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DUMPIN’ BRYANT FOR THE HARP IS DEFINITELY NOT MUSIC TO MY EARS.

· 2017 Cubs, Joe Sez, News · , , , ,

HARPER-AS-CUB-2

I have, for my entire 56 years, believed that Cubs fans have more character than … well, Mets fans, for example; that mid-westerners (except, of course, for St Louis fans), by nature, are way nicer than your average finger-flippin’ yay-hoo in a Phillies cap, and smarter than your typical show-up-late-and-leave-early Dodgers fan; that people who faithfully stick with a team through multiple lifetimes of abject futility, bad trades and nonexistent bullpens are the sort you want in your fox hole.

The Peter Gammons Principle.

This week, ESPN’s Peter Gammons brought all that into question by absent-mindedly suggesting Bryce Harper would like to play for the Cubs. The REAL story, though, isn’t whether Harper actually wants in, it’s how some Cubs fans are responding to it. Gammons’ statement has shined some light in the dark corners of the collective Cubs fan mind, revealing a few disgusting thoughts scurrying around like cockroaches. I gotta tell ya, I’m pretty friggin’ appalled, and feel the need to Orkin these guys. More on that in a minute.

Gammons’ initial remarks, and clarified, retracted, back pedaled, follow-up explanation on the subject of the Cubs signin’ Bryce Harper, and the possible ramifications of such a move, started a firestorm — albeit a speculative one — that would rival the inferno that burned Chicago to the friggin’ ground 150 years ago. Most of it confirmed my theory about the character of Cubs fans. Some of it, though, proves that every walk of life has some percentage of the genetically inferior.

And I’ll fully grant you that the little bit of gray matter I’ve got between my ears pales in comparison to some molecular biology, graduated-with-highest-honors Princeton grad. But I can tell you this, my friend … I’ve been rackin’ it day and night since Gammons’ wild and unsubstantiated speculation, yet I still can’t figure how some of the crap I’ve read can come from the mind of a Cubs fan.

For sure, the media is part of the problem. True to form, they jerked an offhand comment by a famous baseball writer right out of its context, and twisted it all up into a controversy pretzel. And probably on purpose. That’s today’s shit-stirring media for ya.

As for Gammons himself, he should know better. When a guy like him says, “I have people tell me that Bryce Harper really would prefer to play for the Cubs,” it means something. The rest of the sports press is gonna pick it up and run with the fucker. I swear, if Gammons farted, the sycophantic ($10 word bonus) press wouldn’t point fingers and curl their noses, they’d wanna talk about what it smelled like and compare it to other farts. To me, Gammons did the sports equivalent of a Trump tweet — said somethin’ outrageous and unsubstantiated — and now everybody has their jock straps in a wad.

It may very well be true that Harper would, to quote Gammons, “prefer to play for the Cubs.” Not a great insight, cuz who the hell wouldn’t? I’ll bet if you surveyed every active player, and they answered honestly, the vast majority would say the same thing. We’ve got Theo, we’ve got Jed, we’ve got Joe. We have Brizzo, Arietta, Zobrist and Baez. Contreras and Davis. Heyward and Russell. Lackey, Lester and Schwarbs. If you don’t wanna be a part of that, you probably don’t wanna have a naked pool party with the last 12 Playmates of the Month, either.

Still, sayin’ somethin’ like that nearly 2 years before your contract with the Nats runs out would be a classless thing to do. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting, intimating, hinting or otherwise insinuating that Harper did anything at all like that. Maybe he said nothin’. Maybe he said stuff to his friends in confidence. You gotta be able to do that without some sports hack floatin’ rumors on you. It also doesn’t matter one iota (How much is an “iota” anyway?) if I personally happen to think Harper is the kinda Milton Bradley douche burger that would crap on his own team. The bottom line is there’s no evidence that Harper said jack, and for Gammons to hang that out there over the plate like a waist-high Carlos Marmol meat ball, wasn’t journalism, it was sensationalism.

In the words of John McEnroe, “You can’t be SERIOUS!”

Gammons’ motivation aside, I’m positively dismayed at some of the reaction by Cubs fans to this story. The comments posted to this article, for example, include the following:

Everyone assumes the Cubs would want to keep Bryant around for a long time, because he’s a great player. But Bryant’s first year as a free agent will come at age 30. Harper’s first free agent year will come at age 26!!!! It makes loads of baseball sense to want to have Harper for ages 26-33 (or whatever) more than to want Bryant for ages 30-37.

Harper’s free agency is still two years away and there are so many teams and variables to think through so it’s still a long shot that the Cubs will sign Harper. But really, from a baseball perspective, it is a no-brainer to take Harper at age 26 and wish Bryant well at age 30.

To which I respond with one word: Loyalty. It’s somethin’ I hold in the highest regard. Like a pizza from Lou Minatti. Along with honesty and integrity, it’s part of what defines character — somthin’ in short supply these days. Loyalty is the defining characteristic of a true die-hard Cubs fan. (That and a well-endowed beer gut in a mustard-stained tee shirt.) How else can you explain the complete lack of logic that goes into unconditionally loving the perennial doormat (until 2015) of the National League? I get the “baseball perspective” the guy above refers to. I just think it’s the kinda perspective that’s warped by a lack of character.

Dumpin’ Bryant for Harper would satisfy his one-dimensional argument, but not take into account the pinheadedness of cuttin’ out the soul of our team in exchange for a questionable clubhouse force. Winnin’ with what we already got isn’t a bad or necessarily impossible thing. We already did it once. We don’t need the Harp to do it again, and we don’t need to say sayonara to KB at age 30. Should the Yanks have cast away Jeter, Posada or Rivera at 30? Only a moron would have made those moves.

Lemme put it to you this way: If you’re datin’ Samantha Hoopes, do you F that all up by also tryin’ to date Kate Upton at the same time, with the ultimate plan to cut the Hoopester? No, you do not. You see where Sammy can take you, which I’m pretty sure would be somewhere between nirvana and heaven.

Let me introduce you to Marsellus Wallace.

The Cubs have somethin’ special, my friends. If they didn’t, jaggoffs like Harper wouldn’t wanna come here. In a perfect Joe Schlombowski world — the baseball one, not the Swedish Bikini Team one — the Cubs would hoist two or three more trophies before this group starts to suffer from the aforementioned “baseball perspective.” I suppose that’s inevitable (like the air quality resulting from a sixer of Old Style and a couple of Chicago dogs). But why orchestrate it in exchange for Papalbon’s punching bag?

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with that. Like this guy:

And I also think it’s foolish to assume that the Cubs can automatically re-sign Bryant. He may want a change of scenery. IMO, if you have a chance to sign Harper and let Bryant walk, you do it.

I’m sorry, but people who think this way should have their Wrigley privileges revoked. Additional sanctions involving boiling oil and fire ants are on my list, too, but run afoul of the Geneva Conventions. Besides, what’s more cruel and unusual than never again being able to set foot in the Friendly Confines? Maybe the Marsellus Wallace treatment, but that’s about it.

What guys like this don’t understand is that there happens to be a lot more to winning than gettin’ the most expensive (sometimes equals “best” often times doesn’t) player in the game to sign on the line which is dotted. It’s a crap strategy that usually guts a team financially, which totally undermines the friggin’ goal.

Two words: Barry Bonds.

On top of being a cheat, a liar and the Darth Vader of the Giants clubhouse, Bonds viewed himself as the epicenter of the baseball universe. Even more assholian, he expected his teammates to do the same. The bloated Bonds ego was matched by just two things, his paycheck and his body — the latter, the result of nothing that he ever admitted to, but that Helen friggin’ Keller coulda seen with her own two eyes. The Giants won exactly zero rings with Bonds, but about 5 minutes after they cut him loose and used his ransom for some good pitching … BOOYA! Three of ’em in 5 years. Pissed me off, I’ll tell ya, cuz I hate the friggin’ Giants.

You do see my point, right? And at least Gammons gave it a nod, himself, sayin’ that the cost associated with havin’ both Bryant and Harper on the same team would be prohibitive.

We don’t need a Harp to play “Go Cubs Go.”

I suppose there’s maybe a .000001% chance that the two yay-hoos I quoted up there were captured by the ISIS of baseball, St. Louis fans, made to kneel in Cardinal red jump suits and forced to say those things on video. I’d like to think that, cuz any Cubs fan freely willin’ to write off Bryant and bow to Harper represents a warped view of the Faithful — a radical Bryce Harper version that promises 72 season tickets for helpin’ to bring the Harp to Chi-town.

The Cubbies may not be havin’ the year they did last season … yet … but they are the defending World Series champs. They did that with Bryant. What has Washington done with Harper?

Joe

WHERE IS THE LINE BETWEEN DRESSIN’ UP LIKE RON BURGUNDY AND PLAYIN’ BALL LIKE HIM?

· 2017 Cubs, Joe Sez · , , , ,

RON-BURGUNDY-CUBS

Sometimes I wish I was a duck. Not the Anaheim hockey kinda duck or the Oregon football kinda duck. The kind that comes with orange sauce in hoity-toity French restaurants. The real kind. The waddling, quacking, flyin’ south for the winter kind. Cuz if I was THAT kinda duck, the whole junior-high-school-let’s-play-dress-up thing the Cubs do, instead of focusing on baseball fundamentals, might just run off my back.

“I’m in a glass case of emotion!” — Ron Burgundy

But I’m not a friggin’ duck, my friend.

I’ll admit that missus would say I have some habits that remind her of another barnyard animal. But a duck? No. And nothin’ — least of all the Cubs’ girly-scout-like penchant for celebratin’ Halloween during the regular season — is running, dripping, sliding or otherwise escapin’ the confines of my heavily forested back. At least not without me first stating the obvious, which is this:

If you’re a major league baseball club, and you’re routinely using your opponent for a doormat, you can dress up like Ronald friggin’ McDonald in drag all you want. Pull out your secret collection of Madonna poindexter bras. Go with the Sports Illustrated body painting thing. Whatever chalks your foul lines. Winning is everything, pallie, so if a team wants to dress like peacocks in heat when they’re doin’ it, who am I to say otherwise. I’ll always think it’s idiotic, but if you’re headed for a 100 win season, what the hell. My problem with the Cubs dressin’ like Ron Burgundy (or Walt Frazier, or Lady Gaga — honestly, I can’t tell with some of those get ups) is that they’re doin’ it in the middle of a .500 season. Yeah, they had just spanked the Reds and Giants before this Southern California trip — and, admittedly, I thought that was some kinda turning point in what has been a less-than-stellar season. As it turns out, though, that’s not the case. Instead, all they did was tempt fate. And fate — otherwise known as the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres — has given ’em a front row seat on the catwalk of “What Not to Wear.”

With the possible exception of the nine games preceding this Burgundy trip, the 2017 Cubs have been playin’ a lot more like the (PUT ALMOST ANY YEAR BETWEEN 1909 AND 2015 HERE: _______) Cubs than the “2016 World Series Champion” Cubs. Example: Last year when we had 25 in the W column, we only had a 6 in the loss column. This year? 26.

“Don’t act like you’re not impressed.” — Ron Burgundy

That’s a pretty impressive collapse, in my book. Especially when you consider that the Cubs have the same basic team as last year. Practically the same lineup. Same skipper. Same coaching staff. We’re playin’ in the same ballparks. Stayin’ in the same hotels, probably. Dating or married to the same women. Puttin’ the same uniforms on in the same way. What we’re NOT doin’ the same is catchin’, throwin’, pitchin’ or hittin’ the friggin’ baseball. In fact, if defense wins championships, the 2017 Cubs might as well punch out right now, cuz they’re currently ranked below every major league ball club in that department, except for the Athletics. And they’re like not even a real baseball team.

Ok, how about our offense? “What offense?” you might ask. Exactly. Kris Bryant is leading the team with a whimpering .277 batting average. He’s also tied with Rizzo for the team lead in steals. They have four apiece. Wow. Ricky Henderson used to swipe that many in a single game! In 2016 we had five guys ranked in baseball’s top 50, offensively. This season, we’ve got one in the top 65 — Bryant, again — but his name doesn’t register until #22. Out of the 30 major league baseball clubs, we rank 24th in team batting average (.237), and we strand 15.73% of our baserunners (29th). Although I suppose I should be thankful that we even have baserunners.

Then there’s our pitching … if that’s what you wanna call it. It’s more like batting practice. We’ve got a 4.09 team ERA (13th), a 1.325 WHIP (14th), we give up 8.40 hits (12th) and 1.27 dingers (18th) per 9 innings, and we hand out up a whopping 3.53 walks per 9 innings (23rd). You know that new (and completely idiotic) rule where a team can opt to wave a batter to first rather than intentionally walk him? Well, at this point, our pitching is so inept, I’m thinkin’ they might as well just turn around and throw the ball in the gap.

But then what do you expect for $175,000,000, right?

The dress up thing reminds me of Crash Davis deliverin’ the “shower shoes” message to Nuke LaLoosh. “If you win 20 in the Show, you can let the mold grow back on your shower shoes and the press will think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the Show, however, it means you’re a slob.” Same principle applies here. If you’re 35 and 16 you can dress like friggin’ Liberace and everybody will think you’re loose. But if you’re 25 and 26, it just means you’ve taken your eye off the ball.

And THAT, my friend, is winning another Series.

“I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal.” — Ron Burgundy

Sure, winnin’ one was a big deal. Not as big as winning two, though. Am I thankful I was alive to witness last year? Damn right. Would I like to see more while we still have a chance with this lineup we got? Who wouldn’t? But even if that doesn’t materialize, I’d much rather the Cubs acted like playin’ ball mattered as much as playin’ dress up. Cuz right now, they’re not only lookin’ like Ron Burgundy off the field … they’re playin’ ball like him on it.

Of course I could be wrong. But I’m not.

Joe

WHERE DOES KRIS BRYANT GO FROM HERE?

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

SCARLETT-JOHANSSON-HOT-TUB 2

In the past four years Chris Bryant has loaded up his trophy case with the Collegiate Player of the Year, Minor League Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and now Most Valuable Player of the National League. The guy could put a True Value sign on his house with all that hardware. One question comes to mind: How in the hell to you top all that?! Personally, I think it would involve Scarlett Johansson and a hot tub full of whipped cream, but that’s just me. If I’m Kris Bryant — who’s less than half my age, much taller, way thinner and with movie star looks and all — I think I’d be talkin’ swimming pool instead of hot tub, and probably addin’ Charlize Theron and Salma Hyak to the roster. Talk about a Hall of Fame line up…

I digress. But who could blame me?

Anyway, I totally think KB deserved this year’s award. He was, in a couple of words, friggin’ awesome! What’s most amazing to me is that he’s just a kid, and has only been in the league for 2 years. Think about that.

Nevertheless, I can already hear Sport Illustrated, ESPN, Fox Sports and various other baseball prognostication epicenters yammerin’ out loud about how Bryant is headed for Cooperstown. Has he had a great four years? Let’s put it this way: If Donald Trump somehow puts together a string like that, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reed and Hillary Clinton will be petitioning to have The Donald’s face added to Mt Rushmore. My point is this: Bryant has killed it for four consecutive years. No question … that’s amazing. But let’s wait to see how his career plays out before retiring his number. My beer mug runneth over with talking sports heads and their so-called expertise proclaimin’ this or that player as the next incarnation of Mickey Mantle, if not Jesus Christ himself. And how many times have they been right? I can count ’em on zero hands, my friend. I say, let’s enjoy Bryant bein’ Bryant, and hope that he doesn’t slip on the whipped cream and tear somethin’. Or that Theo doesn’t get attacked by aliens, who steal his brain … so he trades Bryant or somethin’. Or that Bryant doesn’t decide to pull a “Grant Desme” and give up baseball to become a Catholic priest. (We definitely gotta get him in that hot tub with Johansson, ASAP.)

As a former long suffering Cubs fan who’s now basking in the joy of a World Series Championship, I’m just happy that Bryant plays for the team that I’ve loved since I was old enough to pee. As far as the future goes, my fingers and toes are crossed, so that when Bryant is starin’ free agency in the face, he chooses to value Chicago more than his slime ball agent, Scott Boras, tells him he should. In the mean time, we have a friggin’ ass-kickin’ team, FULL of most valuable players as far as I’m concerned. One of ’em happens to be Bryant. I’d like to think where he, and the rest of the team, goes from here is right back to the World Series next year. And I don’t think that’s Skip Bayless-like hyperbole ($10 fancy word bonus!) at all.

Joe

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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WHAT’S IN A NAME? MORE THAN YOU MIGHT THINK, PAL.

· 2016 Cubs, Joe Sez · , , , , , , , , ,

BALL-PLAYER-NAMES

“Guess there’s a little Slim Shady in all of us.” — Eminem

Okay, I’ll admit it, sports fans. Rap and hip-hop music sound about as good to me as a shattered glass enema. I graduated high school in 1978 and grew up with an eight-track in the Pinto that I stuffed with Bob Seger, Joe Walsh, and Ted Nugent’s Double Live Gonzo. Look, pal, I don’t know if the real Slim Shady ever stood up or not, but I can tell you this: havin’ a first name you hate so much that you gotta change it to Eminem is tragic. (And, oh, by the way, that whole melts-in-your-mouth-and-not-in-your-hands thing is a load of crap. Holding a handful of those babies for more than, like, two minutes at Wrigley in August will make you stickier than Bill Clinton at a White House intern orientation.)

Which brings me to the point of today’s lesson, Cubs lovers. Take a knee.

In addition to being hard rock axe men who paved the musical way in my hay day, Seger, Walsh and Nugent have something else in common: they all have real, honest, hard first names. Hey, if the name on my birth certificate was Marshall Mathers, I might have a sweet candy alias too. But it’s not. I’m Joe. Joe Schlombowski. And names — front or back — don’t get much harder than that, my friend.

See, you got hard names and you got soft names. Hard names are bestowed on the fortunate sons of men who ignored their wives’ pleas to taint their new bundle of joy with a sensitive ringtone. Hard names, like Bob and Joe and Ted, and like Alex and George and Dan and Mike and Hank, are coughed off the tongue, dripping with masculinity and other admirable character traits. Like John Cusack said in The Sure Thing, “Nick’s the kind of guy you can trust, the kind of guy you can drink a beer with, the kind of guy who doesn’t mind if you puke in his car.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Of course, John — uh, yeah, that’s a hard name — is a devoted Cubs fan who’s been known to lead the Wrigley Faithful in Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

Soft names, on the other mitt, reek of maternal coddling. Avery, Ashton, Todd, Caleb, Joshua — all of them conjure up the image of a friggin’ fat kid with a notoriously soft Justin Bieber haircut whose only playing Little League so his overbearing, Boeing Apache mother can bring him a lemon Gatorade and Fruit Snacks in the dugout every other inning. I mean, have you ever heard a coach yell, “Goddammit, get in front of the friggin’ ball, Jasper!” without makin’ Jasper cry? Of course, not! Coach has no time for a kid with a soft name; he wants a dirty, tobacco-chewin’, fist-fighting animal named Rusty who drinks from a muddy water hose only after the game’s over.

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BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

· 2016 Cubs, Joe Sez · , , , ,

BASEBALL-WISHES

Hey there, turn signals, Joe Schlombowski here; a little bruised and banged up emotionally from yesterday’s opener with the Mets. I had been lookin’ forward to this series all season long, and not being able to just get to it and settle the score was makin’ be break out. It was like being a snarling rottweiller on a 5 foot leash with a juicy slab of porterhouse steak dangling 6 feet away. I fully expected Joe and the boys to rip them to shreds, and the way the game started, it was lookin’ pretty much like I was right. Bryant, once again, was channeling himself. (Normally I would say he was channeling Babe Ruth or Reggie Jackson, but I think Bryant bein’ Bryant is about as explosive as you can get right now. Oh … and for any of you San Francisco fans wonderin’ why I didn’t mention Barry Bonds? Bite me. He’s a cheat, everybody knows he’s a cheat, and on top of that he’s a jaggoff.) Anyway, Mr Bryant got us off to a really nice start, thank you very much.

So did Lackey. The guy was on cruise control until his arm started farting in the 5th. Weird. Happened in the 5th in his last outing, too. Still, I was a little surprised Joe yanked him when he did. Yeah, sure … Cespedes launched one of his pitches into a geosynchronous orbit around Neptune, but that was pretty much it. Me personally? I think Joe pulled out the hook a skosh too soon. It’s easy for me to say that, cuz … you know … that hindsight thing is in play. But holy monkey droppings, did all 4 wheels come off the wagon then, or what?!

Now if I was politically correct, I’d say Peralta was less than stellar. But I’m not. He sucked. He walks pinch-hitter Alejandro De Aza, then dishes an RBI single to Brandon Nimmo. If there’s one thing that drives me to drinkin’ — never mind … everything drives me to drinkin’. But I have a hard time with relief guys who come in and start walkin’ hitters. That’s the polar opposite of relief, my friend. I mean when pitchers are yanked it’s usually cuz they’re havin’ a hard time. Relievers are brought in to do what the guy before ’em couldn’t, not the same damn thing. That’s why it makes no sense to me to have guys in that roll that hold the friggin’ flood gates open with ball 4. Sure, everybody is gonna give up some hits, but any reliever that’s got an arm full of walks oughta be workin’ at 7-11, not pitchin’ for the Cubs.

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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