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AT WHAT POINT IN THE SEASON IS IT APPROPRIATE TO PULL OUT MY RABBIT’S FOOT?

· 2017 Cubs, Joe Sez · , , ,

JOE-AT-HARRY-CAREYS

Hey there, cheese doodles. I’ve had my eyes closed for most of the season, for obvious reasons, so I was wonderin’ if anyone out there can tell me whether that was a corner the Cubs turned last night, or was that 14-3 enema we administered to the Mets just another one of those smooth spots in this bolder-strewn dirt road of a season?

Don’t get me wrong, pallie, I coulda poured last night over my pancakes this morning. Still, in spite of rackin’ up 15 hits, five of which left the yard, including a grand salami by Ian Happ, I’m not quite ready to head down to Party City. Yeah … we finally got some hits with guys on base — friggin’ amazing! I’d like to think that whatever it was — Rizzo hittin’ in the lead off spot, Lester still high from pickin’ Tommy Pham off of first last week, or Maddon puttin’ on his uniform in a different order — the Cubbies are about to catch fire. Of course, I’d also like to think that the missus is gonna put more hide-the-sausage days on her ‘to do’ list.

Take last week, for instance. The Cubs had won five straight, including a 10-2 A-bomb (that A is for Arietta, my friend) where the Cubbies treated the Marlins like a Donald Trump pinata at Elizabeth Warren’s birthday party. As a result, the wire was all abuzz with a heapin’ helping of hyperbole tied to the North Siders. Words like “surging” and “dominant” — terms that this year are usually associated with the Stros and the Nats — were actually being used in the same sentences with “the Cubs.” And lemme tell ya … I was pretty happy to read stuff like that about this year’s vintage. Still, I found it mildly entertaining — sorta like a guy juggling bowling pins, or Anthony Weiner’s last name.

What I mean is that beatin’ the Cards (26-30 at the time) and the Fish (24-33 at the time), although satisfying, wasn’t exactly a sign that the Cubs had rediscovered the lucky charms that made ’em magically delicious last season. It means they wrestled victory away from a couple of ball clubs that are slightly more mediocre than themselves. Yeah, I sound skeptical. Sue me! One incredible season (last year) — which, admittedly, was un-effing-believable — isn’t enough to break up the previous 55 years of scar tissue on my ass. History aside, though, winnin’ those five games was a distinct improvement over where we were a couple weeks before — limping outta Petco Park after being royally pants’d by the Preachers — the worst team in baseball, except for the Phillies. Kickin’ the Mets (29-34) around their own ball park last night comes with a certain measure of satisfaction, too. But winnin’ games we’re supposed to isn’t exactly somethin’ to do cartwheels over. Yeah, it’s nice, but was it a sign that the Cubs are finally runnin’ on all cylinders?

As it turns out the answer is no, cuz in spite of the fact that tonight Rizzo, Happ and Schwarbs picked up right where they left off last night, the Cubs found a way to reach back to 2012 and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I’m at a loss to explain how the same damn team can play like they did last night, and then fertilize the lawn tonight. I’d consult my crystal baseball but in April it predicted 111 Cubs wins this season, and obviously can no longer be trusted.

Still, I have hope. I grant you … it’s Schlombowski hope, which means it’s tempered by that hemorrhoid, Steve Bartman, and a lifetime of other rash-inducing memories that the Cubs have scarred me with. Of course I also remember the 2006 St Louis Cardinals — a skid mark of a ball club that took their hairless 83 regular season wins all the way to the World Series title. Which is to say, hope will get you just so far. After that you can squeak by with just enough hitting and pitching to win 83 games, as long as you also have a shit load of luck. So rub it if you got one, my friend. No … I’m talkin’ about a rabbit’s foot, nimrod. Sheesh.

Joe

WHERE IS THE LINE BETWEEN DRESSIN’ UP LIKE RON BURGUNDY AND PLAYIN’ BALL LIKE HIM?

· 2017 Cubs, Joe Sez · , , , ,

RON-BURGUNDY-CUBS

Sometimes I wish I was a duck. Not the Anaheim hockey kinda duck or the Oregon football kinda duck. The kind that comes with orange sauce in hoity-toity French restaurants. The real kind. The waddling, quacking, flyin’ south for the winter kind. Cuz if I was THAT kinda duck, the whole junior-high-school-let’s-play-dress-up thing the Cubs do, instead of focusing on baseball fundamentals, might just run off my back.

“I’m in a glass case of emotion!” — Ron Burgundy

But I’m not a friggin’ duck, my friend.

I’ll admit that missus would say I have some habits that remind her of another barnyard animal. But a duck? No. And nothin’ — least of all the Cubs’ girly-scout-like penchant for celebratin’ Halloween during the regular season — is running, dripping, sliding or otherwise escapin’ the confines of my heavily forested back. At least not without me first stating the obvious, which is this:

If you’re a major league baseball club, and you’re routinely using your opponent for a doormat, you can dress up like Ronald friggin’ McDonald in drag all you want. Pull out your secret collection of Madonna poindexter bras. Go with the Sports Illustrated body painting thing. Whatever chalks your foul lines. Winning is everything, pallie, so if a team wants to dress like peacocks in heat when they’re doin’ it, who am I to say otherwise. I’ll always think it’s idiotic, but if you’re headed for a 100 win season, what the hell. My problem with the Cubs dressin’ like Ron Burgundy (or Walt Frazier, or Lady Gaga — honestly, I can’t tell with some of those get ups) is that they’re doin’ it in the middle of a .500 season. Yeah, they had just spanked the Reds and Giants before this Southern California trip — and, admittedly, I thought that was some kinda turning point in what has been a less-than-stellar season. As it turns out, though, that’s not the case. Instead, all they did was tempt fate. And fate — otherwise known as the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres — has given ’em a front row seat on the catwalk of “What Not to Wear.”

With the possible exception of the nine games preceding this Burgundy trip, the 2017 Cubs have been playin’ a lot more like the (PUT ALMOST ANY YEAR BETWEEN 1909 AND 2015 HERE: _______) Cubs than the “2016 World Series Champion” Cubs. Example: Last year when we had 25 in the W column, we only had a 6 in the loss column. This year? 26.

“Don’t act like you’re not impressed.” — Ron Burgundy

That’s a pretty impressive collapse, in my book. Especially when you consider that the Cubs have the same basic team as last year. Practically the same lineup. Same skipper. Same coaching staff. We’re playin’ in the same ballparks. Stayin’ in the same hotels, probably. Dating or married to the same women. Puttin’ the same uniforms on in the same way. What we’re NOT doin’ the same is catchin’, throwin’, pitchin’ or hittin’ the friggin’ baseball. In fact, if defense wins championships, the 2017 Cubs might as well punch out right now, cuz they’re currently ranked below every major league ball club in that department, except for the Athletics. And they’re like not even a real baseball team.

Ok, how about our offense? “What offense?” you might ask. Exactly. Kris Bryant is leading the team with a whimpering .277 batting average. He’s also tied with Rizzo for the team lead in steals. They have four apiece. Wow. Ricky Henderson used to swipe that many in a single game! In 2016 we had five guys ranked in baseball’s top 50, offensively. This season, we’ve got one in the top 65 — Bryant, again — but his name doesn’t register until #22. Out of the 30 major league baseball clubs, we rank 24th in team batting average (.237), and we strand 15.73% of our baserunners (29th). Although I suppose I should be thankful that we even have baserunners.

Then there’s our pitching … if that’s what you wanna call it. It’s more like batting practice. We’ve got a 4.09 team ERA (13th), a 1.325 WHIP (14th), we give up 8.40 hits (12th) and 1.27 dingers (18th) per 9 innings, and we hand out up a whopping 3.53 walks per 9 innings (23rd). You know that new (and completely idiotic) rule where a team can opt to wave a batter to first rather than intentionally walk him? Well, at this point, our pitching is so inept, I’m thinkin’ they might as well just turn around and throw the ball in the gap.

But then what do you expect for $175,000,000, right?

The dress up thing reminds me of Crash Davis deliverin’ the “shower shoes” message to Nuke LaLoosh. “If you win 20 in the Show, you can let the mold grow back on your shower shoes and the press will think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the Show, however, it means you’re a slob.” Same principle applies here. If you’re 35 and 16 you can dress like friggin’ Liberace and everybody will think you’re loose. But if you’re 25 and 26, it just means you’ve taken your eye off the ball.

And THAT, my friend, is winning another Series.

“I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal.” — Ron Burgundy

Sure, winnin’ one was a big deal. Not as big as winning two, though. Am I thankful I was alive to witness last year? Damn right. Would I like to see more while we still have a chance with this lineup we got? Who wouldn’t? But even if that doesn’t materialize, I’d much rather the Cubs acted like playin’ ball mattered as much as playin’ dress up. Cuz right now, they’re not only lookin’ like Ron Burgundy off the field … they’re playin’ ball like him on it.

Of course I could be wrong. But I’m not.

Joe

HOLY COW! FINALLY, JOYFULLY, THE CHICAGO CUBS ARE GOIN’ TO THE WORLD SERIES!

· 2016 Cubs, Joe Sez, The Playoffs · , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

CUBS-WIN-2016-NLCS

“This is it! This is it! It’s two, they’re gonna turn two! Eeeaaaaaahhhhhhh!” The moment the ball was hit to Russell, I jumped outta my chair, screamin’ like a banshee. I don’t really know what a banshee is, but it’s gotta be loud and somewhat unhinged. (That would make my sister in law a banshee.) I bear hugged the missus who was already workin’ on a full set of raccoon eyes. If I was a woman, or Johnny Depp, I woulda had ’em too, cuz I realized she wasn’t the only one cryin’. That’s what happened at the Schlombowski household Saturday night. And I’ll tell ya … except for the Swedish Bikini team servin’ me beers without their bikini’s, blubberin’ like a newborn was the last thing I expected to happen. I guess the Cubs going to the Series means more to me than I thought it did … And believe me, I thought it would mean one helluva lot.

More than anything else, I feel gratitude towards Mr Ricketts who, as the Cubs owner, sorta takes a back seat to Theo, Jed and Joe in terms of getting credit for puttin’ this club together. But if it weren’t for Mr Ricketts, none of those guys would be here and, in all likelihood, our season woulda been over by the mid-season classic, like usual. So … thank you, Mr Ricketts. On the 10 million to 1 chance that you’re readin’ this, I want you to know how grateful I am that you brought Major League Baseball to Wrigley Field. Yeah, there’s always been some sorta reasonable or unreasonable facsimile, but until you started signin’ the checks, it’s never been anything like this. Thank you for givin’ so much joy to so many people who have patiently waited for so very, very long. We do, however, need a sit down about concession prices, my friend.

Full disclosure: I was more than skeptical at times over the last 5 years. 55 seasons of nothin’ will do that to a Cubs fan. So for me, bringin’ in Theo wasn’t an instantaneous Kyle Schwarber moon shot. Not that I didn’t wet myself with excitement when Theo first signed. I mean he came with the Red Sox miracle on his resumé, which was huge. Still, it took a while before all the ingredients started to come together. That’s when the intoxicating aroma of Theo stew with Maddon sauce started wafting out over Wrigleyville, and I realized that Mr Ricketts was really baseball’s Charlie Trotter. So sue me if I’m a little slow on the uptake. Nobody except Javi Baez is perfect, pal.

“Try not to suck.” That was the mantra this year. A Joe Maddonism that’s Yogi-esque in its utter simplicity and purity. And the Cubs lived up to every bit of it. They did not and do not suck, my friend. The same can’t be said for the Dodgers. Sorry, it may be unsportsmanlike to kick your opponent when he’s down, but somethin’ has got to be said about what happened to the Dodgers and their messiah, Clayton Kershaw.

Personally, I wasn’t surprised in the least. Kershaw had squeaked by with a 1-0 victory in game 2, in spite of the fact that the Cubs couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. Goin’ into Saturday night, though, with the Cubs’ bats turned up to the 50 megaton level the previous two games, it seemed obvious that Kershaw could be in trouble. Of course this was the last thing most people expected. Why? Cuz of the sycophantic baseball writers and broadcasters, who for a week had been pourin’ Kershaw syrup all over everything. Especially Joe Buck, whose lips have gotta be surgically attached to Kershaw’s buttox. I got sick and friggin’ tired of hearin’ about some new, lower delivery angle and how devastating it was gonna be on our guys. “When?” I ask. Best pitcher in baseball? Once, maybe. Unhittable? Like your mama. I’ll take Hendricks, Lester or Arrieta over fuzzy wuzzy any day of the week. And twice on elimination days. Between Kershaw and Hendricks, the latter was the superior pitcher this year, in every respect, most especially when it really mattered. So baseball press, can we please shut the hell up about Jesus Effing Kershaw, and how Dave Roberts is such a genius manager? It’s nauseating.

One last thing on this point: Hendricks pitched to the minimum number of batters. As did Chapman. Meaning game 6 was only the second time in playoff history — the other being Don Larsen’s 1956 World Series perfect game — that that’s been done. So, again … zip it on the Kershaw blather.

I know everybody is lookin’ forward to tomorrow night, but I think some of the fun and games from Saturday bear repeating here:

Toles hits the first pitch of the game into right for a single. The Dodgers were jumpin’ around in their dugout like a bunch of Girly Scouts who just got their first training bras. Two pitches later there were two outs and the bases were empty, and Javier Baez was tucking his cape in. LA took the field in the bottom of the 1st with a goose egg on the board.

In our half of the first, Fowler says hello to Kershaw with a ground rule double, and Bryant brings him in with a shot down the line. 1-zip, Cubs. In a Rorschach moment, the non-abbreviated version of F-U Dodgers blurted outta me. Don’t know what the psychology behind that is, but it felt like it needed to be said.

Somebody in the booth mentions that the Cubs are  47-13 when Fowler gets on to lead off a game. I’m guessin’ that Toles had his rabbit ears on when they said it, cuz instead of makin’ a routine catch, he channels Keith Moreland and drops Rizzo’s routine fly. We end up with guys on 2nd and 3rd. A sac fly by Zobrist scores another run. 2-nothin’, Cubs. Time for another Old Style. We leave Rizzo at third, but at this point in the game, with Hendricks on the mound and the Cubs bats in perfect working order, I’m startin’ to wonder how long it takes the club house crew to prep things for a champagne shower.

In the top of 2, Baez, Mr Steady, blows an easy one. Call me crazy, but I say he did it on purpose so Hendricks could pick Reddick off of first. Which is what he did.

Addi hits the 3rd double of the night and it’s only the 2nd inning. What a shame. Kershaw? More like Kershawshank, and definitely in need of redemption at this point. Instead, Fowler brings in Russell, and I have that same Roarschach moment.

The 3rd. Rizzo. Another double. Uh … that’s 4, so far, right Kershaw? I guess it’s hard to pitch when you’re walkin’ on water.

In the 4th, Joe Buck offers some of his unique wisdom by stating, “This place is crawling with blue.” No shit. It’s the Cubs and Dodgers. Blue is the color for both, you putz! Too bad all the rocket science and brain surgery positions were filled when Buck got outta school. The world missed out.

Contreras goes yard. Rizzo goes yard.

In the 8th, Toles appears to be checking his email on the field. Or maybe checking in for his flight back to LA. Seriously. If you recorded it, go back and look.

When Joe pulls Hendricks for Chapman in the 8th, again, I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. I mean given recent history with that move. But another double play later I understand the difference between the mind of a savvy baseball genius and one that’s under the influence of Old Style. Yes, I started early.

Which bring me back to where I started — a series-ending double play that’s sent the Cubs to the World Series for the first time in 71 years, and me to the bathroom for some tissues. Not to sound ungrateful or appear greedy, but 4 more wins would be nice.

Joe

THE DEAFENING SOUND OF A BUNT HAS AWAKENED THE SLEEPING GIANT.

· 2016 Cubs, Joe Sez, The Playoffs · , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

AWAKEN-SLEEPING-GIANT

The bunt. No one likes to bunt. Pitchers bunt, but that’s cuz they can’t hit. Except for Cubs pitchers — who CAN actually hit — which means they don’t like to bunt. There’s no majesty in a bunt. No glory. Not a single player has ever been signed to a multi-year, silly-money contract cuz he could lay down the perfect bunt. You won’t see the Bunt Derby substituted for the Home Run Derby at the All Star Break. Ever. They don’t hand out plaques at Cooperstown for tappin’ the ball down the line. And no fan will ever bid a hundred grand for a ball that went 37 feet. Most of the time, a bunt means you’re willing to give yourself up for the cause. It’s noble in that regard, but in the arsenal of offensive weapons, it’s the BB gun.

Yet, with all 10 mph of its minuscule exit velocity, last night’s bunt, by Ben Zobrist, was perhaps the most powerful blast of the night. Yeah, yeah … Rizzo and Russell went yard. But I say that four run 4th doesn’t even get started without Zobrist makin’ the bunt heard ’round the world. It was the catalyst for the entire 10 run barrage, and simultaneous collapse of the Dodgers’ ability to play defense. In fact, if you consider what happened from that point forward, it would be more accurate to call it a lionalyst or tigeralyst than a catalyst. Name it what you want, Ben’s willingness to get the ball rolling by … uh … getting the ball rolling was what it took to CPR the Cubs offense. In psychological terms, that bunt was a 500 foot moon shot over the center field bleachers.

After that, the genie was not only outta the bottle, he was grantin’ just about every single wish that could possibly come to the mind of a Cubs fan. At least the ones that can happen in front of 54,449 people, and that don’t involve Salma Hayek, Scarlett Johansson and a can of Reddi Whip. We’d gone 21 innings without so much as sneekin’ a peek at the plate, and had accumulated just 6 hits in 60 at bats in games 2 and 3. For a while there I was hopin’ we could pull Mario Mendoza outta retirement. Instead, Zobrist ignited the Cubs’ jets by doin’ somethin’ most clean-up hitters probably have written outta their contracts. What followed was epic.

Four runs in the 4th. Monkey? What monkey?

In the bottom of the 2nd, Adrian Gonzalez is called out in a close play at home, but on review it’s plainly obvious that he was safe. Still, the bozos in New York uphold the call. That was baffling. I mean what’s the point of havin’ reviews if the umps in New York are gonna leave their seein’ eye dogs at home?

A one-run 5th. After givin’ back a couple of runs in the bottom half of the 4th, Rizzo says, WTF, and takes one of ’em right back.

During this particular at bat, Rizzo starts headin’ to first on what he believes is ball four, only to be called back by the called strike of home plate umpire, Angel Hernandez. Then, in the words of Harry Caray, “ho-leeeee coooooowwwwwww!” Instead of standin’ on first with a walk, Rizzo deposits Pedro Baez’s pitch in the bleachers. Don’t know if he said anything to Hernandez when he crossed the plate, but I think a thank you would have been in order.

How ’bout five more runs in the 6th? Cubs world, Cubs world! Party time! Excellent!

Rizzo and Russell gather 3 hits each, and both had round-trippers. I don’t know how many times that’s happened, but I can’t imagine it’s been very often.

In a game where just about everything goes right for the Northsiders, Zobrist gets a second bunt single, of the swinging variety this time, makin’ it a multi-hit game. This one involved a close play at first, and Zobrist was originally called out. But the review went in favor of the Cubs, again, and the call was reversed. This time, New York got the call right.

Like Zobrist, Fowler, too, has a couple of hits, including a double.

Contreras unloads the Guns of Navarone on Justin Turner, pickin’ his bushy red ass off — not first, not third, but second. Awesome.

The Dodgers, who made just 80 errors over the course of the regular season, make four in this one game. So no matter how much Adrian Gonzalez whines about that call at home plate, or how much momentum he thinks was stolen from them as a result, the Dodgers dirtied their own diapers, defensively, last night. They LOST the game. AND they were beaten. And how did they handle it? Like you’d expect. They were moanin’ louder than the entire stable at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch.

Montgomery, in keeping with the hitting prowess of the rest of the staff this post season, bangs out a single.

Heyward, although 0-5 and pretty much as anemic at the plate as he’s been all year, has a couple of good at bats, one that ended up drivin’ in a run.

All in all, things were different last night, for both ball clubs. The Cubs finally started playin’ like the Cubs, and the Dodgers had their season-long luck run out, followed by a heapin’ helpin’ of sour grapes in the clubhouse afterwards. Given the trouncing we took in games 2 and 3, it would give me a world of satisfaction to tell LA to “go get your shine box” right now. But it ain’t over. It’s down to the best 2 outta 3. No room for mistakes.

Though never definitively proven, Isoroku Yamamoto, architect of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, was believed to have said afterwards, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” I think LA unleashed their Pearl Harbor in games 2 and 3, and now the sleeping giant is wide friggin’ awake.

Joe

THE LYNYRD SKYNYRD GAME 3 SUMMARY: “OOOH THAT SMELL. CAN’T YOU SMELL THAT SMELL?”

· 2016 Cubs, Joe Sez, The Playoffs · , , , , , , , , , ,

NLCS-GAME-3-CUBS-DODGERS

Was that the Chicago Cubs I saw in Dodger Stadium tonight, or a Sears tower-sized turd? I think the latter.

At first, when the whole pre-game thing filled the ball park with instant smog, just to remind everyone where the hell we were, I thought maybe that was makin’ our guy’s eyeballs water, which would explain why they were havin’ so much trouble seein’ the ball. But as the game wore on, it became apparent that what was really happening was the Cubs has succumbed to the whole “Hey, look, Larry King is sittin’ like … RIGHT THERE” thing. Whatever it was, stars or smog in the eyes, Chicago swung the bat tonight like Helen Keller. Blindfolded. I kept hopin’ LA would put a 10 year old girl in to pitch, cuz I know we couldn’t get a hit off a 12 year old one.

It pretty much went like that for most of the night. Then, in a move that makes about as much sense as Donald Trump, Maddon decides it’d be a good idea to pinch hit Heyward for Russell in the 7th. I grant you, right now Addi with a bat in his hand is about as dangerous as Mother Theresa. But I’m at a total loss to explain Heyward as the stick of the moment. You have Wilson Contreras on the bench, who can actually make contact with the friggin’ ball, by the way, but Joe goes with the most over-paid, underperforming player in Major League Baseball. You pull one no-hit bat (Russell) for another, and what happens? What the F do you think happens? He watches a strike 2 meatball go by that Louis Braille woulda tattooed, then wildly swings like a kid at a piñata party at a pitch that was in the next time zone. What’s the logic, Joe?

We can’t even get a friggin’ sacrifice when we need one. Of course if it were up to me, we’d tie Kershaw down on a makeshift altar, sprinkle him with a little Beverly Hills poodle blood or somethin’ and set his ass on fire. There’s your sacrifice, pallie. Maybe that would appease the baseball gods, which seem to be extraordinarily pissed off at the Cubs right now. Even if it didn’t, we’d have at least done something to help our chances against these Hollywood yayhoos.

Rizzo’s 9th inning stroke-of-luck, broken bat, squeeker of a hit was a symbol of what Chicago’s offense has been throughout the playoffs — a shattered remnant of it’s former self. That hit — and it was a helluva lot more like a 50 foot putt than a batted ball — brings Rizzo’s average up to a scorching .077. Watch out!

The Cubs have now gone 18 consecutive playoff innings without crossin’ the plate. Besides being a King Kong-sized, steaming pile of inept crap, that means our offense just broke their previous playoff record of 16 scoreless innings, set during the 1906 World Series … which we lost. I’m just sayin’. When your season is only 7 games long, maybe less, you can only go so far if you can’t hit the damn ball. There aren’t another 155 games to even out the slumps. If the Cubs wanna have a chance at puttin’ the curse to rest, it’s time they started swingin’ the bat like the Chicago friggin’ Cubs, not the Elmhurst Little League Cubs. No offense, Elmhurst.

Joe

Tonight’s fun facts: There are no fun facts tonight. There are facts, but none of ’em are fun. 1) The Cubs were 4 for 31 tonight. 2) We struck out 10 times. 3) We also left 11 guys on base. See what I mean? No fun.