I’ve been a Cubs fan since before the Big Bang, so you can imagine how, this year, it’s been pretty friggin’ impossible to wipe the smile off my face. I think it’d take a jack hammer and some C4. Or maybe some earth moving equipment or somethin’. I’ll tell you one thing: it’s thrown the missus off, that’s for sure. Why? Cuz until the 2016 wet dream edition of the Chicago Cubs, nothin’ on Earth (or Mars and Jupiter, for that matter) except the considerable charms of Mrs Schlombowski could give me this Howdy Doody face. Know what I’m sayin’?
We got a 19 game lead over the Cards, who are number 2 in our division. (And when it comes to the Cards, I think you know what I mean when I say “number 2.”) We’ve had the best record in baseball since the opening bell — except for about 5 minutes back in April. And right now, we’re 44 games over .500. If last night’s game hadn’t ended in a lame tie, and we’d have finished off Pittsburgh — and c’mon, is there any doubt? — we’d have won 16 outta 22 series match-ups so far, and 7 of those are sweeps. Point is, this has been a 100%, unadulterated, no-holds-barred, cup-runneth-over baseball season of Cubbie blue bliss. And it ain’t over. In fact, to quote Mr John “Bluto” Blutarsky, “Nothing is over until we decide it is.”
Not that a post season run is a sure thing. I mean I’m talkin’ about the Chicago Cubs, here. Actin’ like Theo is gonna sprout a snow white Duck Dynasty beard and come down outta section 503 with “World Series Champions” etched on stone tablets would be pretty friggin’ arrogant. It would also be presumptuous and assholian, which would make me a Yankees fan. Quite frankly, I’d rather bathe in a tub of simmering yak doo than be saddled with that misconception. Anyway, I think you gotta stay grounded. Shit happens, my friend. The last time the Cubs got close enough to sniff a World Series trophy, the air was fouled by Steve Bartman. Remember that? This recurring Bartman nightmare not withstanding, I think you gotta enjoy the best season the Cubs have had in everyone’s lifetime. Stop and smell the ivy, so to speak, like me. I’ve been hangin’ out on cloud 9, the Bowksi-lounger dialed in at a jaunty 73 degree recline, enjoyin’ the occasional frosty, perfectly foamed Old Style, and day-dreamin’ about how I’m gonna fit a goat on the Weber. (I figure I’ll have to Dexter the thing with a hack saw or somethin’.) The Cubs are hot. Life is good. Short of the missus bringin’ me a cigar in her birthday suit, I’m about as happy as Bill Clinton at an intern convention.
And yet what the F do I see when I flip on Baseball Tonight or SportsCenter?! Is it the Cubs? No. It’s Adam Effing Jones playin’ the race card! Callin’ baseball a White sport! Jesus, Mary and Joseph Maddon … Talk about bitin’ the hand that feeds you. That’s like a friggin’ great white shark, pal. Jones is rakin’ in $16 million this year, and talkin’ about white privilege. And droppin’ grenades like 8% of ballplayers are black. Yeah? What about the Dominicans, Cubans, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans? That’s more like 40% people of color. When is Jones gonna talk about black versus brown versus every shade in between? They don’t count? Sheesh. If I said somethin’ like that I’d have the nightly news parked on my lawn. Not only is all this crap takin’ away from the real story of the 2016 baseball season — the Cubs — it’s not even one of baseball’s biggest problems. Race? Really? Are you friggin’ KIDDING me? How ’bout declining attendance, nobody playin’ Little League, rules changes that are dialin’ up the wuss factor … If you’re gonna go all Reverend Wright on us, Mr Jones, pick a real problem. And by the way, if you can figure out how to get Cam Newton, LeGarrett Blount, and Derrell Rivas to play baseball instead of football, bring it the F on! Baseball WANTS those guys! Especially if they end up on the north side of Chicago. You wanna make a difference? Drop one of your sermons on the LeBron Jameses and Antonio Browns of the world that gets ’em to choose a diamond over hardwood or a gridiron.
Hey there, oven mitts. I know I’ve said before that I don’t believe in countin’ billy goats before they’re bar-b-cued, but I also believe in bein’ prepared. Soooo … just in case the planets align and the Cubs put an end to 108 years of losin’, I offer the following delectable billy goat recipes, each of which would be perfectly paired with a frosty Old Style. And some of that melted cheese crap they serve at the ballpark, too. If you can figure out how to whip up some of that, you’ll be at the pearly gates themselves. Bon Appetit.
Personally, I think I’d run the goat through a meat grinder (it’s more symbolic that way), mix her up with some spices and stuff the whole thing into a casing. That, my friend, would be friggin’ deeeeeelicious. Don’t forget the relish, onions, maybe some kraut, a nice hot, spicy mustard, a few peppers and about 3 dozen napkins. Maybe pour the Old Style into a glass. World Champions gotta be a little more refined and all, you know.
When I was a kid, my dad used to take my brothers and me to Cubs games. Not all the time, but once in a while. Even took my sister once, but she fell asleep on his lap which meant he couldn’t get up and cheer when circumstances called for it. Oh yeah … that was the Cubs of the 1970s — no need to stand and cheer.
Goin’ to Wrigley was one of my favorite things as a kid. Still is. There’s nothin’ like that first glimpse of the impossibly green grass, the perfection of the infield carved from it, and the billowing clouds pushin’ across Chicago’s summer sky. But what sticks in my mind most from those trips to Wrigley was how tall everybody was. Walkin’ in the crowd was like bein’ in a forest of human redwoods. Even in our seats I couldn’t see a thing unless everyone was sittin’ down and I was up on my knees. That’s how I remember watchin’ most games at Wrigley. Makes my ACL swell up just thinkin’ about it.
My dad loved baseball. And more than that, he loved the Cubs. April was the most optimistic month in the Schlombowski household, but there was always a measure of it, no matter how far outta first the Cubs fell. “A 10-game win streak starts today, Joe,” he’d say as he was leavin’ for work. And when he’d get home, it’d be “See, I told ya,” or “I meant tomorrow,” depending on what the Cubs did that day. When they were on the road, Dad would haul our crappy, old black-and-white TV out on the stoop to escape the suffocating heat in our apartment, and watch the games with our neighbor, Mr. Kowalski. They’d smoke cigars and listen to Fergie Jenkins, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo try as they might to carry a team that was neck-deep in billy goat curse. The smoke seemed sweet, and curled up through the screen on the window of the room my brothers and I shared. I’d fall asleep to the sound of Jack Brickhouse or Vince Lloyd, the muffled conversation, and my dad’s occasionally animated and always colorful commentary on whatever the Cubs were doin’, and whoever was doin’ it to ’em.
To me, the quintessential ($5 word score!) Cubs fan was long ago defined by the intersection of my father and the Chicago Cubs. At Wrigley, I’d look up at him from my seat and see a guy who loved the experience of just being there much more than the game’s outcome. It was about the theater of the sport — its ebb and flow, the glacial pace interrupted by periodic moments of volcanic excitement. My father saw himself as a player in this nine-act play —the jester, if you will — the guy in the stands who has people three sections away laughin’ their asses off, and wishing they had the wit and courage to sling crap at the opposition like he did. You know, the kind of icy yet good-natured barbs that sting, but make one smile at the same time. If they gave a gold glove for that, my dad would have a trophy case full of ’em, and a couple of boxes in the garage for the ones that wouldn’t fit.
Yesterday, Padres GM A.J. Preller was suspended for 30 days by Major League Baseball for bein’ a total jack wagon. (Translation: an underhanded, diabolical, deceitful, double-dealin’, duplicitous, deceiving, cheatin’, lyin’, two-faced weasel.) Technically, it was for keepin’ 2 sets of medical records on his players to intentionally deceive trade partners. But ask any GM on the short end of a trade with Preller and he’ll tell ya the guy is a friggin’ jack wagon, dirt bag, phlegm wad, ass hat or some other term fit for someone tryin’ to slip ’em damaged goods.
Not to be left outta the race for the Pants On Fire award, the Padres brass, consisting of Ron Fowler, Peter Seidler and Mike Dee said in a joint statement. “To be clear, we believe that there was no intent on the part of A.J. Preller or other members of our baseball operations staff to mislead other clubs.” Yeah, right. Dry that one out and you can fertilize both the infield AND the outfield grass at Petco. Twice. If there wasn’t any intent to deceive, why the two sets of medical records? Riddle me that, Batman. As ESPN’s Buster Olney noted in his piece yesterday, Padres athletic trainers were supposedly instructed to maintain two separate medical files on their players: one for the Padres and another for “industry consumption.” I have a little trouble gettin’ my head around baseball as an industry instead of a game, but either way, somethin’ stinks at Petco Park, and it ain’t cuz it’s the 7th inning on free chili dog night.
Am I surprised? Not in the slightest. Baseball, for whatever reason, can’t seem to get past its desire to cheat. Not everybody, obviously, but there’s always a few Barry Bonds types lurking in the shadows. What’s unusual in this instance is that Preller doesn’t wear a uniform … which makes him more like Marge Schott than A-Rod in the “gettin’ suspended for bein’ a D-bag” department. This ain’t the first time Preller’s conniving ass has been hauled into the commissioner’s wood shed, either. He’d barely set foot in San Diego in 2014 when the team was reprimanded cuz he broke baseball’s rules governing workouts. And before that, when he was still with the Rangers, he chalked up his first suspension for violatin’ international signing rules.
I just read Steve Rosenbloom’s piece in the Trib, where he says “Kyle Hendricks is pitching like Jake Arrieta with a learner’s permit.” His words exactly … all the way down to the imitation road-to-the-White-House snarkiness. I’m not quite certain why he felt compelled to say that about the Cubs’ best pitcher, but the piece reads like Rosenbloom keeps a life size blow up from Arrieta’s ESPN The Magazine spread push-pinned to his bedroom ceiling.
To be fair, Rosenbloom does point out that Hendricks is “pretty close” to Arrieta in a number of stats, and that he “pitches efficiently and quickly” and has a brilliant changeup. He’s also actually makin’ an argument in an “excuse me” kinda way for why Hendricks oughta win the Cy Young this year. But man, you gotta read between the Arrieta syrup to tell. Almost every paragraph compares Hendricks to Jake, one statistic after another. And, hey … I wouldn’t have an issue with that at all except for this: Rosenbloom is crunchin’ this year’s Hendricks numbers against Arrieta’s last year. Is that kosher? Not in the Schlombowski deli, it’s not. That’s just a large, economy-size serving of twisted statistical crap with no pickle on the side. It’s the same kinda shady comparison tactics used by this year’s vermin-like presidential candidates. You might wanna just hang onto that $50 Pulitzer entry fee on this one, Steve.
This apples and oranges way of evaluating the effectiveness of anyone is beneath someone of Rosenbloom’s journalistic achievements. I mean, we could just as easily compare the 2016 Arrieta against the ’73 Tom Seaver, the ’00 Pedro Martinez, the ’69 Bob Gibson (among others) and paint a picture that makes Jake look like the bat boy. Hey, I got an idea, Steve, why don’t we put the 2016 Hendricks up against the 2013 Arrieta? Or the 2012 version. Or 2011 or ’10. The only true, honest, level-playin’-field comparison between these two hurlers this year is lookin’ at this season’s numbers. You do that and the balance tips in Hendricks’s favor. Plus, there’s no arguing the fact that Hendricks has picked up a lotta the slack created by Jake misplacin’ his cape this year. That’s not to say he hasn’t had a solid year … he has. But it wasn’t the other-worldly thing he conjured up last year, as you’ll read in Rosenbloom’s piece.
Hendricks came outta Spring Training desperately clingin’ to the 5th starter role, while Jake was struttin’ around Ho Ho Kam like the Cy Young winner he is. I woulda too, if I was him. And for the first couple a months of the season I’d have sworn we were watchin’ instant replay of the second half of 2014. In fact, it wasn’t until Arrieta started chatterin’ about a $250M contract that the wheels started wobblin’ on his wagon. Coincidence? I tend to think focusing on money 2 years before your contract is up puts demons between your ears, which is especially bad for pitchers cuz they’re often borderline head cases already. He seems to have found his cape again, though. Which is good for everyone except whoever the Cubs face in the playoffs.
The fact is, the entire rotation has been mostly great, most of the season. And, with Lester, Hendricks and Arrieta we’ve got 3 of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. But Hendricks has gone from 5th starter to being the man behind the wheel … and it hasn’t been with a friggin’ learner’s permit.
Hey there, lawn darts, this is the venerable Joseph T. Schlombowski, comin’ at ya from the cheap seats. [Sidebar: I don’t know what “venerable” means, but it sounds good whenever I hear it comin’ outta some big shot ESPN mouth piece.] The Reds are comin’ to town and you know what that means — time to break out the foam middle fingers, pal.
Yeah, my normally militant persona is ratcheted up a couple a hundred notches, but when you’re in the Schlombowski zone, does it really matter? That’s like addin’ a couple of extra buckets of water to the Pacific. Know what I’m sayin’?
Annnnnywaaaaay … it doesn’t take much for me to get up for a series against the Reds. Why? Cuz of the pin-headed Marty Brennaman — the uncontrolled fog horn of the Cincinnati Reds. I’ll get back to his mouth in a moment. First, though, I gotta hand it to the guy: In spite of the burr he has permanently wedged between by ass cheeks, Brennaman is definitely on the right side of Rob Womanfred’s new slide rule. Which is to say his brain waves are hittin’ the same beach as mine for a change. In fact in April, Brennaman said he thought the Commish was legislating baseball “into a game of sissies.“ Totally. Almost sent him a thank you note for that one, but then I remembered why I’d rather eat off the floor of a gas station bathroom than hear his name mentioned again.
Which brings me back to Brennaman’s pie hole, and gettin’ up for the Reds.
For those of you who don’t remember: During a game between Cinci and the Cubs in 2008, Adam Dunn plunked one out onto Sheffield. Now you’d expect that one to come flyin’ back over the bleachers somewhere in the vicinity of then right fielder Sammy Sosa (former Cubs superstar turned roided up DB). Instead, Dunn’s blast initiated a symphony of baseballs — not just the one — being tossed back onto the field. Friggin’ laughed my ass off! (Not enough of it according to the missus, though.) But Mr Brennaman and his steel reinforced sphincter reacted to it differently.
Hey there, corn nuts, Joe “I can’t stand the friggin’ Cardinals” Schlombowski here to remind you that we start a 3 game series against the Redbirds tonight. I bring this to your attention cuz if we broom these cupcakes we claim the Division title for the first time since 2008. I’d call that pretty sweet … but doin’ it against the Cards? Well, that’s more like cotton candy pancakes smothered in whip cream covered Snickers-infused molten chocolate syrup. With an Old Style.
Clinchin’ in St Louis has a much higher calorie count cuz of the long history of discontent between the Cubs and the Cards. It’s like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, Ali and Frasier, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. Takin’ the title on the Cards’ home turf would have the added benefit of rubbin’ their noses in somethin’. I’ll leave that to your imagination.
Anyhoo … this reminded me of Sosa and McGwire — two guys that, back in 1998, became a microcosm of this long standing rivalry. That was before they became a microcosm of the cheatin’, roided-up jaggoffs who crapped all over the game of baseball. That aside, their chase for the single season dinger record seemed other-worldly at the time, and it probably did a lot to help bring the national pastime back out from the shadow of the players’ strike, which cancelled the 1994 World Series and part of the next season as well. Assholes.
Seriously. How the hell do you strike when every guy in your industry is makin’ mad money for playin’ a game?! That drives me friggin’ bat guano. Of course the owners pretty much brought it on themselves, and much of that can be laid at the feet of Captain Lame with Lame sauce. Uhh, that would be Bug Selig.
Hey there, turf toes. Do you like magic? I like magic. There’s somethin’ about Siegfried and Roy (before that tiger remembered he was a tiger) or Houdini or David Blaine that makes you say, “How in the friggin’ hell did he/she/they (don’t wanna offend anyone) do that?!”
Uhh … that makes Joey Chestnut a magician, too, by the way.
I know you know that magic also applies to baseball. And if for some you don’t, you musta never seen Ozzie Smith or Roberto Clemente or Brooks Robinson or Willie Mays pullin’ rabbits outta hats like they were Kreskin or somethin’. YouTube ’em. It’s like Harry Houdini and Misty Copeland got busy and had all boys. Those guys could do stuff with a glove that woulda turned Michael Jackson white, and routinely had you scratchin’ your noggin and wonderin’ how in the wide, wide world of sports could any mortal do such things.
The 2004 Red Sox were total magic. Comin’ from 0-3 in the ALCS to snatch victory from the jaws of the Yankees was a way better trick than, say, makin’ the Donald disappear … or turnin’ Hillary Clinton into a pidgeon.
I’d say Jackie Robinson crossin’ that stupid friggin’ line was magic, but I think it was way, way harder than makin’ someone disappear.
I think the fact that the rotund Bartolo Colon can play Major League Baseball is magic.
Most importantly, magic also refers to the number of games you got until you clinch a playoff spot. Yeah, I know you already know that, but I’m shootin’ for the lowest common denominator, here. I gotta account for guys who never heard of Clemente or Robinson — whipper snappers who think bat-flippin’ Bryce Harper is the big bang of the baseball universe. So, now that we’re down to the short and curlies of the regular season we’re startin’ to hear a lotta chatter about magic numbers. (By the way, as a life long Cubs fan, I can tell you with Einstein-like certainty that there’s nothin’ at allllll regular about this season, pallie.) Anyway, the whole subject of magic numbers, as it relates to the Cubs, is borderline euphoric. Why? Cuz most years you’d a needed friggin’ IBM Watson to figure the Cubs astronomical magic number. Not this year, spanky. In fact today’s digit is an 8; an ocho; the number of those things an octopus has; Yogi’s and Ripkin’s and Yastrzemski’s number. In a few hours I think it’s gonna be Mickey’s number, thanks to the Stros.
Anyway, 8 is enough. Seven is better. Zero is just around the corner, my friend, as will be the World Series championship … makin’ the luckiest number of all, 108.