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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.

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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

 

THE ITALIAN STALLION VS THE MASTER OF DISASTER? I GIVE YOU GAME 3 OF THE NLDS.

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

NLDS-GAME-3

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!

Joe

UP 2-0 IN THE NLDS, CAN THE CUBS PULL THE PLUG ON THE GIANTS?

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

GIANTS-FLATLINE

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:

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IS BASEBALL A WHITE MAN’S GAME? YEAH, AND I’M A VICTORIA’S SECRET UNDERWEAR MODEL.

· Joe Sez, News · , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

LILY-WHITE-BASEBALL

I’ve been a Cubs fan since before the Big Bang, so you can imagine how, this year, it’s been pretty friggin’ impossible to wipe the smile off my face. I think it’d take a jack hammer and some C4. Or maybe some earth moving equipment or somethin’. I’ll tell you one thing: it’s thrown the missus off, that’s for sure. Why? Cuz until the 2016 wet dream edition of the Chicago Cubs, nothin’ on Earth (or Mars and Jupiter, for that matter) except the considerable charms of Mrs Schlombowski could give me this Howdy Doody face. Know what I’m sayin’?

We got a 19 game lead over the Cards, who are number 2 in our division. (And when it comes to the Cards, I think you know what I mean when I say “number 2.”) We’ve had the best record in baseball since the opening bell — except for about 5 minutes back in April. And right now, we’re 44 games over .500. If last night’s game hadn’t ended in a lame tie, and we’d have finished off Pittsburgh — and c’mon, is there any doubt? — we’d have won 16 outta 22 series match-ups so far, and 7 of those are sweeps. Point is, this has been a 100%, unadulterated, no-holds-barred, cup-runneth-over baseball season of Cubbie blue bliss. And it ain’t over. In fact, to quote Mr John “Bluto” Blutarsky, “Nothing is over until we decide it is.

Not that a post season run is a sure thing. I mean I’m talkin’ about the Chicago Cubs, here. Actin’ like Theo is gonna sprout a snow white Duck Dynasty beard and come down outta section 503 with “World Series Champions” etched on stone tablets would be pretty friggin’ arrogant. It would also be presumptuous and assholian, which would make me a Yankees fan. Quite frankly, I’d rather bathe in a tub of simmering yak doo than be saddled with that misconception. Anyway, I think you gotta stay grounded. Shit happens, my friend. The last time the Cubs got close enough to sniff a World Series trophy, the air was fouled by Steve Bartman. Remember that? This recurring Bartman nightmare not withstanding, I think you gotta enjoy the best season the Cubs have had in everyone’s lifetime. Stop and smell the ivy, so to speak, like me. I’ve been hangin’ out on cloud 9, the Bowksi-lounger dialed in at a jaunty 73 degree recline, enjoyin’ the occasional frosty, perfectly foamed Old Style, and day-dreamin’ about how I’m gonna fit a goat on the Weber. (I figure I’ll have to Dexter the thing with a hack saw or somethin’.) The Cubs are hot. Life is good. Short of the missus bringin’ me a cigar in her birthday suit, I’m about as happy as Bill Clinton at an intern convention.

And yet what the F do I see when I flip on Baseball Tonight or SportsCenter?! Is it the Cubs? No. It’s Adam Effing Jones playin’ the race card! Callin’ baseball a White sport! Jesus, Mary and Joseph Maddon … Talk about bitin’ the hand that feeds you. That’s like a friggin’ great white shark, pal. Jones is rakin’ in $16 million this year, and talkin’ about white privilege. And droppin’ grenades like 8% of ballplayers are black. Yeah? What about the Dominicans, Cubans, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans? That’s more like 40% people of color. When is Jones gonna talk about black versus brown versus every shade in between? They don’t count? Sheesh. If I said somethin’ like that I’d have the nightly news parked on my lawn. Not only is all this crap takin’ away from the real story of the 2016 baseball season — the Cubs — it’s not even one of baseball’s biggest problems. Race? Really? Are you friggin’ KIDDING me? How ’bout declining attendance, nobody playin’ Little League, rules changes that are dialin’ up the wuss factor … If you’re gonna go all Reverend Wright on us, Mr Jones, pick a real problem. And by the way, if you can figure out how to get Cam Newton, LeGarrett Blount, and Derrell Rivas to play baseball instead of football, bring it the F on! Baseball WANTS those guys! Especially if they end up on the north side of Chicago. You wanna make a difference? Drop one of your sermons on the LeBron Jameses and Antonio Browns of the world that gets ’em to choose a diamond over hardwood or a gridiron.

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HAMMEL YANKED EARLY, BUT STANDS AS TALL AS EVER.

· 2016 Cubs, Joe Sez · , , , , , ,

JASON-HAMMEL-EARLY-EXIT

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.

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THE CUBS ARE MAKIN’ ME FEEL MORE LIKE JOE FRIDAY THAN JOE SCHLOMBOWSKI.

· 2016 Cubs, Joe Sez · , , , ,

CUBS-STAKE-OUT

It’s mid-summer, hot in the big city. I’ve been workin’ a stake-out on the north side outta the Fraud division. My partner, the ever faithful Cubs fan, and I have been watchin’ the alleged perps — a group calling themselves the Cubs and masquerading as a possible World Series contender — since April. As stake-outs go, this one has been a cake walk; I get to watch baseball everyday and drink on the job. Perfect.

Stake-outs are curious affairs. You can watch your ass off for weeks — months, even — and nothin’ seems unusual. Until it is. I guess the Cubs bein’ the best team in baseball for 3 months shoulda been the first sign that somethin’ was rotten in Denmark AND Chicago. But everything has seemed Jim Dandy.

Until now.

That’s the thing about a baseball season — it’s friggin’ long, my friend. Because of that, it has a way of betraying you, of trippin’ you up and revealing the truth — stuff you’d rather keep hidden from fans so they keep thinkin’ you are who you’ve led them to believe.

You know how detectives get hunches? (What the hell is a “hunch” anyway? I know there was a guy from Notre Dame that had one on his back once. Probably kept him off the football team. And there’s no way he was gettin’ lucky lookin’ like that.) Anyway, detectives get hunches a lot, and they seem to help get to the bottom of things. A couple of months ago, I had what I’m guessing was my own hunch-like thing about our bullpen. I let it go for a while, cuz everything was Jake. Now … after 3 months of waiting and watching, and watching and waiting, it looks like I was right, cuz we’re startin’ to see exactly what kinda pen we’ve got. And I don’t think it can be trusted.

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WHY I HATE THE METS: REASONS 868 AND 869.

· 2016 Cubs, Joe Sez · , ,

I-HATE-THE-METS

Two words: Jose Reyes. That’s all it takes to explain why I can’t stand the friggin’ Mets. That, and seein’ a Mets fan in the stands, wearin’ a Reyes jersey. And this guy was ultra-Mets; the kinda fan with a $250 Wall Street hair cut and wearin’ his sunglasses backwards on his head. Totally obnoxious. Probably does the Anthony Weiner thing with his cell phone, and checks out his own ass in the mirror every chance he gets.

Yeah, yeah … Cubs fans wear player jersey’s all the time; Rizzo, Bryant, Arrieta, Baez, Sandberg, Banks, Jenkins … Williams, too — Billy and The Wild Thing. But none of those guys have grabbed their wives by the throat and thrown ’em against a plate glass window like Reyes has. Charming. There’s no excuse for beating a woman. None. Period. End of discussion. Still, the Mets have welcomed the guy back to their clubhouse, like he was convicted of jaywalking or somethin’. Classy move. Shows what they think about domestic violence. On top of that, any fan — like the aforementioned pinhead — willing to still sport the jersey of a guy who’s known for treatin’ his wife like he treats a baseball shows just how friggin’ tone deaf he is to a really dipshittian kinda crime — one that should never ever happen.

Anyway, Jose Reyas and Jose Reyas apologists add up to the 868th reason why I can’t stand the friggin’ Mets.

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WHO NEEDS TO FIND BOBBY FISCHER WHEN YOU’VE GOT JOE MADDON?

· 2016 Cubs, Joe Sez · , , , ,

JOE-MADDON-CHESS-MASTER

Boris Spasky? Garry Kasparov? Bobby Fischer? Pfft. You wanna talk about the grandest master of ’em all, you’ll be throwin’ the name Joe Maddon around, my friend. If you saw last night’s game, you know exactly what I’m talkin’ about. If I didn’t know better — but I do, cuz guys were wearin’ uniforms instead of suits, and the game was in Cincinnati not Reykjavik — I’d have sworn I was watchin’ a great chess match.

Maddon opened with the Zobrist Attack — nearly impossible to defend against — and then began to slowly and methodically dissect the Reds like the pawns they are. It was masterful; different than the night before, though, where he basically commanded the entire game with a single piece — a tactic known as the Bryant Challenge. But last night … last night’s middlegame was almost cruel. Maddon lulled the Reds into a sense of over-confidence by toyin’ with ’em. Even lettin’ them back in the game when he had a chance to close it out. This is known as the Rondon Gambit. There are similar Gambit moves — the Wood, the Grimm and the Stroup — that Maddon will attempt on occasion, but last night he went with Rondon.

You could see the Reds thinkin’ they had an opening, especially when they shut the door on the Cubs with their semi-brilliant (nothing the Reds do can technically be called “brilliant”) execution of the Votto Defense. But then Maddon started movin’ pieces around like a friggin’ tornado and exchanging ’em like teenage girls sharin’ a closet; Grimm for Rondon, Goghlan for Almora, Szczur from left to center, Edwards for Grimm, Montero to Edwards’s spot then Cahill for Edwards. This kinda chess-like mastery continued for the next 5 innings, with Maddon makin’ one of his most blinding moves — the Patton-Wood castling — in the 14th. Filthy. Really filthy.

It wasn’t until the 15th, though, that Big Joe pulled out the rarely-used Javier Baez Slam. An end game I don’t think anyone expected, least of all the Reds. That just friggin’ crushed whatever hope they’d been clinging to and 3 outs later … check-friggin-mate, my friend.

Tip of the Joe cap to you, Joe Maddon. That was 4 hours and 43 minutes of brilliance.

Joe