Cubs Find No Joy In WrigleyVille

Part of the beauty of baseball and any other sport for that matter, is that there has to be a winner and a loser. To say that the Cubs shouldn’t have been in the NLCS this year would be wrong. They won their right to qualify for the World Series but last night’s 11-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers showed fans , sport writers and the Cubs brass just about everything they needed to know about what went wrong with the Cubs during the first half of the season. It also should everyone just how mismatched the Cubs/Dodgers series was in the first place.

“It’s a disappointing season that we didn’t go to the World Series,” Chicago pitcher Jon Lester said, “but whenever you get on the plane to go home or get in the car to go home, you have to look at the positives, and the positives are we gave ourselves a chance. It didn’t happen this year. We got beat by a better team. You’ve got to tip your hat sometimes.”

There’s that tipping of the hat again. No, the Cubs shouldn’t tip their caps. They should be saying ,”Thank you” to the Dodgers that this was done in five games. It was fitting that a three time Cy Young winner was facing a pitcher, who’s name wasn’t Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks or Jon Lester. It was Jose Quintana. A pitcher that looked like a deer in headlights after the first inning.

“The better team won over the course of these five games. They played really well. They kind of out-pitched us and everything else. So give them credit. Dave Roberts and their entire staff, I just want to say, ‘Congratulations.’ [We] know what it feels like coming off of last year — we were celebrating versus them in this exact same spot. So they’ve had themselves a spectacular year, and I want to wish them all well in the World Series.” Joe Maddon said.

As I do too. They dominated the Cubs in every category. When the guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant can’t get it done; then there’s problems. Someone asked me yesterday what my prediction was for last night’s game, and I told them,

” You have a three time Cy Young winner going against a team without their best starting pitcher, their top guys in a hitting slump and a closing ace that’s unavailable; David had better odds against Goliath”

Which they replied,”That was a story and David won”

“No, this is baseball and numbers don’t lie.”

Of course, I was hoping the Cubs would in some miracle, win and move on but in a way, I’m glad the season is over. The Cubs need to lick their wounds and concentrate on next year. I’m proud of the team, their accomplishments and look forward to spring again. When everything is new and hopes and dreams are a clean slate.

“As a team, we know it’s an accomplishment to get to where we’ve gotten to,” Ben Zobristsaid. “But after what we experienced last year, this is less than what we wanted this year. At the same time, you have to recognize how tough a year it was for us. We kept battling and were able to win our division and win the Division Series to get here. I think the Dodgers were just better. They played a phenomenal series and we didn’t. We have to keep our heads up. We kept battling together and stayed together.

Casey At The Bat

by Ernest Thayer

The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that –
We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they’d a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.

#ThatsCub

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Cubs Display Courage In Elimination Game

The Chicago Cubs on the brink of elimination, at home, fought off the Los Angeles Dodgers to force a game 5 tonight. Yesterday, the Cubs launched three home runs on their way to a 3-2 victory. It wasn’t easy but starting pitcher Jake Arrieta struck out 7 over  7 and Javier Baez launched two home runs, while Willson Contreras contributed a monster of a moon shoot to help the Cubs win the game.

“You’ve got this many fans on their feet, pulling on the same side of the rope,” Arrieta said. “It breathes some added energy. I’m thankful they came out and had the energy they did. It really helped us tonight. “It’s not an ideal situation, but I’ve been in this situation before and I enjoy it.”

It’s also a situation where Arrieta might have pitched his last game for the North Siders, but if it is, the former Cy Young winner will go out on a high note.

The game wasn’t without controversy after Curtis Grandson swung at a pitch and the ball bounced on the ground but Grandson thought it was a foul tip, so the Dodgers argued and the call was overturned.

It wasn’t.

The crowd knew it and well, so did Joe Maddon and that’s why after he argued, he was tossed from the game.

“The explanation was eventually — eventually it turned into hearing two sounds. Not one of them saw a foul tip or heard — thought it was a foul tip. It was based on two sounds, which I totally cannot agree with that process whatsoever. When you have 40-some thousand people, it’s late in the game. The other sound could have come from some lady screaming in the first row. I have no idea. I can’t buy that process,” Maddon said.

The umpire admitted his faux pas afterwards, but if the Cubs lost the game on that call, then there would have been even more controversy and that wouldn’t have been good at all.

So, tonight the Cubs will send Jose Quintana to the mound to face Clayton Kershaw in another loser stay home, which in this case won’t be that far. It’s going to be tough facing the best pitcher in the game but this is why the Cubs brought Quintana in.

“That guy’s been pretty dang good for us and I know he’s going to go out there and battle for us, that’s for sure,” added outfielder Kyle Schwarber. “We’re really looking forward to having him out there.”

On a sombre note, on Tuesday, leader singer Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip passed away from glioblastoma  at the age of 53. He was considered by many as the poet laureate of Canada. Downie  and the Hip wrote many songs about our nation and were essentially the Rolling Stones of Canada. They never made it big on the Stateside but were even bigger in the hearts of many Canadians. It’s not uncommon to hear their music blasting from car speakers every summer, in fact it’s a tradition and last night during a candle light vigil in Springer Market Square, it was no different. For me, their music and his words are a reminder of my college years or just about every party I went to, there was a Hip tune playing.  In honour of Gord’s passing and to give the Cubs a little courage, taken from the 2004 Grey Cup:

 

Courage,

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Cubs Down 2-0 in NLCS. Head Back To Wrigley

If the Chicago Cubs go on to lose the NLCS then it’ll be on Joe Maddon’s shoulders. There I said it. I say this after the Cubs were downed by the Dodgers 4-1 and now the Dodgers have a two game lead going to Chicago on Tuesday.

Sure, Kris Bryant‘s bat has gone silent, in fact, the rest of the team has been quiet in this series. Nobody can blame it on stellar pitching because both rotations have been in a state of flux. The fact is that Jon Lester should have stayed in for another inning or even a couple more outs. Carl Edwards was good for another few outs and well, Brian Deunsing was pitching really well, so I don’t quite understand what went wrong there? Oh wait, I’m sure everyone’s scratching their heads over the use of John Lackey. The guy has never pitched back to back games in his life.

“I really just needed him for the save tonight,” Joe Maddon said. “He had limited pitches. It was one inning only, and in these circumstances, you don’t get him up and then don’t get him in. So if we had caught the lead, he would have pitched. That’s it.”

Now, I’m glad Wade Davis wasn’t used, he’ll be fresh for Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Here’s hoping it’s cold in Chicago and Yasul Puig’s tongue sticks to the bat. Any recommendations of a rule change to aluminum?

“It’s their guys versus our guys,” Addison Russell said. “We’re playing to win. I feel like the competition just steps up a little bit because each pitch is more crucial, each swing, each play. An error can be the deciding factor of winning or losing. A bad pitch can be the decision of winning or losing. That’s really what I like about it.”

It’s really going to come down to the Cubs scoring more runs and Maddon not playing hot potato with his bullpen. Kyle Hendricks gets the start on Tuesday. He’s well rested and he needs to put up a performance for the ages, at least seven innings. Carl Edwards Jr relieves him and then it’s Wade Davis’ turn to shine.

“All you’re focused on is making pitches,” Hendricks said recently. “That’s my job and it never changes — no matter regular-season game, postseason game, no matter who you are facing on the other side of the mound. My focus is to go out there, make good pitches, rely on my preparation which I’ve done all year long. But when it comes down to it, when those lights turn on, you just have to execute pitches better than the other guy.”

The Cubs have been down in a series before and fought back, we know this and we know the results. They needed that win in LA, but not all is lost. They win three at Wrigley and take one back in LA. Easy Peasy, right? Bill Murray will be there to cheer them on and the momentum is clearly in the Cubs corner.

Believe it

 

Chicago Cubs Are Going To The World Series

#FlyTheW

What should have been the most raucous of celebrations in sports history is somehow filled with quiet reflection. It wasn’t supposed to end like this, there was supposed to be a curse attached to this near mythical baseball team. They were supposed to blow it but somehow, some way, the Chicago Cubs changed history. They righted a wrong and for baseball fanatics and casual observers alike, on October 22 2016 the Cubs became 2016 National League Champions.

Last night will go down in Chicago Cubs history as one of the most thrilling games ever played at Wrigley Field. The Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 and advance to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

The Professor Kyle Hendricks not only won the ERA title but pitched a gem. In the biggest game of his life to date, he not only pitched seven innings of shutout baseball but he went up against the greatest pitcher in the game Clayton Kershaw, and taught him a lesson he’ll never forget.

Wrigley Field is Hendricks ‘ classroom.

“It doesn’t really seem like reality around here,” said a champagne-soaked Hendricks. “There’s so much going on around here. I’m just trying to soak in the snapshots right now, so I can remember later.”

It was fitting that Hendricks was on the mound. He took apart the Dodgers inning by inning with “old school” tactics by keeping the ball down and not allowing the Dodgers access to those three bags in the infield.

Chicago Cubs

Both Javier Baez and Jon Lester won playoff MVP and rightfully so. Baez was unstoppable on defence and behind the plate. Lester? Well, he was Jon Lester doing Jon Lester things.

People everywhere will remember where they were the night the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 National League pennant. I was surrounded with my wife, family and friends we haven’t seen in a while. It was fitting that our friends came for a visit because Chicago hasn’t seen the pennant in quite a while.

The Cubs are only four wins away from a place they haven’t been since 1908. This isn’t over by a long shot but for a day we can all rejoice knowing that we’ve witnessed something very special.

“Getting to the World Series is a big accomplishment,” said the manager Joe Maddon. “Of course, winning it would be even greater than that. But I still believe that, in seasons to come, people are going to believe more easily now. They’re not going to look for the next shoe to drop. They’ll believe that something good is going to occur, as opposed to something bad.”

The Chicago Cubs are going to the World Series.

Believe it.

 

 

Chicago Cubs. We Believe.

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs have been in this position before. A 3-2 NLCS series lead. That was thirteen years ago and we know the outcome. There was blame put on this poor guy so unjustly criticized for hoping to catch a souvenir, instead catching hell and shame.

Tonight is different. The Cubs have earned this right to be here. They finished the season with the best record in baseball, fought back from adversity in this NLCS and now they can entertain the thought of advancing to their first World Series appearance since 1945.

Baseball fans across the world will be tuned in tonight, holding their breaths, praying for hope. This game will beat you up, staying up well past bedtimes and coming into work as if you’ve caught the red eye from Los Angeles back home to Sweet Chicago.

Celebrities can crash White House briefings all they want declaring their love for Chicago’s North Side darlings but in the end, once 8PM eastern hits, it’ll be Kyle Hendricks on the mound in front of 48 000+ faithful who will have his back because baseball is a lonely game. There’s only one player on one base at one time. One batter facing one pitcher waiting for a 90MPH piece of rubber and leather to come hurling towards him like a planet expecting a meteor to change history.

2016 could go down as one of the strangest years in history. Donald Trump could be President of the United States of America and the Chicago Cubs might be World Series Champions. I’ll let you digest that for a moment.

“Don’t anyone tell you that it’s just a game.” few truer words have been sung. Yesterday morning I tried to wake my son up for school, he’s six years old and getting up at 7AM is hard sometimes when it doesn’t require cartoons and Shreddies. I whispered in his ear,

“The Cubs won.”

He raised one finger, his eyes still closed, “One win away.” then he went back to sleep.

Tonight, the Chicago Cubs can punch their tickets to the World Series. In order to do that they must play like kids. No pretence, no knowledge that the pitcher they’re facing is the best in the world. Pure sandlot ball. The belief that when that ball connects with maple, it’s going to go far. There’s no other pitcher I’d rather have on the mound than Kyle Hendricks. He’s earned the start.  He’ll need to go deep into the game allowing Aroldis Chapman to do his thing. That’s it.

You see, the Chicago Cubs have escalated into something more than a baseball team. If they win tonight and advance to the World Series, it’ll mean that everything we teach to our children will be true. If they believe in something, it’ll happen.

Wrigley Field is a place like no other. We all can’t be there tonight but for those who haven’t been there, like Vedder said, “I’m sorry for you” the smells of freshly cut grass, hot dogs and sticky beer. The sounds of Pop! as baseballs get tucked into gloves and the sun’s heat,  the comfort food of the soul.

Ernie Banks knew it. Ron Santo believed it. Eddie Vedder is right.

We’re going all the way

Tonight, “Let’s Play Two”

Believe it.

 

 

 

Cubs Take NLCS Lead, One Win From Destiny

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are one win away from a place they haven’t been since 1945, the World Series. Last night, Jon Lester and the rest of the Cubs shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers with an 8-4 victory to take a 3-2 series lead. The stage is set for a sixth game showdown between regular season ERA leader Kyle Hendricks and three time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw at Wrigley Field on Saturday.

“To go back home with the advantage is really important,” Ben Zobrist said of the Cubs’ 3-2 lead in the series. “You have to feel good about our chances against Kershaw on Saturday. We like our chances.”

The Cubs bats have figured out the Dodgers’ pitchers at the right time. Addison Russell was the hero last night after hitting a two run home run to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning. This is a young team that love to hit.

“Right there, that situation, just trying not to do too much,” Russell said. “I was just trying to find some gaps. I was looking for something up in the zone to drive. First pitch slider a little bit low. Second pitch was a slider, but it was elevated and I put the barrel on it, and it kind of went. But just rounding the bases, it was pretty exciting. Pumped up. Not only for myself, but for the team, and that little cushion that Jonny had to go forward from that, and I felt really good.”

It energized the team and dialled in Jon Lester’s seven innings of pitching. That’s what the Cubs needed was deep pitching to give their bullpen a rest.

What this all means now is that the Cubs have today off before going to Wrigley Field, back home where no World Series championship has ever been won and face the league’s most dominant pitcher. This weekend could very well be the most exciting weekend baseball has ever seen. Will Bill Murray be in attendance should the Cubs extend till Sunday?

There’s a few question marks going into the weekend. Jason Heyward needs to move down in the order. Heck, I’d put David Ross in front of him. He should not hit behind Addison Russell. Pedro Strop should not be used. Finally, Aroldis Chapman looked human in the ninth giving up two runs.

This is a different ball team going into Saturday’s classic. Things have changed since the last time they faced Kershaw. If Kyle Hendricks puts the ball where he wants it, then the Cubs should get the pennant.

“Obviously, [this] feels good,” Joe Maddon said Thursday night. “You’d much rather go home under those circumstances than any other, and you want to get it done as quickly as possible. It’s going to be a formidable event. Our guys will absolutely be ready for the moment, I promise you that. It’s great. The city of Chicago has got to be buzzing pretty much right now.”

Believe it.

 

 

Cubs Give Dodgers a Little R & R

Anthony Rizzo

I’m not bragging, but yesterday I predicted that Anthony Rizzo would have a big game and now we know the truth; he reads the Canuck Cubbie everyday, takes the words to heart and applies all my finer points of baseball to his game.

Yeah, right.

The Cubs played “Cubbie baseball” as Addison Russell puts it, by crushing the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-2 and tying up the NLCS at two games a piece. If anyone were just tuning into the series from the ALCS, they’d never have known that Russell and Rizzo were in the midst of a slump.

“This is a big win, for sure,” Rizzo said. “To even up the series, we have a chance to take another one here [Thursday] and go home with a 3-2 lead. In a way, this is just one game and we know it’s going to be a quick turnaround, but this was definitely a big game for us.”

It was a huge game fore sure. If the Cubs lost last night, they’d have been in a hole of 3-1. Yeah, they could have bounced back tonight with Jon Lester on the mound but then they’d have to face Clayton Kershaw. Instead, the win guarantees a return trip to Wrigley Field and an opportunity to win it all at home. I said the Cubs needed a miracle, and last night it looked like they had Angels in the outfield.

“It should help their confidence, there’s no question about that,” manager Joe Maddon said. “When you’re going through the moment they were, it’s a confidence issue. It always is. So going into [Thursday], I know when they show up at the ballpark, there’s going to be a good bounce about them. Probably going to see the ball better, slow things down a little bit.”

While Rizzo borrowed Matt Szczur‘s bat to get his three hits and a homer, Russell relied on something else to get his homer and three hits. I don’t know what it was, but keep using it.

John Lackey was yanked in the fifth inning but pitched well. He got into trouble by walking a couple of batters and that’s when the bullpen took over. You can clearly see that Lackey wanted to stay in. The tough Texan wanted that win and I do believe he was the spark that fired up the Cubs who are two wins from their first World Series appearance since 1945.

“How I feel personally is irrelevant now,” Lackey said. “It was a great team win and good to see our guys swing the bats.”

Lackey is known throughout the baseball world for his fiery personality and he didn’t disappoint. After a few questionable calls, Lackey raised his hand up to his chest, signalling to the umpire if that’s how high the strike zone should be. He’s a fierce competitor who isn’t afraid of telling anyone how he feels. He pretty much set the stage for tonight’s tie breaker with Jon Lester on the mound.

“What you’ve seen so far. It’s been a pretty interesting series to this point,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I did not expect it to be such a lopsided victory for us today. Although [the Dodgers] had theirs yesterday. Like I said, it’s two out of three right now. We know it’s at least going back home at some point. [Thursday] will be a pretty nice day to come out on top and going back home, having to win one of two. We’ve been pretty good at Wrigley all year.”

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