Well, cheese doodles, tonight was either a bona fide come-from-behind, never-say-die, skin-of-the-teeth victory, or a brutally honest look at our bull pen. Depends on how you wanna look at it, but since I have an almost mythical knack for finding the cloud wherever there’s a silver lining, I feel the need to point out the obvious flaw in what seems like a World Series team; our bull pen. Watchin’ them tonight was like eyeballin’ a petri dish coated with some disgusting stuff you can’t pronounce swarming around in random ways you can’t predict. And whatever that stuff is, you don’t want to touch it, and you sure as hell don’t want it wearin’ a Cubs uniform.
All I can say is thank you, God, for Joe Maddon. This was like some sort of baseball experiment tonight, where the Cubs were in a Phase II trial to figure just how comatose they could be and still win. Maddon, though, was the mad scientist, mixing things up in crazy ways, and putting parts where they don’t belong until he effectively willed a win out of what appeared to be a collection of inanimate objects. Seriously … how can the Cubs make like friggin’ Ironman for the first 5+ weeks of the season and then turn into Boy George against one of the worst teams in the league? Boggles the mind.
As good as we’ve been (and we’ve been damn good) and as masterful as Dr Maddon is (like a Casey Stengel version of Einstein … or vice versa) tonight’s showing against the Brewers illustrated with the clarity of a Miller High Life bottle that our bull pen is definitely the weak link in the Cubbies chain reaction. They walked 6 guys. SIX! I thought bull pen guys were supposed to throw strikes. That’s why they get brought in in the first place … cuz the previous guy couldn’t throw strikes. I mean if we wanted to keep walkin’ guys we’d just leave the first guy in, who was doin’ a fine job with that already, Right? Even Wood, who got the win by gettin’ out of a spectacular hole he dug for us, and gettin’ walked himself with the bags loaded, probably woulda had a different outcome if it hadn’t been for some of Maddon’s chess moves.
On the other hand, the Cubbies did come away with a win tonight, even if the bull pen was channeling Mitch Williams most of the time. Question is, what kinda pen do they wanna be? The kind that’s directly responsible for an increase in Chicagoland cardiac deaths, or the kind that inspires the sale of (name of Cubs reliever here) jerseys? We’re gonna find out. No question about that.
Tonight’s game against the Friars was like a trip down memory lane, only this lane was more like a dark alley smack dab in the middle of Fallujah. I don’t know why, but the bull pen decided it would be a hoot to reenact one of its performances from 2012. Now, I would try to do the duck thing and just let this roll off my back, but I’ve been a Cubs fan way too long for that. I remember trading Maddux, I remember Bartman pretending to play left field, I remember getting broomed in the first round of the playoffs after winning 97 in the regular season. So nothin’ is rolling off my weary, old, hairy back, my friend.
You have to take this stuff seriously. Especially if you’re Maddon. In fact, I’d like to see him channel a little Lee Elia … and like right friggin’ now. I mean, Joe had an awesome first season, right? Better than anyone, including management, expected. So I’m not sure he’s 100% dialed in on the historical voo doo that swirls around the club like the winds in Wrigley. If Joe doesn’t bring a little Old Testament, wrath-of-God kinda whoopass down on the bull pen for that performance tonight, and just laughs it off, that’ll just invite complacency. You get enough of that and pretty soon there’ll be no joy in Mudville, pal.
And I don’t think this is an alarmist position. Yeah, the Cubs are just the 4th team to win at least 25 of their first 31 games in the last 70 seasons. No question that’s awesome. And those other 3 teams … they all won the World Series. I’m sure Vegas likes those kinds of statistics. But Wrigley is not Vegas, bat racks, cuz as our bull pen proved tonight, what happens in Wrigley definitely does not stay in Wrigley. Warren served up a moon shot that NASA woulda been proud of. And, what made it worse was the colossal turd Grimm laid on the mound beforehand, makin’ the dinger all that much worse. That’s text book Chicago Cubs bull pen crap which, thankfully, we haven’t seen much of this season. I don’t think Maddon oughta allow a single moment of that go by without using all of the kings english, and at a pretty high decibel level. Don’t get me wrong … we’re damn good this year, and I think it’s gonna continue. My problem is that in spite of that — in spite of the amazing start and our carpet-bombing offense and our cannon-armed pitching staff — a measly 20% of the season is in the rear view mirror, pallie. A lot can happen on the road to the post season. Even during the post season. Hell, ask the 2004 Yankees.
Did we win tonight? Yeah. Was it fun to watch? Until the 8th when the pen decided to remind me what it’s like to pass a kidney stone. I’ve already done that twice. Enough already.
There was this great episode of Star Trek called “Mirror, Mirror” where a transporter malfunction swaps Captain Kirk and his crew with their evil counterparts in a parallel universe. Except for the “evil” part, sometimes I wonder if there was some kinda ion storm thingy that threw baseball into a sorta upside-down world, parallel universe where Chicago’s Cubs — the used Charmin of the National League — are now the equivalent of the ’27 Yankees.
I guess that would make Maddon Captain Kirk. I don’t know who Arrieta is. Probably Spock, with that Vulcan nerve pinch of a fastball. Then you got Rizzo, Bryant, Ross, Fowler, Lackey, and so on, as Scotty, Bones, Chekov, Sulu and the rest of the crew of the Star Ship Wrigley … going where no Cubs have gone before. Fascinating.
In “Mirror, Mirror” the crew figured out that something was wrong, and so they spent the whole episode working on getting back to the way things were. Personally, I’m liking this time warp, black hole thing we’re in a helluva lot, and I hope the laws of physics and baseball remain decidedly out of balance until a star date several million light years into the future. I don’t want the old Cubs back. And if everyone thinks these Cubs we’ve got now are evil, or alien, or transported here from Omega IV, so friggin’ be it. Besides, no team in the history of sports is more evil than the Yankees, and I don’t see anyone whining about them. Maybe because they suck this year.
Anyway, with the exception of Lester, who could be an extraterrestrial if you judge him by what he wears off the field, I think these guys are just friggin’ good and that’s why they’re doing the photon torpedo thing to every team that ventures into Cubs orbit. And it wouldn’t break my heart if they could turn this into a 5 year mission, either.
I find it mildly ironic that the candy-assed St Louis Cardinal organization has banned Joe Maddon’s “Try Not to Suck” t-shirts from their ball park. Cardinals spokesman Ron Watermon said the word “sucks” is on a list of curse words forbidden to appear on clothing in … get this … “Busch” Stadium.
That’s right. “Busch.”
I think you know where I could take that, my friend, but I’m not as petty as Mr Watermon or whoever came up with their list. The word “suck” happens to be part of everyday language in America. It’s part of the jargon. So, Mr Watermon, while you’re un-wadding your delicate little panties, you should know that it doesn’t take on any meaning beyond “you’re no good at something” unless you have a sewer for a mind, or you also define what’s being sucked.
Hey, Watermon … I got a definition for ya.
I’d like to point out that Joe’s t-shirt 1) benefits a charity and 2) was nothing more than a motivational line uttered by Maddon when he called up Baez last year. That’s it. No filth, no crass, no micro-aggression thrown in the direction of the friggin’ Cardinals. I thought baseball men were supposed to be tough and gritty. Apparently not so much in St Louis. Oh, and before I drop the subject of what’s offensive and what isn’t, I think we should ask what’s worse: a t-shirt that says “Try Not to Suck” that raises money for Respect 90, Maddon’s charity that supports athletics for inner-city Chicago kids, or Busch Stadium, named for a company that produces just under half of all the beer sold in the United States. Now I could extrapolate some numbers on that for drunk drivers, alcoholism, obesity, lost productivity and generally asinine behavior, but that would take years and cost hundreds of lives. I think you get my point.
Did I mention that Budweiser tastes like crap? It does.
So, while Jason Heyward is pelted with racial slurs by the classy fans in Busch Stadium (asinine behavior, as previously mentioned, possibly induced by the swill that is Budweiser), the precious little ballerinas in the Cards’ front office are making sure no one is offended by a harmless blue t-shirt. (Also comes in red, and green; the color of envy, which is what the friggin’ Cardinals are feeling this year for the Cubbies.) Pathetic.
Now that we’ve got that “Back to the Future II” prediction out of the way, here are a few truths (and not-so-truths), from the Sun-Times perspective, about the ’16 Cubs. I’d like to note that the Sun-Times likens Maddon’s “embracing the target” approach this season to George Custer embracing the target of the Sioux Nation in 1876. I’m canceling my subscription.