im raising my own family, I cant help but think back on the times I enjoyed during holidays past. But there is another set of memories that are always with me, and make me smile to this day. Going to professional sporting events as a kid made me the sports geek that I am today. (Of course, Im viewing that as a positive, others might have a different opinion!)

As a kid going to games, I got to see up-close (sometimes) my sports heroes. It was magical. I was especially enamored of going to Philadelphia Flyers games in the early seventies. They were very good and the fan base bordered on rabid. This was very intense for an impressionable young mind and, very addicting. The names and numbers of every player from the 2 Cup years are seared in my brain and I dont mind repeating them when prompted, and sometimes when not prompted, like when Im dealing with a couple of hockey-know-it-alls from Toronto. Gets them every time!

But what really brought it home for me were the times I enjoyed with my parents, sisters, aunts and uncles at the games. They are a bond for us that exist to this day. Funny, since most of the other games and teams we followed had an amazing propensity for losing, A LOT! None the less, in my family, there are years of happy memories going to sporting events.

So thats why I say dont fret that youve let your shopping go down to the wire, again. Get on that computer and buy some Hawks tickets. Now, before they are gone. This team is going to be remembered for a long time. Isnt it cool when they bring out Bobby Hull or Stan Mikita? Well, trust me, its not going to be long before those names change to Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews. Dont you want your kid to tell their kids all about them?

Or how about being able to share the blossoming of Derrick Rose with another hoops junkie in the family? I would hope I wouldnt have to mention either baseball team, since just being able to get outside during the summer in Chicago is fun in itself. But how fun is it to chant: Paulie! Paulie! Or to boo Milton Bradley? (Sorry couldnt help myself, besides: Too late!) And I hear through the grapevine the 2011 Bears are going to be awesome! (Never too early!)

By giving the gift of tickets, youll not only be able to share in some great memories of teams that will live in Chicago sports history, but create some memories that will live on in your families history. It seems to me that tickets are truly a gift in the spirit of the holidays. So dont worry that your shopping time is almost gone, a timeless gift is only a click away. Oh, and if you happen to stop at 33 W. Kinzie St. before or after the game, well, that will just add to it, Im sure.

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

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USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

In the latest edition of HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan makes his picks for the weekend.

Kap made his picks with the help of Eddie Olczyk this week.