· Joe Sez, The Playoffs · , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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.

Point is, the Giants are a damn good team. They aren’t about to roll over just cuz their waxed backs are against the ivy-covered wall.

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.



· 2016 Cubs, Joe Sez · , , ,


Off to Cincinnati today for 4 days of fun with the Red Stockings. This is a club — not unlike the Cubs — with a long, colorful past; one full of intrigue, deception, and moronic moves that rival anything the Cubs have been able to pull off during the longest championship drought in professional sports history. Still, the average guy on the street can’t tell you much about the Reds. Yeah, everybody knows about Pete Rose, but Reds knowledge basically starts and ends with his whining buttocks gettin’ broomed from the game, with some Big Red Machine thrown in for good measure. On the other hand, the same guy who flunks Reds 101 can recite in painful detail incidents like Bartman, and the black cat, and the billy goat, and Lee Elia’s meltdown, and tradin’ Greg Maddux, and a bunch of other things that have helped define the Cubs as the door mat of the National League over the past century.

So, to brighten my day, and maybe make you feel like we’re on an even playing field — historically speaking — I thought we’d have a little Red Stockings history lesson.

1) A charter member of the National League, Cincinnati was booted after only 4 years. When I found that out it made me warm and tingly all over. Until I found out why. They were selling beer in the stands! That was a deal-breaker for the league president so out the door they went. Can you imagine that happening today?! I mean, for a lot of people, beer is what makes baseball fun to watch.

2) They went bankrupt right after that: A theme that’s hung around Cincinnati like the mold growing in the corners of the clubhouse, and has reared its bigoted, cheating head in the forms of the morally bankrupt Marge Schott and Pete Rose.

3) Nobody wanted them after that, so the Bankrupt Machine formed a new league by sending a deceptive telegram to some of the other owners who’d previously been invited to a meeting for this very purpose, but had declined. The telegram to each stated that he was the only jaggoff who didn’t attend that first square dance, and that the other owners were enthusiastic about the new venture. The lie worked, and the American Association was officially formed with the new Reds a charter member. This adds fraud to bankruptcy. Nice.

4) Only 9 years later, the Reds bolted the American Association to rejoin the National League. Not a big deal, right? Wrong. The reason the National League was happy to have them back (along with the Brooklyn Bridegrooms — perhaps the stupidest name in the history of sports) was in part due to the formation of the Player’s League. This new league was an early failed attempt to break the reserve clause in baseball and, as such, threatened the status quo. So, the Reds made a decision that helped maintain the slave-like conditions of professional baseball for another 85 years. Thanks. Nice move.

5) The mediocre Reds didn’t do much for most of the next 30 years, but in 1919 the won the National League pennant, then won the world championship in eight games over the Chicago White Sox. Of course, that was the Black Sox White Sox, which totally calls into question whether the Reds would have won that Series had it not been thrown. Not likely. (Side note: This is one of the main reasons to despise the Sox by the way.) Anyway, it was a tainted victory.

6) By 1931, the Great Depression was in full swing and the Reds were bankrupt. Again.

7) When Crosley bought the team, things finally started to turn around for the Reds. Hey, maybe they could go for awhile without going bankrupt again. Yep, and they won the pennant in ’39. While they werebusy patting themselves on the back, though, they had their asses handed to them by the Yankees. They did repeat as NL Champs the next year and narrowly got by Detroit for the Series Championship.

8) Nothing much good happened after that for some time. And, in fact, fearing their traditional club nickname would associate them with Communism, the Reds officially changed it to the “Cincinnati Redlegs” in 1953. I guess I can understand that thinking, given the times and all, but if Horneytown, North Carolina, Hookersville, West Virginia and Hell, Michigan can go through life without worryin’ what people think, why couldn’t the Reds?

9) On par with the Cubs trading Maddux after his first Cy Young award, was the trade that is largely regarded as the most lopsided in baseball history. In 1965, Cincinnati sent former Most Valuable Player Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun, and outfielder Dick Simpson. Robinson went on to win the 1966 MVP and triple crown in the American league, and lead Baltimore to its first ever World Series title in a sweep of the Dodgers. That pretty much killed the Reds until the rise of the “Big Red Machine.”

10) Sparky Anderson was pretty much the architect of that movement. And I totally admit, the Reds of the 70s were friggin’ great. And the ’75 Series against the Red Sox was monstrous. But … the best part was Carlton Fisk’s yard shot off the foul pole in game 6. It didn’t win the Championship, but it’s gotta be one of the greatest moments in sports history, and it happened at the expense of the Reds.

11) Along in there you have the human freight train, Pete Rose, betting on his own ball games and getting banned from the sport for life, and Marge Schott — the chain-smoking, bigoted, St. Bernard-towing owner with such an unfiltered mouth that she was forced to give up her team by Major League Baseball. Quite a classy pair.

12) More recently, I think Junior (Griffey) was a bright spot, along with Lou and Dusty as managers, cuz they also both managed in Chicago. In fact, under Lou in 1999, the Reds lead the league wire-to-wire and swept the heavily favored A’s in the Series. As a result, though, it was perhaps the most boring World Series ever.

13) I think we’ll end here, on lucky 13, where I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that the Reds finished with the second worst record in the league last year. A feat they topped by also trading flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman to the New York Yankees.

I’d say we look pretty friggin’ good compared to the Reds, history and all. And I say after the next 4 games we’ll be lookin’ even better.