Cubs

Up Against the Wall

Up Against the Wall

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

In life, we are always seeking ways to get more out of what we have. Being multi-purpose is at the core of how many of the products we use are presented to us. New Shimmer being a floor wax and a desert topping comes to mind.

In sports this concept led to the abomination known as multi-use stadiums that dotted the landscape during the 1970s. As a kid growing up in Philadelphia, Veterans Stadium was all shiny and new. Who knew it would become a house of horrors that would torment me into my adulthood. And in reflection, as all the new football and baseball stadiums have been built around the country, one can now realize how truly awful the experience, regardless of the tragedy being played out on the field, of being at a cookie-cutters was.

Still, you can understand that the owner of a stadium needs to think outside-the-box of ways to keep it full, since as we know, that is the only way they get a return on their investment.

Here in Chicago, and specifically Wrigley Field, this thinking has led to some interesting events.

In its history, Wrigley has hosted a wide variety of events besides baseball. These have included among them: The Norge Ski Jump Competition, (Why does the word Norge conjure up another connotation? Not to mention be my second classic SNL reference in 300 words. Boo-Ya!! I cant stop!) rodeos, the Harlem Globetrotters, a Jake LaMotta boxing match and Bears football.

Recent years have seen such extravaganzas as the Winter Classic and college one-way football.

Seeing something different at Wrigley Field is cool because YOURE SEEING IT AT WRIGLEY FIELD!

Since 2005 this has included big-time concert acts.

I saw my first one there last year when Sir Paul McCartney took the center field stage. My first reaction was, Oh my god, its hotter than Hades! How can it be 95 degrees outside at nine oclock at night? My second was, Im sitting at Wrigley Field watching a freaking Beatle! For a lad from Philly this was pretty heady stuff. I mean, really, when I listened to my first Beatles song over forty years ago, how could I have imagined that this was in my future? Wow!

I took my next visit to the Frankie O Aging Rocker Time Vault last Friday when Roger Waters brought his latest production of his Pink Floyd classic The Wall to The Confines. Once again I was blown away by being able to see a performance of music that was a large part of my formative years, 33 years after its debut. That it was at Wrigley only made the experience over-the-top. That Waters was able to use modern technology to cutting-edge levels to present his opus visually and sound-wise made it one of the best rock shows I have ever witnessed.

Of course, in keeping with my twisted nature, or the fact that the several beverages I consumed enhanced my inner Frankie O, I couldnt help but notice the irony of Waters performance. The Wall tells the story of his feelings of abandonment and personal isolation as he dealt with the struggles of his life. For some reason, this tale of torment reminded me of the Cubs fans who are the usual inhabitants of Wrigley and their parallel fronts.

The entire set list oozed Cub:

In the Flesh? The feeling of the Cub faithful about when they are FINALLY going to be able to see for themselves the myth that is Anthony Rizzo.

The Thin Ice- This describes ownerships position in its dealings with local government officials (read: Da Mayor) in negotiations for public financing of Wrigley renovations.

Another Brick in the Wall, Parts I, II and III Is there anything more iconic in any stadium than the bricks and ivy of Wrigley?
Happiest Days of Our Lives- Im not sure if this is about a very distant, future event , not yet conceivable to the ticket buying faithful, or an homage to the back-to-back championships over a century ago.

Mother- Do I really need to explain this one? Mother do you think the Cubs will bust.

Goodbye Blue Sky- Or an expletive to this effect, uttered by many right fielders wondering where the fly ball hit their way during a day game disappeared to.

Young Lust- Im going to show some unusual restraint here and let you insert your own joke.
One of My Turns- Even for this album, this song is kind of a dark aberration, kind of like taking Chad Kreuters hat, dumping beer on Shane Victorino or getting pummeled on the mound by Randy Meyers.

Dont Leave Me Now- The plea to season ticket holders to keep the faith, and keep forking over the third highest ticket price in the majors, all while watching a team get nuked and be rebuilt from the ground up.

Goodbye Cruel World- Sadly we know this has been among the last thoughts of some Cubs fans that have left us without seeing their beloved team reach their own ultimate destination.

Hey You- A common reprimand heard in the stands from certain ushers that, since the said Kreuter incident, have seemed to lose their sense of humor.

Is There Anybody Out There?- Despite announced attendance numbers, something you can yell in the stadium during the last 2, and inevitably this years, August and September as Chicagoans turn their attention elsewhere, kind of like being at the Cell anytime this year.

Nobody Home- Why, I dont know, this reminds me of the ill-fated Todd Hundley era behind the plate.

Vera- Honestly? Ive got nothing.

Bring the Boys Back Home- For an organization that is now obsessed with the Money Ball way of doing things, this song represents my favorite old-school stat: BARISP. Beguile me with your Retrosheet Win Probability Added, and when my head stops spinning, Ill tell you that if you have a decent BARISP, you are going to score a TON of runs.

Comfortably Numb- Should be the theme song of the bleachers, especially back in the day.

The Show Must Go On- Im reminded of Mike Quade arguing with the umpiring crew for calling a rain delay while it was coming down sideways. Good times.

Run Like Hell- The baseball purist inside of me gets pure joy every time I see Tony Campana on the base paths.
Waiting For the Worms- What Im thinking as I look at the outfield this week after the removal of the stage. Looks like its time for another visit from the Sodfather.

Stop- Obvious enough. Its what fans want from the usual, Cubs Way of doing business. A century plus of not winning (Strange even typing that phrase) is more than enough. Its the main reason that team Theo has been given so much latitude with the fans. Although they might not be going to the ballpark as much, they are paying attention and filled with anticipation, just like my kids the night before Santa comes. Lets hope this regime is as generous with their gifts to the masses as the big fella in the red suit. (Not to be confused with the big fella with the generous pour wearing the red bow tie!)

The Trial- Just as obvious, this is what will happen in about 3 years if the Master Plan is not obvious for all to see.

Outside the Wall- The place where Waters and all Cubs fans are set free. The weight of the past can be is an incredible burden if we let it. The thought of better time will always get us through. At some point, Wait until next year has to come true.

In another huge playoff moment, Wade Davis stays cool while everything else around Cubs goes crazy

10-18_wade_davis_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

In another huge playoff moment, Wade Davis stays cool while everything else around Cubs goes crazy

This became a three-ring circus on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, Cubs manager Joe Maddon screaming at the umpires, the video board showing the replay of Curtis Granderson’s swing and the crowd of 42,195 booing and chanting “BULLS#$!!”

The Los Angeles Dodgers are still in command of this National League Championship Series, but the Cubs won’t go quietly into the offseason, unleashing All-Star closer Wade Davis for the final two innings of a 3-2 thriller that kept them alive for at least another night.

The Cubs can worry about the daunting task of winning three more elimination games in the morning. Once Davis forced Cody Bellinger into the double-play groundball that left Justin Turner stranded in the on-deck circle and this one ended at 11:16 p.m., he pulled at his right sleeve and buttoned the top of his jersey while waiting for the Cubs to start the high-five line. “Go Cubs Go” blasted from the stadium’s sound  system and fireworks erupted beyond the center-field scoreboard and Davis acted as if nothing had happened.

To put the idea of beating the Dodgers three times in a row in perspective, the Cubs blasted three homers and got a classic big-game performance out of Jake Arrieta and still needed Davis for a heart-stopping, high-wire act.

Maddon already ruled out Davis for Thursday night’s Game 5 after the closer fired 48 pitches – or four more than he did during last week’s seven-out save that eliminated the Washington Nationals. But at least the Cubs will have those decisions to make instead of cleaning out their lockers.

“I don’t know,” Davis said. “We’ll definitely come in tomorrow and get some treatment and go out and play catch and see how I feel.”

It looks like Davis doesn’t feel anything on the mound. Davis didn’t react to Turner chucking his bat and yelling into the visiting dugout after crushing a 94-mph fastball for a home run to begin the eighth inning. Davis didn’t seem bothered by Yasiel Puig flipping his bat after drawing a walk. And Davis never lost his composure while Maddon got ejected for the second time in four NLCS games.

Maddon flipped out at home plate umpire Jim Wolf – and really the entire crew – when what was initially called a swinging strike three on Granderson got overturned and ruled a foul tip.

“Wade doesn’t care about any of that,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “That’s the right guy to have on the mound. With the mentality he has, he’s going to strike the guy out on the next pitch. Obviously with the replay, it’s not easy to keep your composure. But he’s just different. He’s a different animal.”

While the fans at Wrigley Field got loud and turned angry, Davis chatted with catcher Willson Contreras: “I was just trying to think of the next pitch I was going to throw if he ended up staying in the box.”

Davis got Granderson (0-for-4, four strikeouts) swinging at strike four, walked Yasmani Grandal and then blew away Chase Utley with a 95.1-mph fastball, needing 34 pitches to finish the eighth inning. Davis wasn’t finished, using a Kris Bryant bat to hit against Dodger lefty Tony Cingrani, fouling off five pitches before striking out looking at a 94.9-mph fastball.

“Yeah, I gave up there after a little bit,” Davis said with a look that sort of resembled a smile. “He was bringing it pretty good, and I hadn’t seen a baseball in a while coming in like that.”

If the Cubs are going to match the 2004 Boston Red Sox – the only other team to come back from an 0-3 deficit since the LCS format expanded to seven games in 1985 – they are going to need the offense to generate more runs, a great start from Jose Quintana on Thursday night and someone else to run out of the bullpen. Not that Davis is ruling himself out for Game 5.

“Go get some sleep and then come in tomorrow and start getting ready,” Davis said.

Jake Arrieta stars at Wrigley Field and doesn’t believe this is The End for Cubs: ‘Hopefully, it’s not a goodbye’

Jake Arrieta stars at Wrigley Field and doesn’t believe this is The End for Cubs: ‘Hopefully, it’s not a goodbye’

It’s not Jake Arrieta getting greedy and the Cubs being cheap when he holds up another jersey in a different city this winter, smiling for the cameras while super-agent Scott Boras watches the press conference unfold, marketing an ace to a new audience.

Even Arrieta admits that if he had Theo Epstein’s job, he would do the exact same thing, letting it play out until a 30-something pitcher hits the free-agent market. And Epstein wouldn’t have left the Boston Red Sox and taken over baseball operations at Clark and Addison if he didn’t believe in the need for change, to get outside the comfort zone and test yourself.

It’s just business, but this still felt very personal on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, Arrieta probably making his last start in a Cubs uniform while the defending World Series champs survived an elimination game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Three straight trips to the National League Championship Series might have spoiled Cubs fans to the point where standing-room-only Game 4 tickets were selling for $60 on StubHub less than an hour before the 8:01 p.m. first pitch.

By 10:13 p.m., the crowd of 42,195 started booing when manager Joe Maddon popped out of the dugout in the seventh inning to take the ball from Arrieta after 111 pitches. It turned into a standing ovation as Arrieta walked off the mound and tipped his cap, his shaved head set against a mountain-man beard.

“Hopefully, it’s not a goodbye,” Arrieta said after a dramatic 3-2 win, surrounded by reporters at his locker. “It’s a thank you, obviously. I still intend to have another start in this ballpark.

“If that’s where it ends, I did my best and I left it all out there. But we’ve won four in a row plenty of times this year. And there’s no reason we can’t do it again.”

So many times, Arrieta has been worth the price of admission, must-see TV through two no-hitters and those two World Series games he won on the road last year against the Cleveland Indians. None of this would have been possible without the Cubs finding a winning lottery ticket in that Scott Feldman flip deal with the Baltimore Orioles on July 2, 2013.

“I took a little bit of extra time in between pitches,” Arrieta said, “just to look around, foul pole to foul pole, behind home plate, just to relish it and take it in. You got the fans on their feet, pulling on the same side of the rope. It breeds some added energy.

“I had that mindset of I’m going to do everything in my power to get it to tomorrow.”

Arrieta’s pitches dart and dive in directions that even he can’t always control, but he has guts, swing-and-miss stuff (nine strikeouts) and the ability to work through traffic. He gave up five walks, hit Chase Utley with a pitch and watched as Cody Bellinger hammered a ball off the video-board ribbon in right field for a third-inning homer.

But lefty reliever Brian Duensing backed Arrieta up with two outs and two runners on in the seventh inning, forcing Bellinger to lift a flyball into shallow left field, keeping it a 3-1 game and setting the stage for a two-inning Wade Davis save.

“Jake was amazing,” Davis said. “He was throwing Wiffle balls, it looked like. Guys were just swinging at balls that started in on the zone and finished a foot off the plate. He’s just got some amazing stuff.”

For perspective on how far this franchise has come, just look at the lineup from Arrieta’s first spot start as a Cub, the second game of a July 30, 2013 doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field:

David DeJesus, CF
Junior Lake, LF
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Dioner Navarro, C
Luis Valbuena, 2B
Starlin Castro, SS
Cody Ransom, 3B
Cole Gillespie, RF

The Cubs actually sent Arrieta back to Triple-A Iowa for two more starts that summer, part of a mental/mechanical reset and the service-time calculus that would delay his free-agency clock by a year.

By 2015, Arrieta’s raw talent and natural confidence converged with a young, inexperienced team that caught fire in the second half, his Cy Young Award campaign fueling 97 wins and the momentum for chairman Tom Ricketts to authorize a spending spree on free agents that almost totaled $290 million.

"That was pretty special,” Maddon said. “I've never witnessed on the field that kind of consistent performance from a pitcher. It was other-worldly, right down to the wild-card game.

“My God, you pretty much knew if you scored one or two runs, you're going to win that night somehow. I don't know how this is going to look moving forward. But I know one thing, man, that one year of watching him play was different. It was a throwback to the ‘60s kind of pitching (I watched) as a kid.

“He's special – his work ethic and who he is and how he goes about his business. He's a very special young man.”

But Arrieta really isn’t in the mood to wonder if this is the end scene to this chapter of his life.

“There’s a little thought of that, yeah, because you never know,” Arrieta said. “But at the same time, now that the game’s over, it’s out of sight, out of mind. The thought process for me now is to be ready if I’m needed.”