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.
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.
I suppose “bombs” might be a slightly overly-dramatic description for Sale’s performance last night in his 3-1 loss to the Cubbies, but hey … one drama queen to another, right?
That’s the problem with drawin’ attention to yourself by bein’ a complete douche bag. Everyone is watching and waiting for you to screw up. Not that he actually screwed up, but anything short of perfection after his Little Lord Fontleroy bit the other day doesn’t cut it. And if anyone oughta know how to cut somethin’, it’s Chris Sale.
The real story was Mr Lackey, who was vintage last night, and a helluva lot more effective than Scissorhands. Yeah, I think the game probably qualified as a duel, but in the end it was the Lackmiester who filleted his 6′-10″ opponent into bite size chunks. Add to that the new Strop, Rondon, Chapman 3-headed bullpen monster and the Cubs (in the movie parlance thing) are startin’ to look a lot like Jason Bourne.
Chapman definitely changes the dynamic. First, havin’ him in the wings has gotta have some kinda super-power effect on starters. I mean if I know that all I gotta do is get through the 6th and the door is gettin’ slammed in the face of the (ANY TEAM NAME HERE) well then it gives me some extra confidence. That’s gotta make a dif. Second, if I’m Strop or Rondon, besides being ecstatic about makin’ stupid money for throwin’ a few pitches now and then, I still have the same basic job. It’s just that my shift got moved up an inning or two. Third, havin’ to face Strop and Rondon while also watchin’ Chapman warm up is a sure fire way to deflate any misguided hope the (ANY TEAM NAME HERE) might get back into a game in the late innings.
You could see that happen tonight. You could literally feel that the decision has been made — the Cubs are winnin’ the last game of the World Series this year and there’s nothin’ anybody, not King Kong, not James Bond, not Ironman and certainly not Sale Scissorhands is gonna be able to do about it.
Did you hear that, Cubs fans? That heavy metallic clunk was the last piece of the championship puzzle being lowered into position — the 99.999% pure steel arm of Aroldis Chapman. The first thing I did when I heard the news was call my mother. I wanted to find out how old I was the last time I wet my pants. Yeah … I’m jacked … sorta … and I think this is a kind of a good move. Why? Cuz it’s about FRIGGIN’ time that Binny’s Beverage Depot had an actual reason to be the official champagne supplier of the Chicago Cubs.
You gotta admit, the Cubs appear to be teeterin’ on the edge of a Championship. We’ve led or been tied for the best record in baseball the entire season. Even without Schwarber, and with various injuries plaguing a variety of players, not to mention our coin-toss bullpen, the Cubs are still wearin’ the yellow jersey as the race to the World Series is comin’ outta the back stretch. (How’s that for mixin’ metaphors?! That’s like a metaphor salad, my friend.) Adding Chapman and movin’ Rondon to a set-up position means that Theo is pretty serious about roastin’ some billy goat in October.
Naturally, there’s a Mount Everest sized pile of second guessing goin’ on — everything from Chapman’s domestic violence history to what the Cubbies gave up to get the Usane Bolt of pitchers.
If you read between the lines of this piece by ESPN’s Jayson Stark, you might get the impression that havin’ a lot of star power is all that matters in baseball. Funny … All these years I thought it was winnin’ the World Series.
Personally — and I fully admit I’m old school … in fact, I’m more like prehistoric school — I couldn’t give a rat’s hiny if people are buyin’ Bryant’s or Trout’s or Big Papi’s jersey, or if kids are sculpting their heads like a Bryce Harper doll (other than the fact than they look like morons). I’d rather have a team of no-names with Darth Vader’s charisma, but who play the game with a purpose defined by winning, instead of how many Muscle Milk commercials they’re in.
As luck or karma or divine intervention or Theo Epstein’s nuclear-powered brain would have it, the Cubs have both this year — stars and studs. Maybe that’s divine intervention after all. I think Mr Stark is right, the National League, at this point in time, has more Hollywood than the American League.
To which I say, “So the hell what?”
That has about as much to do with goin’ home with the hardware as the color of your tooth brush. And I don’t care who you are … you could be Buster Posey or Robinson Cano or Jesus H. Christ (I think he’s from the Dominican) … winnin’ the Series is the be-all end-all of human existence for ballplayers.
Let’s start off by goin’ back to the 70s, when Mr Stark points out that the stars burned brightest in the National League. Despite that assertion, the American League took the Series 6 times in that decade. Is that a landslide? No. But it’s an indication that buyin’ a guy’s jersey doesn’t necessarily affect the outcome in October.
When it comes to All-Star Games, Major League Baseball kicks football’s, basketball’s and hockey’s asses. No question.
And football? Pffft. The Pro Bowl ain’t even played until the season’s over; we’ve slept through a playoff system that includes, like, every stinkin’ team in the league; and nasty Miss Jackson’s boobs have already exploded from her Super Bowl outfit. I mean, after that, who the hell gives a crap about football?
That said, MLB’s All-Star Game ain’t exactly a chew-on-your-fingernails, glued-to-the-chair, don’t-miss-a-pitch event. It’s a vehicle for sellin’ beer and cars and Viagra (Oh … and just for the record, there have been 6 phone calls from the Schlombowski household seeking immediate medical attention, but each has been 100% attributed to the God-given charms of Mrs Schlombowski.) to the average couch potato like me, sittin’ at home takin’ in the spectacle or pageantry or whatever the hell Joe Buck will undoubtedly call it. Point is, the All-Star Game may not be as riveting as the missus, but I haven’t missed one since I was old enough to pee. I have no idea why … I mean, why give a crapola about one game that doesn’t really count and is wedged into the middle of 162 that do?
So let’s put things on the Schlombowski Scale and see where the pros and cons net out.