Hey there, cheese doodles. I’ve had my eyes closed for most of the season, for obvious reasons, so I was wonderin’ if anyone out there can tell me whether that was a corner the Cubs turned last night, or was that 14-3 enema we administered to the Mets just another one of those smooth spots in this bolder-strewn dirt road of a season?
Don’t get me wrong, pallie, I coulda poured last night over my pancakes this morning. Still, in spite of rackin’ up 15 hits, five of which left the yard, including a grand salami by Ian Happ, I’m not quite ready to head down to Party City. Yeah … we finally got some hits with guys on base — friggin’ amazing! I’d like to think that whatever it was — Rizzo hittin’ in the lead off spot, Lester still high from pickin’ Tommy Pham off of first last week, or Maddon puttin’ on his uniform in a different order — the Cubbies are about to catch fire. Of course, I’d also like to think that the missus is gonna put more hide-the-sausage days on her ‘to do’ list.
Take last week, for instance. The Cubs had won five straight, including a 10-2 A-bomb (that A is for Arietta, my friend) where the Cubbies treated the Marlins like a Donald Trump pinata at Elizabeth Warren’s birthday party. As a result, the wire was all abuzz with a heapin’ helping of hyperbole tied to the North Siders. Words like “surging” and “dominant” — terms that this year are usually associated with the Stros and the Nats — were actually being used in the same sentences with “the Cubs.” And lemme tell ya … I was pretty happy to read stuff like that about this year’s vintage. Still, I found it mildly entertaining — sorta like a guy juggling bowling pins, or Anthony Weiner’s last name.
What I mean is that beatin’ the Cards (26-30 at the time) and the Fish (24-33 at the time), although satisfying, wasn’t exactly a sign that the Cubs had rediscovered the lucky charms that made ’em magically delicious last season. It means they wrestled victory away from a couple of ball clubs that are slightly more mediocre than themselves. Yeah, I sound skeptical. Sue me! One incredible season (last year) — which, admittedly, was un-effing-believable — isn’t enough to break up the previous 55 years of scar tissue on my ass. History aside, though, winnin’ those five games was a distinct improvement over where we were a couple weeks before — limping outta Petco Park after being royally pants’d by the Preachers — the worst team in baseball, except for the Phillies. Kickin’ the Mets (29-34) around their own ball park last night comes with a certain measure of satisfaction, too. But winnin’ games we’re supposed to isn’t exactly somethin’ to do cartwheels over. Yeah, it’s nice, but was it a sign that the Cubs are finally runnin’ on all cylinders?
Still, I have hope. I grant you … it’s Schlombowski hope, which means it’s tempered by that hemorrhoid, Steve Bartman, and a lifetime of other rash-inducing memories that the Cubs have scarred me with. Of course I also remember the 2006 St Louis Cardinals — a skid mark of a ball club that took their hairless 83 regular season wins all the way to the World Series title. Which is to say, hope will get you just so far. After that you can squeak by with just enough hitting and pitching to win 83 games, as long as you also have a shit load of luck. So rub it if you got one, my friend. No … I’m talkin’ about a rabbit’s foot, nimrod. Sheesh.
Hey there, wing nuts. Well, watchin’ Game 1 was about as much fun as gettin’ a colonoscopy from the Tasmanian Devil. Things didn’t go well from the start. The “start” being the stupid friggin’ Bud Selig All Star game rule which takes World Series home field advantage away from the team that actually earns it. So let’s see, Bud … Umm, a game that doesn’t count at all steers the direction of the most important series in the entire baseball season. Great friggin’ idea, ass hat. We shoulda been in Chicago last night for the opener. Period. Would it have made a difference? Well let me put it this way: If it doesn’t make any difference, why then are the best teams in every sport in the known universe (except for baseball) ALWAYS given home field/court/ice/pitch (whatever you wanna call it) advantage in a championship series? If it were up to me, I’d throw Selig in a poorly lit basement with Marsellus Wallace, the Gimp and a blow torch. Maybe a pair of pliers, too. That rule has gotta be flushed.
Anyway, let’s take that outta the equation. It still didn’t start out well. I mean it did, but then it didn’t. Lester threw 5 pitches and had 2 outs in the bottom of the first. Total cruise control. And then it started raining dirty diapers on us. When you’re the Chicago Cubs, Lester is on the mound, you’ve got two outs, and the bases are 100% Indian-free … you oughta get outta the inning unscathed. Not last night.
On top of that, Kluber Lang struck out almost everybody in the first 3 frames. What a fascist. Reminded me a lot of NLCS games 2 and 3 when the Cubs pretended they couldn’t hit. They did a convincing job, too. We snuck a few in last night, though, and had some excellent scoring opportunities, especially against Andrew Miller, that sky scraper they brought in for Kluber. Even Schwarber, who’d had 11 at bats all season before steppin’ into the batter’s box in the 2nd, smacked a double. On balance, though, we looked like Tim Tebow at the plate.
And … AND … the home plate ump had two strike zones — one for Kluber and another for Lester. It was as plain as the blank stare on Bud Selig’s face. Seriously, the quality of the umpiring in the playoffs — at least the games I’ve been watchin’ — is like it was made in Taiwan. Pathetic.
We got KO’d by a team that’s not nearly as good as we are. Personally, I don’t think that’s gonna happen again. We didn’t win 103 games by accident, my friend. As nice as Cleveland’s story is — gettin’ to the Series with so many injuries and all, and not even being in the thing for 68 years — I just don’t think it’s gonna hold up against the Cubs. We only have to do one thing — play like the 2016 Chicago Cubs instead of the Wexley School for Girls.
“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.
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:
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.
One of my favorite things about baseball is that no matter how long you’ve been following the sport, somethin’ happens in most games that you’ve never ever seen before. I used to think this applied to everyone but the Cubs, cuz year-in and year-out, you could pretty much count on tomorrow’s game being a carbon copy of today’s game, which was a bona fide duplicate of yesterday’s game; another notch in the loss column. Not any more, pal. Last year we took a major detour from the yellow brick road, and this year … well … this year we fired up the John Deere, set the height to “zero” and have been mowing down anyone and everything in our path. In that regard, I guess we’re still sorta monotonous, but in a really friggin’ good way.
So anyway, yesterday I’m watchin’ us against Pittsburgh, right? It’s early — just in the 2nd — so the wheels haven’t come off the Pirate ship yet, when a grounder gets tapped up the middle. Lester grabs it (nice job). But now he’s gotta throw it to first and, as we all know, that can definitely present some things you’ve never seen before … like the ball ending up in Section 134. But this time, it’s so friggin’ jammed in the webbing of Lester’s glove, he can’t get it loose. Unbelievable. But does he panic? Hell no! He wads the whole thing up — mitt and all — and heaves it to Rizzo for the out. Now I’d never seen that before, but here’s what really blew the foam off my medicine: The same two guys (Rizzo and Lester) did the exact same thing last year — almost to the day — at Wrigley. I don’t know how the hell I missed it. I coulda been playin’ hide the salami with the missus, which is about the only thing that can throw me off my Cubs game. Who could blame me?
I’m not sure what this does to my theory about something new happening in every game. For those of you that saw it last season, it doesn’t hold. But for those of us who missed it due to a land slide or tornado or some other force of nature — oh … it was a force of nature, alright — it was new to us this time around. Anyway, it was such a genius move it was worth a little deja vu all over again. In Yogi we trust.
PS. You wanna see something you’ve never seen before, and that will make you get down on your knees and pray you never ever have to see again? Take a look at Lester’s post game attire. A fashion “don’t” of galactic proportions, it illustrates the single most amazing achievement in all of sport: A blind man can pitch in the Major Leagues. No wonder the guy can’t throw the ball to first base. He can’t friggin’ see it.