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 Sweep Brewers, Rizzo Should Have Been In Rio

Chicago Cubs

CHICAGO, IL – AUGUST 16: (EDITOR’S NOTE: Alternate crop) Anthony Rizzo #44 of the Chicago Cubs makes a catch for an out against the Milwaukee Brewers while standing on the wall during the fifth inning in game two of a double header at Wrigley Field on August 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

After yesterday’s double headed sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers, in the first game 4-0 and the second 4-1, it’s hard not to imagine Ernie Banks’ ear to ear smile which I’m sure hasn’t left his face this season. It was his kind of day. The sun was shining, the 41 000 faithful soaking it all up at Wrigley Field. Yeah, that was day.

Game 1

Whatever rest the Cubs needed during the All Star Break has paid off in dividends. Not only did the Cubs add to their shutout total of 11, but are 22-8 since the break. Folks, that’s what breaks are for. Trevor Cahill got the win, boosting the starting pitching to 9-0 this month.

“He’s a really good athlete,” manager Joe Maddon said of Cahill, who may get another start, depending on what the Cubs decide to do regarding John Lackey, who has some soreness in his right shoulder. “Did you see his swings when he fouled the ball back? Covering first base, he did a nice job of that. He’s a good athlete. He bounces around out there really well. He handles himself at the plate.”

Game 2

When it comes to Jason Hammel, sometimes enough doesn’t get said, but he’s 13-5 and won six straight games, proving he’s one of the hottest pitchers in the game.

“When he fell behind, he made pitches when he had to,” Cubs catcher David Ross said of Hammel. “He was throwing strike one, being aggressive. I think that’s a better lineup than people give them credit for.”

He’s in the same league as Kyle Hendricks. Nothing fancy just getting the job done and throwing strikes.

This was the first time since 1964 that the Cubs have swept a Milwaukee team in a doubleheader.

In a doubleheader filled with highlight reels, the one that’ll be given consideration in Rio was Anthony Rizzo‘s jumping on the concrete barrier to snag a ball.

“Just that he would stick the landing,’ Maddon said. “I was hoping for at least a 9.5 from the Luxembourg judge. It was a great play. He did a nice job of getting there. … He knows the wall, he knows that area. He did a great job. It was a big play.”

They should put a sign there calling it, “Rizzo’s Wall” It’s not the first time he’s made one of those grabs.

“I looked up there and the ball was still pretty high and I had time to get up there and make the play,” Rizzo said. “I surprised myself that I caught the ball, to be honest. It’s one of those fun plays — if you make it, you look great, and if you don’t, you look like a fool.”

So now it brings me to Aroldis Chapman. First off, it was extremely inappropriate to be playing that Prodigy song,  “Smack My … Up” and the DJ was rightfully dismissed, but what bothers me so much is how could someone do something so incredibly stupid? I would love to be working at Wrigley Field right now and this guy took it for granted.

It’s hard not to marvel at Chapman’s speed on the mound. Downright breathtaking. Overtime I’m watching him pitch, in the back of my mind he’s still not the best role model for my son.

Though Ernie Banks is smiling every 103MPH pitch and exhaling when it crosses the plate.

Believe it.

 

There’s No Hope For The Chicago Cubs

It might be a game about millionaires playing a child’s game, but there’s more to it than that. There’s more to it by watching the Chicago Cubs this year.

Baseball is like no other sport when it comes to history. I got to thinking about this while writing yesterday’s post. It transcends wars, famine and hate. It’s been there through the good times and the bad times of America and the world. It’s brought us heroes like Ted Williams and villains like Alex Rodriguez and just like every story includes conflict, it’s the underdog we love.

No underdog story is greater than the Chicago Cubs. They used to be a powerhouse, they used to be a dynasty and in the days of 1907, 1908, there was a poem written about the exploits at the time of baseball’s most fearsome team.

These are the saddest of possible words: “Tinker to Evers to Chance.” Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds, Tinker and Evers and Chance. Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble, Making a Giant hit into a double— Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble: “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

a poem written by Franklin P. Adams of the New York Evening Mail about the fearsome play of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance.

Baseball is steeped in legend, lore and myths. From “Say it ain’t so, Joe” to Babe Ruth’s called shot.

It’s a magical game that keeps fans, critics and enthusiasts coming back for more. The Cubs have an opportunity to break the Curse of The Billy Goat this season. They can rewrite history with a Russell to Zobrist to Rizzo or Kyle Schwarber can call his shot into the stratosphere. Whichever way it’s going to go, 2016 is the year of the Cub.

Everywhere I go, people give me the thumbs up about the Cubs chances. Of course, this can all end in heartbreak as fans have seen before. This season is different. Theo Epstein, Joe Maddon and Jed Hoyer have built a squad rich in sabre metrics as well as carefully planned trades and drafts. This season Cubs fans don’t hope for a World Series championship.

“We picked up where we left off. What they mean is the tightness of the group and the feeling among the group and the fact that we can win, and we are winners.” Maddon said.

The Cubs start tomorrow as winners. If last season’s Championship Series showed us was that they’ve been there before, the young Cubs have a taste of it and they won’t let that slip through their claws again. Theo Epstein is the architect behind those Boston Red Sox teams.

No, the Cubs have no hope anymore. For once in a 108 years they–

Believe it.

 

 

The Rocky Road Back To Chicago

NLCS

This was not how it was supposed to happen. In a fairy tale way, the Chicago Cubs were supposed to sweep the New York Mets and power their way to the World Series. Instead, the mighty North Siders are down 2-0 going back to Chicago.

The Cubs had Bill Murray in their corner, but couldn’t thwart the mighty hammer of Thor,  Noah Syndergaard. Our great hero, Jake Arrieta was powerless to stop the barrage of bats that swung his way. Yet, it wasn’t exactly the way the Cubs played(yes, there were a few miscues, Javier Baez) but these New York Mets aren’t the New York Mets of earlier this year. No, they’re something much different.

“They got us here,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “A five-game series is a little bit more daunting, but for right now, it’s seven. It’s been done before, we can do it ourselves. And from our players’ perspective, I want us to focus on the next game, not the fact that you’re down two or try to win all three at home. Just try to win the next game.” As the theme from Rocky blasted through his office.

The team were stymied by Curtis Grandson who has had a resurgence in New York. That hit by Chris Coghlan should have cleared the wall but as October’s go, it was caught. Coghlan raised his hands to his head and the look on his face said it all. The officiating was wobbly as well but tomorrow is a new day.

They have a day off today as they travel to Chicago where long waiting fans are salivating like, well, hungry Cubs to take a piece of the Mets.

“We’ve got work to do,” Jake Arrieta said. “The good thing is we get to go home and play three games at Wrigley Field and come out ready to go. Two tough games here, but the series is not over. We feel good about where we’re at.”

It was an ocean of orange and blue in New York, but tomorrow it’ll be different. The New York Mets will face not only the young Chicago Cubs, but they will face Ernie Banks,  Harry Caray, Ron Santo and all the rest of the North Side Legends. There’ll be Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance Yes New York be ready, tomorrow you’ll be facing ghosts. Tomorrow, you’ll be at Wrigley Field, baseball’s hallowed ground.

It’s a whole new ballgame.

“We’re going to stick with our game plan. We’re confident in ourselves. We’re not going to lose confidence in ourselves, and we’re not going to panic. We haven’t given up these last two nights. It’s been a grind down to the last inning, to the last out. It’s playoff baseball. This is what you’re in for, and we’re still going to be confident in ourselves.” Kyle Schwarber said.

Believe it.

Cubs Come Within Two of Pirates

Anthony Rizzo

The Cubs are back home today to face the Cardinals. Just like their last series against the Pirates, this series has all of the makings to be a classic showdown between division rivals.

Yesterday, the Cubs demolished the pirates with a score of 9-6. Anthony Rizzo notched his 30th home run of the season getting into Billy Williams territory of back to back 30 home run seasons.

With the victory, the Cubs are within two wins of hosting a Wild Card game.

“We come ready to play,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Mission accomplished in the sense that our guys went out and played the same game all year.”

Kyle Hendricks continued his rough patch, getting yanked after the fourth inning. I

“I got beat on a couple pitches,” Hendricks said. “Looking at it, I was throwing across my body. Something has to click here. The offense, that was fun to watch.”

Say What? How did this happen? How did the Cubs go from the bottom of the MLB to near the top in just a year?

Today is a new day and a new series. However, this isn’t just a series, this is the Cardinals vs the Cubs. A lot is at stake in today’s afternoon slugfest. With a series victory, the Cubs can pull in front of the Pirates and secure a home field spot in the Wild Card race. Now, before that happens, the Pirates would have to lose their series against the Dodgers.

Do you think that can happen?

This would be an Ernie Bank’s dream: To play the Cardinals at Wrigley Field in September as they battle for Division champions.  That’s what it’s all about today. An afternoon game at Wrigley Field. Can it get any better than that?

Of course, I’m not a fortune teller but you have to admit that it seems that pieces are falling into place since Joe Maddon and the gang have rolled into town. I know Ernie is smiling from that Ball Park in the sky.

“Let’s Play Two”

“It’ll be nice to be home,” Maddon said. “I get to get some bike rides if the weather holds up. That will be important to me. I’m really eager to see and feel our fans at home. I think it’ll be a lot of fun.”

Believe it.

Cubs Shutout Cardinals in Wild Victory

Chicago Cubs

This time of year can bring  those finger nails down quite a bit. Most years it’s the hair that gets pulled out but this year it’s those nails.

That’s a good thing.

Yesterday, the Cubs demolished the mighty St. Louis Cardinals 9-0. In their house. That’s right, on the Cardinal’s turf, the Cubs showed who’s boss.

“I just liked the way we played,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We have to learn to play well in this venue. We have to become more comfortable in the venue, and then you play your normal game there and compete with this team. I thought we played well today.”

Respect 90. Respect the Cubs.

“You’ve got to get the team in front of you first. I’ve said from the beginning, our objective was to win the division. You’ve got to catch the group in front of you and move on to the next one. Let’s just play tomorrow like we played today.” Maddon said.

That’s a good mantra to live by.

It helps when you have players like Dexter Fowler who has stepped up his play since the All Star break. it’s often been said that the Lead Off hitter sets the tone and well, the Cubs recent success has Dexter Fowler’s stamp all over it.

But he’s not quite ready to take all the credit.

“We’re totally different,” Fowler said. “Guys have matured. The young guys coming up know they’re supposed to be here, and they’re playing the part.”

So as I sit here typing this post and sipping coffee from a battered Chicago Cubs mug, it’s September 8 folks and the Chicago Cubs are in a playoff race, but not just a playoff race, they’re shooting for the Division lead. Cardinals and Cubs rivalry is in peak form.

Players throughout the order are hitting the ball and suddenly a thought occurred to me. Perhaps Mr. Cub is looking down on the guys, smiling and sharing in this optimism.

“I kind of love it; I hope our guys love it as much,” Maddon said. “This is what it’s supposed to be like this time of year. You have to beat the better teams to be the best team. So let’s go. Let’s do this thing.”

Believe it.

Cubs and White Sox Celebrate Banks, Minoso But Most Of All, Baseball In Chicago

Crosstown Cup

These one run games are more frustrating than losing two in a row. Yesterday, the Crosstown Cup got off to a rough start when Kyle Hendricks and the Chicago Cubs fell to their brothers 1-0.

The Professor Hendricks pitched a scoreless seven innings and is now over 22 innings without a run.

“It starts with command — command of all his pitches, command of his fastball, really locating well, and then his changeup has been very good,” Maddon said. “He’s just in a really nice rhythm right now. He really relies on location a lot, and it’s been there.”

I’m not a huge fan of interrelate play, but in today’s game, it’s impossible to ignore and in some cases like the Crosstown Cup which it’s all about bragging rights but it’s also the chance for every baseball fan in Chicago to be under one roof and have a sense of, “What if” these two teams met in the final series of baseball’s greatest trophy?

What if indeed.

“It was outstanding,” Maddon said about the atmosphere in the ballpark. “I’ve been involved in playoff baseball, All-Star baseball, World Series baseball. This place, on any day, it’s outstanding. This place, for baseball purists, if you want to know what’s good for baseball, it’s [days like this at] Wrigley Field. It’s really extraordinary.”

When the sun is shining and the smell of popcorn wafts through the nostrils, it doesn’t matter if the home team wins or loses because on days like these, it’s more than a game; it’s a celebration of everything that is great with a city, it brings a community together of baseball fans. Sometimes there are no winners or losers just a game, a pastime and a chance to enjoy the moment.

“Everybody, all the young players, the new owners, they want new, new, new,” Samardzija said. “So it’s always fun when you’re here. It just takes you back. It’s been the same as it’s always been. It reminds you of a time when players weren’t pampered with spas and saunas and things like that.”

Yes, there’s no place like Wrigley Field on a Friday afternoon.

Believe it.