The same old champs

Written by :
Published on : June 15, 2017

 

The Golden State Warriors have just won the 2017 NBA Championship. Congrats to them. They pulled it off in just five games against a very good Cavs team led by superstar LeBron James. This is the Warriors second trophy in just three seasons (three straight finals trips) and from the looks of the roster, they should be highly competitive for years to come.

 

Just days before that, the Pittsburgh Penguins became back-to-back Stanley Cup champs after beating the Nashville Predators in six games. It was a hard fought series but the experience and leadership of Sidney Crosby was too much for a young Preds crew to overcome. That now makes five Stanley Cups for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Three since 2009. That’s dominance.

 

 

The 2016 sports season is finally over. All the hardware has been handed out and now we can finally look back and spot the trends. The data tells a simple story. The same jerks who always win, won again. In the four major professional sports (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB), only the Chicago Cubs were not a recent champion of the 2016 winners (Patriots, Warriors, Penguins). What’s the deal? Why do we only ever see the same few organizations on the podium? It’s a drag to always see the same guys celebrating.

 

In football, the 2016 season ended with yet another New England Patriots Super Bowl victory. Yawn. Don’t get me wrong, the actual game was great and historic. Seeing the Pats climb back was a sports memory no one will soon forget but the overall outcome was boring. Brady wins his fifth ring in fifteen years. Give someone else a turn.

 

 

Thank God for the Chicago Cubs. If it wasn’t for them then we would be stuck watching sports re-runs of the same victory parades over and over again. The Cubbies made history and ended one hell of a drought. That’s a good story. That’s what we need. Redemption, the under dog, the cinderella story. Something new!

 

But baseball isn’t always the outlier. The San Francisco Giants have three World Series wins since 2010. Overall, the MLB seems more wide open than the other sports but maybe that’s just the perception. So what now? It’s clear that across sports there is an upper class of franchises and these teams are the ones that win the big games. What’s the lesson? Steal the model. Copy what’s working. Steal away their coaches and personnel. Change your culture. Whatever it takes.

 

As we enter the summer months where we only have MLB action to hold us over or as many call it, the dark days, we can only hope that this year will see some new faces on the Wheaties box.

 

Champs.

 

 


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.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXXI: The ALCS and NLCS)

Written by :
Published on : October 21, 2016

 

 

We’ve come a long way. And it’s been an emotional roller coaster of a week. I’ve sat in silence in the nosebleed section of Dodger Stadium, while my beloved juggernaut of a team forgot how to hit. I’ve had a full-on doggypile in my living room. Somewhere in there, the Cleveland Indians won the American League pennant. For this week’s episode, I’m going to give you all of the games from the past week, and my reaction to them immediately after. You get to ride in the roller coaster with me for the ups and the downs. And then feel assured that we still have a long way to go.

 

Thursday, October 13th. NLDS Game 5. The Dodgers beat the Nationals 4-3. They take the series 3-2.

Wow. It’s pretty rare that a Division Series game would be considered an instant classic. But this year, we’d already had Games 1, 3 and 4 of the Cubs-Giants series vie for that title. And now we have what might go down as “The Clayton Kershaw Game” if it weren’t for the fact that that one-hour-and-six-minute 7th inning was one of the most bizarre/unique innings in the history of baseball. I could listen to people dissect every decision by managers, Dusty Baker and Dave Roberts, in that inning, forever. And luckily for me, baseball nerds are going to be talking about this one for a long time.

 

Prior to that 7th inning, the game already had its fair share of pivotal moments. The Nationals went up 1-0 in the 2nd, but also stranded runners on first and third. They also had runners on second and third in the 3rd inning, when Roberts brought in Joe Blanton (his set-up guy!) to replace Rich Hill. Blanton got Anthony Rendon to fly out and the Nats squandered another scoring opportunity. In the 4th, Max Scherzer still hadn’t allowed a hit. And he’d end up striking out the side, but it was his 13-pitch walk to Justin Turner in the inning that would be consequential deeper into the game. Yeah. A two-out walk in the top of the 4th, where the runner was stranded. It mattered. And that was all before third base coach, Bob Henley, waved Jayson Werth home in the 6th.

 

 That 13-pitch walk to Justin Turner would come back to haunt Max.

 

That was quite possibly the worst ‘send’ I have ever seen in my life. I know you’re supposed to be aggressive with two outs. I know the bottom of the order was coming up. And I know the Nats had already stranded two guys at third. But even the Dodgers seemed to be going, “What are you thinking???” when the ball was relayed home. I’ve re-watched that play ten times now. And my eyes tell me that Werth had already rounded third when Corey Seager got the relay throw. But in my head, I’ll always remember it comically, like the slowest, most awkward runner on earth was midway between second and third and just kept a-scootin’ on home. Maybe Henley lost the ball in the corner. Maybe Andrew Toles just played it perfectly. Maybe Julio Urias’ pickoff of Bryce Harper in the previous inning cost Werth valuable lead distance from first. Maybe it was just a perfect storm of suck. The juke attempt at the end and defeated facial expression from Werth did not help. The only thing that could have made that worse is if they only lost by one run or something.

 

The very next pitch of the game, in the top of the 7th, was bashed over the wall by Joc Pederson, tying the score at 1. Nobody thinks it was a bad pitch. There was no sign of fatigue or a loss in velocity in Scherzer. It was just a great piece of hitting by Pederson. And Baker still yanked Scherzer after 99 pitches. It might be the first time in history people were complaining for Baker NOT leaving someone in. But why even bring Scherzer out for the 7th if you were just gonna yank him after one ‘mistake’? And now how consequential does that 13-pitch walk to Turner look? Because if he’s at 80-something pitches, he probably gets left in the game. He’d only given up 1 run on 5 hits to that point. This is a guy who will probably win the Cy Young this year. He’s getting paid $15 million. Isn’t this exactly what you’re paying him to be? Instead, the Nats opted to send in the clowns.

 

Ah, the 7th. The Dodgers scored four runs off six pitchers in one inning. Scherzer, Marc Rzepczynski, Blake Treinen, Sammy Solis, Shawn Kelley and Oliver Perez. Roberts countered with three pinch hitters and a pinch runner. Harold Reynolds said his scorecard looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. You gotta love National League baseball. The chess match continued in the bottom of the 7th, when Baker called on Chris Heisey to pinch-hit off of Grant Dayton. And Heisey launched a two-run bomb to left, making it 4-3. With one man on and the top of the Nationals’ order coming up, Roberts called for his closer, Kenley Jansen, to make a 9-out save. And Jansen loaded the bases, before striking out Rendon to stave off any further damage. As if that inning couldn’t have gotten any crazier, it was also about the time in the game that Clayton Kershaw got an idea.

 

Before the game started, a reporter asked Roberts if Kershaw would be available to come out of the pen. “Absolutely not,” was the curt response. That reporter was a fucking idiot. Kershaw had thrown 110 pitches two days prior. And THAT was only on three days rest. It would be crazy to ask Kershaw to even consider pitching. But what if it’s his idea? When Jansen came on in the 7th, Kershaw started doing the math in his head and realized that Jansen was going to run out of gas before he got that 9th out. And after the 8th inning, the TV broadcast cut to images Kershaw making his way to the bullpen. It was all the announcers could do to stop from shouting, “No fucking way!” My phone started blowing up with texts.

 

 The Legend of Kershaw grows.

 

Jansen struck out Turner to start the bottom of the 9th. Then he walked Harper. At this point, Jansen was past his career high in pitches and looked like Ali at the end of the fight in Manila. But he stayed in to face Werth. That could have something to do with Werth’s .313/.389/.500 slash line against Kershaw. But Jansen walked Werth as well. And then Daniel Murphy was up next. That’s when Roberts called for Kershaw.

 

I mean, holy shit.

 

Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. But he had a reputation for choking in October. Murphy plucked himself from obscurity last October and then proved it wasn’t a fluke over the course of the 2016 regular season, with one of the best hitting performances in the National League. He hit .438 in this series, for Chrissakes. Plus, Kershaw and Murphy have a history. It was Murphy’s home run in Game 1 of the NLDS last year that started his legend and simultaneously contributed to another Kershaw postseason loss. Then Murphy homered off Kershaw again in Game 4 of that series, exactly a year removed from when he’d be called to the mound with two on, one out and the season on the line.

 

Murphy popped out to second.

 

The next batter was Wilmer Difo, a Dominican pinch hitter whose name, when typed, looks way too much like Willem Dafoe. And Kershaw would strike him out to end the game. The Nationals have still never advanced past the NLDS. According to Sarah Langs, Kershaw’s last professional save was in the Gulf Coast League in 2006. His catcher was current Dodgers closer, Kenley Jansen. The team he was facing was the GCL Nationals. And that team’s manager was current Nats third base coach, Bob Henley.

 

 Live it up boys.

 

Add this game to the postseason legend of Dave Roberts. This guy isn’t going to just be defined by one stolen base in 2004. And mark this game as Exhibit A in the postseason narrative shift for Kershaw, who pitched in every game the Dodgers won in the series. Remember, Randy Johnson lost seven playoff games in a row with the Mariners, Astros and Diamondbacks between 1995 and 2001 before his dominance in the 2001 NLCS and World Series made him synonymous with postseason excellence. I feel like Kershaw could do the same. I’m a Cubs fan and I don’t want him to do that. But its not like it’s up to me. Congrats Dodgers. I’ll see you at Games 3, 4 and 5.

 

Friday, October 14th. ALCS Game 1. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 2-0. They lead the series 1-0.

“If this is what October is like, I want to do this every year.” That’s what Francisco Lindor said after Game 1 of the ALDS against the Red Sox. In Game 1 of the ALCS, Lindor’s two run homer off of Marco Estrada was all the Indians needed after Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen silenced a Blue Jays offense that scored 22 runs in three games against Texas. Kluber is now at 13 1/3 scoreless innings in the postseason. Miller struck out five of the six batters he faced. Allen had a 1-2-3 9th.

 

Game 1 was probably a must-win for the Indians, since Kluber is really their only reliable starter. Especially now that Trevor Bauer has sliced his pinkie finger repairing a drone. You read that correctly. Dude is 25 and makes $2 million a year. He fixes drones, apparently. The positive for Cleveland is that this is their 4th win in a row. And current  projections still favor them over Toronto (FanGraphs gives the Dodgers a slight edge over the Cubs in the NLCS). And even the East-loving pundits, who still aren’t really sure what to make of Terry Francona’s bullpen usage are saying things like, “This is a team that swept a very good Boston Red Sox lineup.” Still mostly just a Red Sox compliment, but baby steps.

 

Saturday, October 15th. ALCS Game 2. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 2-1. They lead the series 2-0.

I’m sensing a pattern here. Indians pitcher keeps a formerly-unstoppable offense silent. Indians’ offense scores a couple of runs. Andrew Miller comes in strikes everybody out for two innings. Cody Allen slams the door. It was the exact same game as Game 1. Why would you change anything?

 

 ANDREW. MILLER.

 

For two games in a row, I thought the Toronto bats looked poised to explode. I was wrong both times. But we’re heading to Toronto, where things could change. If not, Francisco Lindor (who wasn’t even alive when Joe Carter hit that walk-off in 1993) is about to be really famous. And Andrew Miller (plus Buck Showalter) could change the entire way bullpens are designed going forward.

 

Saturday, October 15th. NLCS Game 1. The Cubs beat the Dodgers 8-4. They lead the series 1-0.   

Holy shit, that was beautiful. An 8th-inning gamble by Dodgers manager, Dave Roberts, backfired so epically and in such a shockingly unexpected fashion, that I doubt, years from now, many people remember all of the other Cubs awesomeness that happened in this game, prior to that 8th.

 

I doubt they remember Ben Zobrist throwing Adrian Gonzalez out at the plate in the top of the 2nd. I doubt they remember Javier Baez’ heads-up bloop double that put the Cubs up 2-0 in the bottom of the inning. They might not even remember Baez stealing home after he got caught off third base on a safety squeeze. And Dexter Fowler, who had a better game than anyone, made two diving catches, one of which was fucking spectacular. If you mention it at a bar years from now, you might mention that he broke his belt on the play, just to jog a memory or two. Even Joe Buck, who I’d spent years dogging, had a superb night in the announce booth. When Pedro Baez’ molasses pace was sucking the life out of the entire game in the 5th or 6th, he blurted out, “This Pedro Baez is really tough to watch.” But all of that is dust in the wind.

 

The only thing people will probably be talking about years from now (and they will be talking about it), was that 8th inning. Adrian Gonzalez’ two-out, bases-loaded single off Aroldis Chapman tied the game at 3 in the top of the inning. And then the Cubs came to the plate needing the same type of late-inning heroics that won them the Division Series in San Francisco. Joe Blanton was on the hill for Los Angeles. Oh man.

 

Zobrist led off with a double. Then the ice-cold Addison Russell grounded out and couldn’t advance Zobrist to third. Why Joe Maddon didn’t have Russell bunt there is pretty confusing, but I’m already over it. Then the Dodgers intentionally walked Jason Heyward to get to Javy Baez. At the time, everyone I was watching with said, “Uh… thank you.” But Baez flew out. Two down. This is when Roberts started doing his chess match shit that won him the NLDS in D.C. And Blanton intentionally walked Chris Coughlan, since Chapman was next in the batting order. Joe Maddon’s hand was forced. He sent Miguel Montero (a lefty) to the plate to face Blanton (a righty). In theory, Roberts was going to pull Blanton and bring in Grant Dayton (lefty) and then Maddon would burn Montero and counter with the hot-hitting Wilson Contreras (righty). But Blanton stayed in and went up on Montero 0-2. Oh man. Lemme quote Joe Buck one more time.

 

“Here comes the 0-2. Line drive into right, back at the wall, it is GONE!!! GRAND SLAM, MONTERO! Game 1 HERO!”

 

And here’s Pat Hughes on 670 The Score.

 

“Blanton ahead of Montero nothing and two. The windup and the pitch… Montero drives one in the air! Deep right field! It’s got a chaaaaaaaaaance! GRAND SLAM!!! GRAND SLAM, MIGUEL MONTERO!!! CUBS LEAD 7-3!” Then Ron Coomer added, “WRIGLEY FIELD IS SHAKING RIGHT NOW AFTER THE BLAST THAT MONTERO – UNBELIEVABLE!”

 

 

I completely lost it. A hugging, jumping, screaming fit in the middle of my living room that went on for so long that I barely noticed that Fowler hit a solo shot, back-to-back on the very next pitch. I honestly don’t even care how the game ended. I think Anthony Rizzo made a sick defensive play to double off Andrew Toles. Whatever. Nobody will remember. It was another dramatic victory for the Cubs. And their first in the NLCS since 2003. I promptly found a photo of Montero’s shot (the one where Fowler is tossing his bat into the air in the on deck circle) and made it my background photo on Facebook. One win down. And now we face Kershaw.

 

Sunday, October 16th. NLCS Game 2. The Dodgers beat the Cubs 1-0. The series is tied 1-1.

I think we can officially put the whole ‘Clayton Kershaw sucks in October’ narrative to bed. He was dominant through seven innings of a virtual must-win game, limiting the Cubs to two hits in a shutout. And Kenley Jansen struck out four in two perfect innings of relief. Kyle Hendricks made one mistake to Adrian Gonzalez in the 2nd. And that’s the ballgame. I was stuck complaining about Eric Cooper’s bullshit strike zone and occasionally popping out of my seat, like when Anthony Rizzo cranked that massive foul ball or when Javy Baez made a great play at second to force out Josh Reddick and then catch Gonzalez in a run-down. Or when I was convinced Baez hit a two-run bomb in the 7th. According to Statcast, 67% of balls like the one he hit have been home runs at Wrigley this year. Even Kershaw thought it was gone. And Dave Roberts’ annoyingly maniacal laughter after the fact leads me to believe he did too.

 

Kershaw is the greatest pitcher on Planet Earth. But (other than Baez and Kris Bryant) the Cubs just aren’t hitting in the postseason. Like, at fucking all. Ben Zobrist is hitting .182. Dexter Fowler is .167. Jason Heyward is .111. Addison Russell is .045. And Anthony Rizzo – their three hitter – is batting .043. They’ve gotten contributions from the pitchers at the plate. And they went off on Jeff Samardzija for two innings in Game 2 of the NLDS and then the Giants’ garbage bullpen in Game 4. Those bats need to wake up. And hopefully they do. Because I want to be sitting in a silent Dodger Stadium when the Cubs doggypile after Game 5.

 

I still think it might happen. In the last four games, Kershaw and Jansen have pitched more innings than everyone else on the team, combined. They’re 3-1 in those games, which were all one-run wins. But Rich Hill has a 6.43 postseason ERA. He also has blister problems. Kenta Maeda’s postseason ERA is 9.00. It’s like they either get shelled or Kershaw/Jansen save the day. This team just doesn’t have a rotation. If the Cubs can find their bats at all in Los Angeles, we should be moving on. I think.

 

Monday, October 17th. ALCS Game 3. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 4-2. The Indians lead 3-0.

Trevor Bauer’s finger is fucking disgusting. But so is the Cleveland bullpen. I think everybody thought the story of this game was gonna be Jose Bautista’s comments about the mysterious “circumstances” that inhibited the Jays in the first two games of the series (read: strike zone). Especially when his game started with Mike Napoli’s fly ball bouncing out of his glove for an RBI double. And then he led off the bottom of the first taking a called strike three. But it wasn’t too long after that Bauer started gushing.

 

I love that Bauer almost looked like he was trying to hide his pinky from the umpire. It’s still making me laugh picturing some old timer like Joe Niekro pretending it’s not his blood and then using his own wound like a sneaky emery board. But Bauer was out after only facing four batters and Terry Francona would have to rely on his bullpen for the remainder of the game. And I had to assume the Blue Jays would finally decide to hit and the Indians would be drone-fucked.

 

Michael Saunders tied the game in the bottom of the 2nd with a solo shot off Dan Otero. But it was answered in the 4th when Napoli hit a solo shot of his own. Ezekiel Carrera tripled in the 5th and was singled in by Josh Donaldson, tying the game again. But the Indians answered in the 6th with a homer by Jason Kipnis and some great base running by Napoli after he was walked. All the Indians had to do was get to Bryan Shaw, put in Cody Allen in the 7th and let Andrew Miller get the final four outs. Francona looks like a genius. But then again, any manager who has a guy with the ability to strike out 20 batters in 9 innings of postseason work is gonna end up looking pretty good.

 

Corey Kluber is being called on for Game 4 on three days rest. If they win (53% according to FiveThirtyEight), it’s the Indians’ first pennant since 1997. It’s also their 10th win in a row. And everyone will rightfully heap praise upon Miller and the rest of the Indians’ staff. But the longer this team goes into October, the more evident it will be that they’re severely shorthanded. They’ve only started Bauer, Kluber and Josh Tomlin in their 6 postseason games. Now Bauer is drone-fucked. And they’d have to use Ryan Merritt for a potential Game 5. I don’t really know who he is either. The Red Sox and Blue Jays vanished in the first six games (seriously, the Blue Jays have scored three runs and have never had a lead), but I gotta think Cleveland is vulnerable for whoever they face (Cubs???) in the World Series.

 

Tuesday, October 18th. The Blue Jays beat the Indians 5-1. The Indians lead the series 3-1.

Well, the Blue Jays finally found their bats. And it started with Josh Donaldson, who also flashed a little leather at third to save a run. I don’t know how much to read in to the fact that Corey Kluber has never pitched on three days rest before. But with Ryan Merritt going in Game 5 for Cleveland and possibly no one (or probz Kluber again) available for them if it goes all the way to Game 7, this thing could have just gotten interesting.

 

 Hey Blue Jays, you got one!

 

Tuesday, October 18th. The Dodgers beat the Cubs 6-0. The Dodgers lead 2-1.

What a shitty time to go to my first Cubs postseason game. And good thing I also have tickets for Games 4 and 5. Ugh. I know Rich Hill pitched well this season. I know he pitched well enough in the game. I know Clayton Kershaw was good the game before. But that’s 18 innings in a row for the Cubs without a run. That’s not something that usually happens. The analysis prior to the game, at least by Jess Mendoza of ESPN, was that if the Cubs were going to bust out their slumps in the series, Hill wasn’t gonna be the guy they did it against. She also said the Cubs were gonna play better with their backs against the wall, and unfortunately, I’m probably gonna have to see if she’s right on that front too. I’ve watched the Cubs lose big games before, but never surrounded by so many people so happy about my misery. Fuckin’ Dodgers fans. Being down 2-1 would feel a lot less insurmountable if anyone on this goddamn team felt like hitting. 103 wins just to all collectively slump in October? So grumpy.

 

Wednesday, October 19th. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 3-0. They win the series 4-1. 

Prior to Game 5, Jose Bautista, who is not everyone’s favorite player, said that Indians’ starter, Ryan Merritt, would be “shaking in his boots” thinking about facing the Blue Jays’ hitters. Merritt is 24-years-old. He was a 16th-round pick out of a community college in Waco. He has an 83-mile-per-hour fastball. Prior to the game, he had one career start and 11 career innings pitched. Keep in mind that, if not for a freak drone accident, he probably wouldn’t be getting his second career start in a potential pennant-clincher. The kid’s from Texas, so he might own boots. But he was certainly not shaking in a goddamn thing.

 

 Believeland again?

 

Merrit pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings. He retired the first 10 batters of the game. By that point the Indians were up 3-0 off of a double from Mike Napoli and homers from Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp. And then that bullpen came in. Series over. Andrew Miller got MVP honors. The Indians had a little bit of fun with the whole boots comment in the clubhouse and on social media during their celebration. Jason Kipnis told reporters, “That’s why you don’t say dumb shit.” Now is as good a time as any to mention it was also Bautista’s 36th birthday. He batted .167 in what will probably be his last series with Toronto. You’re going to be hearing a lot about 1948, 1997 and the Cleveland Caviliers in the next week. I’ll be worried about what happens if the Indians have a lead on the Cubs after the 5th inning in any of the World Series games. But that thought will have to be tabled for the time being.

 

Wednesday, October 19th. The Cubs beat the Dodgers 10-2. The series is tied 2-2.

Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo were a combined 3-for-50 in the postseason heading in to Game 4. Regression to the mean is a motherfucker. They each went 3-for-5 with home runs and the Cubs’ bats finally came alive after 21 scoreless innings. Maybe everything was a bit overblown since this is the Cubs we’re talking about. The ’98 Yankees were down 2-1 in the ALCS, for crying out loud. It happens all the time. Cubs fans may even remember the ’84 Padres being down 2-1. Or the 2003 Marlins. This is a fairly normal thing. But the Cubs hadn’t been in this sort of trouble all season long. Yeah, Dodger fans will cry about Adrian Gonzalez being thrown out at home in the 2nd (his hand looked like it was hovering to me). But the Dodgers gave up 10 runs and committed 4 errors. And if it wasn’t for Justin Turner’s grounder taking a bad hop off of Mike Montgomery’s glove in the 5th, the score would have been 10-0. I’d rather be Anthony Rizzo apologizing to Angel Hernandez for trotting to first on a called strike (and homering on the next pitch) than Adrian Gonzalez doing his best Jose Bautista whine impression in the clubhouse after the game. I just hope these bats can stay hot against Kenta Maeda in Game 5 before this series heads back to Wrigley Field.

 

 

Alright. That’s it for this week. If you need more baseball from me, check me out on Comedians Talking Sports with Joe Kilgallon, available on the podcast things. Until then, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 6. Ohmygod.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode I)

Written by :
Published on : February 27, 2016

 

 

Last week on Monday Night Raw, Shane McMahon made a shocking return to the WWE after a six year absence. And it was soon announced that he’d be facing the Undertaker inside ‘Hell in a Cell’ at WrestleMania 32. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, Theo Epstein happened to be watching. Because just three days later, Dexter Fowler’s surprise return to the Cubs was as close to a WWE-style swerve as an actual non-scripted sport can get. The only thing it was missing was cued-up entrance music (“My Way” by Fetty Wap, would have been perf) and his Cubs teammates chanting ‘holy shit’ and ‘this is awesome’ (clap clap clap clap clap) after the big reveal.

 

Until that very moment, the consensus foregone conclusion was that Fowler had signed with the Baltimore Orioles. It was speculated and anticipated for weeks by baseball’s talking head community until it evolved into a full-blown fact. Right up until the moment it wasn’t. And after receiving a text that just said “Fowler!” from my ‘Go Cubs’ iPhone message group, I was so confused and skeptical that I didn’t believe the news until I actually saw the video of a 6’5″ dude in street clothes who looked a lot like Dexter Fowler walking onto the field with a guy who looked a lot like Theo Epstein and being greeted by a group of guys in Cubs uniforms who looked exactly like the rest of the Chicago Cubs. It wouldn’t take long for a meme to go out on social media with Steve Harvey holding the Miss Universe card and saying, “DEXTER FOWLER HAS SIGNED WITH THE ORIOLES.”

 

 Fowler will be back with the Cubs.

 

And while I could talk about what the Fowler signing means for the 2016 Cubs (the best team in baseball on paper just got better, Jason Heyward can now move back to right field where he’s won three Gold Gloves and it creates an insanely flexible lineup depth with Fowler, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber in the other outfield slots, etc.), it’s probably best to use this as further proof that conventional wisdom at the start of Spring Training doesn’t necessarily equate to actual regular season results. And everything we think we know about the 2016 season before it starts is probably just as true as the fact that Dexter Fowler is the new leadoff hitter for the Baltimore Orioles.

 

All that being said, I still can’t think of a reason why it won’t be the Cubs’ year in 2016. Yes, I’m still worried about the Cardinals. And I still think the Pirates are probably vastly underrated. And I know that saying, “Anything less than the World Series would be a huge disappointment” is a statement that is probably held equally true for the Mets and the Dodgers. And I know that the Nationals were the team that looked like the hands-down best-on-paper team last year. That is, of course, until they weren’t. But it’s still February as I type this. And hope still springs eternal. So as of right now, I’m a believer.

 

Around the League

 

The more I think about the 2016 Boston Red Sox and their high win projections, the more I have a problem with them. Pablo Sandoval showed up to Fort Myers looking like me after a cake bender. And if you combine that with Hanley Ramirez at first base, I don’t see why every team they face wouldn’t just put on a dead-ball-era bunt clinic until the Red Sox can figure their own shit out? But the good news for the Red Sox is that every team in their division has a really good reason why they won’t win either. The best one is that 5’8″ Marcus Stroman is going to become the the ace of the Blue Jays like he’s pitching’s Jose Altuve. And Jose Bautista’s contract looks like it’s already a distraction. As are the whispers that Troy Tulowitzki can’t hit outside of the thin air of Coors Field. And those two teams are the favorites in the division. If you add to that, the uncertainty of the rotation and age of the position players in New York, a possible 30-40 game suspension of Aroldis Chapman, a Tampa Bay Rays team that doesn’t score runs and an Orioles team that doesn’t prevent runs, it leaves me throwing up my hands and saying, “Let them eat cake.”

 

I’m increasingly curious to see Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios in Minnesota. Not to mention Miguel Sano and Byung-ho Park. That’s too much young talent to not pan out in a division where I’m totally ready to see something new and exciting happen. That could also occur if the White Sox can score runs and if the Indians can play defense. I just don’t want to see a scenario where these Kansas City Royals, who have the 13th-highest payroll in baseball and who will not be sneaking up on anyone this time around, can become the 1998-2001 Yankees or the 1988-1990 Bash Brother A’s. I can only take so many cuts to Happy George Brett in the owner’s box before I get sick of this double-tapered shit.

 

 Can the Royals really do it again?

 

My way-too-early AL MVP pick is going to be Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros. Especially now that they created the Chase Utley Slide Rule to protect him. Mike Trout is still probably going to be the best player in the league. But he’s going to get ‘LeBron Ruled’ out of the award until the Angels can put a decent lineup around him. The same probably goes for Josh Donaldson and even a returning Miguel Cabrera because nobody likes repeats. So that probably leaves us with Manny Machado, who probably won’t be in playoff contention and Correa who probably will. And my backup choice is obviously Dexter Fowler, the definite new right fielder for the Baltimore Orioles.

 

And while I haven’t decided on my pre-season NL MVP pick quite yet, I will say that if the Diamondbacks are really going to be in contention, then there’s no reason it won’t be Paul Goldschmidt. But you can’t rule out never-been-picked guys like Giancarlo Stanton (with his zero facial hair and his Barry Bonds) or whichever Cubs player hogs up the most attention in their historic season. Or it could even be whoever this Royce Harper guy is Dusty Baker keeps talking about. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

 

Well, we have actual Spring Training games next week. We’ll get to see Lucas Giolito and Julio Urias and Corey Seager and Byron Buxton and Joey Gallo and start forming actual thoughts about these teams as they move towards the regular season. I’ve given you my picks for World Series champion and AL MVP. And with just a little bit more information, I can form enough of an opinion to the wrong about the rest. Stay tuned.

 

 


Great Expectations: A Spring Training Preview

Written by :
Published on : February 23, 2016

 

Oh no. This is a really weird feeling for a Cubs fan to have. For the first time that I can ever remember, the Lovable Losers on the North Side of Chicago seem to be both the unanimous pick to win their division and also a trendy choice for the 2016 World Series. And on paper it even makes sense. Last year, they proved that their young squad was ahead of their projected timeline, won 97 games and then went deep into the playoffs until they ran into a freakishly overachieving Daniel Murphy and a young Mets pitching staff that seems to remind everyone of the nineties Atlanta Braves. And then they went out in the offseason and got the best healthy pitcher and the best position player from their hated Cardinal rivals, and also added a guy who led the majors in WAR in 2009. Oh, and the rest of their seemingly-all-rookie lineup from last year is back and probably better than ever and still way too young and dumb to comprehend how a jaded, cynical asshole like me can still hesitate to be bullish on the prospects of a Thousand Year Cubs Dynasty.

 

This has to be too good to be true, right? There’s too much pressure. The Cubs never follow up a good season with another good season. Look at 1985, 1990 and every other year since The Year That Shall Not Be Named. And Jake Arrieta has to regress. Because he just has to. And John Lackey is 137 years old. And their bullpen isn’t quite there. And Jason Heyward isn’t a natural center fielder. And because they’re the fucking Cubs. Right? Like, why should I get my hopes up just to have them crushed again and again like I have my whole life? Why? Well… Because of Theo Epstein. And because of Joe Maddon. And because of that offense. Oh, that offense. And Kris Bryant. And Addison Russell. And Kyle Schwarber. And Anthony Rizzo. And the fact that Heyward is actually younger than Anthony Rizzo. And the fact that Heyward could win a Gold Glove in center. And because Arrieta may have pitched an assload of innings last year, but he famously stays in excellent shape. And because of how great of a story it would be if they actually did do it. And because, on paper, the Cubs just so happen to have the best team in baseball by a decent margin. Oh no, indeed.

 

 

The Rest of the NL Central

The Cubs may have kicked their ass and stolen their girlfriend, but the Cardinals are still the Cardinals. You just kind of assume they’ll be playing in October, no matter what. But even with Adam Wainwright back, the mystique feels like it’s gone, with a bad offseason and Yadier Molina needing to grow another thumb. Maybe their insane luck will finally run out. I also thought that about the Alabama football team back in September. Not that I should talk about football in the same breath I talk about St. Louis. Anyway… Then there’s the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s not like they sucked last year either. But nobody likes to talk about them because they’ll probably just get to the Wild Card and lose again, if they do anything at all. And the only fun thing about that is if Sean Rodriguez goes HAM on another water cooler. This division will inevitably be drowned out by the tidal wave of Cubs expectations. And the Reds and Brewers have probably already
drowned in it.

 

The NL East

According to EVERYONE, the Mets have the greatest pitching staff of all time, ever. And, yes, it’s horrifying. Matt Harvey is another year removed from Tommy John surgery. Jacob deGrom is a floppy-haired pitching monster. Noah Syndergaard actually is Thor. Big fat Bartolo Colon doesn’t age. Steven Matz would be a #1 starter on every other non-Mets team. And Zack Wheeler will be back in July to seal the already-done deal. Plus, all of them except Colon are 19 years old or something. The only problem is that nobody knows what type of hangover these guys will have from all those innings they ate up against Kansas City in the World Series. Or if they’ll even stay healthy. But if they do all bounce back, holy shit. Plus, they re-signed Yoenis Cespedes, which all makes for an excellent case for them to go back to the World Series. No matter how much I hate that.

 

 

Overall this division is horrible. But Bryce Harper and the dysfunctional Nationals should contend. Even though Dusty Baker is their new manager. And nobody knows what to make of the Miami Marlins quite yet. Don Mattingly is their new manager. Barry Bonds is their new hitting coach. Giancarlo Stanton will be healthy. So will Jose Fernandez. But we’ll have to see what all that means, if anything. Or if those guys can even stay healthy in the first place. And anyone looking to make a bold prediction on the division a la the 2015 Cubs and Astros might want to keep their eye on the Atlanta Braves, who are building a monster farm team, even though they’ll most likely be just slightly less shitty than the Phillies in 2016.

 

The NL West

I hate to say it, but 2016 is an even year. So we can probably throw all the analytics out the window and just hand the San Francisco Giants their fourth world title seven years. Their pitching staff picked up two possibly-great/possibly-hugely-disappointing acquisitions in Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. And that could give them an edge in what everybody seems to think will be a three team race with the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks.

 

The Dodgers lost Zack Greinke. To the Diamondbacks. They also have a rookie manager in Dave Roberts. In a market that wore out Mattingly and sent him to Miami. They also didn’t do anything with their gigantic payroll in the offseason. And any time you need to rely on Yasiel Puig for anything other than drama, it’s a pretty scary predicament. But this is a deep team with a crazy-good farm system. And they’ll probably be in enough contention by the time the trade deadline rolls around to throw money at whatever problems they have (that don’t involve lack of team chemistry). Plus they still have Clayton Kershaw. At the end of the day, as a resident Angelino, I just want to see Vin Scully go out in style. And if that means the Dodgers have to be good for that to happen, I can accept that.

 

 

Yes, Arizona got Greinke. And Shelby Miller. And they still have unrecognizable superstar, Paul Goldschmidt and equally unrecognizable AJ Pollock. But their projections aren’t too high as of now because of a lack of offensive depth (sup, Yasmany Tomas?). And it seems more likely they could be this year’s Padres and/or White Sox. As for the 2016 Padres and Rockies, I’m not wasting my time. It is an even year, after all.

 

The AL East

Every team in the division not named the Baltimore Orioles seem to have a chance this year. But the overall consensus comes down to the rebounding Boston Red Sox and the reigning division champion Toronto Blue Jays. Personally, I don’t know how acquiring David Price and Craig Kimbrel turns a 78-win last place team into a division favorite, but that’s just how the east coast media bias works. But it will be fun to see how fat Pablo Sandoval is. And if Hanley Ramirez can play first base. And it’s also the swan song for Big Papi. Plus, David Price is actually really fucking good. So I don’t know.

 

 

The Blue Jays have the best offense in baseball. And reigning MVP, Josh Donaldson. And their offense might be even better than last year since Troy Tulowitzki never got comfortable in Toronto in 2015. They’ll just have to stay healthy. And hope somebody on their team can pitch. As for the Yankees, they’re really old. And look how that worked out for them last season. Plus, you never know about that staff. And as good as their bullpen looks right now, we still don’t know what’s going to happen with Aroldis Chapman’s domestic abuse suspension. And the Rays have Chris Archer and the rest of their great starting five, but they’ll basically need everybody else on the lineup to be awesome to compete. Oh, and also the Orioles are in this division too, I guess.

 

The AL Central

The Royals won the World Series last year, no big deal. And they were one Madison Bumgarner away from being back-to-back World Series champions. Yet for some reason, Baseball Prospectus has them projected to be in last place in the Central in 2016. What gives? Maybe you can’t project things like ‘putting the ball in play and its positive consequences’ or ‘playing with a chip on their shoulder’, but whatever they did the past two seasons worked, so I don’t know why it wouldn’t work again. They have the defense. They have the bullpen. It’s just so hard to make a good enough argument for or against a team with relatively zero stars, that’s this mediocre on paper, going to three straight Fall Classics.

 

 

The hot pick in the AL Central continues to be the Cleveland Indians because of an extremely good pitching staff. Add Francisco Lindor’s defense behind them and they could be a powerhouse. Or Michael Brantley could be hurt and their offense could struggle and they won’t have the money to make acquisitions at the trade deadline to compete. And while I have a soft spot for the Detroit Tigers, they’re also getting a little long in the tooth. They got Justin Upton to aid a pretty good, but aging offense. And they picked up Jordan Zimmermann and K-Rod to help out a healthy, but aging Justin Verlander-led group of arms. Health is the key here. And if they have it, they might compete. The White Sox might also compete, even though nobody outside of Bridgeport is talking about them. They got Todd Frazier. They have Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and a full season from Carlos Rodon. It’s just that everybody is distracted by the heat of a thousand suns ™ on the North Side. And the Twins have Miguel Sano, who is going to hit 40 dongs this year. Even though they were so terrible last year, that even when they were in first place for a while nobody bought it. If that makes any sense. Not that it should. Why would anything in this division make sense? I mean, Royals went to the World Series the past two years.

 

The AL West

Even though the Astros are the unanimous choice to win the division, everybody would rather talk about the Texas Rangers. Their 2015 playoff run was nothing short of a miracle. And now they’ll have full seasons from Cole Hamels and a healthy Yu Darvish. It’s just that nobody really expected the Astros to be where they were last season either. And now nobody expects them to regress. And the former hot choices in the division seem like yesterday’s newspaper. Mike Trout has no talent around him in Anaheim. Nobody wants to get fooled by the Mariners ever again. And the A’s need too much to get anything done.

 

 

So there you have it. Now you’re ready for the baseball season. And now you know why your team probably sucks and why you should switch allegiances to the Chicago Cubs. Or at least that’s how everything looks right now. Spring training, when nothing counts. And before the actual season comes with all its shitty reality to break hearts, launch new stars into the stratosphere and ruin every expectation, rendering long-winded predictions like the one I just spent way too long typing on a nice afternoon completely worthless. But hey, that’s baseball.

 

What else were we gonna talk about, Donald Trump?

 

 

 


Dogpiles and Champagne Spray: A Brief History of Baseball Celebrations

Written by :
Published on : October 24, 2015

 

 

With the World Series upon us once again, it’s only a matter of time before we see that last out recorded or that final walk-off hit that leads into the ultimate dogpile celebration and champagne-spraying bash in the tarp-covered locker room. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. Billionaire team owners with beers poured over their heads. Dominican lefties wearing Oakley ski goggles and holding joke-sized bottles of bubbly. I just assumed it was a tradition as old as the World Series, itself.

 

Don’t get any in your eyes

 

But as I recently discovered while re-watching Ken Burns’ Baseball, that isn’t the case. I watched in horror as the Babe Ruth-led New York Yankees were shown in grainy footage winning the World Series and then promptly jogging off the field like nobody gave a shit. And I don’t know if it was 1923, 1927, 1928 or 1932. I just know that in all the years Babe Ruth won the World Series with the Yankees, the country was also in the midst of Prohibition. The New York Times even reported that after the ’27 Series, ”The players of both teams hurried into their street clothes after the game. …Vacation time has come for the players and their immediate aim is to enjoy it.”

 

So when did this all start? Weren’t these ballplayers just as excited to win it all in the 1920’s as they are today? I decided to look in to it. And what I found was that the not-so-spontaneous ritual we have now is probably as much a product of television as anything else. And the World Series wasn’t even televised until 1947. That year, the Yankees beat the Dodgers in seven games. The Yankee fans rushed onto the field. The Yankees jogged into the dugout. And then they proceeded to DRINK their champagne in the locker room. Or at least they drank it after they won the pennant. I can’t find anything about the ’47 Series celebration except a photo of one guy holding a fucking soda. But how were they supposed to know they were doing it wrong? Nobody had really ever seen it done right before.

 

Look at these party animals

 

Enter the 1960’s. From Nixon sweating all over the the first televised presidential debate to a man walking on the moon, the revolution would be televised. And athletes knew they were being watched. While there’s evidence of Dodger celebrations with beer in the mid-to-late Fifties, it was the Sixties when the evolution of the dogpile and champagne bash began. The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates poured champagne on Bill Mazeroski’s head after his walk-off in Game 7. The Los Angeles Dodgers did a little bit of jumping around on the field after the final out of the ’63 Series. But, oddly enough, the real tipping point for baseball celebrations would come from another sport, entirely.

 

In 1967, the all-American team of Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt won the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans, upsetting Ferrari and shocking everyone in the process. And they were handed bottles of Moet & Chandon directly after. Gurney, who didn’t drink alcohol, shook up his bottle, placed his thumb over the top and began spraying everyone in sight. That included the press, who had predicted disaster for the team, as well as the president of Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford II. Four months later, the St. Louis Cardinals celebrated their World Series victory over the Boston Red Sox by jumping around on the field as a group. And then they doused each other with champagne in the Fenway visitor’s locker room. There would be no going back from there. What used to be seen as a waste of booze, would be considered the norm by the end of the decade. It just wasn’t quite what we have today.

 

Pass the bubbly

 

The first truly modern World Series celebration came from the ’86 Mets. Just in case you didn’t think that series had enough going for it already. Jesse Orosco struck out Marty Barrett for the final out and then immediately tossed his glove into the air, dropped to his knees and was mobbed in a toppling human pile of his teammates. In fairness, the ’82 Cardinals fell to the ground while they were celebrating. So they were technically first. But the Cardinals’ celebration paled in comparison to the coke-fueled villains in Queens. That was the celebration shown on the end credits of This Week in Baseball every week for 5 years. That’s the one that became the standard-bearer for all baseball celebrations to follow. And they topped it all off with champagne spray in the clubhouse. Probably with an ungodly amount of narcotics to boot. Compare that to 1954, when the Giants won the Series and Dusty Rhodes asked the team president where the champagne was. When he was told it was on the plane, Rhodes responded, “Okay. Just so it’s around some place.”

 

That’s a big bottle

 

So blame the Mets, blame Dan Gurney or blame the advent of television. But the dogpile and champagne spraying celebrations are now an expected part of our sports culture. I’m not even old enough to remember the 1986 World Series, so it’s the only thing I’ve known my entire life. And with five teams from each league heading to the playoffs, we do it up to 19 times a season. Maybe it’s a tad bit excessive. But it sure as hell beats jogging off the field and heading straight to your vacation. Because that, my friends, is for the losers.

 


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

 

 

 


Eric Wedge Needs Another Chance

Written by :
Published on : September 9, 2015

 

When looking at the problems surrounding his old team, former Mariners manager, Eric Wedge, can feel at ease that his managing was not the issue. The team hired Lloyd McClendon to replace him last year, and they still stink. During his time running the organization, Jack Zduriencik hired three different managers and they produced five losing seasons with only two winning ones. For that reason that Zduriencik was fired on August 28th.

 

The men he hired to run the team never had a chance to succeed because Zduriencik never provided them with good players to work with. Poor drafting was a big culprit, as demonstrated by disappointing first round picks, Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin, Danny Hultzen and Mike Zunino.

 

The brains behind the Mariners roster, Jack Zduriencik

 

When he resigned, Wedge criticized Zduriencik and you have to wonder if that is why he is currently unemployed. The fact is that no boss wants their employee ripping them in public and it’s not a good look to show prospective employers. Another reason teams might be shying away from Wedge is his losing record (774-876). I don’t believe he should be punished for that because the man can straight up manage. He masterfully rebuilt the Cleveland Indians and had them one game away from the World Series in 2007.

 

There’s no way the Mariners problems should be held against him because the issues with the team were out of his control. He deserves one last shot to manage a major league club. One that is ready to win now.

 

Joe Maddon did it for the Cubs. Wedge can do it for some other team.

 

If he could step into the type of situation Joe Maddon did in Chicago this year, with a team that is ready to win, then I think he could really make something happen. The Cubs will make the playoffs this year because they finally found a manager that knows what he’s doing. If another team with some good pieces in place hired Wedge, they could do the same. He knows how to lead. He commands respect. He gets things done and he knows how to develop players. He can win.

 

We can’t hold his losing recored against him because he was either managing rebuilding projects with the Indians or leading a terrible team with the Mariners. It’s time he is judged on what he can do with a good squad.

 

His teams will never get outworked and he will never get out managed. They will play fundamentally sound baseball and will be disciplined. He calls it like he sees it and will hold his guys accountable when they don’t perform up to his standards. As a result his players will get better and the team will win.

 

They could use this kind of passion and leadership in Boston or Detroit.

 

Two teams I can think of that could use Wedge’s services are the Red Sox and the Tigers. They both have young talent and can win now, they just need the right manager. Something they do not have at the moment in John Farrell and Brad Ausmus, respectively.

 

These teams, or any team in need, would be better for hiring him and he would immediately command respect in the clubhouse. The players would want to play for him and it would be an absolute joke if he didn’t get another gig after what he had to endure in Seattle. He has put the time into his craft and he knows what to do. It’s time for him to get another shot and prove that he can get it done.

 

 


How Many Cy Youngs Should Cy Young Have Won?

Written by :
Published on : August 23, 2015

 

 

In 1955, legendary pitcher, Cy Young, died at the age of 88. The following year, Major League Baseball honored Young by creating an award in his name, which was originally to be given out to the very best pitcher in all of baseball. Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe won the inaugural award (even though it totally should have gone to Herb Score of the Indians). To that point in history, Young was probably not the greatest pitcher of all-time. The fact that he wasn’t inducted into the first Hall of Fame class of 1936 is pretty indicative of that. But he did have the most career wins, career losses, complete games, innings pitched, etc, etc. So that got me thinking: Cy Young pitched from 1890-1911. If his own award had existed way back then, how many would The Man, Himself have won? Let’s take a look.

 

1890. Just to be clear, this was still old-timey baseball. 1890 was only the second season in history that four balls equaled a walk. And only the fourth season where batters weren’t allowed to call for a high pitch or a low pitch. Pitchers had to throw underhand with a stiff wrist and elbow until 1883. And they couldn’t even throw all the way overhand until 1884. Coincidentally, that was the same year the catcher’s chest protector was introduced. Times were a tad different, to say the least. On top of all of that pitchers pitched inside of a flat box from 50 feet away. Nevertheless, my winner for 1890 is Kid Nichols of the Boston Beaneaters. Like Cy Young, Nichols was also a rookie and a future Hall of Famer. He’d go on to become the youngest pitcher to win 300 games. And he also claimed that (even though he started 562 games in his career) he was never removed from a game for a relief pitcher.

 

Kid Nichols during the 1897 season

 

1891. I’d give the award to Kid Nichols again. But this was also the first season when catchers were allowed to wear large padded mitts. And one of Young’s catchers was said to put a steak inside his glove to better protect himself.

 

1892. Young had the best standard stats of anyone in baseball. He led the league in wins, ERA, WHIP and shutouts. But “Wild” Bill Hutchinson of the Chicago Colts had better advanced stats, so he wins. Still, his 36-36 record that year makes my brain hurt.

 

1893. Because of hard-throwing pitchers like Young, Amos Rusie and Jouett Meekin, Major League Baseball decided to move the pitcher’s box back to its current distance of 60 feet, six inches. Nobody knows for sure how hard those guys threw. But Young got the nickname ‘Cy’ in 1889, because the fences he threw against looked like a cyclone hit them. The odd thing was, Young was only recording 2-3 strikeouts per game during that period. He later said, “I aimed to make the batter hit the ball, and I threw as few pitches as possible. That’s why I was able to work every other day.” I’d give the Cy Young Award to Cy Young in 1893. I wish I could give it to ERA champion, Ted Breitenstein, because I like his last name. But it’s pretty impressive that Cy Young’s first Cy Young Award would have been in a transition year for every pitcher in the league.

 

The 1890 Cleveland Spiders. Cy Young pictured middle row, third from the left.

 

1894. I’d give this one to “The Hoosier Thunderbolt” Amos Rusie of the New York Giants. People have tried to estimate that Rusie threw in the mid to upper 90s. But he was also wild as shit. And he led the league in walks from 1890-94. Even so, in 1894, he won the pitching Triple Crown and had the best advanced stats of anyone in baseball. A sensation during his career in New York, and considered huge by 19th Century standards (at 6’1″, 200 lbs), Rusie was eventually elected into the Hall of Fame in 1977.

 

1895. Cy Young would have won his second Cy Young Award. It was the year he added a ‘slow ball’ to his repertoire. And it was also the year he started wearing a glove.

 

1896. Cy Young would have won his third Cy Young. He also led the majors with 3 saves.

 

1897. I’d give Kid Nichols his third Cy Young Award. But in 1897, Cy Young also pitched his first no-hitter. Young initially gave up a hit down the third base line in the game, but his third baseman sent a note to the press box saying he’d committed an error, so they reversed the call. Throughout his career, Young still considered the game a one-hitter.

 

1898. Cy Young would have won his fourth Cy Young.

 

1899. I’d give it to Noodles Hahn of the Cincinnati Reds. Although he wasn’t a power pitcher, Noodles led the league in strikeouts from 1899-1901. He’d go on to pitch the first no-hitter of the 20th Century. After retiring in 1906, Hahn continued to work out with the Reds on game days until he was almost 70. It’s been said that the Reds players of the 1940’s had no idea ol’ Noodles was a former big league player.

 

Cy Young poses for a portrait in 1899, when he was with St. Louis.

 

1900. Cy Young would have won his fifth Cy Young. It was also around this time that the pitchers mound was invented. Seriously.

 

1901. That was the first year of the American League, and Young moved to the Boston Americans, where he won the pitching Triple Crown. He would have won his 6th Cy Young. 1901 was the year he began as a pitching coach for Harvard, which the Boston media found hilarious, since Young only had a 6th grade education. This was also the first year that catchers (in both leagues) had to remain under the bat.

 

1902. I’d give it to Rube Waddell of the Philadelphia Athletics, who is one of the most unusual and unpredictable players in the history of baseball. He once left the mound in the middle of a game to go fishing. He’d sometimes chase after fire trucks during games. Opposing fans held up puppies and shiny objects to distract him. He wrestled alligators in the offseason and was once bitten by a lion. They called him ‘Sousepaw’ because he once spent his entire signing bonus on a drinking binge. He forgot how many wives he’d had. Nobody really wanted him on their team, and yet he was the premier power pitcher of his day. In exhibition games, he’d wave his players off the field and then strike out the side. He’s even the second guy in history to strike out the side on 9 pitches. And he probably had some sort of mental disorder or spectrum-y thing. All that being said, Waddell was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1946. He and Young would have a rivalry for many years.

 

Rube Waddell warming up before a game in 1905

 

1903. Rube Waddell would have won his second Cy Young Award. But Cy Young would go on to pass Pud Galvin as the all-time winningest pitcher in 1903. And he’d start in Game 1 of the first modern World Series, throwing the first pitch in World Series history.

 

1904. Rube Waddell would have won his third Cy Young. On May 2, Waddell one-hit Young’s Boston Americans and then taunted Young to face him in a game, so he could do it again. On May 5, they went head-to-head and Young pitched the first perfect game of the modern era. Waddell was the 27th and final batter. And as Waddell flied out, Young shouted at him, “How do you like that, you hayseed?” Young went on to pitch 25 1/3 innings without giving up a hit (still a record), as well as 45 consecutive scoreless innings. Still, somehow Waddell had better advanced stats. Also, Young’s perfecto was the first of the modern era because two pitchers in 1880 (when you still had to toss underhand and batters could call for pitches) threw perfect games. We know that in one of them, three outs were made when a fielder caught a foul ball on one bounce. Rules are rules (and that used to be the rule), but that’s fucking stupid.

 

1905. Cy Young would have won his 7th Cy Young. Roger Clemens currently has the most ever at 7.

 

1906. Cy Young would have won his 8th Cy Young. Roger Clemens can suck it.

 

1907. Rube Waddell would have won his fourth Cy Young.

 

Young when he was with the Red Sox in 1908.

 

1908. Cy Young pitched his third no-hitter and broke the all-time record for strikeouts. But I would give the award to spitballer, Ed Walsh of the Chicago White Sox. Walsh has the lowest ERA in Major League history (1.82) and in 1910, he had a 1.27 ERA with a losing record. Legend has it that when they built Comiskey Park in Chicago, the architect consulted with Walsh before creating the park’s dimensions. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1946.

 

1909. I’d give it to Chief Bender of the Philadelphia Athletics. Bender got his nickname because he was part Native American and was raised on a reservation in Minnesota. Throughout his career, Bender faced discrimination and racist taunts from the opposing dugout. The only thing was, Bender was awesome. Sometimes when he’d shut down a team, he’d yell, “Foreigners! Foreigners!” right back at them. Oh, and he also invented the slider. Bender was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1953. His brother also played Major League Baseball, but wasn’t as fortunate. He ended up getting suspended after stabbing his manager multiple times.

 

Chief Bender

 

1910. Cy Young won his 500th game, but his torch was finally passed. Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators would have won the Cy Young. And he’d go on to win 417 games, the second-most all-time. He also lost an amazing 65 games because his Senators failed to score a run. In 1936, Johnson was part of the inaugural class at the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson.

 

Young retired after the 1911 season with 511 career wins. To put that into perspective, that’s about what Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez had combined. And it’s more than Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke currently have combined. It’s a record that will never be broken. Young was also seen as the bridge between the early days of baseball and the modern era. He pitched against Cap Anson, who became a pro in 1871. And he also pitched against Eddie Collins, who played until 1930. And he absolutely deserves to have the award named after him.

 

The Answer: Cy Young should have won 8 Cy Young Awards.

 

 

 


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