Monthly Archives: May 2016


· Baseball Rules, Joe Sez, News · , , , ,


Code:  \ˈkōd\
1) a set of laws or regulations
2) a set of ideas or rules about how to behave

Codes, unlike rules, are often unwritten and informal. No official book. No company manual. No government-like posters in the lunch room. They’re phantom collections of understandings between members of a group. For example, Chicago has a hot dog code that says you never, ever, never, never ever put ketchup on a hot dog; there’s no law preventing it, but if you’re from the Windy City you just wouldn’t ever do that. And if you did, you’d have to take the extra-large ration of doo doo — justifiable, by the way — that your friends would dish.

There are other kinds of codes, too. Like, say, a code of ethics. That’s the kinda thing Hillary Clinton wouldn’t recognize if it jumped up and took a bite out of her pantsuit-wearin’ donkey. Another would be a code of conduct. Donald Trump couldn’t identify that one if it was sittin’ on top of whatever it is that’s already sittin’ on top of his head. But that’s not what’s at issue here. In November, yes. What I’m talkin’ about now, though, is a code of honor. Semper Fidelis is the Marine Corp version. It means remaining faithful to the mission, to each other, to the Corps and to country, regardless of whatever kinda hell is happening all around them. Even the Mafia has a code. It’s called Omertà, and it means you never rat on your friends, you don’t cooperate with authorities, and you keep your nose outta the illegal actions of others. If you’re a wise guy, Omertà isn’t something you wanna treat with a casual attitude; like Alfonso Soriano used to have in the batter’s box. You could end up wearin’ cement shoes. If you’ve ever seen Prince Fielder run, you’d know that’s somethin’ you want to avoid.

Which brings me to the point; that unwritten code in baseball that says if one of your guys takes out one of our guys — whether it’s a hard slide into second base or some chin music that actually hits a high note — there’s gonna be some kinda retaliation. It’s part of the game — even the sissified, pink tutu-wearin’, give-a-warning-to-both-teams version Bud Selig turned it into. When I was a kid though, if you did a Chase Utley against the Cards, for example, you’d have to expect Bob Gibson to attempt a little brain surgery on you the next time you came to the plate. Not givin’ someone a tit when they’ve obviously tatted you is just plain cowardly, my friend. It’s baseball, not figure skating, and if you’re gonna put on the uni it’s your duty to stick up for each other. Period. Plus, it adds a dimension of Omertà to things, cuz you never know when, where or necessarily who is gonna pay the price. Bryce Harper thinks flippin’ bats and admiring your own work at the plate makes the game more interesting? That’s just ego in a very jackassian sorta way. Throwing a 97 mph heater at a guy’s numbers, on the other hand, tends to start a conversation — one that uses ALL the words in the english language, and that sometimes ends up in a spontaneous all-team dance on the infield grass. Now that’s interesting, pallie. You can keep your friggin’ bat flip.

The reason this is top of mind at the moment is because of what we’ve witnessed over the past few weeks. (Besides the Cubs continuing to clean their spikes off on the rest of the National League, that is.) There have been 3 obvious “code” incidents, where guys were throwin’ what I call “pigeon balls” — pitches that come with messages. Buster Olney wrote a good piece about this the other day, describing each of these exchanges and what led to them. The key questions Buster raises are 1) Is it acceptable for pitchers to throw a baseball at or near a hitter to deliver a message? And 2) Should a history of bad blood between teams and players matter? I say yes to both, just in case you haven’t been paying attention. Where Buster misses the mark, IMHO, is his dissatisfaction with how differently each of these events, although very similar, were handled by the umpires, and his call for “MLB to determine what will be tolerated and what won’t be, and to send a message of its own, loudly and clearly, perhaps by reaffirming the rules that should apply in these moments.”

Then there’s that pesky little Rule 8.02: Throwing at the Batter. It reads as follows:

The pitcher shall not intentionally pitch at the batter.

If, in the umpire’s judgment, such a violation occurs, the umpire may elect either to:

Expel the pitcher, or the manager and the pitcher, from the game, or may warn the pitcher and the manager of both teams that another such pitch will result in the immediate expulsion of that pitcher (or a replacement) and the manager. If, in the umpire’s judgment, circumstances warrant, both teams may be officially “warned” prior to the game or at any time during the game.

(League Presidents may take additional action under authority provided in Rule 9.05)

Rule 8.02(d) Comment: Team personnel may not come onto the playing surface to argue or dispute a warning issued under Rule 8.02(d). If a manager, coach or player leaves the dugout or his position to dispute a warning, he should be warned to stop. If he continues, he is subject to ejection. To pitch at a batter’s head is unsportsmanlike and highly dangerous. It should be – and is – condemned by everybody. Umpires should act without hesitation in enforcement of this rule.

Go ahead and reaffirm that rule. Not a damn thing will change.

Yeah, these incidents were kinda handled like they were from different planets. You read the rule … what can you expect? It’s full of words like “judgement” and “may” and “circumstances” and “should.” It’s dealing with something that’s not an absolute, which is why the rule was written that way in the first place. If the nature and severity of code retaliations were always the same, you could have one, all-powerful way of handling them. But they’re not. Too many variables. How hard was the pitch thrown? How close, exactly, was it? Was it really intended to hit a guy or was it just a “hey, I could hit you if I wanted to” thing? Where was it located? Is the pitcher a control guy, or not so much? What was the cause of the retaliation? How severe was it? How long ago was it? Yadda yadda yadda. This is an issue that’s never gonna be etched in stone, and if you try to treat it like it is you’re gonna have a lot more of the Syndergaard/Utley thing than you want. It’s a Pandora’s box, my friend. I say, lock the damn thing and throw away the key.

Look, there are two issues, as I see it: 1) The rule, as written, allows for a lot of interpretation on the part of umpires and 2) Major League Baseball has umpires. Like the code, umpires are part of the game. Do they get stuff wrong. Yeah. Does it drive me to the friggin’ moon and back when they do? Without exception. Do I wanna see Rob Womanfred and his band of merry minions continue to turn baseball into something I hardly recognize by turnin’ umps into zombies, or replacing them altogether with some sort of cyclops-techno-wiz-bang robot that you can’t kick dirt on? HELL no! This is baseball, not u-friggin-topia. The more perfect we try to make the game, the less perfect it’s becoming.

Of course, I could be wrong. But I’m not.



· Joe Sez ·


You know what I like about rain delays? Pretty much everything. Of course I’m lookin’ at it from my own personal Joe Schlombowski perspective, which I freely admit is pretty friggin’ warped in a side-by-side comparison with just about anybody. The missus tells me I look at everything through Cubs-colored glasses. Guilty. I hesitate to point out, though, that I take my glasses off whenever she’s feelin’ frisky. I don’t really need to be wonderin’ what Joe Maddon would do in that situation, or who oughta be brought in for relief. Know what I’m sayin’?

Aaaaaaanyway … rain delays are my friend. Maybe not so much in April, cuz the green plastic can cause frostbite to at least one cheek, sometimes both of ’em. The ones in today’s game, though, were kinda like yellow flags at the Indy 500; I get a chance to make a pit stop, fuel up with a couple of loaded Chicago dogs and an Old Style, then head back out to my seat whenever I feel like it. Sometimes I like hangin’ in the concours for a while. Hey, Midwesterners are flat out the nicest people in the solar system, so you make a little small talk and, BANG … you gotta a new friend. Other times you GOTTA hang up there cuz the rain is biblical … like Noah’s ark is gonna be pulling up at Clark and Addison any minute. That’s what we had today. Loved it. Why? Cuz being at Wrigley is the most fun you can have with your cloths on, my friend. A rain delay is just baseball’s version of Viagra; it makes the game last longer, but you don’t have to seek medical attention if it’s longer than 4 hours.

Rain delays also give everyone a chance to see some of the unsung heroes of the Cubs organization: the grounds crew. Who thinks about them … ever? Their mothers maybe? Their wives? Those guys get no love, but they’re a big part of the reason that Wrigley is the cherry on top of the Major League baseball park sundae. Would you like to be rollin’ the tarp out there when the sky is falling? Yeah, me neither. A rain delay always reminds me that the grounds crew does a lot more than drag the field and lay a little chalk down. I tip the Joe cap to those guys.

Now I suppose if I’m runnin’ up and down the aisles the whole game hawkin’ souvenirs and cotton candy, I’m none too keen on rain delays. Why? Well, how the hell would you like it if your work day got longer every time it rained? Not fun. Remember that the next time you’re at the park, and be sure to give a little somethin’ extra for the effort.

Another thing I like about delays is wondering what’s gonna happen when play starts again. A long pause in baseball ain’t like pausing your DVR in the middle of Game of Thrones. You do that and it has absolutely zero effect on whether or not someone’s head is gonna get chopped off. You press play again and … THWACK!!! In baseball, though, a rain delay can totally derail what was a sure fire win, or a devastating loss. The guys get a little tight, a little cold … maybe have a few too many ham sandwiches … they could come back out on the field with about as much energy as a vasectomized dog. Let’s say Rizzo gets a Dear John text from his girlfriend. Might effect his play, right? Or, maybe she texts him some kinda selfie that says hurry the hell up and come home cuz this here is waitin’ for ya. That might have an impact on his play, too. Either that or he might purposely get thrown out of the game. Anyway, a good rain delay introduces an element of uncertainty, although without the same level of impact that it had before the Cubs turned into the 1927 Yankees.

To quote Bull Durham’s Nuke LaLoosh, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.” And we all know what a friggin’ genius he was.



· 2016 Cubs, Joe Sez ·


Is the sky blue? Is the Pope Catholic? Does Howdy Doody have wooden balls? Yesterday against the Cards, the right arm of Jake Arrieta wasn’t quite as bazooka-like as it has been for the 22 starts that immediately preceded it, but it had enough boom shaka-laka to get the win; his 23rd in a row, tying the Major League record and sparking the stupid question, will Jake Arrieta ever lose again? Actually, there are no stupid questions, just stupid people asking questions … which makes it difficult to distinguish them from White Sox fans.

The obvious answer, though, is that, yes, Arrieta is gonna lose again. Oh … I suppose he could get run over by the team bus before his next start, in which case then, yeah, he’ll never lose again, but 1) I think he’d rather lose again and 2) winning streaks are overrated. The problem with streaks is that after a while they start to get inside your head; you begin thinkin’ about not losing — not breakin’ the streak — instead of focusing on winning. And there’s a difference, pal. The fact that that question was even asked is proof that there’s something to my theory. Of course, it was asked by a member of the media, and there’s really no way to gauge just how far down the moron scale those can be. If you wanna keep a winning streak in perpetual motion, you gotta ask different questions. Do you think Jake will throw another no-no this season? How many times will he strike out the side tonight? Which will be the bigger story in October, the Cubs winning the Series or Arrieta going undefeated? If your mind is in the right place, you’re a lot more likely to get what you want. (That’s what the missus tells me, but it’s difficult to square that during baseball season.)

Anyway, winning streaks aren’t important. I’m probably more superstitious than the next guy, and am known to exhibit all kinds of borderline psychotic behavior to keep them going. But I’d much rather the Cubs win 85 games, make it to the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, then win their last game, than see them win 30 in a row. Think about it; if you get through the season with a hundred W’s, but never more than 3 in succession, you’re gonna get a shot at the hardware. Arrieta’s streak is nice, for sure, but there’s a 100% chance it won’t last. Even if it does, it has about as much influence on the fate of the Cubs as Donald Trump’s hair spray.

When Jake loses, the thing to ask won’t be, “Will this ruin his season?” or “You think this will get in his head?” Rather, we should all wonder if his next winning streak will be longer than the first. That, and whether the Pope shits in the woods.



· 2016 Cubs, Joe Sez, Uncategorized · , , ,


Hey, if there’s anyone out there willing to drag the Cubs through the mud when they deserve it, it’s me, my friend. Sometimes, fingers need to be pointed (or in the case of the Mets, flipped) and, now and then the Cubs deserve to be on the receiving end. Why? Cuz In my mind, it serves no one’s purpose to “Hillary Clinton” things whenever the Cubs start conducting business on a private server. When they do that, I call ’em on it. But HOLY FRIGGIN’ CRAP! … What the hell is up with you guys wantin’ to string Tommy La Stella up by his Draymond Green target area?! Especially Jesse Rogers, who follows the Cubs for ESPN. I mean, it’s easy for us yay-hoos to mouth off from the cheap seats, but a pro callin’ a kid out cuz he fertilizes the infield grass a couple of times seems a bit harsh.

Maybe I’d feel different if we’d lost. Probably. I’m pretty good at blamin’ a loss on a guy’s brain fart. In fact every time I hear the name, Bartman, I still break into a sweat, and it’s a good 45 minutes until the facial tic goes away. So I get it. La Stella has had better days. But it’s not like anyone is whinin’ about our pen (which does finally have some bulls in it this year, but today, and a fair number of other days this season, they’ve looked more like veil calves). What about their roll in today’s near collapse? My point is, it’s a friggin’ team … and no single guy is gonna win or lose a game all on his own, although that’s what it looks like sometimes. It really doesn’t help La Stella to settle down when he gets skewered in the Twittersphere cuz of one bad day at 3rd.

Besides, anyone who is a true baseball fan — and I don’t give a crap how young you are — knows the name, Brooks Robinson. If you don’t, you’re not a fan. Maybe you’re somewhat interested in the game. Maybe you like pin stripes. Maybe you were dropped on your head as a kid … I don’t know … but you’re not a real baseball fan unless you know the name Brooks Robinson and what it stands for; perfection. Without question, the best third baseman to ever step inside the chalk. Period. (You Phillies fans who are at this moment callin’ me names cuz you think Mike Schmidt was better … go get your shine box.) Brooksy had no equal. Never will. He was called “the human vacuum cleaner” and “Mr Impossible.” And his glove — that golden extension of his left arm — was like a black hole; a singularity with a gravitational pull so strong not even light could escape his grasp. It was a place where doubles down the line met a swift and early death. As a hitter, you stood a better chance of havin’ a threesome with Miss July and August than hittin’ a ball past Robinson.

If there is a God, he played 3rd base for Baltimore.

And you know what? Mr Robinson made 263 errors at the hot corner. I grant you, that was over a 23 year, Hall of Fame career, but that averages out to over 10 a year. In fact he booted 21 in a single season once. Still, he was — if you haven’t yet grasped this — the best. So, before all of you “fans” remove every last shred of flesh from Tommy La Stella’s carcass, consider the possibility that his glove could end up as golden as Robinson’s someday. Go ahead and dish it out when someone deserves it, by all means. I’ll be right there with you. But could you try to not be such Yankees fans? Please?



· Joe Sez, News · , , ,


Baseball, like every other sport on the planet, except bowling, pool, arm wrestling and darts, is a young man’s game. I’d throw in competitive eating, too, but 1) I’m not sure it’s really a sport and 2) the older you are, the more practice you’ve had so, technically-speaking, you should have an advantage. Take me, for instance. I money-back guarantee you that I can eat any 20-year-old you want into a coma. And the only thing I have in common with an athlete (other than Bartolo Colon’s waist line) is ESPN — I watch it and they’re on it.

Seriously, most highlight reel stuff in baseball is done by guys under 30. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Clayton Kershaw, Andrew McCutchen, Chris Sale, the Chicago Cubs … I could go on. It’s a ridiculous list of super-human mutants that do wicked good, mind-blowing things with bats and gloves and arms with monotonous regularity. (Uh, that means “all the time”, White Sox fans.) Yeah, sure, I know … baseball has guys as old as rocks, too. Sometimes you see ’em in the dugout. Guys like Koji Uehara, R.A. Dickey, David Ross, the aforementioned Bartolo Colon, and A-Rod. (Those last two are jaggoffs … but so far, Manfred, in his one man quest to remake baseball into shuffleboard with a clock, hasn’t instituted any mandatory retirement age for jaggoffs. Yet.) But most old baseball guys, that aren’t in the booth, are scouting or coaching or managing other guys; younger ones who don’t make grunting noises when they get out of a chair.

Every now and then, though, you get one of those Hank Aaron, Jamie Moyer, Cal Ripkin, Ted Williams kinda years; the kind where guys that oughta be walkin’ on a beach with a metal detector are doin’ things in Major League ballparks normally reserved for the bat-flippin’ coverboys who shave stuff not meant to be shaved. This year, for me, that would be Big Papi (real name not required) and Ichiro (last name not required).

The first time I laid eyes on Ichiro (sorta … I mean he got to first base quicker than a sailor in a whore house) it was at Ho Ho Kam during his first spring training with the M’s. The guy hit 2 completely routine ground balls to short. You know … regular, 3 or 4 bounce, boring, run-o-the-mill, 6-to-3 sure-fire outs. Safe on both of ’em. The first thing I did, after I picked my jaw up off the ground, was call a buddy who bleeds fantasy baseball and tell him to draft the guy. 15 years later, with the clock at 42, Ichiro’s hittin’.417 and is gonna pass the 3,000 hit mark if he gets enough at bats. And that’s his American numbers, cuz if you add in the 1,278 hits he had in Japan, he’s already over 4,000. And why wouldn’t you count those? I think the guy has proven he hit Major League pitching as good as Japanese pitching. Plus … if you’re gonna count anything done by Barry Bonds after he got to San Francisco, or McGwire or Sosa or anyone else who dropped trou and crapped all over the game, then I think you gotta count all of Ichiro’s numbers.

Papi is the other ancient phenom this year. His numbers are unreal; like some sorta hacked video game character that can only be kept off base by tossing the damn Playstation in the lake. If he was playin’ for the Cubs you can bet your sweet megaphone that we’d be subject to the obnoxious decibels of Stephen A. Smith accusing him of juicing. Papi is the heart and soul of the Sox, and it’s difficult to imagine that he won’t be there next year makin’ pitchers half his age work around him. If you’re on the hill, Ortiz is the last guy you wanna see step into the box … especially if the game is on the line. You might as well just turn around and throw the ball into the gap or into the right field bleachers, cuz that’s where it’s headed.

Point is, baseball is a kid’s game. It’s played by men, but the further they get from childhood, the more difficult it becomes to keep playin’. Here’s to the guys (and as a Cubs fan, I include David Ross among them) that have enough kid in them at age 36, 40, 42, to still do stuff that amazes all of us, even those half their age.