Friday, November 4, 2016

Cubs Win!

Okay, let's gets this out of the way first.  From The Grandstander of October 24, 2016:

The CUBS to win in six games.

So I was off by one game, but (all together now)....I BELIEVE I HAD THAT!

So, what about that just completed World Series?  Through the first six games, only two of those games, the Indians 1-0 win in Game Three and the Cubs 3-2 win in Game Five, were exciting. None of the other four games were particularly noteworthy, and all of them were actually pretty one-sided and unmemorable affairs. However, those six games DID produce a need for a seventh game, and, really, is there anything in sports more exciting than the Seventh Game of the World Series?  

And this particular Seventh Game did not let us down.  It provided drama in the following forms:

  • A game pitcher, Cory Kluber, trying to gut it out on short rest for the second time in the Series to win it for the Indians.  In the end, he fell short.
  • Another game pitcher, Jon Lester, coming into a game in relief for the first time in nine years, and providing some tough and gritty innings for the Cubs.
  • Ample opportunities for managerial second guessing. More on that later.
  • The unlikeliest of heroes in ex-Pirate Rajai Davis.
  • Extra innings!!
  • A rain delay that preceded the extra inning.
  • For the fans of both teams, a yo-yo-ing of emotions throughout the game that had to be almost unbearable.
It was a terrific game that ended up marking the 2016 World Series as one for the ages, and it was a game that produced a worthy and deserving Champion.  The best team doesn't always win its sport's Championship in any given season, but the Cubs were, undeniably, the best team in baseball throughout 2016, and now they have that World Series Trophy to prove it.

Some other unrelated thoughts an observations from here in The Grandstand....
  • Managerial Second Guessing Dept. Joe Maddon is hailed by many as the Best Manager in Baseball.  He has now taken two moribund franchises, the Rays and the Cubs, to the World Series, so he has something going for him, no question.  He also doesn't do much to hide his light under a bushel, which can be grating if you root for the "other guys".  That said, his use of ace reliever Aroldis Chapman over parts of three innings in Game Six is mystifying.  To summarize: Chapman threw over fifty pitches in Game Five in recording an eight out save, something Chapman had never - as in NEVER - done before.  It was a one run game that the Cubs absolutely had to win, so you could understand it.  After a day off, Madden then brought in Chapman in the seventh inning of Game Six with the Cubs holding a five run lead, and kept him to pitch the eighth and part of the ninth even after the Cubs had opened the lead to seven runs.  It was inexplicable, and it almost cost the Cubs the Series, when a clearly out-of-gas Chapman came into Game Seven in the eighth inning and proceeded to blow the lead when he gave up a home run to Davis that tied the game.
  • In the end, we know what happened.  Chapman got through the ninth and the Cubs won it in the tenth.  History is written by the winners, so Maddon's use of Chapman in Game Six will be little more than a footnote in the story, but had the Indians managed to win that seventh game, it would have been a tough winter for Joe Maddon and he'd have had a lot of 'splaining to do.
  • I didn't see much of Cleveland play throughout the season, so I admit that this comment is unfair and uninformed, but the outfield defense that I saw in that seven game Series from the Indians was awful.  At time it looked an outfield full of Dave Kingmans playing out there.  
  • And the play in the first inning of Game Six, when the Taylor Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall almost collided, and let a sure out drop between them was a play that you would not expect to see beyond a Little League game was mind blowing.  On the major league level, that should have been an out one thousand times out of a thousand, but this happened in Game Six of the World Series.  The play took the Cleveland crowd completely out of the game.  It turned a 1-0 game into a 3-0 game, and  you just had the feeling when it happened  that that three run deficit was going to be an insurmountable one for Cleveland, and it was.  
  • I feel bad for Cleveland.  I was really rooting for them, but in the end, I suppose that the injuries that they were somehow able to overcome all season long, just caught up to them.  A valiant effort and a great season for them.  Twenty-eight other teams would like to have been in their place.
  • Theo Epstein.  How about that guy?  Ex-Pirates general manager Syd Thrift once said that "It ain't easy resurrecting the dead", and Epstein has now done it with two different teams.  Is he the best baseball executive since Branch Rickey?  Maybe yes, maybe no, but he sure is the best baseball exec of the twenty-first century, and whoever is in second place on the list isn't even close.
  • It is maddening to watch Pirates batters hit a fly ball deep to the outfield and watch them stand in the box admiring it and lazily run down to first, only to see it drop out of reach of the outfielder, and then see the batter turn on the jets and just make it into second when he should have been in there easily, or, possibly, on third base.  Guess what?  This is not unique to our Buccos.  Throughout the MLB post-season, I saw batter after batter committing this cardinal baseball sin.  Or maybe it isn't a baseball sin any more, because nobody seems to run hard out of the batter's box on a fly ball anymore.  

  • Every ballpark and team, I suppose, has their quirky and unique customs, but do we all have to be exposed to them?  I refer to the singing of "Take Me Out To the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field.  I suppose that the Cubs faithful love it, but did Fox need to show it to us for all three games at Wrigley Field?  I am sue that the Indians must have some similar gimmicky thing that they do every game.  Why didn't Fox show us that?
  • Harry Carey has been dead for eighteen years now, so I am guessing that there are even a bunch of Cubs fans who are bored with that little tradition by now.
  • Ah, the broadcasters.  Normally, Joe Buck doesn't inspire in me the passionate dislike that he apparently does in many others. In fact, I think he is among the best of the national network play-by-play guys.  I also recognize that reporters, which is what Buck and other play-by-play guys ostensibly are, supposedly, always "root for the story" and the Cubs were The Story this time around.  I also don't usually jump on the trope that this or that announcer is "for" one team and "against" the other one.  All that said, Buck really did seem to be almost orgasmic whenever things went the Cubs way.  And the constant slurping of Kyle Schwarber was embarrassing.
  • On the other hand, John Smoltz as analyst was terrific.  After a season of listening to Bob Walk and Steve Blass, hearing Smoltz (and Ron Darling on TBS earlier in the playoffs) was like manna from Heaven.
  • Can Cubs fans now just enjoy the success of their team and forever SHUT UP about curses, billy goats, black cats, Steve Bartman, and how star-crossed they are?     No one outside of Chicago cared about that before, and we REALLY don't want to hear about it now.
  • And maybe the citizenry of Cubs Nation should consider some sort of restitution to the aforementioned Steve Bartman?  Those "fans" pretty  much ruined that guy's life.
As for the Cubs themselves, get used to seeing them on this stage for awhile.  Lots of good players, some destined to be superstars, in Bryant, Rizzo, Schwarber, Russell, Baez, Contreras, and others.  They could win a couple more of these things over the course of the next six or seven seasons.  

If you are a fan of the Pirates, that is going to be one pretty big obstacle to overcome.

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