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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 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.

NLCS GAME 2: NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL A TEAM EFFORT.

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

KERSHAW-COOPER-TEAMWORK

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.

Joe