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!
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.
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.
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.
And then there’s Mr Colin Bench-Me-But-I’m-Still-Gonna-Figure-Out-How-To-Get-On-The-Cover-Of-Time-Magazine Kaepernick. Are you kiddin’ me? I’m clicking around the channels lookin’ for stories about what swamp creature from the Everglades Joe Maddon has brought into the Cubbies locker room to lighten the mood, and I get Colin Kaepernick takin’ a knee during the playing of our National Anthem. Hey, it’s a free country, great, but Colin, write an F-ing op ed piece in the New York Times. DON’T TRED ON MY FLAG. Especially when you’re usin’ $100 bills for toilet paper. Yeah, we have problems, and you donatin’ a million bucks to help is a big deal in my book. Lord knows I can’t do that. But seriously, crappin’ on the stars and stripes just pisses people off (just in case you couldn’t tell). And one more thing … The cover of Time Magazine. Keeeee-ryst. I’ll tell you who should be on the cover of Time friggin’ Magazine. General Douglas MacArthur, that’s who! John Freaking Glenn! Mother Theresa! I’ll tell you who should NOT be on the cover of Time Magazine: NOT a toll collector on the New Jersey turn pike! NOT a pilates instructor from Austin Texas. NOT someone who says the droplets on their windshield formed a perfect likeness of Elvis. Not ANYONE connected with the I. F-ing R.S. And MOST importantly … NOT A SECOND STRING QUARTERBACK who throws as many interceptions as he does touchdowns.
This fall should be about the CHICAGO F-ING CUBS! I want Kris Bryant on the cover of Time Magazine. Kaepernick throws passes at 47 miles per hour. Aroldis Chapman throws the cheese at 105 miles per hour. I want Aroldis Chapman on the cover of Time. You hear me Time Warner?! Put Aroldis Chapman or Kris Byrant or Jon Lester or Joe Maddon on the cover. (But wait until we win the Series please, I don’t want you bubble brains to jinx it. If you get stuck for ideas (Does the Barbie cover ring a bell?) I’m sure the Sports Illustrated guys could send you a swimsuit model or two.)
So, is baseball a white man’s game? NO, IT’S NOT YOU STUPID PUTZ. Is Big Papi white? Is Felix Hernandez white? Is Theo Epstein comin’ over tomorrow to wash my car? Is Giselle tryin’ to make ends meet by workin’ as a waitress at Denny’s? NO is the answer. NO! You hear me, Mr Adam Jones? The Cubs are 19 games ahead of the Cardinals. THAT SHOULD BE THE F-ING HEADLINE.
Alright, I gotta go open another can of my blood pressure medicine. Cheers.
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.
Again, Joe is the boss, and I side with Joe (except on the idiot pajama thing). But if I’m Hammel, I’m dishin’ a super-sized 4-letter word salad to anyone within earshot as I exit, stage left. I mean it’s not like he Bill Gullickson’d the game (August 18, 1991 Gullickson throws 5 pitches — ball, home run, home run, ball, hit by pitch — and gets pulled). But I don’t think he said much of anything. He wasn’t happy, but he kept it to himself until after the game, behind closed doors. Just him and Maddon.
And that’s why I raise a frosty Old Style to the big guy — cuz unlike so many athletes today he was professional about it. He was classy. He didn’t grand stand, he didn’t make like Carlos Zambrano in the dugout, and he didn’t call up Joe Posnanski and make a federal case out of it in the newspapers. And that last part had to be tough, cuz you could practically hear the saliva drippin’ on the clubhouse carpet as the press tried to get Hammel to sensationalize the thing. Nope. He basically told ’em to shove it. Love that.
So here’s to you, Jason Hammel. That’s how it’s done.
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.
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.
Complicatin’ things is the near felonious collapse of our rotation’s dominance. Even Arrieta, who’d been unbeatable since last season’s All-Star break, has slipped into the shadows; walkin’ guys, givin’ up runs and losin’ 3 of his last 4 starts. This kinda stuff starts to reveal the pen’s weaknesses cuz now we gotta rely on them a lot more than we had to earlier in the season.
Our hitting hasn’t exactly been by the book either. Outta the 30 Major League teams, we’re 28th in leavin’ guys on base. Criminal. The good news is that we’re scorin’ more runs per game than everybody in the National League, but with a tired rotation and more reliance on the bullpen, it’s not enough anymore.
You don’t have to be James Comey to see what happens when you start connectin’ the dots. When you examine the evidence — the lackluster hitting, the less dominant rotation and a suspect bullpen — you start to see a pattern emerge; one that’s exposing the effects of our youth on our defense. I don’t think we need to mobilize a SWAT (So What About it, Theo) team or anything, but there’s mounting evidence that somethin’s gotta change.
If you look at the facts, they always reveal the truth, my friend. And the fact is, we’re 9-16 in our last 25 games, and we’ve lost 8 of our last 9. Is this temporary, or is it merely revealing a truth that no Cubs fan wants to cop to? Like I said, it’s a long season, and the stake-out is only half over. It’s no time to pass judgement over what could be the best Cubs team in over a century. But from where I sit, watching and waiting — not to mention hopin’ and prayin’ — I’d like to see a little less disregard for the baseball gods and a little more respect for what it’s gonna take to get to the Series, let alone come out smellin’ like a champion.
Joe (Schlombowski, not Friday)
PS. The story you have just read is true, but no names have been changed to protect the innocent.