I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been stranded in the middle of the baseball desert, dyin’ of a thirst that’s only gonna get quenched by drinkin’ the metaphorical blood of the Mets. It’s not just that they waterboarded us in the playoffs last year … it’s that they found a way to do that after we zeroed them in the season series, 7-zip. I practically went into some kinda painintheassic shock, which admittedly isn’t as bad as your hypovolemic or neurogenic or anaphylactic shocks, but it hurts like a beach ball sized hemorrhoid. Anyway, I’ve been impatiently waiting for this series cuz it’s our chance to reassert our obvious superiority over the flowing locks of Noah Syndergaard, the 57-inch waistline of Bartolo Colon and the rest of that group of Queens … I mean from Queens.
What happened last year just doesn’t add up for me, cuz theoretically the Cubbies got a lot better AFTER we swept the Mets during the regular season. We called up Schwarber, who basically was Babe Ruth reincarnated for the rest of the season, moved Castro to 2nd and added Russell, although he was injured for the post season. But Baez stepped into his slot so there were really no beats skipped there. Not enough to put us on a 4 game skid against that bunch of plankton anyway.
As David Schoenfield points out, it seems like we’ve got an edge this year, and I’m talkin’ Game of Thrones, swingin’ Valyrian steel sword edge, pal. Better pitching, better hitting, waaaaaay better record, more confidence, better uniforms, better city, better fans, better hot dogs, better pizza. Gettin’ carried away there, but you get my point. I’d like to say if the Cubs lose this series I’ll eat my truck, but I said that about The Donald becoming the nominee of the Republican party, and look how that turned out.
Game starts in a couple of hours. That oughta be enough time to pin the hell outta my Steven Matz doll.
Gettin’ smacked in the jewels is no picnic. It’s not even a leftover bowl of little Doritos scraps, so I can only imagine how Willson Contreras musta felt when he got a foul tip off of his foul tip. I money-back guarantee you that every single guy that saw that play made one of those “ouch” faces, with teeth clenched, and where the eyes squint like somebody just emptied a couple of lemons in ’em. It’s a universal reaction to seeing that happen to somebody, cuz we’ve all been there. Maybe not with a baseball, but if you hit ground zero with a bean bag, it’s gonna hurt.
What’s not universal is the way Contreras was breakdancin’ all over the infield tryin’ to shake it off. That was totally new territory, my friend. Most guys — like 90 out of a 100 — are just gonna go fetal position. Another 9 are gonna LeBron James it — whaling like the Mountain just whacked off an arm or something. Contreras, on the other hand, looked like he was tryin’ to get a shot on Dancin’ With the Stars, shakin’ and bakin’ like the boogie woogie bugle boy. It’s only a matter of time before somebody with not enough to do sets it to music and throws it up on YouTube. Can’t wait.
The weird thing about this play — and I think this is universal, too — is that about 6 seconds after it happened, and I’m finished makin’ my “ouch” face, I started to laugh. Yeah … like I already said, it hurts like a (nasty word of choice here). As guys, we know that. But if it ain’t you, it’s funny. Especially with that Jupiter Walk (like the Moon Walk only way way further out in space) Contreras laid on us.
Anyway, I felt bad for him. As bad as everyone in the Cubs dugout, anyway.
Boris Spasky? Garry Kasparov? Bobby Fischer? Pfft. You wanna talk about the grandest master of ’em all, you’ll be throwin’ the name Joe Maddon around, my friend. If you saw last night’s game, you know exactly what I’m talkin’ about. If I didn’t know better — but I do, cuz guys were wearin’ uniforms instead of suits, and the game was in Cincinnati not Reykjavik — I’d have sworn I was watchin’ a great chess match.
Maddon opened with the Zobrist Attack — nearly impossible to defend against — and then began to slowly and methodically dissect the Reds like the pawns they are. It was masterful; different than the night before, though, where he basically commanded the entire game with a single piece — a tactic known as the Bryant Challenge. But last night … last night’s middlegame was almost cruel. Maddon lulled the Reds into a sense of over-confidence by toyin’ with ’em. Even lettin’ them back in the game when he had a chance to close it out. This is known as the Rondon Gambit. There are similar Gambit moves — the Wood, the Grimm and the Stroup — that Maddon will attempt on occasion, but last night he went with Rondon.
You could see the Reds thinkin’ they had an opening, especially when they shut the door on the Cubs with their semi-brilliant (nothing the Reds do can technically be called “brilliant”) execution of the Votto Defense. But then Maddon started movin’ pieces around like a friggin’ tornado and exchanging ’em like teenage girls sharin’ a closet; Grimm for Rondon, Goghlan for Almora, Szczur from left to center, Edwards for Grimm, Montero to Edwards’s spot then Cahill for Edwards. This kinda chess-like mastery continued for the next 5 innings, with Maddon makin’ one of his most blinding moves — the Patton-Wood castling — in the 14th. Filthy. Really filthy.
It wasn’t until the 15th, though, that Big Joe pulled out the rarely-used Javier Baez Slam. An end game I don’t think anyone expected, least of all the Reds. That just friggin’ crushed whatever hope they’d been clinging to and 3 outs later … check-friggin-mate, my friend.
Tip of the Joe cap to you, Joe Maddon. That was 4 hours and 43 minutes of brilliance.
Unless you’re still weeping over the fact that Game of Thrones is done for the season, you know that Kris Bryant leapt a few tall buildings in a single bound last night on the way to becoming the first player in Chicago Cubs history to have 16 total bases in a single game. Those came at the expense of the Cincinnati Reds in the form of 3 yard shots and 2 doubles. In fact, no one in the 177 years we’ve been playin’ the sport of baseball has ever had that particular combination of five hits in a game. Not even once. Seems to me parents oughta be marchin’ their kids by a plaque somewhere that commemorates this feat of basballian heroism.
The last time I saw the kinda power Bryant put on display last night was when the Soviets paraded their military might through through the streets of Moscow. I’d suggest marching Bryant through the streets of whatever city we happen to be in, but he’s not that kinda guy. And that’s the part I like best about Kris. You won’t see him flippin’ his bat, or standin’ at home admiring one of his dingers, or showin’ up another team. He just goes about his business and lets the performance do the talkin’. Bryce Harper, put your comb down for a minute and pay attention.
What makes this even filthier than it already is, is the fact that he did it while playin’ 3 different positions. There are certainly exceptions, and the Cubs are filled with players who qualify, but most guys get all twisted when you move ’em around the diamond. It throws their games off. Bryant? He could care less. And why? My theory is that his game is a whole lot more about the team than it is about Kris Bryant. He doesn’t ever get sucked into a mind-funk if he’s goin’ through a rough patch, or he’s battin’ in a different spot in the order, or he’s playin’ right instead of 3rd. There’s no Hollywood in Bryant. Bryce Harper, I said put your comb down and pay attention.
Anyway, you can catch the details from Jesse Rogers or David Schoenfield or ESPN or Jesse Rogers again, or maybe graffitied on a box car somewhere. It’s everywhere. I don’t even think Donald Trump can say something that would derail this story for a few days.
That was some game, Kris. Thanks for the memory.
Alright … anybody who wants to be a Major League umpire, raise your hand. Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Which is why my flabber was fully gasted when I read about Jen Pawol. Not only does she wanna be an umpire, she’s a she — completely devoid of the Y chromosome that comes standard with every Major League umpire that’s ever donned a chest protector; a piece of equipment that takes on a whole new meaning when a woman is wearin’ it.
Jen isn’t the first female to make her way through the ranks to the Rookie Leagues, but she could end up bein’ the first to stand toe to painted toe nails with a manager who’d like to rearrange her face. This is something I have a hard time gettin’ my big fat head around. I mean, why would a woman wanna be an umpire? Why does anybody want that job? Seriously. Why subject yourself to the spittle-ladened Lou Piniella impersonations dished by the guys on the field, and the constant, unrelenting, mean-spirited kind from the average schmo sittin’ in the cheap seats?
For a woman it’s gonna be worse. No two ways about it. You’ll have all the usual seein’-eye dog insults, but on top of that you’ll get the kind that are specifically tailored to Susie U:
• Hey, who let you outta the kitchen?
• What the hell do you need a chest protector for?
• You’re gonna need a lot more perfume if you’re gonna make calls like that.
• After this inning, bring me another beer, will ya?
• Hey, nice job with the plate. How ’bout sweepin’ my floors after the game, too?
• I guess you got distracted when you dropped your nail file.
• How’d you like rubbin’ those balls down before the game?
Lord knows there’s no love lost between me and umpires, and insulting everything from their eye sight to intelligence falls under what I would call “proper etiquette” for baseball fans. But yellin’ at one that’s a woman ain’t kosher somehow. I mean, when you’re taught to respect women — and I was — barkin’ at one seems flat out rude. I make an exception for a certain presidential candidate, but then there’s no real evidence that she’s human, let alone a woman. She could be a teletubby in those pantsuit things, so I wouldn’t necessarily be violating anything in the official Schlombowski rule book.
No offense to women (although it’s probably waaaaay too late to say that) but I’m not convinced that they’d make the greatest umpires, anyway. Of course Helen Keller woulda been better than Joe West is, so I could be totally wrong about that. But take driving, for instance. Put a windshield in front of a woman … ka-flooey! … she goes blind. It’s un-friggin’-canny. Maybe a mask would have a similar effect. I don’t know. And then there’s the whole spacial relationship problem (which I think is loosely related to the driving thing). Bein’ able to decide if a ball is inside or outside of an imaginary zone relies on spacial relationships, pal. Personally — and you can call me whatever you want when I say this — I don’t think women can possibly be as good with that. Why? Cuz they’ve always been told that 4 inches is 6 inches … if you know what I mean. It’s distorted the whole spacial thing for the entire gender.
I would like to see Jen make it to the Bigs, though. I mean really … other than the kind made of horse hide and little red stitches, you don’t need balls to be an umpire. I’d also like to see how guys argue with her, cuz arguing with a woman is definitely not the same as arguing with a guy. And guys, you know what I’m sayin’, right? It’s like arguing with a wall. It’s got somethin’ to do with women’s logic, which seems like no logic at all, but because other women understand it perfectly, there must be somethin’ to it. The missus is shakin’ her head “yes.”
Anyway, good luck, Jen. Hope I get to yell at you and your dog in Chicago.