Cubs

Fantasy, Favre, F-bombs and the first day of school

Fantasy, Favre, F-bombs and the first day of school

Friday, Aug. 19, 2010
2:35 AM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Thats a pretty incongruous grouping in the title, but in the life of a bartender, I could be talking about those four subjects, in a matter of minutes, at any time during my night. Im nothing if not versatile! Who would have guessed that the dog days of summer would provide so many interesting topics to discuss? For the guy-in-a-red-bow-tie it all starts with my rotisserie baseball team. Its the blessing and curse of being in the mix. This is week 20 of the 26 week everyday grind that is fantasy baseball. It does not leave your brain. EVERYDAY! So, unlike the also-rans in the league, I cant take any time off to focus on fantasy football stats in preparation of my upcoming football, draft. Well, not a lot of time anyway. I have a fever, and the cure is more fantasy stats. (Or is that cow bell?)

Its at a time like this that separates a winning season from merely cashing. And thats the point. Since the reason for fantasy sports is to win a title in a make believe numerical sporting contest to prove your mental prowess and all-around manliness! Not winning is for losers! But unlike fantasy football, which is almost all luck for someone who remotely knows football, in baseball the luck is still involved, but with due diligence, you can make up for some misfortune. The problem is which move is the one you should make? Its in this way I share something in common with Brett Favre. No, not the diva part, although, since I won my fantasy football league last year and have turned my participation in my work leagues in to my own personal ATM machine(I love saying that!), Im partially entitled. Its the fact that I wrap myself into a pretzel before I can make a decision. Back and forth, back and forth, will I, or wont i? Its mental torture! Poor Brett, his constant indecision(S!) must be wearing him out. NOT! Im just kidding. I dont think Favre and I are alike at all. I think Favre takes his time in waffling on decisions because he likes the attention and is a drama queen. While I on the other hand feel that any decision I make will meet with impending doom and regulate me to also-ran status. Can you feel my pain? My psychosis?

Something besides fantasy drafts that all NFL fans look forward to as a sign that the season is here, is the show Hard Knocks on HBO. (Could you imagine, in this day and age, anyone who doesnt get HBO? Honestly! ) Ive watched them all, and besides mostly wanting to vomit during the one featuring the Cowboys ,Eagles fan and all, I have enjoyed them thoroughly. Who could forget during the Chiefs edition, Brodie Croyles wifes declaration, in her Alabama twang, that this will be Brodies year! Or last year, featuring the Bengals, the organizational angst over the hold-out of 1st round pick Andre Smith? Included in this was the viewing of his work-out video that was, unfortunately, for all of us watching, released for public consumption. Lets just say it wasnt the best marketing tool an agent has ever used to make his client more enticing.

The re-enactment of that work-out clip during the rookie talent show was absolutely hilarious. Then, this year, there is Rex Ryan. I dont know about you, but I found him to be a f-ing scene stealer and f-ing larger than life. Its his use of a certain four letter word, and its derivatives, that has made him the object of national attention. Its gained that attention largely to the negative reaction of his mother, which most found humorous and sweet, and the negative reaction of Tony Dungy, which was not. Swearing and bad language unfortunately, are a fact of life. Obviously, there is a time and place, but its something adults do. In fact, while watching a Cubs game at a certain un-named bar, you hear it a lot! (One of the reasons, besides Illinois law, that the youngsters should be kept away from the bar proper.) While I have a ton of respect for Tony Dungy as a person and a coach, I think its time to lighten up Francis! Coaches curse. Bosses curse. Its an attention getter. As long as its not part of a personal verbal assault, I dont see the harm in it in a locker room or professional playing field, where non-participants are not permitted. Again, this is a behind-the-scenes glimpse. For me personally, because I have young children and a live microphone in front of me each Friday and maybe have gotten a little older, I try to use profanity as little as possible, but sometimes, with the guys, might let it fly. Boys will be boys. Working at a bar, I understand it will happen and I cant fight every battle to stop it. But there are times when I need to step in to stop it for the sake of everyone else in the restaurant, when it is loud and belligerent, like I said, time and a place.

But by making this public stand, Im trying to figure out, what does Dungy have to gain, and what is he trying to prove? The public olive branch to Mike Vick I understand. But this? It reminds me of the Eddie Murphy routine where he talks about Bill Cosbys disdain of the use of foul language in his and Richard Pryors comedy acts. That objection didnt make an f-ing difference then, and from our knowledge of the Ryan family, this probably wont make an f-ing difference now. Like everyone else I talk to at the bar, I cant wait to watch the rest of the series. And finally, no possible segue here, so Ill jump right in, its here, a day that has become a parents holiday in my house, my kids are back in school! Its time to get my life back, or at least some of it. Entertaining the kids all summer, while being something I live for and revel in, can wear an old man out. (Not that its just me, the Boss helps out once in a while!) Luckily, theyre all at an age where they still love to go to school, so I dont feel entirely guilty in my glee. Well still have plenty of time together.

Its called me, doing, I mean, helping them with their homework every night! But because they get up so early and home from school late, two things happen: Theres less time for them to nuke the house, which means less clean-up time. And, for a late to bed, late to rise bartender, there is a little extra free time after lights out for the kids during his evenings off. What to do with that time? Did I mention that my fantasy football draft is in two weeks? Its time to study. Im going to own that f-ing league, again!!

Ben Zobrist breaks down how Dodgers pitching has made Cubs offense disappear

10-18_yu_darvish_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Ben Zobrist breaks down how Dodgers pitching has made Cubs offense disappear

Ben Zobrist didn’t look for any deeper meaning in Kyle Schwarber’s first-inning homer off Yu Darvish on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, or hope that one swing could change the entire momentum of this National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Zobrist knows what it takes to win in October, the Cubs identifying him as the missing piece to their lineup after he helped transform the 2015 Kansas City Royals into a championship team, and then getting a World Series MVP return on their $56 million investment.

That “Schwarbomb” turned out to be fool’s gold, the only run the Cubs would score in front of a quiet, low-energy crowd of 41,871, the defending champs one more loss away from golfing/hunting/fishing/signing autographs at memorabilia shows.

“That was great to get a homer, but I’d rather see some hits strung together,” Zobrist said after a sloppy 6-1 loss, standing at his locker for almost 10 minutes, answering questions in the underground clubhouse. “I’d like to see a couple doubles together, a few singles, three or four hits in an inning. We just haven’t done that.

“That’s what makes rallies. They’ve stayed away from those kinds of innings. That’s why they’re ahead right now.”

Darvish – Jake Arrieta’s replacement in the 2018 rotation? – canceled out the two singles he allowed in the first inning by getting two of his seven strikeouts and answering some of the questions about how he would respond to all the pressure in October.

Darvish – a trade-deadline acquisition that had echoes of Theo Epstein’s “If not now, when?” explanation for last year’s Aroldis Chapman trade – walked one of the 25 batters he faced and pitched into the seventh inning before handing the game over to a lights-out bullpen.

“There’s nothing that we didn’t see beforehand on video,” Zobrist said. “It’s just a matter of we need him to make more mistakes, and we got to take advantage of those mistakes when he makes them.

“When he got to 3-2 counts, he wasn’t throwing a heater. He was throwing the cutter, and it’s a tough pitch to hit. You have to sit on it, and even then it’s got good movement to it. He kept us off-balance.”

Forward-thinking manager Dave Roberts is at the controls of a Los Angeles bullpen that can match up against right- and left-handed hitters, target locations, unleash upper-90s velocity, execute the elevated fastball that messes with eye levels and lean on All-Star closer Kenley Jansen for multiple innings.

The Dodger relievers essentially put together a no-hitter that lasted nine-plus innings across Games 1, 2 and 3. Together, they have pitched 10.2 scoreless innings, facing 36 batters and allowing two hits and a walk and hitting Anthony Rizzo with a pitch.

“They kept the ball on the edges and kept us off-balance,” Zobrist said. “They’re not throwing the pitch in the middle of the plate when we need them to. They’re keeping it on the edges and those are hard (to hit). When you got guys with good stuff on the mound, you need them to make some mistakes for you, or at least start walking some guys.

“When they’ve gotten in those situations with a three-ball count, they’re still making the pitch when they need to. They’re not walking many guys – and we are.

“That’s why they’re up 3-nothing.”

Zobrist (4-for-23 this postseason) is now more of a part-time player/defensive replacement, no longer the switch-hitting force who dropped the bunt at Dodger Stadium that helped end the 21-inning scoreless streak during last year’s NLCS.

Zobrist insisted the Cubs are still all there mentally, not checked out after a grueling first round against the Washington Nationals and a brutal walk-off loss in Game 2 at Dodger Stadium. He owns two World Series rings and one has the Cubs logo and this inscription: “We Never Quit.”

“We keep it loose all the time,” Zobrist said. “We know what’s at stake. And we don’t shy away from it. We look forward to the challenge ahead. It would be a great story for us to be able to come back in this series and win this series.

“We make adjustments, we take advantage of mistakes and we come out with a victory tomorrow. That’s what we have to do.”

Winter is coming for Cubs team that looks checked out of 2017

Winter is coming for Cubs team that looks checked out of 2017

Kyle Schwarber took a Babe Ruth swing on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, posed for a moment and dropped the bat out of his follow through, watching that Yu Darvish pitch soar 408 feet out toward the left-center field bleachers.

Those carefree Cubs relievers shown on the video board – wait, was that John Lackey bouncing around? – danced in the bullpen in the first inning. This is exactly what the Cubs wanted: Grab an early lead? Check. Get one of their big boys going? Check. Energize the crowd of 41,871? Check.

That sense of momentum lasted less than the time it takes to buy a beer or go to the bathroom at Wrigley Field, because the Los Angeles Dodgers look like the unstoppable force this October.

Now Wade Davis may never pitch in this National League Championship Series and Wednesday night could be Jake Arrieta’s final start in a Cubs uniform. Winter is coming after a 6-1 loss left the defending World Series champs looking mentally checked out of 2017.

The Cubs played AC/DC and Motley Crue in their underground clubhouse and answered questions about why they believe they can match the 2004 Boston Red Sox who took down the New York Yankee Evil Empire, becoming the only team to come back from an 0-3 deficit since the LCS expanded to a seven-game format in 1985.

But Kris Bryant’s glassy look and bloodshot eyes told a different story, the reigning NL MVP admitting how “draining” those five games felt against the Washington Nationals in Round 1.

“But you kind of expect that around this time when games mean a lot,” Bryant said. “It takes a lot of energy to get ready for these games, and at the end, you feel wiped out. It’s expected.”

But no one could have predicted this lack of buzz in Wrigleyville, which felt less than a lot of midweek games during the regular season. A silence fell over the old ballpark when Andre Ethier – who has three homers across the last two seasons combined – lined a Kyle Hendricks pitch off the video board in right field to lead off the second inning.

Hendricks – who has made 10 postseason starts across the last three years and kept the Dodgers completely off-balance last October on the night the Cubs clinched their first NL pennant in 71 years – watched in the third inning as Chris Taylor crushed another home-run ball that bounced off the roof of the batter’s eye in center field.

“I wouldn’t say we’re running out of gas,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “Every time we step on the field, I feel like we have a pretty good chance of winning. We’re going to come into the clubhouse tomorrow positive and just ready to strap it on.”

The Dodgers will be out for beer and champagne on Wednesday night and the chance to kick back and watch the Yankees and Houston Astros expend all their energy in the ALCS.

Dodger manager Dave Roberts – who pushed all the right bullpen buttons in Games 1 and 2 (eight no-hit/scoreless innings combined) – toyed with the Cubs by letting Darvish hit against struggling reliever Carl Edwards Jr. with a two-run lead and two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth inning.

Darvish showed bunt on all four pitches – and drew a four-pitch walk and slammed his bat to the ground in celebration. The fans booed after Edwards struck out Taylor on three pitches to end the inning.

“We were there just as much as any other game,” said Ben Zobrist, last year’s World Series MVP. “Mentally, there was no letdown. Physically, there was no letdown. It was just a matter of them capitalizing on some mistakes that we made. That’s part of the game. And they didn’t make a lot of mistakes.

“They played better baseball than us tonight. That’s why they got the W.”

The Cubs committed two errors in Game 3 and then had a National-style meltdown in the eighth inning, from Zobrist misjudging the flyball to right field that dropped in front of him, to Mike Montgomery throwing a wild pitch, to catcher Willson Contreras getting crossed up on a swinging strike three, his glove nowhere near Montgomery’s 92.7-mph fastball, which crashed into his right arm and ricocheted into the visiting dugout.

A three-run game became 6-1 – and head for the exits and then the offseason. There was Albert Almora Jr. in the ninth inning, driving a ball into the ivy in left field and sprinting right into lead runner Alex Avila at third base, bailed out only because Kike Hernandez waved his hand to signal a ground-rule double.

At least that made All-Star closer Kenley Jansen work the last three outs, accumulated stress that might benefit the Yankees or Astros more than the Cubs.

“They are done,” an NL scout wrote in a text message. “You can see it in their faces.”