Hey there, rum balls. Well…this is it. Tonight’s the night. Every single thing in the wide, wide world of sports (if you’re a Cubs fan) is ridin’ on tonight’s game. Except for Harvey Weinstein. He prefers helpless young actresses. But I digress.
Yep, tonight is for all the marbles, the whole shooting match, and the whole nine yards. The entire cheese-smothered carnitas enchilada is on the line tonight, not to mention (but I’m going to anyway) the entire ball of wax. By the way, who keeps a ball of wax, anyway? Has anyone ever actually seen one? What in the hell do you do with one, and why would anyone ever want the whole damn thing? No clue.
Game 5 is the full monty, baby, and tonight’s winner takes it all, lock, stock and barrel…or hook, line and sinker. In other words, the whole schemer, megillah or kit-and-caboodle. It is, in fact, for the whole shebang. (Pull your pants back up, Weinstein. That doesn’t mean what you think it does.)
My money — if I had any money — would be on Hendricks, my friend. And nothin’ — other than makin’ it back to THE Series itself — is gonna be more finger lickin’ good than pullin’ the rug out from under the obnoxious, bearded, bat-flippin’ Bryce Harper and the rest of those yay-hoos that represent that rat infested (read: politician) city — home to The Donald.
“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.
Personally, I wasn’t surprised in the least. Kershaw had squeaked by with a 1-0 victory in game 2, in spite of the fact that the Cubs couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. Goin’ into Saturday night, though, with the Cubs’ bats turned up to the 50 megaton level the previous two games, it seemed obvious that Kershaw could be in trouble. Of course this was the last thing most people expected. Why? Cuz of the sycophantic baseball writers and broadcasters, who for a week had been pourin’ Kershaw syrup all over everything. Especially Joe Buck, whose lips have gotta be surgically attached to Kershaw’s buttox. I got sick and friggin’ tired of hearin’ about some new, lower delivery angle and how devastating it was gonna be on our guys. “When?” I ask. Best pitcher in baseball? Once, maybe. Unhittable? Like your mama. I’ll take Hendricks, Lester or Arrieta over fuzzy wuzzy any day of the week. And twice on elimination days. Between Kershaw and Hendricks, the latter was the superior pitcher this year, in every respect, most especially when it really mattered. So baseball press, can we please shut the hell up about Jesus Effing Kershaw, and how Dave Roberts is such a genius manager? It’s nauseating.
One last thing on this point: Hendricks pitched to the minimum number of batters. As did Chapman. Meaning game 6 was only the second time in playoff history — the other being Don Larsen’s 1956 World Series perfect game — that that’s been done. So, again … zip it on the Kershaw blather.
I know everybody is lookin’ forward to tomorrow night, but I think some of the fun and games from Saturday bear repeating here:
Toles hits the first pitch of the game into right for a single. The Dodgers were jumpin’ around in their dugout like a bunch of Girly Scouts who just got their first training bras. Two pitches later there were two outs and the bases were empty, and Javier Baez was tucking his cape in. LA took the field in the bottom of the 1st with a goose egg on the board.
In our half of the first, Fowler says hello to Kershaw with a ground rule double, and Bryant brings him in with a shot down the line. 1-zip, Cubs. In a Rorschach moment, the non-abbreviated version of F-U Dodgers blurted outta me. Don’t know what the psychology behind that is, but it felt like it needed to be said.
Somebody in the booth mentions that the Cubs are 47-13 when Fowler gets on to lead off a game. I’m guessin’ that Toles had his rabbit ears on when they said it, cuz instead of makin’ a routine catch, he channels Keith Moreland and drops Rizzo’s routine fly. We end up with guys on 2nd and 3rd. A sac fly by Zobrist scores another run. 2-nothin’, Cubs. Time for another Old Style. We leave Rizzo at third, but at this point in the game, with Hendricks on the mound and the Cubs bats in perfect working order, I’m startin’ to wonder how long it takes the club house crew to prep things for a champagne shower.
In the top of 2, Baez, Mr Steady, blows an easy one. Call me crazy, but I say he did it on purpose so Hendricks could pick Reddick off of first. Which is what he did.
Addi hits the 3rd double of the night and it’s only the 2nd inning. What a shame. Kershaw? More like Kershawshank, and definitely in need of redemption at this point. Instead, Fowler brings in Russell, and I have that same Roarschach moment.
The 3rd. Rizzo. Another double. Uh … that’s 4, so far, right Kershaw? I guess it’s hard to pitch when you’re walkin’ on water.
In the 4th, Joe Buck offers some of his unique wisdom by stating, “This place is crawling with blue.” No shit. It’s the Cubs and Dodgers. Blue is the color for both, you putz! Too bad all the rocket science and brain surgery positions were filled when Buck got outta school. The world missed out.
Contreras goes yard. Rizzo goes yard.
In the 8th, Toles appears to be checking his email on the field. Or maybe checking in for his flight back to LA. Seriously. If you recorded it, go back and look.
When Joe pulls Hendricks for Chapman in the 8th, again, I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. I mean given recent history with that move. But another double play later I understand the difference between the mind of a savvy baseball genius and one that’s under the influence of Old Style. Yes, I started early.
Which bring me back to where I started — a series-ending double play that’s sent the Cubs to the World Series for the first time in 71 years, and me to the bathroom for some tissues. Not to sound ungrateful or appear greedy, but 4 more wins would be nice.
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 just read Steve Rosenbloom’s piece in the Trib, where he says “Kyle Hendricks is pitching like Jake Arrieta with a learner’s permit.” His words exactly … all the way down to the imitation road-to-the-White-House snarkiness. I’m not quite certain why he felt compelled to say that about the Cubs’ best pitcher, but the piece reads like Rosenbloom keeps a life size blow up from Arrieta’s ESPN The Magazine spread push-pinned to his bedroom ceiling.
To be fair, Rosenbloom does point out that Hendricks is “pretty close” to Arrieta in a number of stats, and that he “pitches efficiently and quickly” and has a brilliant changeup. He’s also actually makin’ an argument in an “excuse me” kinda way for why Hendricks oughta win the Cy Young this year. But man, you gotta read between the Arrieta syrup to tell. Almost every paragraph compares Hendricks to Jake, one statistic after another. And, hey … I wouldn’t have an issue with that at all except for this: Rosenbloom is crunchin’ this year’s Hendricks numbers against Arrieta’s last year. Is that kosher? Not in the Schlombowski deli, it’s not. That’s just a large, economy-size serving of twisted statistical crap with no pickle on the side. It’s the same kinda shady comparison tactics used by this year’s vermin-like presidential candidates. You might wanna just hang onto that $50 Pulitzer entry fee on this one, Steve.
This apples and oranges way of evaluating the effectiveness of anyone is beneath someone of Rosenbloom’s journalistic achievements. I mean, we could just as easily compare the 2016 Arrieta against the ’73 Tom Seaver, the ’00 Pedro Martinez, the ’69 Bob Gibson (among others) and paint a picture that makes Jake look like the bat boy. Hey, I got an idea, Steve, why don’t we put the 2016 Hendricks up against the 2013 Arrieta? Or the 2012 version. Or 2011 or ’10. The only true, honest, level-playin’-field comparison between these two hurlers this year is lookin’ at this season’s numbers. You do that and the balance tips in Hendricks’s favor. Plus, there’s no arguing the fact that Hendricks has picked up a lotta the slack created by Jake misplacin’ his cape this year. That’s not to say he hasn’t had a solid year … he has. But it wasn’t the other-worldly thing he conjured up last year, as you’ll read in Rosenbloom’s piece.
Hendricks came outta Spring Training desperately clingin’ to the 5th starter role, while Jake was struttin’ around Ho Ho Kam like the Cy Young winner he is. I woulda too, if I was him. And for the first couple a months of the season I’d have sworn we were watchin’ instant replay of the second half of 2014. In fact, it wasn’t until Arrieta started chatterin’ about a $250M contract that the wheels started wobblin’ on his wagon. Coincidence? I tend to think focusing on money 2 years before your contract is up puts demons between your ears, which is especially bad for pitchers cuz they’re often borderline head cases already. He seems to have found his cape again, though. Which is good for everyone except whoever the Cubs face in the playoffs.
The fact is, the entire rotation has been mostly great, most of the season. And, with Lester, Hendricks and Arrieta we’ve got 3 of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. But Hendricks has gone from 5th starter to being the man behind the wheel … and it hasn’t been with a friggin’ learner’s permit.