Hey there, chimichangas. I’d like to offer a tip of the Joe lid to Jason Hammel. I know that seems like it came outta left field (nice baseball metaphor, huh?) but I got a reason and it’s a good one.
I’m sure that a lotta you who saw his outing yesterday against the Dodgers, and those who may still be tryin’ to block out his start in Colorado before that, might be scratchin’ your heads right now. I mean why would I salute the Hamster after two of his worst starts of the season? Well, my friend, there’s a lot more that goes into the makeup of a Major League pitcher than havin’ a Howitzer for an arm. (Although I gotta say that is pretty high up on the list.) Some of it has nothin’ to do with the first 5 tools of baseball, and a whole lot to do with the 6th. Uhh, that would be something called “class.”
So Hammel has a couple of bad games … BFD. Other than those, he’s been lights out since the break. And besides, who the hell doesn’t have bad days? Even God has ’em. How else can you explain the platypus, male pattern baldness, or Donald Trump?
Anyway, yesterday the pitch count is at 39 — a number even White Sox fans can count to — when the Hambone gets the hook. I don’t think he’d even broken a sweat when out comes Maddon like he’s Sparky Friggin’ Anderson or somethin’. Hey … don’t get me wrong. Except for havin’ grown men wearin’ PJs on plane rides, I think Joe is a baseball genius. Maybe even a god. Well not quite yet, but if we win the Series he’s gettin’ promoted to god. Anyway, Joe had his reasons for yankin’ Hammel — chief among them was that LA’s lineup was about as stacked as all 12 of last year’s Playmates of the month put together; chock full of lefties. So Joe wasn’t seein’ the planets align for Hammel. Even if Maddon was a foot taller, Hammel wasn’t gonna see eye-to-eye with Coach on this one, and you could see he was visibly pissed as he headed to the dugout.
Hey there, pool cues. As you know, the Cubbies logged their 9th straight win yesterday. Nine. Three times three. The square root of 81. The number of planets in our solar system. (Yeah, yeah, everybody heard about Pluto gettin’ demoted to “really big ice cube” status, but lemme tell you somethin’: I don’t give a crispy crap what National Geographic says … Pluto is still a planet in the Schlombowski solar system, pal. I think they only said that cuz they were tryin’ to sell magazines. That’s it. Besides, if any celestial body deserved to be nixed, it’s Uranus.) Anyway, like I was sayin’, we posted number 9 yesterday, and that, my friend, is a pretty long streak. It’s not 10, but 10 is cliché. Don’t get me wrong … I like 10. And today, when we get there, I’ll totally disavow any knowledge of 9. But there’s something a little too Alexander Hamiltonish about 10, don’t you think? Furthermore, everybody rides the 10 bandwagon. Hell, I’ll be right up front on it myself! People like 10. Maybe cuz it’s a nice round number. Maybe cuz it represents perfection. Or maybe, just maybe, cuz of Bo Derek. I know that’s a lost reference on anyone under 50, but I’ll tell ya … You wanna talk about heavenly bodies? Bo Derek is one you wanna land on and explore, my friend.
Anyway, as a non-conformist (Sister Mary Elizabeth used to call me a hellion and a rebel, but I know she meant non-conformist) … anyway, as someone who likes to up the down staircase, and because, as I already mentioned, the Cubs are ridin’ a 9 game winning streak, I wanna Sesame Street the number 9.
Why 9 is a good number:
1 Baseball games have 9 innings — more if you go extra innings, fewer if you get rained out. But unless Rob Womanfred institutes 7 inning games to speed things up (a moronic idea of Donald Trumpian proportions), I think we can agree that ballgames are 9 inning affairs.
2 You got 9 guys on each side. Actually there are a lot more than that, but only 9 in the line up at any one time. Unless were talkin’ that sissy DH kinda baseball they play in the American League. That makes it 10 a side. Which is yet another reason why the DH is an abomination whose sole purpose is to give a job to fat guys with no glove. Pathetic. Real baseball has pitchers who hit, so I’m stickin’ with 9.
3 Ted Williams, Roger Maris, Bill Mazeroski, Graig Nettles, Matt Williams, Enos Slaughter, Minnie Minoso, and the straw that stirs the drink — Reggie Jackson — all wore number 9. Yes, Jackson wore it until he went to the dark side. Nettles already had it. Doesn’t really matter, though. You could take everyone off this list except for Ted and the number 9 would still be one of the greatest.
This Friday, Alex Rodriguez will play his last game as a Yankee, and finally — mercifully — A-Rod’s charmed but sordid, impressive yet disgraced chapter in the encyclopedic Book of Yankee will come to an end. At least as a player. His departure from baseball is a good thing. One less cheat; a malignancy that not even the Yankees — for decades, baseball’s answer to the soap opera — could contain. And that’s sayin’ somethin’.
When the announcement was made, I’m sure the guys at the New York Post scattered like cockroaches to their various watering holes, seeking to drown their anguish over the loss of one of the most prolific sources of tabloid dirt in the history of the five boroughs. The good news for Yankees fans — and the Post, for that matter — is that you can take A-Rod outta New York, but you can’t take New York out of it’s penchant for signin’ the most ginormously colossal ego blimps to ever don a mitt. If outsized, overpriced, self-destructive ballplayers were moths, Steinbrenner’s funny farm would be a billion dollar light bulb. It’s only a matter of time before B-Rod or C-Rod slips on the stripes and starts swinin’ his dick around 5th Avenue.
I imagine it’s pretty much always been that way in the Bronx. It’s just that in my day — before Facebook, before YouTube, before Instagram and texting and tweeting, before megapixels and high-def and Pokemon Goin’ like an idiot all over everywhere — you didn’t read about who Billy Martin clocked after last night’s game. And there was no way of knowing which players were treatin’ their wives like Nerf balls, or which material girl they were shackin’ up with. Why? Cuz without that 3 x 5 inch incrimination device in everyone’s pocket like we got today, ballplayers could do just about anything they wanted, to whomever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and no one was the wiser. Hey, I’m not makin’ excuses for A-Rod, mind you — to me he’s just Barry Bonds in a New York state of mind. But they both woulda come out a little less shit-stained if they’d played in the 60s.
Hey there, donut holes. Did you see how we water-boarded Miami today? I wouldn’t exactly call it a human rights violation, but lettin’ the Fish think they were gonna win before waitin’ until the 9th to methodically slice away at the score has gotta fall somewhere between Chinese water torture and bein’ buried up to your neck in a red fire ant hill. Not that I feel the least bit sorry for the Marlins. They’ve been an alleged baseball team for like 5 minutes, and they already got 2 trophies on the mantle. Pisses me the hell off, I’ll tell ya. Anyway, flushin’ the Minnows down the crapper has a certain satisfaction cuz of that. And a sweep practically makes me have to sit down and cross my legs.
Of course, there’s nothin’ technically special about the Marlins. In fact, after the Mount Everest sized pile of deuce I’ve had to take from fans of all stripes over the years, I wouldn’t feel even an electron-microscopic fraction of remorse if we treated every team in baseball like Jack Bauer with a 2-week old throbinator tooth ache.
See, I been followin’ the Cubs since I first laid eyes on my mother’s OBGYN, and in all that time there have been a total of about 4-1/2 minutes when the Cubs weren’t gettin’ the short end of the cattle prod. Did they bring that on themselves? Mostly, yeah. Does that make it tastier going down? HELL no. So now … when the Cubs treat a team like a baby treats a diaper, I feel like it’s just makin’ up for the kinda cruel and unusual punishment we’ve had to endure over the last century-plus. And hey, I’ve only been around for half of that. It’s way worse for people like my dad, and even more so for my granddad — God rest his ivy-covered soul — who ain’t around anymore to see how the Cubs have turned into the ’27 Yankees. Point is, bein’ a Cubs fan hasn’t been a cake walk. A urinal-cake walk maybe.
Aaaaaanyway … today’s win was a resurrection worthy of the Bible, with A. J. Ramos providin’ the miracle. (By the way, you wanna know a bit about torture, try readin’ the good book for a while. Makes Abu Ghraib seem like Sesame Street.) So like I was sayin’, in almost Jesus-like fashion, Ramos changed a bottom-of-the-9th 2 run lead into a 1 run loss. It was almost like there was some sorta force field around the plate keepin’ his pitches from comin’ anywhere near it; most especially that last one, which headed in the general direction of Montana, scoring Szczur and proving that there is, in fact, a God (and this year he’s rootin’ for the Cubs).
A helluva nice ending to the 7-1 home stand, and it closes the book on the Fish for the season. I’d like to offer an official Cheap Seats thank you to the Marlins for doin’ their part to get the Cubs to the playoffs. The Schlombowski’s and Colonel Nathan Jessup thank you.
“Guess there’s a little Slim Shady in all of us.” — Eminem
Okay, I’ll admit it, sports fans. Rap and hip-hop music sound about as good to me as a shattered glass enema. I graduated high school in 1978 and grew up with an eight-track in the Pinto that I stuffed with Bob Seger, Joe Walsh, and Ted Nugent’s Double Live Gonzo. Look, pal, I don’t know if the real Slim Shady ever stood up or not, but I can tell you this: havin’ a first name you hate so much that you gotta change it to Eminem is tragic. (And, oh, by the way, that whole melts-in-your-mouth-and-not-in-your-hands thing is a load of crap. Holding a handful of those babies for more than, like, two minutes at Wrigley in August will make you stickier than Bill Clinton at a White House intern orientation.)
Which brings me to the point of today’s lesson, Cubs lovers. Take a knee.
In addition to being hard rock axe men who paved the musical way in my hay day, Seger, Walsh and Nugent have something else in common: they all have real, honest, hard first names. Hey, if the name on my birth certificate was Marshall Mathers, I might have a sweet candy alias too. But it’s not. I’m Joe. Joe Schlombowski. And names — front or back — don’t get much harder than that, my friend.
See, you got hard names and you got soft names. Hard names are bestowed on the fortunate sons of men who ignored their wives’ pleas to taint their new bundle of joy with a sensitive ringtone. Hard names, like Bob and Joe and Ted, and like Alex and George and Dan and Mike and Hank, are coughed off the tongue, dripping with masculinity and other admirable character traits. Like John Cusack said in The Sure Thing, “Nick’s the kind of guy you can trust, the kind of guy you can drink a beer with, the kind of guy who doesn’t mind if you puke in his car.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. Of course, John — uh, yeah, that’s a hard name — is a devoted Cubs fan who’s been known to lead the Wrigley Faithful in Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
Soft names, on the other mitt, reek of maternal coddling. Avery, Ashton, Todd, Caleb, Joshua — all of them conjure up the image of a friggin’ fat kid with a notoriously soft Justin Bieber haircut whose only playing Little League so his overbearing, Boeing Apache mother can bring him a lemon Gatorade and Fruit Snacks in the dugout every other inning. I mean, have you ever heard a coach yell, “Goddammit, get in front of the friggin’ ball, Jasper!” without makin’ Jasper cry? Of course, not! Coach has no time for a kid with a soft name; he wants a dirty, tobacco-chewin’, fist-fighting animal named Rusty who drinks from a muddy water hose only after the game’s over.