It’s the middle of May and the Cubs are 19-19. That’s a long way from where we were at this point last season, my friend. Light years away. About 108 of ’em. I don’t mean to sound negative, but what in the hell happened to the new and improved Cubs, I ask? Was 2016 it? Is that all we’re gonna get: The baseball equivalent of Ben Simmons’ one-and-done? I mean in all honesty, I’m havin’ a hard time swallowing Tom Ricketts’ 2017 pricing structure when he’s servin’ up the 2012 Cubs. Not cool.
Yeah, it’s early. And, no, I haven’t thrown in the towel yet. But I am gettin’ my arm loosened up. Besides, sayin’ it’s early is the exact same thing as sayin’ Joe West has a crap strike zone. It’s the same friggin’ Helen Keller strike zone for both teams. And it’s just as early for the Snakes, who finished 22 games outta first last season, as it is for us. In spite of that, some how — magically — the Nats, the Cards, the Rockies and, yes even the Snakes have all figured out how to play actual major league baseball. The Cubs? They’re swingin’ the bats like my grandmother, and she’s been pushing up daisies for like 20 years. Defense? That’s just something covered in ivy.
One can hope that the current series against the pathetic Cincinnati Reds — who we spanked last night but with whom we share identically anemic 19-19 records — will signal the return of last year’s mantra, “Try not to suck.” Or maybe it oughta be updated to, “Stop sucking.” Either way, if we don’t start hitting, pitching and fielding like we actually have some previous experience with these tasks, Tom Ricketts can take his inflated pricing and stuff it wherever our starting pitching in currently storing their heads.
Christmas is a time of good cheer, right? That is unless your name is Tom Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs, Grinch look-a-like, and the guy who put the ‘dick’ in Dickens.
If you unearthed every single last chunk of coal in the entire state of Wyoming and hauled it to Chi-town, it still wouldn’t be enough to fill Tom ‘Ebenezer’ Ricketts’s Christmas stocking. Not even close. Best you could do would be to marvel at how the black of the coal is no where near as dark as Ricketts’s microscopic little heart. Assuming he has one at all.
That’s right, sports fans. This week, the Cubs announced that they’ll be raising 2017 ticket prices by an average of a smidge under 20%. Merry friggin’ Christmas. With that move, Cubs owner, Tom Ricketts — the man who brought an end to 108 years of the Chicago blues — revealed his true colors. And what an ugly friggin’ rainbow it is, my friend.
You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch, You really are a heel, You’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch, You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel!
This special Ricketts box of Crayolas contains the following:
1. The aforementioned black. In this case, an inescapable black hole shade of midnight reserved for only the greediest, meanest, nastiest of hearts. Again, this assumes there’s something heart-like in this guy’s chest. 2. Gold; as in what already lines every nook and cranny of Ricketts’s pockets. (What the hell is a ‘cranny’, anyway? It sounds painful. Whatever the hell it actually is, I’d like to Garo Yepremian my right foot smack into the center of Ricketts’s.) 3. Green. But not just any green, mind you. The Benjamin, Hamilton, Washington and other dead presidents kinda green, soon to be migrating from the accounts of Chicago Cubs fans’ to the overflowin’ coffers that are already straining to hold the Ricketts fortune.
You’re a monster, Mr. Grinch, Your heart’s an empty hole, Your brain is full of spiders, you have garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch, I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!
You know, for about a month there the guy had to be on the very tip top of Santa’s “Nice” list, havin’ brought so much joy to so many people after so many years. Not now, pallie. If I’m Santa, I’m spikin’ the reindeer’s preflight meal with enough Exlax to evacuate the collective GI track of a herd of elephants, then I’m establishing a holding pattern over Ricketts’s house about 2 hours later. I mean, half the city is STILL wearin’ its World Series grin. Hell … I’m one of ’em! So what does ownership do? They give us baseball’s version of the ice bucket challenge. I can just see Ricketts sittin’ behind his big ol’ desk, wringing his sweaty hands like Mr Potter, and sayin’, “Alright, alright, they’ve had enough time to enjoy themselves. It’s time to make some money off these suckers.”
You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch, You have termites in your smile, You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch, Given a choice between the two of you’d take the seasick crocodile!
I get that baseball is a business … supply and demand and all that kinda crap. And they gotta reinvest in the team if they’re gonna keep this crew together long enough to win one or two more trophies. Plus, the Cubs are damn good. They’re gonna draw. There’s just no arguing with the fact that tickets are gonna be a hot item next season. Should prices go up? Yeah, probably. But 20%? Are they gonna be 20% better than they were this year? No, they are not. They’d have to win 124 games to do that, and unless everybody else plays with 7 guys or without gloves or somethin’, that just ain’t in the cards, pal. Ricketts is gonna put essentially the same product on the field next year but charge us 20% more to go see it. Friggin’ Scrooge, man. I didn’t see the guy droppin’ prices in 2013 after we lost over 100 games the previous year. How come the door never ever ever never swings in the other direction? Cuz of guys like Ricketts, that’s why.
You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch, You’re the king of sinful sots, Your heart’s a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots, Mr. Grinch, You’re a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!
In closing, I’d like to once again (cuz I have already) thank Tom Ricketts for bringin’ Theo, Jed and Joe to the Northside. Without them we’d still be the Chicago Cubs instead of the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs. Seriously, I’m grateful. But Tom, if by some magical reason you’re readin’ this, I also want you to know that you can take your Grinchy attitude and stuff it right back up your chimney with glee, pal. Why? Cuz the average Joe — guys like me who already have a tough time affordin’ a few games a year — won’t be able to go to any, now. Or at least fewer. So thanks, dick head. You not only stole Christmas, you’ve stolen the pleasure of goin’ to the ballpark, too.
You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch, You’re a nasty wasty skunk, Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch, The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote, “Stink, stank, stunk!”
“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.
There were 2,430 games played this season, and it took the very last one for the Giants to manufacture a chance at the Post Season. How you interpret that can either give you hives or a grin the size of Prince Fielder’s butt.
It’s hard to figure a team like San Francisco. They’ve got a good staff, a line up of veterans, a damn good manager in Bruce Bochy, and a ton of experience with the post season in the last decade. A little too much. Like there should be a special episode of Hoarders about the Giants. And yet they still sucked like Linda Lovelace with a Dyson since the All Star break.
This is also an even year, which holds sway over the superstitious. Not that Cubs fans are immune to that condition. Two words: Billy Goat. Me, personally? I never, ever change my underwear in the middle of a winning streak. Needless to say, I got a little crispy now and then this season. Totally worth it, though. Anyway, Giants fans believe that even numbered years belong to their team — that they own ’em. And I gotta tell you … it would give me a world of satisfaction for the Cubs to prove what a Mount Everest-sized pile of crap that is.
The fact that the Giants made it to the Wild Card game at all, in spite of playin’ the second half of the season like the fog had rolled all the way into their clubhouse, says a whole lot about them, none of which I like very much. But I think an even numbered year has about as much to do with the Giants makin’ the playoffs as the color red does.
And that’s the thing. If they didn’t get in because of some voodoo, witchcraft, hocus pocus BS, then what’s the reason? As much as the legacy of Barry Bonds still sandpapers my backside, I gotta hand it to the Giants; they’re a grizzled lineup that plays team ball, doesn’t give up, and somehow finds a way to survive when they’re nose-to-nose with the grim reaper. Those are admirable qualities in a ball club, no question, and even though the words are gonna taste like the south end of a sick rhino, I gotta say that the Giants are probably for real and, unlike the geeked-out, cucumber mist bottled water-drinkin’ fans they got, they’re probably not big believers in the make-me-laugh, even-numbered-year thing.
Full disclosure: I was pullin’ for the Mets last night. And I gotta tell ya, after what happened last year, that felt a whole lot like havin’ a heart transplant without anesthesia. I just figured the Cubs would have an easier time with them than San Francisco, and that they’d do the same thing that the Giants did — chip away at the Mets’ pen.
Of course if Mad-Bum and his band of Halloween-colored honyocks think it’s gonna be more of the same against the Cubs, they’re sorely mistaken. No way Chicago is first pitch flailing at anything in the northern hemisphere like New York. LlNot a chance. Just 21 pitches got Bumgarner through the first 3 frames. That was epically-stupid on the part of the Mets, who wasted a brilliant outing by Thor and now will be swingin’ golf clubs this weekend instead of bats. And by the way, I don’t take Syndergaard out. He’d given up a grand total of 1 hit and had somethin’ like 10 K’s over 6 innings. Yeah, yeah … Granderson saved his narrow hiney on that deep drive to center, but that had more to do with where he was positioned than Thor runnin’ outta gas. It was a long out, nothin’ more. Look, all I’m sayin’ is if my horse has won the first two legs of the Triple Crown … do I replace the jockey at Belmont? No. I do not. What idiots.
It’s that kinda moronic hitting and coaching that played right into the Giants’ hands, and was a big factor in last night’s outcome.
And what about Yoenis Cespedes? He looked like a friggin’ crayon with that hair. I’m sorry, but if you’re doin’ that sorta crap as you head into the playoffs, you’re not focused. You’re tempting the gods to make an example of you. And did they ever? He went 0-4 with 2 strike outs, and got nothin’ on the ball when he did make contact. But, hey … LOVE your hair, Yoenis.
The gods weren’t done by any stretch, either. Enter Conor Gillaspie. Seriously? Conor … Gillaspie? A Conor Gillaspie could be a bank manager. A Conor Gillaspie might sir on the Supreme Court. But steppin’ into size 16 hero shoes in a win-or-go-home game? No. That’s the gods at work, my friend. Plain and simple.
If you look at the last week of the season, and last night’s game on top of that, you might conclude that the Giants have reacquired their mojo, and will now be an even-numbered foregone conclusion to be reckoned with. And that’s fine. The Force has a powerful effect on the weak mind.
But as the Wizard so emphatically put it to Dorothy, “Not so fast. NOT so fast!”
Anyone — and I’m mostly talkin’ to you Giants fans, now — anyone thinkin’ the Cubs are gonna pull a Golden State Warriors against the G-men oughta get a CAT scan right now. The best record in baseball means nothin’ to a team that hasn’t won a ring since William Howard Taft was diddlin’ interns in the Oval Office. There’s a whole lot more they’re playin’ for. On the very tip-top of that list would be writin’ the biggest sports story on the planet in the last 7 decades. The entire city of Chicago and, hell, half the country wants to see the Cubs doin’ the champagne boogie. I’ll bet the Giants won’t even be all that broken hearted when Rob Manfred is handin’ the hardware to Ricketts. Point is, the Cubs have a distinct purpose, and it’s one helluva lot bigger than just winnin’ the Series. It’s about healing. It’s about burying the damn curse. It’s about givin’ something to back to Cubs fans for 108 of stickin’ with a team that coulda been mistaken for a possum. And I believe the Giants are about to find out just how important that is to Chicago.
Thus, in spite of San Francisco’s do or die last night, and their willing themselves past LA to even get that far, there happens to be another possible scenario besides them findin’ their mojo. In fact, there may be no mo jo in their mojo. That is possible, my friend. What they’ve had to do just to get there may be all they could muster.
Whether they’re runnin’ on fumes or emotionally topped off with full-octane Willy Mays karma, I don’t think it’s gonna matter one iota. (What the hell is an iota, anyway?) I think the Cubs are bound and determined to finish what they started in April, and unless they come down with a team-wide case of the Black Plague, nobody — not Mad-Bum, not Posey, and certainly not Conor Gillaspie — is gonna be able to do a damn thing about it.
Hey there, weed eaters. I got a question for ya: What the hell is it with the Robin Leach plans for Wrigley Field? Excuse me all to friggin’ hell for just bein’ a baseball fan instead of a Rolls Royce drivin’, C-suite fancy pants with $1000 bills hangin’ outta my pockets, but I guess that just ain’t good enough for Tom Ricketts anymore.
Hey, I’m grateful as hell that Tom-Tom wrestled the Cubs away from the pinheads at the Trib, and has turned the club into something that has less than zero resemblance to the National League door mat it used to be. Major kudos for that, Mr Ricketts. The Schlombowski’s thank you. But plans are in the works to turn parts of Wrigley into some sorta private yacht club for the single malt sippin’ rich and famous, and they’re wedged into my craw like a friggin’ 2 x 4. That whole way of thinkin’ is a slippery slope, my friend. It gives me an Old Style headache — one that can only be relieved by blowin’ the foam off my medicine.
I suppose I should be happy that Wrigley hasn’t gone the way of the wrecking ball. If it had, not only would the best ball park in the galaxy be just a memory, but we’d now have a “kinda” ball park as it’s replacement. “Kinda” ball parks are places like AT&T, or PNC, that kinda seem like an old baseball park, and kinda have some of the idiosyncrasies ($10 word bonus for Joe) of an Ebbets or Crosley or Comsky or Fenway, but they’re just Kingdome’s in disguise. No one is happier than me that we’ve still got Wrigley in it’s almost original form. And some of the changes over the years have been good. As hard as it was to take at the time, I know we had to do the lights. It was a must. And the clubhouse? Sheesh. You can’t treat million dollar ball players like circus animals, especially now since they don’t play like ’em anymore. But not every change is for the better, pal.
Under Armor logos in the Ivy, for instance. I’m sorry, but Wrigley’s ivy walls are sacred. Or were. Puttin’ advertising on ’em is like farting in church, or takin’ a leak on the Magna Carta. Seriously, was that necessary? How much could that possibly add to the revenue stream? And the jumbotron. Yeah, every park has ’em and, quite frankly, I like seein’ instant replay. Still, for me the jumbotron is an extension of all the other crap that’s invaded the between-inning break. It’s as if ball clubs are afraid we’re gonna head for the turnstiles if there isn’t some obnoxious music breakin’ my ear drums, or videos of some fat guy dancin’ every second the ball isn’t in play. It’s supposed to be a ball game, not a friggin’ Chuck E. Cheese.
I know I’m in the minority on this stuff, but I don’t really give a crap. I’m of the opinion that Wrigley is part of the history of Chicago, if not the entire US of A, and because of that I think it oughta be treated with a little more respect, and with a nod to the undying loyalty of the average SOB that used to skip work to take in day games. That’s right. Where were the well-heeled back in the day (year before last) when the Cubs woulda had a hard time beatin’ the Sheboygan Little League All-Stars? Not at Wrigley. But now … oh yeah … now it’s cool to be a Cubs fan. And it’s gonna be so much cooler to be of the Premier class, not just the riff-raff in steerage. Can’t say it’s rubbin’ me in a way I like. The more management shoves us into the archives and turns Wrigley into a place where only bankers and lawyers can afford to go, the more I feel the sting of Tom Ricketts backhand.
I suppose season ticket holders have the right to the kinda stuff they feel oughta come with that sorta cash outlay. But where does it stop? Gold-plated cotton candy? Champagn-dipped curly fries? Personally, I care a whole lot more about the product that’s on the field than whether my Chicago dog is made outta Wagu beef or not, and I think the true Cubs fan agrees with that. It’s a baseball game, not a night club. Braggin’ about Wrigley’s room service treatment and doily-covered seat cushions isn’t about bein’ a fan. It’s about keepin’ up with the Trumps. Me? I’ll take the Joneses and the cheap seats any day.