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.
Again, Joe is the boss, and I side with Joe (except on the idiot pajama thing). But if I’m Hammel, I’m dishin’ a super-sized 4-letter word salad to anyone within earshot as I exit, stage left. I mean it’s not like he Bill Gullickson’d the game (August 18, 1991 Gullickson throws 5 pitches — ball, home run, home run, ball, hit by pitch — and gets pulled). But I don’t think he said much of anything. He wasn’t happy, but he kept it to himself until after the game, behind closed doors. Just him and Maddon.
And that’s why I raise a frosty Old Style to the big guy — cuz unlike so many athletes today he was professional about it. He was classy. He didn’t grand stand, he didn’t make like Carlos Zambrano in the dugout, and he didn’t call up Joe Posnanski and make a federal case out of it in the newspapers. And that last part had to be tough, cuz you could practically hear the saliva drippin’ on the clubhouse carpet as the press tried to get Hammel to sensationalize the thing. Nope. He basically told ’em to shove it. Love that.
So here’s to you, Jason Hammel. That’s how it’s done.
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.
4 The first World Series, in 1903, was a best-of-nine affair arranged between the champions of the older, and I might add, better National League (founded in 1876) and the American League. Of course leave it to the Pirates to blow a Series they were favored to win. The Boston Pilgrims upset Pittsburgh, 5 games to 3.
5 There are usually 9 Justices on the Supreme Court. Not right now cuz Scalia passed, but normally you got 9 so you don’t have stuff endin’ in a tie. Ties suck. I would think that even Bud Selig has learned that lesson by now.
6 There are 9 months in the average human pregnancy. That’s a pretty good 9. I mean we got billions of people on this planet so it’s workin’ pretty well. Yeah, some of ’em are jaggoffs and/or root for the Mets, and probably shoulda baked longer or somethin’. But overall, I’d say that 9 has worked out.
7 Two words: Nine Ball. Rackin’ up the resin at Wrigleyville North with a couple of buddies and a pitcher of Old Style is pretty high in the male bonding line up. Although now that the Cubs have turned into an actual Major League baseball team, and nobody leaves the ballpark ’til the last out is in the books, it’s way tougher to get in. Makes the missus happy, though.
8 It’s been 108 years since the Cubbies won the Series. But I hasten to point out that 108 is evenly divisible by 9. Twelve times, to be exact. And 12 happens to be the number of months in a year. And this year belongs to the friggin’ Chicago Cubs, my friend. You DO see how the dots connect, right? 108 years; 9 fits into 108 twelve times; 12 is the number of months in a year; this year is ours. Sister Mary Elizabeth woulda said that’s Schlombowski logic. Makes perfect sense to me, though.
Why 9 ain’t such a good number:
1 Cats have 9 lives. I have seen a few road kills in my day, though. Kinda hard to imagine the fury bundle of indifference gettin’ up from bein’ Wiley Coyote’d into the asphalt. It’s fair to say I’m not a cat person. Cats treat you like you’re the pet. And they stink. Walk into someone’s house and you know right away if they got a cat or not. Plus, if it weren’t for cats, there’d be no cat ladies — 70 year old former librarians livin’ with 43 felines and wearin’ an ugly print bathrobe 24/7. And, of course, there’s the friggin’ cat curse at Wrigley. My blood pressure goes ballistic just thinkin’ about it. Cats havin’ one life is quite enough. Nine? That’s a friggin’ horror movie.
2 There are 9 squares in tic-tac-toe — perhaps the stupidest game in the history of history. It’s fine for little kids, of course, but once you’re old enough to pick your nose, you figure out that you can’t win it … unless you’re playin’ against a White Sox fan. (Speakin’ of nose pickers …)
3 Niners. As in the San Francisco 49ers. They misappropriated the number 9 by callin’ themselves the Niners. Now, anybody who knows me knows that I don’t really give a crap about football. But if I did, I’d be a Bears fan which oughta explain what I just said about the Niners.
4 Dante’s Divine Comedy describes nine circles of Hell. I never finished it, but why would I? Bein’ a Cubs fan and all, I’ve had my own circles of Hell. Plenty of ’em. Way more than Dante, by the way. Readin’ about 9 more would be like bein’ roommates with Steve Bartman. Who needs that?
5 Nine is considered a lucky number in China. A lotta dynasties used a nine-rank system in their hierarchy, and it’s a number that’s related to tales of dragons and Emperors. Kowloon, a district in Hong Kong, literally translates to “nine dragons.” Why is all this bad? It’s friggin’ China, dude. Does Tiananmen Square ring any bells?
On balance, I’d say 9 is a pretty friggin’ good number. Most especially when its the number of Cubs consecutive wins. And let’s not forget that Javier Baez wears 9, and he’s one of the reasons that the Cubs will be takin’ home the hardware this season. For those of you who think otherwise … I got a 9 for ya. Imagine I’m foldin’ down all my fingers except one. There’s your 9, pallie.
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.
When I was a kid, and then later, in my 30s and 40s when George “Fort Knox” Steinbrenner financed the purchase of a fair number of championships, the Yanks stood apart from the rest of baseball. No franchise was more storied or proud or feared than the Bronx Bombers, flashin’ their friggin’ pinstripes like Wall Street bankers, and playin’ in the house that Ruth built among the swirling memories of Gehrig, Mantle, Berra and Ford. They were movie stars that could hit.
A-Rod is a modern day version of one of those guys — someone who commanded an x-rated pay check … just to swat a friggin’ baseball around the yard. Hey, if someone wanted to pay me like that, would I complain? HELL no. I’d take every penny of it.
But I wouldn’t cheat.
And this, my gummy-chewin’ friends, is where me and a buttload of baseball writers, players, coaches, announcers, front office guys — and especially fans — part company on the question of whether A-Rod is a jaggoff or not. Yes, is the correct answer. He is.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph Maddon! How in the friggin’ hell can anyone defend a guy who cheats at baseball? That’s like makin’ sixth grade excuses when your best friend gets caught tryin’ to peek up Sister O’Shaughnessy’s habit. Shameful, pal. Shameful. Almost as much as the act itself. Why? Cuz unlike any other sport, Baseball is a game that’s built on its numbers. If you don’t respect ’em, the whole 150 year tower of baseball history could come crashing down on itself — sort of a baseball 9/11, carried out by a bunch of radical baseballic juicers like Bonds, Sosa, Canseco and McGwire. And, of course, A-Rod. The numbers matter, pallie. They should matter to you, too. They are the measuring stick that transcends baseball’s decades, binding era to era, and standing player against player in a way that, over time, defines greatness or reveals mediocrity.
Or in this case, a cheat.
Look, when a guy in his mid-30s is smackin’ more yard shots than he did 10 years earlier — and I’m talkin’ big numbers here — you don’t have to be Charlie Friggin Chan to know what’s goin’ on. It ain’t happening on a level playing field, my friend, I can tell you that. Of course, if some needle-nosed accountant gets caught cookin’ the books for a NASDAQ tech company … BOOM … the guy is decked out in orange coveralls. Not in baseball. A-Rod and his ilk have been barbecuing baseball’s record books for years, and I don’t see any of ’em gettin’ the Shoeless Joe treatment, let alone havin’ to worry about pickin’ up the soap in the Big House. Why is that? Why are baseball writers willing to look the other way? Why are teammates of these hosers apologizin’ for ’em? Why are there so many so-called baseball fans willing to Perry Mason for A-Rod and the other butt-stickers who’ve needled up? I gotta assume it’s cuz most of the guys who set the REAL records aren’t around any more. And those that are were long outta the game by the time the “I just wanna see home runs, and I don’t care how they’re manufactured” crowd was even born.
SIDEBAR: These fans are the same ones that gotta have music blarin’, or human hot dog races around the base paths, or t-shirt cannons blastin’ at the ballpark whenever theres a break in the action. If that’s you, you’re not a real baseball fan. You’re not even a reasonable facsimile, cuz you’d rather be entertained by stupid crap that has nothin’ to do with the game than absorb the million subtle things that make one up. Stay home, spice rack.
Personally — in case you haven’t been payin’ attention — I have as many as zero ounces of tolerance for A-Rod’s cheatin’ heart. Not just because of the deed itself, but because he friggin’ Hillary Clinton’d the crap out of it. There aren’t a lot of liars in baseball. Historically. But, again, that’s because of the numbers. Which is why they’re so friggin’ important … sacred … holy, even. Numbers don’t lie — at least until the asterisk era they didn’t. I mean, you can’t exactly make up stuff on your baseball resumé and fool anybody: “Uh, yeah … name’s Mario Mendoza. That’s with a Z. I’ve hit above .350 all but by rookie year. Just .337 that season. Musta had a touch of the PTSD or somethin’ from my off-seasons in Afghanistan.” See what I mean? Until baseball players started shootin’, drinkin’, chewin’, rubbin’ or otherwise enhancin’ their performance with secret sauce, the numbers laid bare their relative skills compared to everyone else in the game. Roids turned guys like A-Rod into better players than they really were. And one of the major side effects for most, including Rodriguez, was the development of a forked tongue. Not an endearing human quality (although I can see how Madonna mighta liked it).
The reason this sandpapers my ass, almost as much as the cheating itself, is that lying about it insults my intelligence, which may not be in Stephen Hawking’s zip code, but it ain’t in Donald Trump’s, either. I didn’t really need Scott Pelley to 60 Minute the subject in order to know that A-Rod was a doper. It was as plain as Dolly Parton’s gazongas. The Yankees 3rd baseman sent more things into a geosynchronous orbit around Earth than NASA, and did it at a time when his skills would have long since diminished due to age. He was doping, alright, and anyone with an IQ higher than a White Sox fan would have known it. The fact that he lied about it was chicken shit at best. You did it. You got caught. Man up, puss cake. Nope. Instead, he lawyered up. Just like Jimmy Hoffa. And he comes clean ONLY when he’s granted immunity from prosecution. And why the hell they did that, you, me and the dugout wall will never know. His alleged crimes include bribery, tampering with witnesses and obstruction of justice — all stuff he did to keep the original cheating from creepin’ out from under the rug. Model citizen.
It’s not like A-Rod was the first cheatin’ jaggoff in baseball, but his insistence on lying and throwin’ his weight around the courtroom while indefensibly trampling on all the guys who played the game clean (no, that’s not you, Barry) is the height of assholiness. You combine that with his off-field shenanegans and you got yourself a model for the official bronze statue in the lobby of the National Enquirer.
I say so-friggin-long, A-Rod. Don’t let the clubhouse door hit you in your frequently-needled ass on the way out.
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.
The Cubs have a roster chock full of hard first names. Anthony, Ben, John, Joe, Danny: hard, hard, hard, hard, hard. And Jake? Like a ten-peckered billy goat, pallie.
Still, there’s cause for concern.
I’m sorry, was it Jesus Krist? Me thinks not. Stop making shit up! Spell it with a C-H as the good Lord intended, and you firm up immediately. Hell, you might hit a hundred homers!
Please. Using your full first name when it’s got a perfectly good abbreviation is a play made by guys who work at Nordstrom’s makeup counter. You may have been Jonathan at home when you forgot to pick up your marbles, but on the field you’re John — JOHN! with a friggin’ H!
Uh, got a nickname, kid? Like Spike, maybe? Use it. And have your driver’s license reflect the change. By far the softest name on the club.
And then there’s … Theo.
Theo? You guessed it, pal. Softer than Elton John’s bed sheets. An eephus pitch with a little extra taken off. And so close, too, because “Ted” is an unquestionably hard name — one given to some real bad asses, like the aforementioned Motor City Madman, whose guitar is so loud he can knock the balls off a charging rhino at sixty paces (did I mention the Double Live Gonzo album?). Tragically, somebody — perhaps his mother or some spoiled Harvard frat buddy called Skip or Thad or Corbin — somebody thought “Ted” wasn’t cute enough. They got that right, sports fans. “Theo” reminds me of the cotton candy I see meltin’ in the cheap seats. Hey, don’t get me wrong. Your name could be Alice and if you got me to the World Series I’d take a bullet for you. So far, the calls Theo’s made have been remarkably strong and the Cubs have sat on top of the baseball world all season. But I’ll be honest with you, sports fans, I’m about as comfortable as Robin Ventura at a Ryan Family reunion.
Early this season, the Cubs and the White Sox got out of the gates hot, and it looked like we were headed to the Windy City War this fall. But the Sox, slapdicks that they are, folded like a used condom and are now struggling to stay above .500. Meanwhile, the Cubs marched on to a 12 ½ game lead over the Cards by June 18. Since then, however, a few things have happened: First, we lost four in a row — twice — before losing five in a row. Uh, enough said. Second, Jake’s ERA in July was 5.55, which on paper means the Cubs need to score six runs to win when their best guy is on the bump. That’s askin’ a lot of any team hitting in the Majors today, even the 2016 Cubs. By the All-Star Break, we were still in first place, but the Rangers, Nationals, and — God, I hate saying this — the friggin’ Giants all had more wins than we did. Worst of all, we had won just twice in our last ten games, and the Cardinals were only seven games back. Now they’re just 6 ½ back — well within striking range — with 59 games left to play.
No habla espanol, but with a 104 MPH heater, I’m thinkin’ Aroldis Chapman has a hard first name. Provided Theo’s latest acquisition punches out more opposing hitters than he does the women in his life the Cubs should be headed to the playoffs, where having led bell-to-bell will mean zippo, my friend.
But I digress.
Mama’s, you don’t have to let your babies grow up to be cowboys. But if they do end up riding a ranked bull someday, they’ll have a better chance of hangin’ on for eight seconds if they can say their first name without makin’ themselves sound like, well, a Harvard frat boy.