A few thousand Old Styles and about forty pounds ago, when I was a freshman, I dated this hot blooded Italian chicadoodle for a while. Her old man flew Corsairs with Pappy Boyington in the South Pacific. He was an Ace, too, whose face looked like somebody chiseled it outta granite … and none too carefully, either. He was about as broad as a house, spent some time coaching the US Boxing team, and had a temper that was perfectly suited for someone who’d been shot outta the sky a few times.
Thankfully, his offspring didn’t look anything like him, but hoooooo boy … she had every bit of his vein-poppin’ temper! I mean if Bashar al-Assad had just gotten the Marcellus Wallace “gimp” treatment from Zed — that kinda temper. BANG! KASHWACK! BAAAMMM! When doors started slammin’, you knew she was on the war path. In her case, though, it was more like the war interstate highway.
Fast forward to opening night. Just when it looked like the Cubbies were about to pull a little of that World Series magic outta their seat cushions … KAPOOWWW! The Cards handed us a foundation-rattling helping of the angry girlfriend treatment in the form of Randal Grichuk. That shard of light peeping through the door to victory got vaporized by Grichuk’s bat.
Can’t say I liked that.
Not to worry, though. We’re just toying with ’em. Think about it, pallie. After putting 17-1/2 games between us and the Cards last season and winnin’ the last game of the playoffs in THEE best World Series ever, Theo does the equivalent of spotting your kid sister 19 points in a game of 21 by letting the devil incarnate — the Cards — make off with Fowler. (Fowler is dead to me, by the way.) Then, just to make things interesting, our lineup decides to close one eye at the plate Sunday night, Lester is about as sharp as a bag full of overcooked pasta, and Strop … well … Strop was Strop; the human question mark. And still — still — we come within a Grichuk of winning anyway.
Let’s just say I’m not worried.
Why? Cuz last night we gave the angry girlfriend treatment right back to St. Louis, turning Matheny’s review of the last play of the game into a broken hinge in the House of Cards. Some killer base running early and an amazing grab in left by Almora didn’t hurt either.
I’m thinkin’ about 111 or 112 wins this season. Optimistic? I know, I know. Who am I and what did I do with the real Joe Schlombowski, right? Hey! Sue me for riding the wave, pal. I’ll get off when I’m damn well ready … or when the Cubs turn back into the Cubs. Whichever comes first.
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.