Hey there, drumsticks. Well, that was fun, huh? Now I could be all magnanimous ($10 word bonus) and say what a great game it was, it bein’ a one-run ball game and all, but I’m not gonna do that.
Tonight, Clayton Kershaw and home plate umpire, Eric Cooper, teamed up to show the Cubs just how wussy their offense has been in the playoffs. Kershaw was text book Kershaw, no doubt about it. But the guy behind the plate — not Grandal, the one with the white cane … Cooper — he was masterful, incredible and 100% overpowering with his inconsistency. Look, I don’t mind a guy havin’ a wide strike zone or a narrow strike zone, or a high or low one … but when two balls are thrown in precisely the same friggin’ place, and one is called a ball and the other a strike, it makes me wanna mow the infield with the ump still on it.
And I don’t need the “well, he called it the same for both teams” BS, cuz he didn’t. The strike Cooper called on Bryant in the 9th is pretty much Supreme Court-worthy proof of that, my friend.
I’m not blamin’ the loss on Eric Cooper or Stevie Wonder or whoever the hell that was callin’ balls and strikes. I’m just sayin’ he sucked like a top-of-the-line Dyson. The Cubs did most of the damage on their own; standin’ in the batters box just watchin’ the pitches go by. News flash, Cubbies: This is the NLCS, not Shark Tank. Even Robert Herjavec knows what to do with a good pitch, and just standin’ there like a friggin’ zombie isn’t it.
I’m guessin’ the Cubs strategy goin’ into Game 2 was to run the pitch count up on Kershaw — typical for the Cubs no matter who’s on the bump. Just two problems with that: 1) Kershaw doesn’t walk people and 2) not swingin’ at strikes leads to outs, not gettin’ on base. Perhaps they shoulda rethought this approach at some point. Before the game woulda been ideal. I mean the Kershaw start wasn’t a surprise to anyone, was it? So his track record in the first 6 innings shouldn’t have been an unknown quantity, right, Joe? But, ok, so we go into the game thinkin’ we’re gonna run the count up. When do you reassess and start being aggressive at the plate? How ’bout 4 innings in when Kershaw has tossed a measly 40 pitches? Not then either? Hmm. Ok.
In spite of that, I never once thought we were out of it. In years past, yeah. But not this team. Not this year. In fact, it looked a whole lot like we were gonna show ’em the door again late in the game, thanks to a Rizzo walk, a Little League play by Grandal, and Javi at the dish. Not quite, though. So anyone shakin’ cuz we’re headed to LA for the next two oughta take a Valium. Think about it. Except for our staff, Javi Baez, Bryant and one notable AB from Montero, our bats have been sawing logs throughout the playoffs. And tonight, against LA’s best pitcher, along with the help of Colonel Frank Slade behind the plate, we still almost won.
When our bats wake up — and you know they will — it ain’t gonna be 72 and sunny in LA anymore. In fact, I predict a wicked Chicago storm to blow through Chavez Ravine for the next few days, with all manner of unseasonal disturbances raining down on their little mini-parade. This ain’t over. You’d have to be blind, or Eric Cooper, not to see that.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Then it was the best of times again. After last night, Dickens is sorta, kinda, almost startin’ to make some friggin’ sense to me. (At least the part I read.) Especially after Montereo — perhaps the most unlikely of heros — whiffed at a Joe Blanton meatball slider that my grandmother coulda plastered. So what does Blanton do? He serves up the identical pitch, and suddenly Montero — like Dickens’ characters Al Manatte, Chuck Darnay and Syd Carton — is recalled to life, and resurrected in the middle of all the turmoil caused by Adrian Gonzalez. If that’s not, to quote Dickens again, “the epoch of belief,” I don’t know what the hell is.
But this is a tale far bigger than Montero’s bat against Blanton’s arm, or the chess game between Maddon and Roberts, or even the Cubs vs the Dodgers. This is a smack down between two cities — Chicago and LA; the Second City and Tinseltown; wholesome midwesterners and blinged-out dreamers. These two places are about as foreign to each other as a World Series title is to the Cubs.
Everything is different. The architecture, the culture, the weather, the hot dogs. Like night and day, pal. Most especially the people. And that’s what a city is; it’s the people. It’s the stuff, too, like smog, and traffic and no seasons, if you’re LA, but mostly it’s the people. So when you got a ball club representin’ your city, it’s really a proxy for the fans that live and die with them. Like me. (I may be livin’ large at the moment, but over the years I’ve needed resuscitation 20 or 30 times after somethin’ the Cubs or Steve Bartman did.) So what does that mean? It means that whatever the Cubs are in this series, all of Chicago is, too. Ditto LA. Well, that got my mind doin’ the Chicago River thing — meandering backwards — thinkin’ about what the Cubs stand for and how that reflects on us fans.
Ask most anybody born after 1908 what the Cubs stand for, and usually they’ll tell you that they’re the all-time, ever-lovin’ mascot of futility. And that’s not just on Earth, either. That would include all 9 rocks makin’ rings around the sun, and everyone of their moons. And yeah, it’s 9. Not 8, like National Geographic says. In the Schlombowski universe, it’s still the Sears tower not the Willis tower, and Pluto is still a planet, my friend.
That said, I gotta think that after averaging 100-wins over the last two seasons, and makin’ consecutive trips to the NLCS, some of that baked-on, decades-old crap we’ve been caked in has been chipped away. Most especially cuz we had the best record in baseball this year. But also cuz of how we taunted the Giants by danglin’ that shiney even-numbered year thing in front of ’em right before we snatched it outta their greedy little Donald Trump-sized hands. Ha! A purely orgasmic feeling I normally don’t associate with baseball. Then we bleached the Dodger blue a bit by doin’ virtually the same thing to them last night. Hmm. How far apart can orgasms be and still qualify as “multiple?” Just wonderin’.
No longer are the Cubs the lovable losers, my friend. Uh uh. Who they are now is beginning to unfold in 2 cities, 2000 miles apart. Might as well be 2000 light years apart, though, cuz what LA is known for … well, I don’t even know where to start. But how ’bout I take a shot, anyway?
You know, Pete Rose and I aren’t exactly on each other’s Christmas card lists. But tonight, the former Cincinnati gambler took the reason the Giants choked on a 3-run, 9th inning lead, and folded, wrapped and very neatly packaged it into a single word: “Stinko.”
“That was a stinko bullpen, man.” said Rose. Then he went on to paint the picture — much to my personal delight — of an on-field disaster that rivaled anything that Hollywood special effects wizards coulda dreamed up. “Five pitchers give up 3 runs before they get an out in the inning? … They didn’t deserve to win. That’s the worse collapse I’ve seen in a long time for a bullpen playin’ for what they were playin’ for.” Pete is no George Will, but those words … those were pure Shakespeare, baby.
“Idiotic” is another word that comes to mind. I came up with that one on my own, though. But at least I’ll combine it with “thank you” and a big wet kiss for Bruce Bochy for takin’ Moore outta the game when he did. Perhaps the stupidest move I’ve seen by a manager since Dusty Baker came to work at Clark and Addison. Moore had 10 K’s and had surrendered just 2 hits. And you take him out?! With the Giants’ bullpen? Wow. Bochy and Pete Carroll gotta be in the same knitting circle.
Full disclosure: I had to employ the “don’t watch cuz you’re jinxin’ the team” strategy during the last half of the game. I haven’t had to use that one all season, which may explain why it worked; it wasn’t expected. Anyway, tonight around the 5th, it became obvious that if I kept watchin’ we were gonna lose for sure, but if I turned the TV off, the Cubs had a chance. Yeah, it was a sacrifice, but that’s part of baseball. The missus headed upstairs and started yellin’ the blow-by-blow down the stairs, and in between askin’ me, “Don’t you wanna turn it on? They’re doin’ good.” (One of the million reasons why she winds my watch.) I resisted.
Deep down inside, where the corndogs and brats are processed, I know my watchin’ probably has nothin’ to do with whether the Cubs win or lose. It’s just a superstition thing. Like black cats and goats and Steve Bartmans. They’re like Justin Beeber fans — they can’t be explained with logic.
Whatever it was — me, or the Cubs finally startin’ to play like the Cubs — our visiting grays are gettin’ a champagne wash cycle tonight. And so is everyone in Wrigleyville. That doesn’t stinko.
Holy meat balls, that was some friggin’ game last night, wasn’t it?! Am I happy we came up short? No, I am not. Was it a friggin’ epic battle royal cage match fought by two teams refusing to yield to the bloody gloves of the other? In spades, my friend. In spades.
It was Godzilla vs King Kong; the Federation vs the Clingons; the Sharks vs the Jets (no, that ain’t hockey vs football); Neo vs Agent Smith; the Crows vs the Wildlings. You know that scene in Gangs of New York where the Natives and the Dead Rabbits have it out in the square? Last night’s game was like that, my friend. EPIC! It reminded me of the Thrilla in Manilla. Howard Cosell’s grating New York cadence was in the back of my head, deliverin’ the blow-by-blow. Only insteada “Frasier goes down! Frasier goes down! Frasier goes down!” it was “Bryant has tied the game! Bryant has tied the game! Bryant has tied the game!” That was electrifying. No matter what happens through the rest of the playoffs, you’re not gonna see a better game than that.
When Arrieta went yard, I went in my pants. No, not really, but holy crap! I usually need an elevator to get that far off the ground. Whatever Maddon has been feedin’ our staff, it’d be nice if he started givin’ it to some of the rest of the guys. Bryant has obviously discovered where he’s hidin’ the magic dust. But Rizzo? Keee-ryste … he looks like me at the plate. The offensive prowess of our Murderer’s Row pitching staff is probably somethin’ we should not totally rely on if we expect to beat theses yayhoos.
Kudos to Montgomery, last night, too. He gave it up in the end, but I think he did a lot more than anyone expected, including Maddon. And speakin’ of Joe, who is a certified, Grade-A, Wagu genius, I can’t say I thought bringin’ in Chapman when he did was his most Einstein-ish move of the season. What do I know, right? But I read it like a sign of desperation; like we couldn’t play regular and still win. We had to bring the Saturn V rocket arm in early. And that’s what the Giants thought. They smelled blood in the water, started circling and then takin’ chunks outta Chapman’s hide. Hindsight. I know. But I’m just sayin’.
So now Bochy is 10-0 in elimination games. Ten and oh! Unreal. Someone has gotta put an end to that. Personally, I’d like it to be John Lackey and the re-ignited bats of the best offense in baseball. And, if it’s not askin’ too much, it’d be nice if the game is more like we’re playin’ Cincinnati, so when we have a 10 run lead by the 5th, I can relax and enjoy myself a little insteada bitin’ my fingernails down to the second knuckle. Go Cubs!
There were 2,430 games played this season, and it took the very last one for the Giants to manufacture a chance at the Post Season. How you interpret that can either give you hives or a grin the size of Prince Fielder’s butt.
It’s hard to figure a team like San Francisco. They’ve got a good staff, a line up of veterans, a damn good manager in Bruce Bochy, and a ton of experience with the post season in the last decade. A little too much. Like there should be a special episode of Hoarders about the Giants. And yet they still sucked like Linda Lovelace with a Dyson since the All Star break.
This is also an even year, which holds sway over the superstitious. Not that Cubs fans are immune to that condition. Two words: Billy Goat. Me, personally? I never, ever change my underwear in the middle of a winning streak. Needless to say, I got a little crispy now and then this season. Totally worth it, though. Anyway, Giants fans believe that even numbered years belong to their team — that they own ’em. And I gotta tell you … it would give me a world of satisfaction for the Cubs to prove what a Mount Everest-sized pile of crap that is.
The fact that the Giants made it to the Wild Card game at all, in spite of playin’ the second half of the season like the fog had rolled all the way into their clubhouse, says a whole lot about them, none of which I like very much. But I think an even numbered year has about as much to do with the Giants makin’ the playoffs as the color red does.
And that’s the thing. If they didn’t get in because of some voodoo, witchcraft, hocus pocus BS, then what’s the reason? As much as the legacy of Barry Bonds still sandpapers my backside, I gotta hand it to the Giants; they’re a grizzled lineup that plays team ball, doesn’t give up, and somehow finds a way to survive when they’re nose-to-nose with the grim reaper. Those are admirable qualities in a ball club, no question, and even though the words are gonna taste like the south end of a sick rhino, I gotta say that the Giants are probably for real and, unlike the geeked-out, cucumber mist bottled water-drinkin’ fans they got, they’re probably not big believers in the make-me-laugh, even-numbered-year thing.
Full disclosure: I was pullin’ for the Mets last night. And I gotta tell ya, after what happened last year, that felt a whole lot like havin’ a heart transplant without anesthesia. I just figured the Cubs would have an easier time with them than San Francisco, and that they’d do the same thing that the Giants did — chip away at the Mets’ pen.
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.
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.