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?
There are 9 and a half million people in Los Angeles and I’d say only about six or seven of ’em don’t have a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. They hand those things out like hot cakes … or Joe Blanton sliders over the middle. David friggin’ Spade has a star. Hell, half the hawkers at Dodger Stadium probably have ’em! Seems like everybody in LA is famous, or is tryin’ to be famous, or moved there cuz they wanna be famous. And when these honyocks aren’t tryin’ to become more famous, they’re at the Forum Club rubbin’ elbows with somebody else who’s famous, or giving themselves little statues for things like pretending, and rhyming. Isn’t that the height of culture. They even got a particular sorta famous in LA for just being famous. The Kardashians, Paris Hilton, Katie Price? That’s what I’m talkin’ about. The Dodgers are playin’ for them.
Is there some sorta ordinance in Los Angeles requirin’ women to have breast implants? I’ve never seen anything like it. Neither have the laws of physics or Mother Nature, cuz the ones she makes have some kinda built-in movement and all. Those things Dr. Hootermacallitz is bolting onto women are like granite. You could rest your beer on ’em.
And how ’bout the lips. No skinny little white girl from Tarzana is born with a Mick Jagger kisser. That’s not natural either. Add to that the butt implants, fake eye lashes, sprayed-on tan, over-whitened teeth, glued-on fingernails, tattooed eye-liner and you got yourself a real live tummy-tucked, face-lifted, hair-extended Barbie doll. The Dodgers are playin’ for them, too.
Sittin’ in traffic is a badge of honor in LA. You hear people dueling about their commutes: “It took me 90 minutes to get here this morning.” “Pfft. That’s nothin’. It took me 2 and a half hours to go from Mulholland to Westwood.” They love to whine about it, but take pride in havin’ the biggest nightmare. Of course everybody’s got traffic. We got our share in Chi-town. But in LA, it’s like herpes or somethin’ — it’s always there. No accident, no construction, no event. It’s just 3 in the afternoon. Traffic is the reason Dodgers fans are some of the lamest in baseball. Why? Cuz they’d rather beat the traffic than stay for the whole game. They show up late, cuz they’re sittin’ — that’s right — in traffic. Then they leave early — even if it’s a 1-run ballgame — cuz it’s more important to beat the rush outta Chavez Ravine than whoever they’re playin’. Pathetic. The Dodgers are playin’ for those guys.
In Chicago, we got air. Lots of it, usually movin’ along at a brisk pace. Hence the nickname. In LA, I don’t know what that stuff is that covers everything, but I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to be breathin’ it. It’s not just regular smog either, it’s some kinda super smog that has the look of Joe Blanton’s shorts after the Cubs’ half of the 8th last night. You’d think Bashar al-Assad was in town or somethin’. They have days when they don’t want anybody goin’ outside cuz it’s so bad. So they don’t. The Dodgers are playin’ for those people, while Chicago fans somehow seem to get around when it’s 40 below zero or a scorching 100 degrees with 95% humidity. Which reminds me, when it’s 67º out, LA thinks it’s cold.
Lots and lots of cars.
Public transportation? What’s that? As much as Angelinos like to moan about traffic, they looooooovvvvvee to spend time in their cars. They drive everywhere. Walk? Are you friggin’ kidding me? Even if they’re goin’ to a neighbor’s to watch famous people get a statue for pretending, they’ll drive cuz who knows … they may need to suddenly go somewhere they haven’t thought of, and in the million-to-one chance that happens, it’s good to have the car close by. And these people — that the Dodgers also play for — they wonder why the smog is so friggin’ bad.
You call that a river?
So long as I mentioned the Chicago River earlier in this tirade, I don’t think I can finish this up without also bringin’ up the LA River. First, there’s no water in it. It’s got the occasional abandoned car, old mattress or whatever grows and multiplies in random puddles of inch deep runoff, but no water. And second, it’s made outta cement. CEMENT! The Chicago River, on the other hand, used to flow in one direction but was engineered to flow in the other. That’s friggin’ Einstein brain stuff, pal. Plus — and this is huge — it turns green on St Patrick’s Day.
Any way you slice it, it’s hard to imagine two cities any further apart than Chi-town and Tinseltown. In a few more days, one of the teams that represents ’em is gonna be doin’ another champagne shower and headin’ to the World Series, while the other will be watchin’ it on the flat screen just like their fans. I’m betting that Binny’s is gonna be makin’ a couple more deliveries to Wrigley this year. Hope so, anyway. Seven more wins. Seven. Damn, that’s close.
Fun facts: 1) Montero’s slam was the first ever pinch hit, go ahead, grand slam in postseason history. 2) The Cubs now have a 1-0 lead in a best-of-7 series for the first time since the 1945 World Series. Go Cubs!
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.
Of course if Mad-Bum and his band of Halloween-colored honyocks think it’s gonna be more of the same against the Cubs, they’re sorely mistaken. No way Chicago is first pitch flailing at anything in the northern hemisphere like New York. LlNot a chance. Just 21 pitches got Bumgarner through the first 3 frames. That was epically-stupid on the part of the Mets, who wasted a brilliant outing by Thor and now will be swingin’ golf clubs this weekend instead of bats. And by the way, I don’t take Syndergaard out. He’d given up a grand total of 1 hit and had somethin’ like 10 K’s over 6 innings. Yeah, yeah … Granderson saved his narrow hiney on that deep drive to center, but that had more to do with where he was positioned than Thor runnin’ outta gas. It was a long out, nothin’ more. Look, all I’m sayin’ is if my horse has won the first two legs of the Triple Crown … do I replace the jockey at Belmont? No. I do not. What idiots.
It’s that kinda moronic hitting and coaching that played right into the Giants’ hands, and was a big factor in last night’s outcome.
And what about Yoenis Cespedes? He looked like a friggin’ crayon with that hair. I’m sorry, but if you’re doin’ that sorta crap as you head into the playoffs, you’re not focused. You’re tempting the gods to make an example of you. And did they ever? He went 0-4 with 2 strike outs, and got nothin’ on the ball when he did make contact. But, hey … LOVE your hair, Yoenis.
The gods weren’t done by any stretch, either. Enter Conor Gillaspie. Seriously? Conor … Gillaspie? A Conor Gillaspie could be a bank manager. A Conor Gillaspie might sir on the Supreme Court. But steppin’ into size 16 hero shoes in a win-or-go-home game? No. That’s the gods at work, my friend. Plain and simple.
If you look at the last week of the season, and last night’s game on top of that, you might conclude that the Giants have reacquired their mojo, and will now be an even-numbered foregone conclusion to be reckoned with. And that’s fine. The Force has a powerful effect on the weak mind.
But as the Wizard so emphatically put it to Dorothy, “Not so fast. NOT so fast!”
Anyone — and I’m mostly talkin’ to you Giants fans, now — anyone thinkin’ the Cubs are gonna pull a Golden State Warriors against the G-men oughta get a CAT scan right now. The best record in baseball means nothin’ to a team that hasn’t won a ring since William Howard Taft was diddlin’ interns in the Oval Office. There’s a whole lot more they’re playin’ for. On the very tip-top of that list would be writin’ the biggest sports story on the planet in the last 7 decades. The entire city of Chicago and, hell, half the country wants to see the Cubs doin’ the champagne boogie. I’ll bet the Giants won’t even be all that broken hearted when Rob Manfred is handin’ the hardware to Ricketts. Point is, the Cubs have a distinct purpose, and it’s one helluva lot bigger than just winnin’ the Series. It’s about healing. It’s about burying the damn curse. It’s about givin’ something to back to Cubs fans for 108 of stickin’ with a team that coulda been mistaken for a possum. And I believe the Giants are about to find out just how important that is to Chicago.
Thus, in spite of San Francisco’s do or die last night, and their willing themselves past LA to even get that far, there happens to be another possible scenario besides them findin’ their mojo. In fact, there may be no mo jo in their mojo. That is possible, my friend. What they’ve had to do just to get there may be all they could muster.
Whether they’re runnin’ on fumes or emotionally topped off with full-octane Willy Mays karma, I don’t think it’s gonna matter one iota. (What the hell is an iota, anyway?) I think the Cubs are bound and determined to finish what they started in April, and unless they come down with a team-wide case of the Black Plague, nobody — not Mad-Bum, not Posey, and certainly not Conor Gillaspie — is gonna be able to do a damn thing about it.