Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXXIII: Finally!)

Written by :
Published on : November 5, 2016

 

 

Pardon my tardiness, dear reader. It took me a full day to recover. The longest championship drought in the history of North American sports is finally over. And as the Cubs doggy-piled on the infield grass in Cleveland on Tuesday, I fell to the floor alternately weeping and laughing maniacally. It still doesn’t necessarily feel real. But I want to take you on the journey one last time. So here are my reactions to Games 3-7, directly after they were over. I hope you enjoy it. I know I did.

 

Friday, October 28th. The Indians beat the Cubs 1-0. They lead the Series 2-1.

“Sure as God made green apples, some day the Chicago Cubs are gonna be in the World Series. And maybe sooner than we think.” That was Harry Caray on the final day of the 1991 regular season. And on Friday, fans laid green apples at the base of Harry Caray’s statue at Wrigley Field, because the Cubs played their first World Series game there since 1945. Tickets weren’t cheap. And man,  I really felt like the Cubs were supposed to win this one. I wanted it. Wrigley Field definitely wanted it. But I guess the Indians’ bullpen wanted it more.

 

With the wind blowing out, Carlos Santana in left field and Josh Tomlin pitching, the Cubs still couldn’t score a run. It was the Indians’ 5th shutout of the postseason, which is a record. And it was the 4th time in 8 games that the Cubs have failed to score. Runners were on second and third in the bottom of the 9th with Javy Baez, the star of the NLDS and NLCS up to bat. And he was struck out by Cody Allen to end the game. The Indians moved to 63% to win the Series. The good news is that Corey Kluber is pitching on short rest and the Cubs are favored in Games 4, 5 and 6. The bad news is that the Cubs can’t win the World Series at Wrigley. Now I just hope they can get back to Cleveland.

 

 

Saturday, October 29th. The Indians beat the Cubs 7-2. They lead the Series 3-1.

That was fucking brutal. Corey Kluber strikes again. Goddamnit. The Indians were underdogs against the Red Sox. They were underdogs against the Blue Jays. They were underdogs against the Cubs. Now they’re 10-2 in the postseason and one win away (and 85%) from winning the whole thing. And Kluber would go again in a potential Game 7. I don’t know what to say at this point. LeBron James was down 3-1 in the NBA Finals this year? The Cubs have won three games in a row or more 16 times during the regular season? 18 times, if you count the postseason, including in the last round against the Dodgers? Andrew Miller finally allowed a run? The Cubs handled Drone Finger in Game 2? The Indians have yet to have a long series? Seriously, what??? The Indians have looked like the superior team through four games. I think it’s time for the Cubs to remember who they are. Maybe this wasn’t supposed to be easy. But I’m just not ready for it to be over.

 

Sunday, October 30th. The Cubs beat the Indians 3-2. The Indians lead the Series 3-2.

We’re going back to Cleveland! Aroldis Chapman came on in the 7th inning and got an 8-out save. And I could barely take it. In hindsight, the Cubs made some amazing defensive plays. Everyone is saying that the goofball foul ball that glanced off David Ross’ glove that Anthony Rizzo caught in the 2nd inning looks like the Bob Boone/Pete Rose catch in Game 6 of the 1980 World Series. Jason Heyward made a leaping grab down the right field foul line in the 3rd on Trevor Bauer that even Bauer had to applaud. And then the Cubs’ bats finally came alive in the 4th.

 

Just when John Smoltz was saying the Cubs absolutely had to score in the inning, Kris Bryant homered on the next pitch to tie the game 1-1. Anthony Rizzo doubled on the next pitch and the crowd finally had a reason to go crazy. Then a Ben Zobrist single, an Addison Russell RBI single and a Ross RBI sac fly made it 3-1 Cubs, which is thankfully all they needed. Maybe now the Cubs can get that Josh Tomlin game back that they needed and Short Rest Kluber will finally be brought to justice. Man. Cleveland will be loud in Game 6. They’re down to 76% to win the Series. Kyle Schwarber will be back at DH. And the Cubs are 52% favorites to win Game 6. I still believe. Let’s go.

 

Tuesday, November 1st. The Cubs beat the Indians 9-3. The Series is tied 3-3.

 

With two outs and an 0-2 count in the top of the 1st, NL MVP-in-waiting, Kris Bryant, launched a 433 foot home run into the left field bleachers to make it 1-0 Cubs. Then Anthony Rizzo singled. Then Ben Zobrist singled. And then Addison Russell reached out and poked a fly ball that landed softly at the feet of Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall, who badly miscommunicated on what would have been an easy third out. Rizzo scored. Zobrist bowled over Roberto Perez at home and the Cubs were up 3-0.

 

In the 4th, Kyle Schwarber walked to lead off the inning. After Bryant flew out, Rizzo singled again. Then Zobrist singled again. And since Schwarber has the bum knee, he was held at third. Bases loaded. One out. Josh Tomlin yanked. Dan Otero in to pitch. Addison Russell at the plate. Here’s Pat Hughes on the call.

 

“Russell drives one in the air. Deep left center. That’s back near the wall. It’s got a chance! Grand slam! Grand slam, Addison Russell! Cubs lead seven nothing!”

 

My call was just going, “YEAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” in my apartment all by myself, before my wife came home to find me five beers deep and pacing. At 22, Russell was the second-youngest person to ever hit a grand slam in the World Series. The youngest happened to be a 21-year-old Mickey Mantle in 1953. And his 6 RBI tied a single-game record set by Bobby Richardson in 1960, Hideki Matsui in 2009 and Albert Pujols in 2011.

 

Those seven runs would be all the Cubs needed. But Joe Maddon brought Aroldis Chapman on in the 7th once again. Maybe it seemed desperate or like Joe doesn’t trust his bullpen. Maybe Joe remembered Game 5 of the 2008 ALCS, when his Rays were up 7-0 and ended up losing to the Red Sox 8-7. But Rizzo homered in the 9th, the Cubs won 9-3 and we’re going to Game 7. A day that so many Cubs fans have waited their whole lives to see is just one day and 27 outs away.

 

 

The same could obviously be said for Indians fans. And everyone seems to think they have a huge advantage going in to the game. Or 54%, accruing to FiveThirtyEight. Corey Kluber was dominant in Games 1 and 4. They have a well-rested Andrew Miller and Cody Allen coming out of the pen if anything should happen. And Cubs doubters think Chapman’s arm might fall off at some point during the game.

 

But like I said last week when it was Clayton Kershaw, of course it has to be fucking Kluber. And fucking Miller. And fucking Allen. It’s almost too perfect not to be them. Maybe they’re going to the well once too often. Maybe this is just the sort of insurmountable odds the Cubs need to complete the most perfect ending to the least perfect of all 108-year droughts. Maybe. Just maybe. Holy shit.

 

Wednesday, November 2nd. The Cubs beat the Indians 8-7. They win the World Series 4-3.

On October 14, 1908 at Bennett Park in Detroit, Tigers’ catcher, Boss Schmidt, apparently hit a bunt or a dribbler in front of the plate, it was picked up by Cubs’ catcher, Johnny Kling, who threw Schmidt out at first. Orval Overall completed a three-hit shutout and the Cubs were back-to-back World Series champions. That was a really long fucking time ago.

 

I guess everyone has noticed the metaphor already, but what better way to end a 108-year drought than with a little rain. “It was the best rain delay of all time,” according to Anthony Rizzo. And it will forever go down in Cubs lore until the end of time. Or until the Cubs win so much that everyone is sick of hearing about it. Either way. But during the 17-minute delay, the Cubs’ struggling right fielder, Jason Heyward, called a team meeting to remind everybody on the team of who they were and what they’d already overcome to get to this point. And what could have gone down as another chapter in a century-long team misery ended much differently in the bottom of the 10th in Cleveland. A smiling, collapsing Kris Bryant firing Michael Martinez’ infield roller to Rizzo at first. And the curse, the drought, the black cat, Steve Bartman, Leon Durham, that goddamned goat story and 108 years of waiting ’til next year were finally over.

 

 

The Cubs started right away, with Dexter Fowler leading off with a solo shot off of Corey Kluber to make it 1-0 in the 1st. He almost ran backwards all the way to second base. But Cleveland tied the score in the 3rd when Carlos Santana singled in Coco Crisp. In the top of the 4th, with Bryant on third, Addison Russell yelled, “Goddamnit!” when he popped up to shallow center. But Bryant tagged up and slid under the tag of Roberto Perez at home, making it 2-1 Cubs. The next batter, Wilson Contreras, doubled off the wall in right center, scoring Ben Zobrist to make it 3-1. The last batter Kluber faced was Javy Baez, who homered in the top of the 5th, making it 4-1 Cubs. One unhittable pitcher down. Two to go.

 

Andrew Miller was the next pitcher in the game. He was the MVP of the ALCS, the guy critics were saying the Cubs should have given up Kyle Schwarber to acquire from the Yankees at the trade deadline. And he would be the next pitcher who couldn’t stop the Cubs. Rizzo came through with an RBI single to make it 5-1. Everything was looking great. Then Joe Maddon took Kyle Hendricks out of the game in the bottom of the 5th.

 

I didn’t understand the move at the time at all. Hendricks had been dealing. And he was one blown strike call away from striking out Santana and ending the inning. Instead they were bringing in Jon Lester and his throwing yips with a runner on first and removing Contreras from the game for Lester’s 39-year-old personal catcher, soon to be retiring due to issues with concussions. Lester immediately gave up an infield single to Jason Kipnis, which David Ross, that aforementioned 39-year-old catcher, had to field because of Lester’s aforementioned yips. And he sailed the ball high over Rizzo’s head at first. Santana went to third and Kipnis would wind up on second. The next batter was Francisco Lindor. And Lester bounced a pitch into the dirt that bounded off of Ross’ mask and knocked him to the ground. Santana and Kipnis both scored on the wild pitch and the Cubs’ lead was down to 5-3. I turned to my buddy Brendan and said, “Ross is concussed.”

 

 

In the top of the 6th, with Miller still on the mound for Cleveland, Ross got one of those runs back with a solo homer to center, making it 6-3. I was wrong about the concussion. In hindsight, that homer was absolutely huge. And Lester would end up working until Ramirez reached on a two-out infield single in the bottom of the 8th. And that’s when Maddon brought in an overworked Aroldis Chapman from the bullpen. Nothing was making any sense.

 

The Cubs were four outs away from their first world title in over a century. And in the back of my mind, I knew if this lead was going to be blown, there was no better candidate than Chapman. He’d been taxed by the previous two games. Acquired at the trade deadline from the Yankees, he came with 105-mph heat, off-the-field baggage aplenty and the attitude of a pampered diva. He was a rental and never a real Cub, anyway. That’s what they’d all say. His face would be plastered on memes and signs held up by Cardinal fans alongside Billy Sianis’ goat, Ron Santo’s black cat, Leon Durham and Steve Bartman. Another symbol of martyrdom, another scapegoat and another year of fucking waiting.

 

The first batter Chapman faced was Brandon Guyer, who doubled to right center, scoring Ramirez and making it 6-4 Cubs. The next batter was Rajai Davis. Ugh. It still gives me a sinking feeling in my stomach thinking about that at-bat. Rajai Davis wasn’t even supposed to be playing in the game. If it wasn’t for the worst game in Tyler Naquin’s life the night before, he would have been in center and Davis wouldn’t even be standing up there choked up a foot on his bat and screaming a line drive over the left field wall to tie the game at 6. Progressive Field understandably lost it. The first home run Chapman had given up as a Cub couldn’t have come at a worse time. And the camera cut to LeBron James who was scream-flexing in his personal king booth. Why did it have to be like this? Thankfully, after the 9th, the score was still tied. And that’s when the rain came.

 

 

The Cubs had already gotten through Cody Allen in the 7th and 8th. And Terry Francona called for Bryan Shaw to get the final two outs of the 9th. After the 17-minute delay, he’d go back out and pitch the 10th. But that was after the emotional speech from Heyward. That was after the Cubs remembered who they were. Kyle Schwarber led off with a single, and was replaced by pinch-runner, Albert Almora Jr. A 22-year-old replacing a 23-year-old. He’d move to second on Bryant’s deep sac fly. Then Rizzo was intentionally walked. Fox’s cameras had caught Rizzo talking to Ross during the game on Ross’ mic. “I’m an emotional wreck,” Rizzo told him. “I’m in a glass case of emotions.” And when Ben Zobrist doubled to left scoring Almora, Rizzo was holding his head on third in amazement. Then Miguel Montero, the third catcher of the game, singled in Rizzo to make it 8-6. They ended up needing that run desperately, and the hero of Game 1 of the NLCS came through once again. I was really loud in my apartment.

 

Chapman, who was seen openly weeping in the clubhouse during the delay, did not come out for the 10th. It was rookie, Carl Edwards Jr., who got two outs before walking Guyer and giving up an RBI single to Rajai Davis, yet again. Stupid Davis wasn’t even supposed to be playing! And then Maddon brought in Mike Montgomery to face Michael Martinez. And I’ll give you Joe Buck one last time.

 

“This is gonna be a tough play. Bryant. The Cubs…. WIN THE WORLD SERIES!!! Bryant makes the play! It’s over! And the Cubs have finally won it all! 8-7 in 10!”

 

 

Maybe now I can take the time to mention how spooky all those 108-year coincidences are. They’ve been widely reported everywhere already, but it takes 108 outs to win the NLCS and another 108 to win the World Series. The ball itself has 108 stitches. And that’s because the Cubs’ first manager, A.G. Spalding insisted upon it. And his offices were at 108 W. Madison. The Willis Tower in Chicago is 108 stories high. The Cubs’ owner, Tom Ricketts, has his business on 108th street. The Cubs win the World Series in Taking Care of Business and Back to the Future II, which are both 108 minutes long. The trophy is made of silver, which has an atomic weight of 108. The Cubs won in 10 innings. They scored 8 runs. I’ve probably shed 108 tears since.

 

Now I’ve wasted away two straight days of re-watching Cubs highlights and listening to Pat Hughes radio calls and sporadically crying during viewings of the championship parade. What a Series. What a send-off for David Ross, who was carried off the field by his teammates after Game 7. What a legacy for Theo Epstein. And Joe Maddon. And the rest of these young Cubs, who I said all year were like 13-year-old Chinese gymnasts who weren’t old enough to understand the 108-years of pressure.

 

This changes the entire culture surrounding the Cubs, as an organization. It almost changes the game of baseball, itself. It is the last great American sports story. And I’m just glad that I was one of the millions of Cubs fans out there who got to witness history. To finally get to see the end of something and the beginning of another. Man, I love this team. It happened. It really happened. And I mean, I totally believed. But I still can’t fucking believe it. Magic number: 0.

 

 


The Curious Case of Cleveland vs The Cubs

Written by :
Published on : October 29, 2016

 

 

First off, I’m not going to rub our latest win into the faces of Chicago Cubs Fans. I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. Not after their first home World Series game in 71 years. Not after all they’ve been through… Years of turmoil, lost games, Steve Bartmans, Old Style, and goats. The year-round sold out games, the tradition, the rotating cast of Bros that frequent Clark Street bars belting out Living on a Prayer night after night! That horrible deep dish pizza! Talk about constipation! No, but really, as a born and raised Cleveland Indians fan, I have no hatred for Chicago Cubs fans.

 

I’ve only really lived in three cities: Cleveland (Elyria and Lakewood), Chicago (Wrigleyville and South Loop), and Los Angeles (Sherman Oaks and East Hollywood). So, at one point I did consider Chicago a home (But not home home of course). And my two years living in Wrigleyville were filled with great times. I can’t deny that I loved hearing the crowd from my front porch, scalping tickets in the fourth inning to see part of a neighborhood game, drinking that cheap special of Old Style with a shot of Canadian Mist (or what I like to call – the Addison Whore), dancing on the piano at Sluggers, taste-testing deep dish pizza at D’Agostino’s, Giordano’s, and Pisano’s, and inhaling cigars at Around the World Tobacco on Belmont. Chicago holds a special place in my heart and in my lungs. But doesn’t that say something? No matter how many years went by without a World Series or even a postseason, people from near and far love to go watch the Cubs. Cubs culture is just cool. And it didn’t hurt that John Hughes featured Chicago and his teams in most of my favorite childhood movies.

 

IMG_6353_REV

 

But let’s get to the facts, to the true love, to the devotion, to the sweet, sweet RBI that Coco Crisp whisked to Wrigley right field and got the Cleveland Indians their one and only run to ultimately win Game 3 of the 2016 World Series. Or that smooth criminal pitching from Josh Tomlin. And the eleven lucky and very wealthy Cleveland Indians fans that were able to get tickets at Wrigley and cheer on our guys. As I watched the game and listened to my dad’s post-game show, it was clear how important, how special this moment was to everyone. Every mistake, every victory was amplified by one thousand. It was an event that fans on both sides had waited a lifetime to witness – a World Series in itself for Cubs fans and a series between two of the most deserving, and two of the most ill-fated teams in baseball.

 

They both have arrived to face off after a one-hundred and eight year (Cubs) and sixty-eight year (Indians) World Series victory stretch. And they both want it bad.  Sure, the Cubs are the national favorites, the beloved and notorious underdogs, but Cleveland….Cleveland has somethin’ crazy going on this year! We have broken our championship curse which means, why not win a World Series? And the Cubs have never been closer to breaking their own. To top it off, both teams have f**king awesome pitching (But The Indians may have the upper hand at the moment). Only time will tell who will win, but let me go on record to say I’m #All In with the Windians. And so is Tom Hanks, Stephen King, Drew Carey, LeBron James, and our devoted fanbase.

 

1948

 

I did have the very fortunate chance to attend Game 1 of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field this past Tuesday – the same night that the Cleveland Cavaliers also accepted their Championship rings and started the NBA season. The same night that Kenny Lofton of the 1995 Cleveland Indians threw out the first pitch. A day like that will probably not come around again for quite some time. And to share it with my city, my dad and brother, and surprisingly with Cubs fans was kind of perfect. There was a brisk October breeze coming off the lake, but it was still very comfortable. The clouds were casting amazing shadows over the newly revealed statues of Cleveland baseball legends. The smell of bratwurst and hot dogs was in the air. And Cubs and Indians fans were chit-chatting like old friends as they waited for the gates to open.

 

Now, this was before the game started mind you, but I did have my first lady drink of the afternoon on the tab of a visiting Chicagoan who wanted to prove to me that Cubs fans weren’t all that bad. And I love free booze, so I accepted and in turn was immediately disarmed. I thought to myself, could two fanbases really get along during the championship series? Everyone claimed to be grateful to have made it to this point, and to be playing another Midwestern team with a substantial losing streak. It almost seemed too good to be true. But maybe that was because all of the Chicago fans that came to see the game in Cleveland were also the fans that couldn’t afford the tickets at Wrigley (Not to say that Progressive Field tickets weren’t hard to get or expensive, but they weren’t as unattainable…and we luckily had some connections).

 

Maybe these Cubs fans were the working class, blue-collar folk that many Cleveland sports fans relate with. Then I found out how much they were paying for seats alongside us in the upper deck, and realized they had shelled out some major cash for those tickets as well. That all being said, even with the blow-out that went down the first night, I never witnessed any fists thrown, name-calling, or poor sportsmanship – just a good old fashion ass-whooping. To which was reciprocated in Game 2. But boy did I relish in our win that night. The rallying on full-counts, the delicious concessions, our cheer-happy section, and the fact that my brother no longer thought of me as a contributor to the curse – because yes, I was in attendance for a win this time unlike Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Plus it put my dad (@sirfranksnbacon) in a very good mood.

 

XMAS

 

Now that we are up one and just two wins away from a World Series victory, a position my father has been in just two other instances of his life, and I as well, we can temporarily enjoy this moment of hope and relief together. After all, according to those stats nerds out there, we have a sixty-five percent chance of winning the series now. But will it be enough against those pesky Cubbies? We shall see. Just know, us Clevelanders are all very optimistic. Go Tribe!

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXXII: The Cubs are in the World Series)

Written by :
Published on : October 27, 2016

 

This has been quite a week for me and my fragile emotions. When I posted last week, I was preparing to head off to Dodger Stadium, get interviewed by WGN and then watch Game 5 of the NLCS. Since then, I’ve cried joyous tears, I’ve gotten champagne-drunk and then had to dust myself off and mentally prepare for one last nervous go-round. And once again I decided to write my reactions after every game, so you could take that ride with me. Enjoy.

 

Thursday, October 20th. The Cubs beat the Dodgers 8-4. They lead the series 3-2.

The Dodgers can take their huge leads off of first and pretend to steal and dance around the base paths all they want. They can bunt all they want too. Jon Lester’s postseason ERA is still 0.86 over 21 innings. The Cubs’ bats also stayed woke (thanks to Matt Szczur’s bats and underwear, apparently), Addison Russell homered for his second night in a row and a bases-clearing double by Javy Baez put the game out of reach yet again. The Cubs have scored 18 runs in their past two games. And now they’re *takes deep breath* one win away from playing the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. Ohmyfuckinggod.

 

 Addison with the homer!

 

As a franchise, the Cubs have infamously been here before. Everybody knows that. And I was at Game 5 of the NLCS at Dodger Stadium when I noticed what a wonderful coincidence it was that Steve Garvey and Eric Karros were chosen to throw out the first pitches before the game. Yes, Garvey played most of his career with L.A. and so did Karros. But the dig, which was probably lost on the Dodger fans who don’t show up until the 4th inning, anyway, wasn’t so subtle to Cubs fans like me.

 

In 1984, the Cubs played the San Diego Padres in the NLCS and took a 2-0 lead in the last best-of-five series the LCS has ever had. The first two games were at Wrigley Field, and the Cubs killed the Padres 13-0 in Game 1. Even pitcher, Rick Sutcliffe, homered in the game. By Game 4 in San Diego, the series was at 2-1. And in the 3rd inning, Garvey doubled, making it 2-0 Padres. Cubs’ catcher, Jody Davis, tied the game in the 4th with a two-run homer. And then the Cubs immediately took a 3-2 lead on Leon Durham’s home run, which was back-to-back. I would have gone insane, if I wasn’t a pre-schooler and completely unaware. But Garvey tied the game again in the 5th with a single. And then he put the Padres ahead 4-3 with another single in the 7th. The Padres were up 5-4 in the 8th, when Davis tied the game yet again with a double to center. But Garvey ended the game in the 9th with a two-run walk-off. The series was tied at 2 and Garvey’s teammates carried him off the field in celebration.

 

The deciding Game 5 would see the Cubs go up 3-0 in the 2nd, before the Padres started chipping away at the lead. In the bottom of the 7th, Leon Durham made his infamous fielding error at first, which would tie the game at 3. Garvey added another RBI in the inning, and the Padres would go on to win the game 6-3 and the series 3-2. Garvey was named NLCS MVP. The first Cubs game I ever went to in my life was the following year. It was Cubs-Padres at Wrigley Field. And one of the only things I remember from the game was how much everybody booed Steve Garvey.

 

 Garvey and Karros. Real clever, Dodgers.

 

2003 is a little bit fresher in everyone’s memory. There was another Cubs NLCS in between 1984 and 2003. But the only real lasting memory of the 1989 NLCS to most baseball fans is that Will Clark’s grand slam off of Greg Maddux in the 4th inning of Game 1. And his lip reading of Maddux prior to the at-bat, is the reason pitchers and catchers cover their mouths with their gloves when they talk to each other to this day. But 2003 is just… ugh. I don’t even want to talk about it. Nor do I want to even have to think about the fact that Game 6 is essentially the exact same scenario as Saturday night’s game. Well, there are some major momentum differences, if that’s even a real thing, but just know that in Game 6 of the NLCS, in that god forsaken 8th inning, Eric Karros was playing 1st base for the Chicago Cubs.

 

For Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS, L.A. has to rely on Clayton Kershaw yet again. Of course it has to be fucking Kershaw. It’s almost too perfect not to be him. And then a potential Game 7 would be Rich Hill. I probably don’t need to remind you that the Cubs have scored 8 runs or more in all three of their wins. And they’ve scored ZERO in their two losses. And I probably don’t need to remind you of who was pitching in both of those zero-run games. Right now, FiveThirtyEight is giving the Cubs a 54% chance of winning the game. They’re at 81% to win the NLCS. And they’re at 51% to win the World Series. So, as they pointed out, the curse is more likely to end than to continue. I have to assume these are not the same flailing bats that got blanked in Games 2 and 3. And I’m hoping for more of the ‘5.84 ERA in the NLDS’ Kershaw and less of the ‘0.00 ERA in the NLCS’ Kershaw. I’m not ready for his postseason reputation to be repaired. And I’m also hoping for the ‘1.32 ERA at home’ Kyle Hendricks and ‘103-mph lights out ‘Aroldis Chapman. And right now I don’t even want to consider the alternatives. 1984 and 2003 still hover out there. But, really, this team just feels different.

 

Saturday, October 22. The Cubs beat the Dodgers 5-0. They win the series 4-2.

It’s still surreal. When Addison Russell cleanly fielded Yasiel Puig’s grounder in the 9th, tossed the ball to Javier Baez for the force out at second and then Baez fired to Anthony Rizzo at first to complete the double play, the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945. And Wrigleyville looked like pandemonium.

 

Really, it couldn’t have gone any better. It was like a bizarro alternate reality version of the 2003 game. A world in which Alex Gonzalez fields Miguel Cabrera’s grounder cleanly, tosses to Mark Grudzielanek at second, who fires to Eric Karros at first. The Cubs get out of that 8th inning leading 3-1. Joe Borowski gets the save and the Cubs go on to play the Yankees (or the long suffering Red Sox, if you want to go there) in the World Series. And nobody ever finds out the name of the doofus fan who tried to catch Luis Castillo’s foul ball.

 

 Celebrate good times.

 

I hate to bring up all of the failings of the past, but Saturday’s game was the first step in wiping the slate clean for a franchise and a fan base who probably always wondered what winning a game like that would actually look like in real life. To not win the World Series since 1948 is one thing. To not even be there since 1945 is another, entirely. But Billy Sianis died on October 22nd, 1970. And exactly 46 years later, his curse is on life support.

 

Kyle Hendricks pitched a phenomenal game. He gave up a leadoff single to Andrew Toles. But then Baez tagged him out on a double play the very next pitch. And after Baez committed a (thankfully) harmless error in the 2nd, Hendricks sat down 17 Dodger batters in a row. He and Aroldis Chapman faced the 9-inning minimum of 27 batters, the first time that had been accomplished in a postseason since Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956.

 

Clayton Kershaw was not as good. The scoring started for the Cubs in the 1st, when Dexter Fowler doubled to lead off the game and then Kris Bryant singled him home. Ben Zobrist’s sac fly would make it 2-0. In the second, Russell opened with a double and was then knocked in by Fowler. And Wilson Contreras’ leadoff home run in the 4th made it 4-0 Cubs, which was a great relief for me, since that 3-0 score had doomed the Cubs too many times in the past. Anthony Rizzo homered in the 5th to make it 5-0 and then Bad Postseason Kershaw was lifted, ending the Cubs’ onslaught.

 

According to FiveThirtyEight, the Cubs have a 63% chance to win the World Series, although Corey Kluber and the Indians are given a 52% chance of winning Game 1. Then again, the Indians were pretty heavy underdogs in both of their previous series. And everyone seems to think the Indians are going to run all over Jon Lester. Rajai Davis led the American League in stolen bases. Jose Ramirez is also a threat. Then there’s Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Coco Crisp. But that also assumes anybody can get on base. Other than Lindor and maybe Lonnie Chisenhall, nobody on that team is hitting. And this is all before we even mention that Ohio-native Kyle Schwarber might actually DH in Game 1.

 

 Wrigleyville getting it in.

 

The Cubs-Indians World Series is a story so good that it doesn’t even need Schwarber’s inclusion. You have the two longest droughts in baseball. Any World Series featuring the Cubs would have massive interest, anyway. But the Indians also have Andrew Miller, the guy the Cubs couldn’t get at the trade deadline because they were unwilling to part ways with Schwarber. I don’t know how this is going to end. And so much of the playoffs is a crapshoot. But what we have is the best team in baseball from the beginning against a team that has benefitted from short series with a depleted staff and an excellent bullpen. I’ve never been here, to this point, before. But I gotta say, I feel pretty good about it.

 

Tuesday, October 25th. The Indians beat the Cubs 6-0. They lead the series 1-0.

Well, add the Chicago Cubs to the list of postseason teams that can’t hit a well-rested Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller or Cody Allen. Kluber (with a little help from the framing of Roberto Perez and the trigger-happy calls from Larry fucking Vanover) struck out eight Cubs in the first three innings. Five of them were called strike threes. The Indians are now 8-1 in the postseason. Terry Francona is 9-0 in the World Series. It was the Indians’ 4th shutout in 9 games. It looked almost exactly like all their other previous ALDS and ALCS wins. And they are now 55% favorites (accruing to FanGraphs and FiveThirtyEight) to win the World Series. Goddamnit.

 

 Game 1 goes to Kluber.

 

There are other ways to look at it. The Indians got 2 runs out of a fluke 1st inning. The Jose Ramirez swinging bunt. The Brandon Guyer bases-loaded HBP. All of the generous calls from Larry fucking Vanover. The wind stopping Kyle Schwarber (he is risen) from homering in the 4th. Andrew Miller escaping from a no-outs, bases loaded jam in the 7th and escaping again in the 8th against Schwarber. But that would probably sound like sour grapes when the reality is the Indians were the first postseason team to take advantage of Jon Lester’s throwing yips, Justin Grimm isn’t very good, the Indians’ pitchers are and Perez (3 HR, .183 AVG in the regular season) happened to play the game of his life. And it’s not like the score was close. I sound like a Dodgers fan.

 

The Cubs’ bats rebounded from that awful Game 3 in Los Angeles, so I’m hoping they can do the same in Game 2 against Drone Finger. Kluber is the best pitcher currently playing in the World Series, but other than Francisco Lindor at short, the Indians really have no other advantages, give or take the heavily-worked Miller. I know that anything can happen in the series. I know that the Indians can equally steal off of Jake Arrieta. I know that the bad Arrieta could show up. But Maddon says his team is fine. FiveThirtyEight has the Cubs at 54% to take Game 2. The Indians were expected to win the first Kluber game, anyway. Drone Finger isn’t that good. And it’s time to finally make Cleveland pay when Kluber’s not pitching on that sweet, sweet full rest.

 

Wednesday, October 26th. The Cubs beat the Indians 5-1. The series is tied 1-1.

So I guess you could say that this two-game Kyle Schwarber DH experiment worked out pretty well. Schwarber had two RBI singles in Game 2, looks like he’s just about ready to unleash some sort of goddamned fury every time he comes to the plate and has everybody wondering how they can keep his bat in the lineup in Games 3, 4 and 5 in Chicago. On top of that, Jake Arrieta took a no-hitter into the 6th. Ben Zobrist stayed red-hot. And the Cubs handed Cleveland their first home loss in the 2016 postseason, as well as Terry Francona’s first career loss in the World Series. All in front of famed Yankees fan, LeBron James.

 

 Schwarber!

 

Okay. This story concludes next week. And I’ll either be making the best out of coming so close and falling short yet again, or on another level of euphoria with a blown-world view and decisions to make on how much 2016 Cubs merchandise one person should own. The Decision, indeed. I hope to be taking my talents to MLBShop.com.

 

If you need more baseball from me, check me out on “Comedians Talking Sports” with Joe Kilgallon on the podcast things. And until then, the Cubs Magic Number is 3.

 

 


Go Cubs! A Tale from 2003

Written by :
Published on : October 23, 2016

 

 

Here we are again, Cubs fans. On the verge of making history. Last time we were here was back in 2003, when the Cubbies broke a nearly hundred-year postseason loss record, and I went to the best party of my young life.

 

I was not a sports fan growing up, but I was something of a Cubs fan. I made an annual trip every August to Wrigley Field with my Grandfather. I enjoyed those afternoons, but my interest in the game never stretched beyond them. I wasn’t a scorekeeper or a stathound. I didn’t even care if they won really, because we often left during the 8th, usually on my Grandfather’s calculated risk that a cab could make Union Station in time for the express Metra train back to the suburbs. At best, I fell into the category of fair weather fan, one of the most common and reviled of sports animals.

 

That fall of ’03, I was a college freshman. One of my first assignments was to attend a screening at the Chicago International Film Festival. Back then, my cinematic tastes leaned heavily towards bullets and boobs, so I chose the least festival-y film I could find. The movie was called Kops, a Swedish comedy about local police officers that bore a passing resemblance to Super Troopers. My friend Wags agreed to go with me, and we headed to the Music Box Theatre in Wrigleyville for the show.

 

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When the movie started, I was only vaguely aware that the Cubs were in a position to make history. If they won their next game — which they were playing that night, Sunday October 5th — it would be their first postseason series victory since 1908. I was only vaguely aware of this because, even as a passing Cubs fan, I knew they were perennial losers, a bedrock certainty that belonged in The Pantheon of Facts between the hilarity of The Three Stooges and Scarlett Johansson’s beauty.

 

Halfway through the movie, I heard a noise I haven’t heard in a theater before or since: a car horn. It sounded in quick gunfire bursts. Then I heard the cheering. Wags leaned over and said, “I think the Cubs just won.”

 

After the movie, we exited the theater and saw blue and white fans everywhere. We were less than a mile from Wrigley Field, and everyone seemed to be heading that direction. Which made sense after all; there was a rogue’s gallery of bars stretching along Clark Street. Wags suggested we join the fray and I agreed. He had driven us there after all, so I didn’t think I could protest too much.

 

Cubs

 

As we came upon the intersection of Clark and Addison, underneath the warm glow of the Wrigley Field neon, we found ourselves in the middle of the biggest party I had ever seen. There were people everywhere. So many they had overflowed the bars and sidewalk and crowded into the middle of the street. Cars were trafficjammed for blocks in every direction. If you weren’t cheering, it was because you were drinking. Someone had propped speakers out their second story window and were blasting “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC into the street. Wags ducked into a bar and returned with several open cans of Budweiser. We camouflaged them with empty McDonald’s cups and drank down a couple of Harry Caray’s favorite brew.

 

We intended to walk around but didn’t get very far. There were too many drunk idiots screaming at the top of their lungs. Too many suburban Moms and Dads wearing their weekend Cubs gear. Too many girls. It was a great time. The good feeling was infectious. We were surrounded by new old friends, all united in a winner’s high. I couldn’t tell you how long we hung out there, but I was finishing my second beer, and that’s when the cops showed up. Not Kops. Real cops.

 

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Like I said, this was my first real life, holy shit, I’ve-only-seen-parties-like-this-in-the-movies blowout that I had ever attended. That milestone was capped off by watching the Chicago Police break up the biggest party ever. How does that happen, you ask? On horseback, my friend. All of a sudden, there was a row of mounted cops seated above the crowd. Behind them were more officers dressed in riot gear. Falling into line, they created a blue wall that advanced forward. Pushing the crowd back onto the sidewalk where they belonged. It was a calm show of force, and it worked. I wish I could say that we started a riot and burned some shit down, but no. Nothing like that happened. Everyone was too busy have a good time. The Cubs had just broken a 95 year losing streak. No matter how down-and-out you were, nobody in Chicago felt like a loser that night.

 

The rest of it has faded from my memory, but that feeling of communal celebration is something I’ll never forget. I had done my share of cheering for the hometeam, and I had experienced the swell of an entire ballpark’s energy rise up before. But this was something else. The scale was epic. We were celebrating a moment that had already been recorded into history. Here’s hoping we can feel that way again. Go Cubs.

 

 


2016 – Possibly The Best Year Ever For Cleveland Sports

Written by :
Published on : October 16, 2016

 

 

So we’re here. We are really here. It’s October of 2016, just four months after winning our first major sports championship in 52 years, and we just might get another one. So let me tell you a tale. Go in the backyard and get your fire started because it’s kind of spooky and a little chilling, as we sit with the ghosts of years past. But maybe the ghosts are coming back not to haunt us this time around, but to witness it for themselves. Something truly unbelievable. There’s a Coco Crispness in the air after all. The temperature is finally beginning to cool just as the leaves are starting to turn. The cycle of life is upon us once more. But this time we’ve come back from the dead as team champions once, twice, and maybe three times over.

 

I got home late this past Friday night. The moon was full and bright, casting a glow on the night creatures of Los Angeles. When I entered the gate to my apartment I was greeted by Cat Friend (That’s right. He’s a cat. A black cat in fact). I was getting ready to enter my humble abode when I heard a sound coming from inside. It was muffled through the thick wood of the door, but I could make out this maniacal laughter. And cheering. I heard it over and over. And I knew it could be only one thing:  A replay.

 

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I quickly tuned in to see Francisco Lindor hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth that would ultimately win us the game. Holy sh*t, I thought. We won Game 1 of the ALCS. We’ve won four games in a row! And as I sit in my room, writing this article just one night later, we’ve won five in a row! That’s the longest playoff winning streak that the Cleveland Indians have had since their 1920 season when they beat the Brooklyn Dodgers (also known as the Robins back then). The Indians also went on to win the World Series that year in a best of nine series as they used to do it – in honor of their former shortstop, Ray Chapman, who was killed earlier that season from a pitch. Crazy, right? And not to dwell on tragedy or eerie coincidences too much, but the 1995 Cleveland Indians also went onto win the ALCS after two of their pitchers died tragically in a boating accident.

 

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All of that aside and of course not to downplay tragedy or winning streaks, this season really isn’t about coincidences or statistical victories. It’s about a new found confidence. It’s about honoring hard work, legacy, and loyalty to our teams like we’ve done all along. But this thing, this strange thing called winning (I’m still not used to it), is spreading like a virus! We’re like rabid zombies coming out at night to soak up these wins in the moonlight, and yes even during the day! We’ve won an NBA championship, an AHL Championship (The Cleveland Monsters win does mean something), a UFC heavyweight title, and now we are on the verge of winning a World Series in one perfectly glorious season!

 

The city of Cleveland is running on Pepsi, Beer, hot dogs, and dare I say happiness? For once in my life I can turn on my father’s post game show (he’s the seasoned ESPN Cleveland Sports Radio Post Game Host, aka @sirfranksbacon), and I can hear the joy in his voice. Yes, joy. Coming from a man who’s built a lifetime around his hometown sports teams only to see them fail time and time again, it has turned him into a curmudgeon of sorts. But not anymore. His hope has been restored. And he is finally living out possibly the happiest year of his life.

 

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For so long the city of Cleveland was defined by its losses. And these memories came back to haunt us each and every year since 1964 (1948 for Indians fans). Many fans blamed it on a curse. My father even tried to remove this curse one fateful summer night by bringing a witch to the stadium, complete with magic and incense, and to no avail! But finally, the curse has been lifted. It took LeBron James and the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers to do so, but I believe we are no longer losers. We are champions. I believe in The Cleveland Indians. I believe in Andrew Miller and Corey Kluber and Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana, Coco Crisp, all of our team and coaching staff. The tribe is alive. And if you’re from Cleveland, if you’re from anywhere in the US, you gotta love October baseball.

 

One last thing, to sit on as the Indians and Blue Jays take a Sunday to relax… are the Cubs still cursed?

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXX: The ALDS and NLDS)

Written by :
Published on : October 14, 2016

 

Did you think there would be NO drama? Come on. It’s October! We had five-hour games and extra-innings walk-offs. We had tears. We had celebrations. We had sweeps. We have one series that’s not even done yet. Let’s talk about all of it.

 

The Blue Jays swept the Rangers 3-0

Well, add Game 3 of the ALDS in Toronto to the growing annals of Blue Jays playoff history. In the bottom of the 11th, Rougned Odor (of all fucking people) botched a throw to first base on a double play (of all fucking things), allowing Josh Donaldson to race home with a head-first slide, winning the game 7-6 and the series 3-0. As the Rogers Center lost its collective mind, the broadcast cut to a homemade sign that read, “WOULD RATHER GET PUNCHED IN MAY THAN GET KNOCKED OUT IN OCTOBER.”

 

The Rangers pitching in this series was awful. Of the three starters they used, Yu Darvish actually did the “best.” And his 2016 postseason ERA is 9.00. Josh Donaldson, who looked worn down at the end of the regular season, is the hottest hitter in the American League, once again. Edwin Encarnacion isn’t far behind. Either are Ezequiel Carrera or Troy Tulowitzki, for that matter. And Marco Estrada also pitched a gem in Game 1, for a staff that I still think is underrated.

 

 

Oh, and I know that everyone hates Jose Bautista or whatever, but the way he gently sat down his bat when he hit a home run in Game 1 is being grossly overlooked by everyone. First of all, I’m impressed he even had the wherewithal in the moment to think of that. And secondly, that’s so much more shade than any actual bat flip. And it’s dog-whistle enough that dum-dums like Goose Gossage won’t call him “an embarrassment to all Latin players” or whatever garbage shit will come out of his mouth next. I kinda hope gentle bat placements become a thing.

 

Odor’s punch won the early-season battle. Bautista, the Jays and meme generators all over North America won the war.

 

The Indians beat the Red Sox 3-0

It seems like the entirety of the national sports media decided the story of the series was the tearful goodbye of David Ortiz at Fenway Park after Game 3. Not the fact that the team with the best offense in all of baseball was shut down by a team thought to be decimated by pitching injuries. Not even Cleveland’s own beat writers gave the Tribe a fighting chance to make it out of the first round alive. But let’s make sure we focus on the guy we’ve already said goodbye to a thousand times over the course of the six month season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob Manfred personally wheels Papi out in every game of the ALCS, NLCS and World Series just so we can keep making sure everyone on the goddamn planet has properly bid this man adieu. He is the 4th-greatest DH of all time, after all.

 

 

Maybe I’m just frustrated by all the old story lines the writers and talking heads try to trot out every October, but if I was an Indians fan, this would annoy the shit out of me. The Indians held the Red Sox to seven total runs in the series. The Sox hadn’t been held to seven runs in a three game series all season long. The Indians also won Game 2 by a score of 6-0 and all anybody really cared about was that LeBron James was there. Or, I guess, that David Price is now 0-8 in 9 playoff starts with a 5.53 ERA. But that was it. Seriously, nobody wants to talk about the team doing any of the actual winning?

 

So what should we talk about? How about Terry Francona’s bullpen usage in Game 1. With Buck Showalter’s non-use of Zach Britton in the Wild Card Game still fresh on everyone’s mind, Tito brought in Andrew Miller in the 5th inning. Miller pitched two scoreless innings and then Cody Allen was brought in to get the final five outs, including Dustin Pedroia’s check swing to end the game. Nerd boners could be seen in the proverbial pants of stat heads across the country. You can dismiss the prospects of Cleveland’s staff in a seven-game series all you want (and I am too). But Miller is the real x-factor coming out of the pen. And you gotta look at a lineup that is averaging 5 runs per game this postseason and wonder what Jose Ramirez, Jason Kipnis or Lonnie Chisenhall can do against that Jays staff.

 

Or, you know, we could just talk about how wonderful it was that Boston gave Ortiz such a nice send-off (again). The designated hitter position has been around since 1973. And it’s only in the American League. And, again, it’s not every day we say goodbye to the 4th-best one of those of all-time. Jim Thome was better. In Ortiz’ prime, Travis Hafner of the Indians was better. And as he exits, the 2016 Indians’ team was better. I think it’s best we finally turn the page. Speaking of which…

 

The Cubs beat the Giants 3-1

 

God bless my patient wife. She put up with a lot over the course of four games. That includes a room full of screaming thirty-something men when Javier Baez hit the home run off Johnny Cueto in Game 1. The five-hour, blue-balls-inducing marathon of Game 3. The emotional roller coaster comeback of Game 4. And God bless her for whatever horrors lie ahead.

 

This series had everything I love about baseball and everything I hate about baseball all at once. And just when the idiotic narrative had switched back to the magical, never-say-die, Even Year Giants, the Cubs (supposedly feeling 108 years of pressure) completed the biggest 9th-inning comeback in a series clincher in the history of postseason baseball. Madison Bumgarner’s postseason scoreless innings streak also ended at 24 (thanks, Jake Arrieta!). The Giants’ winning streak in elimination games ended at 10. Bruce Bochy has finally lost a playoff series while wearing a Giants uniform. And even if the Even Year mystique of the Giants isn’t quite dead, at least I have two more years before I have to look at people with a straight face while they talk about this shit.

 

That Baez home run came in the 8th inning of an all-out pitchers duel between Cueto and Jon Lester. On a normal day, that ball lands on Waveland. But the wind made sure it was the farthest home run to ever land in the left field basket. David Ross also picked off two runners as the Cubs went on to win their first meaningful game in weeks, 1-0. Game 2 had a solo home run from Cubs’ reliever, Travis Wood. And a two-run single from starter, Kyle Hendricks. When Arrieta hit that three-run shot off of Bumgarner in Game 3, the Cubs’ pitchers had six runs batted in and the whole Giants’ team only had two. Unfortunately for me, my wife, my stress level and hearts and livers across Chicago, the series got a little more interesting from there.

 

 

Conor Gillaspie wasn’t even supposed to be playing. He was replacing the injured Eduardo Nunez when he hit that three-run homer in the 9th off Jeurys Familia in the Wild Card Game. And in Game 3, he launched an improbable two-run triple off of Aroldis Chapman’s 102-mph fastball to give the Giants their first lead in the series. Everyone in TV Land was ready to anoint Gillaspie the New Magical Even Year Giant.

 

In the 9th, Kris Bryant hit a two-run shot off of Sergio Romo, which careened off the cartoon Chevron sign and into the left field bleachers to tie the game. You could probably hear my nutball reaction from blocks away. The same goes for Albert Almora Jr’s game-saving catch in the bottom of the inning. Yeah, Joe Panik mercifully ended the 5-hour epic in the bottom of the 13th. But the fact that the Cubs fought back at the end and didn’t just roll over would be a bit of positive foreshadowing for the following night.

 

I know it’s being sold as a bullpen meltdown, but the ineptitude of the Giants’ pen is something that was right under everyone’s nose, if they hadn’t been distracted by all the magical thinking and hopes and dreams of Gillaspie, and seeing Johnny Cueto at Wrigley Field in Game 5. The 2012 San Francisco Giants came back down 0-2 to the Reds in the NLDS and won the whole thing. But this isn’t 2012. Or 2010. Or 2014. Or 1908. Or any other Cubs meltdown year. It’s 2016. Matt Moore pitched a gem. Bochy happened to take him out, leading 5-2.

 

 

He tried Derek Law. Law gave up a single to Bryant. He tried Javier Lopez. Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo. He tried Romo again. Romo gave up a two-run double to Ben Zobrist making it 5-4. He tried Will Smith. Smith gave up a two-run single to Wilson Contreras, tying the game at 5. He tried Hunter Strickland. Strickland gave up an RBI single to Baez, putting the Cubs ahead for good, 6-5. Chapman totally redeemed himself. The Cubs are a better team. And they were the ones chanting “we don’t quit” on the opposing team’s pitching mound for another group photo as they move on to the next round. As much as I love Bill Murray, I was sure glad I didn’t have to see him again until the NLCS.

 

The Dodgers and Nationals are tied 2-2

Like David Price, Clayton Kershaw also has a rep for sucking in the postseason. But who would you rather be right now- Noah Syndergaard, Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore? Kershaw hasn’t been Kershaw. But the Dodgers have won both of the games he’s pitched. Max Scherzer is going in Game 5 for Washington. And he did give up a Major League-leading 31 home runs this season. But beating him twice in five games is almost too much to ask.

 

 

I’ve learned not to weigh in on who I want the Cubs to face in the NLCS (boy did I want the Mets last year). But Daniel Murphy is hot once again. So is Jayson Werth. Trea Turner could be a nightmare for Jon Lester. I think that’s who we’re gonna get. If it’s the Dodgers, they have a red-hot Justin Turner. They have that bullpen. They have Corey Seager, who is loving the first inning. And they have whatever version of Kershaw exists in October. But I’ll just quote Jake Arrieta, when Cubs’ beat writer, Patrick Mooney, asked him if he wanted the Mets or the Giants in the first round. “Who gives a shit?”

 

The Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908. They haven’t even been there since 1945. The Indians haven’t won since 1948. The Dodgers haven’t won since 1988. The Blue Jays haven’t won since 1993. The Nationals have never won. But the Even Year Giants are done. The Big Papi Red Sox are done. Two old story lines have been killed off. And before we end this thing, somebody else’s storied drought will be over too.

 

Okay. That’s it for this week. If you want more baseball from me, check out Comedians Talking Sports with Joe Kilgallon, available on iTunes. Until then, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 8.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXIX: Bumgarner, Britton, MY Final Awards and LDS)

Written by :
Published on : October 7, 2016

 

 

For this cautiously optimistic Cubs fan, there was something oddly poetic and metaphorical about watching Madison Bumgarner walk back to the dugout after pitching yet another October gem for a team that has been there so many times before. By now you should know the long and torturous history of the Cubs, the 107 years of futility and heartbreak, the billy goats, black cats, Leon Durhams and Steve Bartmans. This version of the team needs just 11 more wins on a season where they’ve already won 103. But in the process of chasing the championship, they’re also surrounded by ghosts, whether they be real or imagined. And so in a year where Cubs fans have never been more hopeful that the wait is over, that this is ‘Next Year’, that they can finally break a curse, of course the first obstacle in their way is a magical team with magical powers in even years, with a magical pitcher whose powers are heightened when they need him the most.

 

To me, Bumgarner symbolizes more than just a star pitcher on the San Francisco Giants. He’s also the poster boy for that magical thinking, superstition and all the other illogical nonsense that will be managed and tamed the further the Cubs get into the postseason. I’ve already seen multiple posts about how Bumgarner now has 23-consecutive scoreless innings in winner-take-all games. Before the Wild Card game, picking Noah Syndergaard to be the ‘winner’ was almost seen as contrarian, even though his numbers strongly suggest he’s the better pitcher. None of that mattered. MadBum was already at legend status. And by the time this is posted, it will have snowballed to godlike proportions. Meanwhile, I’m going to venture to guess that nobody, in their analysis of the Bumgarner vs. the Mets, is going to mention that the Mets were tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for 25th in the Majors in runs scored on the season. And that his next round opponent certainly ain’t that.

 

 

As God as my witness, the Chicago Cubs will eventually go the World Series and win the whole damn thing. It will happen before the sun swells up and swallows the earth or Donald Trump nukes Lakeview. So if a curse was actually a real thing, which I assure you it is not, the Cubs would probably have to break an ‘even year’ spell or whatever else is thrown in their way in the process. Good eventually has to defeat evil. You have to go to Mordor to get rid of the Precious. The 2004 Red Sox had to go through the Yankees to break a curse of their own. Because of course they did. Curses are fiction and fiction should have insurmountable odds right before a happy ending. If this were written by Hollywood, the 2016 Cubs’ storybook ending would go ‘Even Year’ Giants, Daniel Murphy, Boston Red Sox. And all of that can happen. So what better place than here? What better time than now? Who’s ready for some playoffs?

 

The AL Wild Card Game
The Blue Jays defeat the Orioles 5-2 in 11 innings

Oh man. I’d feel bad for Ubaldo Jimenez if I thought anybody was actually focusing on him and not on Buck Showalter’s decision to not use Zach Britton in the game. Jimenez, of course, had that infamous 7.38 ERA in the first half, which basically made him the worst starting pitcher in the Majors. But he’d been better lately, I swear. He had a 2.31 ERA in September. There were real people writing actual articles on ESPN.com saying Ubaldo should be starting the game over Chris Tillman. It’s just that Britton had a 0.54 ERA on the season. He hadn’t given up an earned run since August 24th. And that was the only once since April 30th. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

In the bottom of the 11th, after Jimenez came on in relief with the score tied at 2, he gave up singles to Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson, before Edwin Encarnacion hit a 3-run walk-off to send Toronto in to the next round. Jimenez threw a grand total of five pitches. Showalter used a grand total of six different relievers after Tillman exited in the 5th. None of them were Britton. Showalter was managing for the save, a made-up statistic for a made-up position that logic should have killed off years ago. And it probably took the strategic failing of a renowned baseball strategist for change to happen. I just hope Joe Maddon and Aroldis Chapman took notice.

 

The NL Wild Card Game
The Giants defeated the Mets 3-0

 

The pitchers duel lived up to the hype, all right. Syndergaard took a no-hitter into the 6th and looked dominant before his pitch count reached its limit at the end of 7. He was aided by a fantastic catch by Curtis Granderson in center. But the slumping Yoenis Cespedes and the mediocre bats of the Mets could get nothing going against Racist Legend Boy and a team that tanked the entire second half and had to sweep the Dodgers to hold off the Cardinals at the end of the season didn’t have to use their garbage bullpen. The game was scoreless until the top of the 9th, when Conor Gillaspie, who had six home runs all season, hit a three-run shot off of Jeurys Familia, who’d only given up one all year. Racist Legend Boy’s 4-hit shutout on 119 pitches and the fact that the year ends in a 6 means something very important to people who get paid money to talk about baseball for a living. Seriously, fuck this team.

 

ALDS Preview: The Rangers vs. The Blue Jays

Well this could be horrifyingly dangerous. The epic rematch that everyone outside of Baltimore should have wanted is actually going to happen. And if drunken Canadians are willing to throw Labatt Blue cans at Hyun-soo Kim, imagine what they want to do to Rougned Odor.

 

I actually think the Jays will take the series. While both teams can definitely score, I like the Jays’ pitching depth a lot more. That Rangers +10 run differential still doesn’t make sense. But why would we talk about any of that? Jose Bautista and Roogie could square off again, you guys!

 

ALDS Preview: The Indians vs. The Red Sox

I don’t think anybody has Cleveland winning this. Boston has the best offense in the Majors. Six of their hitters are at least pretty good. And the Indians’ staff is duct-taped together. Plus, Papi is the Madison Bumgarner of hitting. David Price does have a 5.12 postseason ERA. But Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin haven’t beaten the Red Sox this season. And Corey Kluber can’t match up with Price every game. But mostly, Joey Bats might fight Rougned Odor in that other series, you guys!

 

NLDS Preview: The Cubs vs. The Giants

 

The best pitching in the Major Leagues. The best defense in the Major Leagues. The best offense in the National League, outside of Colorado. The year 1908. The years 2010, 2012 and 2014.
This is the hottest the Giants have been since the All-Star Game, which isn’t saying much. The staff is pretty formidable, especially with Jeff Samardzija pitching well lately. But the team has trouble scoring. So if the Cubs’ deep lineup can heat up, that staff should hold the Giants off.

 

Should and will are two different things, obviously. The Cubs were 7-0 against the Mets in the regular season last year, before getting swept in the NLCS. But the Cubs are the story here. The sports media may be chasing after the Even Year Miracle Hillbilly like a dumb dog chasing a mail carrier. But the Cubs are the best team in baseball. And they’re the favorite until proven otherwise.

 

NLDS Preview: The Nationals vs. The Dodgers

No Stephen Strasburg. No Wilson Ramos. A banged-up Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy. And Dusty Baker managing them. This all bodes well for the finally-healthy Dodgers. The only thing is, the Dodgers have pretty mediocre hitting after Corey Seager and Justin Turner. Especially against lefties. And Clayton Kershaw has been pretty un-Kershaw-like in Octobers past. He’s getting matched up with Max Scherzer, who doesn’t quite suck either. I’ll take Washington. Really. I need them for my Daniel Murphy curse storyline and I don’t want to get jumped in Echo Park during the presumed NLCS while forgetting I’m wearing a Cubs hat.

 

Let’s give out some awards.

 

AL MVP FINAL ANSWER: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

 

As the Major League leader in WAR, by a pretty decent margin, Trout proved once again that he’s the best player in the game. It’s arguable that David Ortiz was a better hitter this year. But there’s really no other metric to suggest the A.L. MVP could possibly be anyone else.

 

I’ve already talked about this at length. Trout has led the league in WAR his first five seasons in the Majors and has one MVP award to show for it. Willie Mays led the National League in WAR ten times from 1954-1966. And he only has two MVP awards to show for it. Those voters look stupid to us now. And, unless Trout brings home some more hardware, they’re on their way to looking stupid again.

 

Honorable Mention: Josh Donaldson, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Adrian Beltre

 

AL CY YOUNG FINAL ANSWER: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

I was surprised too. For me, this came down to the numbers. The narrative of everyone assuming Verlander was done is nice and everything. But that has nothing to do with who was the best pitcher in the league this year. And the numbers pointed to Verlander, Rick Porcello and Corey Kluber.

 

—————————WAR   FIP      ERA

Justin Verlander      5.2      3.48      3.04
Rick Porcello           5.2      3.40      3.15
Corey Kluber           5.1      3.26      3.14

 

That’s about as close as you can get. But it’s that ERA – actual results – that settled it for me. I’d hand Verlander his second Cy. Or his third, since I probably would have given it to him in 2012 too. Just saying.

 

Honorable Mention: Rick Porcello, Corey Kluber, Masahiro Tanaka, Chris Sale, Aaron Sanchez

 

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINAL ANSWER: Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

 

I’d love to be able to give you a great reason. But this came down to Sanchez, Michael Fulmer and Christopher Devenski. Their WARS were essentially the same, regardless of if anybody had Devenski in the conversation or not. And Devenski’s Win Probability Added (WPA) was better than Fulmer’s, as were his FIP and ERA. That’s pitching 2-3 innings at a time, instead of six. But still, that’s a good argument for why Fulmer wasn’t the even best rookie pitcher in his own league. On the other hand, no other American League position player is touching Sanchez. He hit 20 home runs in 53 games, which is a 61 pace. Holy shit.

 

Honorable Mention: Michael Fulmer, Christopher Devenski, Tyler Naquin, Tim Anderson

 

NL MVP FINAL ANSWER: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

Like Trout, Bryant led the league in WAR by a decent margin. Unlike Trout, his play contributed to a winning team. Joey Votto, Daniel Murphy and Freddie Freeman were all better hitters. But they can’t hold a candle to Bryant, defensively. The title of best player in the National League has a new claimant.

 

Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto, Anthony Rizzo

 

NL CY YOUNG FINAL ANSWER: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

 

I’m taking Clayton Kershaw out of the equation, since he pitched in 10 fewer games with 34 fewer innings than Thor. But with a full season, Syndergaard led the league in WAR and FIP, while finishing third in ERA. I love Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester (who finished 1-2 in ERA), but they also had that Cubs defense behind them. And I highly doubt Jose Fernandez would want the award handed to him (although he was right up there). Oh, and Max Scherzer is getting hype as a 20-game winner. But this isn’t 1986 and we have better ways of evaluating value.

 

Honorable Mention: Jose Fernandez, Kyle Hendricks, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, Jon Lester    

 

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINAL ANSWER: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s really not even close. Seager is the best rookie position player since Trout in 2012. And I thought he’d be the best National League rookie since Albert Pujols in 2001 or Mike Piazza in 1993, but it’s actually Dick Allen in 1964. That’s not like, bad company.

 

Honorable Mention: Jon Gray, Kenta Maeda, Trea Turner, Trevor Story, Steven Matz, Zach Davies

 

Okay. That’s it for this week. If you need more baseball from me, check me out on ‘Comedians Talking Sports‘ with Joe Kilgallon on the podcast things. In the meantime, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 11. So nervous!

 

 


An Idiot’s Guide to the World Series

Written by :
Published on : October 18, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am not a baseball expert. I like it but it’s maybe the major sport I know the least about. Still, this year’s postseason has been choice. Tons of home runs, clutch pitching, intense elimination games, all while showcasing the young stars of the MLB. So if you are just tuning in this October, here is an idiot’s guide the current playoffs and looking ahead to the World Series.

 

The Teams:

-Chicago Cubs

-New York Mets

-Toronto Blue Jays

-Kansas City Royals

 

First thing SBS baseball guru Mike mentioned to me about the remaining squads in the hunt was “they all have blue jerseys!” seems like as good as any place to start. In the National League we have the Chicago Cubs facing the New York Mets and in the American League we have the Toronto Blue Jays playing the Kansas City Royals. Winners of those best of seven series will face each other in the World Series.

 

Thank god we have some different teams here. I feel like we always see the same jerks in the finals. Can we just cheers that the Yankees don’t have a shot to win. Also looks like the end of the drought for one of these tortured franchises.

 

-Blue Jays haven’t won the World Series since 1993

-Mets since 1986

-Royals since 1985

-Cubs since 1908…wow!

 

So maybe some of these teams have been waiting longer than others.

 

Mascots:

Which team has the coolest mascot? We have a baby bear, a bird, a globe-headed fellow and some fancy Noble-person (I guess). I’ll say the Blue Jay is maybe the worst mascot and I have no love for any royal family so KC is out too. I love the idea of making your team logo a child version of something. Like you never see the Pittsburgh Puppies or the Baltimore Babies, but the Cubs (or Cubbies as the chubbies from Chicago say) have some real charm. Still, I got to go with the Mets, or Metropolitans. Which really just means a cultured traveler. Like the Dos Equis guy was your mascot. Awesome. Plus his giant head is a baseball. We all like baseball right?

 

Come on out and meet the Mets!

 

The Storylines:

The Blue Jays were really active this year in adding talent so they could win now. Notable additions include Pitcher David Price and Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

 

They also have this guy: Jose Bautista AKA Joey Bats (@joeybats19 follows us on twitter, you should too @scorebored_SBS). This is his game changing HR and bat flip against Texas in game 5 last series. I can watch this all day.

 

gif?

 

The Mets. When you meet a Mets fan you know it’s legit. Cause if you are picking a team to root for, most folks go Yankees. That level of support deserves some love. Plus it would be great for the other half of New York to finally have something to rub in Yankees’ pinstriped face.

 

I don’t really like the Royals so I’m gonna skip them here. If you meet a Royals fan and need something to talk about, then say “sucks about Jamaal Charles*” and that should be good for like ten minutes of conversation.

 

*Jamaal Charles is an NFL Running Back for the Kansas City Chiefs who was recently injured and is out for the year.

 

Royals

 

The Cubs. The film “Back to the Future II” predicts the Cubs win in the year 2015. Wouldn’t that be insane? I mean that should happen just so more people start believing in movie magic. “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” says the war started in 1997. Maybe it did and we don’t even know it. Trippy. Oh, baseball. Right. Cubs have a bunch of young talent, a few strong arms and a great manager. Sky is the limit.

(skynet is the limit?)

 

Predictions:

 

Cubs beat the Blue Jays in 6 games. Bet on it, Marty.

 

outatime

 

 

 


Champ and Chump: Week 5

Written by :
Published on : October 15, 2015

 

 

Welcome back to another installment of Champ and Chump. The Major League Playoffs are in full swing, college football is at the halfway point of the season and we are beginning to separate the contenders from the pretenders around the NFL. Hockey is back, and the NBA is on its way with a few more preseason tilts left for each team. Be sure to check out a couple recent articles by Antoine and Patrick to educate yourself on what to expect from the NHL and NBA this season. As for me this week, here’s a look at the champs and chumps.

 

Champ: University of Michigan Football

Harbaugh and khakis have led the Wolverines to the nation’s top ranked defense.

 

It was only a matter of time before Jim Harbaugh was going to revitalize the football program at Michigan, but I’m not sure even the biggest Wolverine slappy thought it would be this fast. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, realistic expectations had Michigan needing a full season under their belts before they could compete for a conference championship, let alone a national championship. After just 6 games, Harbaugh and company look primed and ready for potentially both as they dismantled Northwestern this past weekend 38-0. It was the third consecutive shutout for the Wolverines who have outscored their last three opponents 97-0. Michigan has the nation’s #1 ranked defense and the offense seems to be finding a groove too. Climbing up to #12 in the rankings has folks in Ann Arbor ready to explode and with in-state rival Michigan State coming to town this weekend, expect the college football world to be glued to some Big Ten action.

 

Honorable Mention:

MLB Divisional Rounds- With at least two of the four going to the maximum 5 games and the other two looking like they may as well, the 2015 playoffs have gotten off to an awesome start.

Eli Manning- For as much shit as people give this guy (myself included), he’s having one hell of a season and Sunday Night was no exception. He went 41-54, for 441 yards and 3 touchdowns including the winner with 21 ticks left.

Andy Dalton- Leading the Bengals to an undefeated record thus far is anything but expected but perhaps something we need to get used to. After all, the guy’s made the playoffs every year. He went 30-44, for 331 with 3 touchdowns in an overtime win over the Seahawks Sunday afternoon.

 

 

 

Chump: Bret Bielema

 

If you didn’t see it, Bret Bielema and the Arkansas Razorbacks went down to Tuscaloosa to take on the Crimson Tide this past weekend. While Alabama went on to win the game, Bielema himself looked like a loser on two fronts. One, he coached the losing team, which is no embarrassing feat when you play Bama. However, after an interception in the first half, a little shoving happened, all of it very mild and the type of behavior you’d expect to see on a football field after almost every play. Bielema is seen in a video getting in between the players to separate this “confrontation” that is clearly not going to escalate, and then sells a shove by flopping away from the Bama player, getting the referee to throw a flag. This immature small victory causes Bielema to celebrate like a 5-year old who just knocked down his first couple pins in bumper bowling. I’m a big soccer fan, and much like we see in the NBA nowadays too, I am ok with a little selling of the foul every once in a while. Granted, there better be some contact, I am 100% against completely flopping. In the case with Bielema, you’re a coach. You should be setting the example for the players on the field, and instead you’re desperately trying to sell that to get your team 15 yards? It is cheap, classless and down right embarrassing. Stay on the sidelines and let the players determine the outcome of the game because after all, you were hired to coach. You do remember how to coach right? (12-19 career record at Arkansas)

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Rutgers QB Chris Laviano- Ugh this poor guy. In the final seconds, on 4th down near midfield with his team down 7, he spikes the ball trying to stop the clock turning the ball over to Michigan State.

Golden Tate- Saying that Lion fans have “turned their backs” on the Lions? Really?! You’re 0-5, have one playoff win in 57 years, you find any and every way to lose while making millions of dollars, yet they owe you more?… he has since apologized but the damage is done.

US Men’s Soccer- On Saturday night, the USMNT had one last chance to clinch a spot in the 2017 Confederation’s Cup after losing during the Gold Cup this past summer. Played in Pasadena, California, the US Men got on the board early only to lose 3-2 in extra time. These guys have been absoluty Jekyll and Hyde recently, when it matters most they’ve faltered.

 


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