· Joe Sez, The Playoffs · , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Hey there, ice chips. How ’bout those friggin’ Cubs, huh?! I gotta tell ya, I luuuuuuvvvvv flyin’ the playoff W. I’d say it makes me feel like I’m on top of the world but that’s kinda stupid. I mean think about it. First — SPOILER ALERT — there’s no Santa Claus up there and second, it’s butt ass cold. It’d be a lot more accurate to say I’m feelin’ like I’m sittin’ on a clothing-optional beach in Bora Bora, the missus has exercised her option, and is feedin’ me pork sliders while I sip on a frosty Old Style. Yeah, that about captures it. Thank you for that, Cubbies.

Anyway, as the Central Division Champs are makin’ their way to the city of whackadoos for Game 3 against the Giants, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on the meaning of the oldest phrase in baseball: Keep your eye on the friggin’ ball.

Lemme start by sayin’ that anyone who pays attention to my microscopic corner of the Cubs universe knows that I live and die with them. If that’s you, 1) thank you for payin’ attention and 2) you know that my 55 seasons have seen a whole lot more dyin’ than livin’. That’s given me a certain … let’s say … perspective. I tend to call it like I see it, rather than wearin’ Cubbie blue shaded glasses. Sometimes the Schlombowski forecast is “cloudy with a chance of losing.” Hey, I don’t make the weather, pal, I just report it.

Don’t get me wrong. I not only think the Cubs are in the driver’s seat right now, I think the Giants have been stuffed into the trunk and are about to get dumped on the side of a dark, winding road out in the middle of the redwoods.

IF they keep their eye on the ball, that is.

And I don’t mean pickin’ up the rotation on Bumgarner’s cheese and watchin’ it all the way to the plate. What I mean is that bein’ up 2-0 to the Giants, even in a best-of-5 series, isn’t a Labron James better-get-the-hell-outta-my-way slam dunk, unless we do one thing: stay focused on the ball that matters — winnin’ the World Series. To me, that mean’s not actin’ like we just won the friggin’ lottery cuz the first two games went our way, or cuz our pitchers have turned into Babe Ruth, or cuz Wood just penned his name in the record books. The Cubs gotta go about their business like they’re mailmen or something. You know … that whole “neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night” thing. Only with us it’s “Neither Mad-Bum, nor Posey, nor wicked line drives off our pitchers will keep us from our appointed victory over the Halloween-colored San Francisco Giants.” Do I think that’s gonna happen? You bet your sweet ivy-covered ass I do. Do I think it’s gonna be easy? Read on, my friend:

The Giants have won three World Series since 2010 and they’re 9-0 in elimination games since 2012. Nine and friggin’ oh! Is that something to sneeze at? No, is the answer. It is not.

In 2012, San Francisco was given a stay of execution twice … TWICE! First, when they came back from a 2-0 deficit to the Reds in the NLDS. Then, after fallin’ behind the Cards 3-1 in the Championship Series, they not only Johnny Cochran’d their way outta the noose, they ended up with a friggin’ ring.

Jump forward to 2014 — yeah, yeah, another even numbered year. The Giants win the Wild Card against the Pirates.

Ditto 2016 against the Mets.

And let’s not forget the Giants figured a way to win Game 7 of the ’14 World Series in Kansas City after losin’ 10-nothin’ in Game 6.

Tomorrow’s starter, Madison Bumgarner is a whopping 12-3 as a starter in the playoffs.

Yeah, sounds like a real piece of cake, for sure.

If I’m Joe Maddon insteada Joe Schlombowski (and boy, wouldn’t that give the missus a reason to do cartwheels) I’m not countin’ any chickens just yet. I’m not even mentioning the word “chicken.” In fact I’m Google mappin’ things so the team bus avoids any route where there’s even a remote possibility of a KFC sighting between the hotel and the ball park. And I sure as hell am not havin’ one of those lighten-the-mood onesie parties. It’s time to keep the eye on the friggin’ ball.

Point is, the Giants are a damn good team. They aren’t about to roll over just cuz their waxed backs are against the ivy-covered wall.

However … there IS a silver lining. Yes, occasionally there happens to be one of those around the Schlombowski black cloud. And here why:

In their 3 post-season games so far, San Francisco has sent 102 batters to the plate and only 3 of ’em have produced runs. There are a lot of ways to describe that. Personally, though? I like “pathetic.” That kinda graveyard performance may be good enough to beat a team like the Mets, but we’re not the Mets.

Two words: Jake Arrieta. Our Cy Young winnin’, no-hit, cannon-armed flame thrower will be takin’ the mound tomorrow night. You wanna talk black clouds? I give you Hurricane Arrieta. Things don’t get much darker than that for the Giants.

Just for grins, let’s say the Giants escape one more time, by some fluke of whatever — like Arrieta is hit by lightning, or Rob Manfred institutes another one of his “speed the game up” rules, stipulating the Cubs get only 1 batter per inning. I’m still gonna bring my Alfred E. Neuman face out, cuz Hendricks is still fresh, Lackey and Hammel have yet to throw, and even Lester could come back for game 5 if needed (it won’t be).

Have I mentioned the stacked Chicago Cubs lineup? The Cubs are like Dolly-Parton-with-a-boob-job stacked. Bryant, Rizzo, Zobrist. Boom, boom and boom. I’ll put our bats up against anyone’s. So I don’t really give a crap if Madison friggin’ Bumgarner is on the bump. Gettin’ through the Cubs order without needin’ oxygen is highly unlikely.

Pinch hitters Wood and Hendricks.

Aroldis “you can’t hit what you can’t see” Chapman.

Rondon and Strop to set him up.

Joe Maddon’s King Kong-sized brain.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. That is: The Giants are a tough ball club, especially when the chips are down. But if the Cubs keep their eyes on the friggin’ ball, that’s just not gonna matter.



· 2016 Cubs, Joe Sez, News, Trades · , , , ,


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.

That’s fair. I mean personally, I have zero tolerance for guys with OJ tendencies, so tradin’ for one who was suspended for that very thing, AND it involved a gun … well … that’s a pond I don’t wanna fish in, pallie. Full disclosure — I’m uncomfortable about it. My hope is that Ricketts made it crystal-friggin-clear that crap like that won’t be tolerated. Of course if it happens again it’s already too friggin’ late. There will forever be a link between the Cubs desire to win takin’ precedence over steerin’ clear of a guy who smacks women around. 108 years is a long drought, but is this a gamble you wanna take to put an end to it? Except for the bullpen, we’ve got all the signs of waltzin’ into the Series and maybe winnin’ the damn thing … without Chapman. Besides, the Cubs have never been a “win at all costs” kinda franchise. (No shit.) Does this move forever change their soul; makin’ it as evil and black as the Yankees’ is? Can’t say I like havin’ to even contemplate that. Justification comes in the form of Chapman’s clean record since being reinstated, and sits defiantly under the flag of second chances Ricketts has hoisted. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Chapman improves the pen, thus the team as a whole. But at what cost to their reputation?

There’s also that whole “we kept him from goin’ to a team we might have to face in the playoffs” distorted mindset. That’s pretty Hillary Clintonesque logic. Doin’ somethin’ you don’t believe in, cuz if you don’t somebody else will, is the worst kinda political acrobatics there is. The last thing I want is for the Cubs to turn into the New England friggin’ Patriots.

The other thing that’s gettin’ batted around — and not in a nice way — is that we gave up Adam Warren, minor league outfielders Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford, and the jewel of the bunch, minor league shortstop Gleyber Torres (the top prospect in the Cubs organization) in exchange for a 2 month rent-a-closer. A lotta experts out there are treatin’ that like the Jim Fregosi for Nolan Ryan deal. Now that was a bad trade, pallie. But talent-wise, the Cubs are like Pacific Ocean deep across the board, so givin’ up prospects — even one with Torres’s potential — doesn’t leave me scratchin’ my head. Or anywhere else for that matter. It woulda been different had we made the deal with someone in our division, but we didn’t.

The main argument against this move (besides Chapman’s violent pinheadedness) is over aggregate value. A conservative estimate for a talent like Torres is that he’s worth 15 or 20 WAR in his first 6 seasons in the Show, while Chapman may be worth just 1 through the rest of this season. Before you even get to Warren, McKinney and Crawford, that makes this deal look pretty bad for the Cubs. But that’s a pretty stupid debate: 1) Torres is 19 and ain’t even in the big leagues yet, 2) WAR is a stupid way to measure closers, and 3) If Chapman can do his 105 mile and hour blind-the-hitters thing, and we win the Series partly because of it, who gives a flying Wallenda if we traded away the farm? The Chicago Cubs will have achieved the be-all end-all of baseball existence for the first time in 108 years!

So … was this a good trade? Was it money and players and conscience well spent? After last night’s bullpen-induced loss against the White Sox, I’m leanin’ in the “yes” direction.



· 2016 Cubs, Joe Sez · ,


Hey there, chip shots. So I’m sittin’ here watchin’ the Cubs/Braves game, thinkin’ they’re about to snatch victory from Atlanta’s jaws of defeat, when Hector Rondon comes in to close things out. And guess what … instead of doin’ that, he applies his human pink pearl effect on the game, erasing our lead in true Carlos Marmolian fashion by servin’ a meatball to Markakis. Ka-boom! The lead engineered by our bats in the 8th wiped off the scoreboard with one crappy pitch.

We’ve had a lotta closers like that in the last dozen years, and from what I could tell, the only reason any of ’em had the job title “closer” is cuz every friggin’ time they’d set foot on the bump, we all had to close our eyes so as not to experience a coronary. Most of ’em couldn’t close an automatic garage door. And now … really, Theo … are these the bulls you want in the pen? I’m all for givin’ guys a chance, but the season’s half over. Starters are tired, so the pen has got to take on a bigger roll. Given that reality, is what we’ve been watchin’ lately sort of a front row seat to what the ass end of the season is gonna look like? Cuz if it is, I’m gonna have to start drinkin’ something a lot stronger than Old Style.

And, hey … I don’t mean to single out Hector. His performance tonight is simply indicative of the way the entire pen has been playin’. I’m not the only one that thinks so, either. It’s definitely the weak link on an otherwise pretty stellar ball club, which is why you hear me wonderin’ if we have a firm grasp on the job descriptions of reliever, set up man, or closer. I know this: it doesn’t include servin’ up yard shots. Or walkin’ guys either. To be fair, Rondon has generally played well this season, but you could say that about the Golden State Warriors, too, and look what happened to them. You gotta do the job every damn time you’re in the game. Do you have to be perfect? No. But bein’ more like Mariano Rivera and less like a friggin’ launching pad is something to shoot for. Just living up to our offense would be a really nice gesture. That way, when they get us a lead in a close game, we can actually hang on to it; somethin’ we’ve not been so good at over the past couple of weeks.

By the way, the game is over. The W was in our grasp, but we took the L instead. Crap.