Cubs

It's Not What You Know, It's When You Know It!

It's Not What You Know, It's When You Know It!

Tuesday, September 22nd
As the city basks in the glow of the Bears, its time to talk NFL. Fans are into the NFL for different reasons. Among them are: gambling, tradition, city pride and more gambling! Lets not kid ourselves, in this country, the NFL rules because of the action, and the ACTION! Office confidence pools and fantasy football are all the rage now. Thank you, internet! The ability to win either of these depends on two things: LUCK and information. From having, or not, these two things, we can impress others accordingly. As your resident bartender, Ive been witness to more braggadocio about football than any other sport. Thank-you, alcohol!

As for knowledge about football, we wont talk about luck, because I have none. I know just enough to be dangerous; for me and anyone who would care to listen. Since I am behind a bar just about every Sunday of my adult life, Ive watched a little bit of football. I also meet fans of teams from all over the country, and others who are interested about teams from all over the country, (wonder why that is??) who want to talk football 247. I guess they figure all that time Ive spent behind a bar has taught me something. Well... they are right!

One thing Ive learned is preseason football means absolutely nothing as far as how to predict how a season will go. How did that 4-0 preseason record work out for Detroit last year? The point is, some coaches want to win and some could care less. And if youre a veteran who has the team made, dont get hurt because the regular season is when you get paid! Thats why I think predictions based off the preseason are fairly useless. Have you ever gone over some of the expert predictions after the year? They were throwing darts at a board! This leads me to my fearless predictions for the 2009 season. I think that after two games some trends are very obvious, while some others will need more time to play out. Still its the perfect time for the guy-in-a-red-bow-tie to offer his humble assessments. Besides which, due to the frenetic pace of my domestic life, its the first chance Ive had to get to my computer since the season started! Here we go.

AFC EAST

1) New England: Is Brady still Brady? You bet! Seymour trade is a curious one. Does 4 RBS = Any RBS?

2) NY Jets: Rex Ryan doesnt fall far from the tree. It will be a fun team to watch. Leon Washington is electric.

3) Buffalo: I like Dick Jauron. He is a kind, thoughtful, intelligent person. And he agreed to T. O.??? Good luck!

4) Miami: Lets see how a roster with mediocre talent does with a 1st place schedule. I see a lot of low scores in their future.

AFC NORTH

1) Pittsburgh: Repeat? Four games against Cincinnati and Cleveland help vault them to the playoffs. If healthy, no less than final four.

2) Baltimore: Defense a year older and without the 2nd mentor of the Lewis Era. They will go as far as Flacco will take them.

3) Cincinnati: Really? Their chances? Child, please!

4) Cleveland: Man-genius? Seems to be in a little over his head. This could get ugly.

AFC SOUTH

1) Indy: New coach? Same old Manning. Smartest player in the league is the
ultimate on-field leader, has the best commercials too.

2) Houston: My surprise team of the year. They give Indy a run and get in as
a wild-card. Andre Johnson is a beast!

3) Tennessee: Good defense and ground game. Can you consistently win in this league if you cant throw the ball?

4) Jacksonville: Love Jones-Drew, not much else. And Im not the only one: 17,000 unsold tickets? At least the home town doesnt have to watch this mess.

AFC WEST

1) San Diego: Rulers of the worst division in football. Make the playoffs as usual, then what? Is this finally the year?

2) Denver: Orton move was shocking. What they needed to shock was the defense. Team unity is shown on offense: They all have neck-beards!

3) K.C.: Fantasy owners will love this offense. Cassel will get a chance to air it out.

4) Oakland: Honestly? Team Psycho? They dont look so bad early, but give it time. Enjoy the side-show and the losses.

NFC EAST

1) Eagles: Vick is always the first thing Im asked about. No. 2 is this: Will this FINALLY be the year to end all of the endless suffering?!! (Sorry, I get carried away sometimes.)

2) NY Giants: The best combo of offensive and defensive lines in pro football. That will be good enough to finish 2nd.

3) Dallas: Tons of talent with no results. The lights are on, but nobodys home!

4) Washington: As far as under-achievers go, theyre Phi Beta Kappa!

NFC NORTH

1) Green Bay: Dom Capers taking over the defense is huge. Fast and aggressive, they rule the division.

2) Minnesota: Cant wait to see how Favre implodes another teams season. Three different teams in three consecutive years? This I have to watch!
3) Bears: One word: Defense. Do they have one? Need to move last years 30th against the pass into the top 10 to have a shot. Plus, more KNOX!

4) Detroit: Ouch! Ill go out on a limb and say that theyll win two games!

NFC SOUTH

1) Atlanta: Good young team. Ryan is the real deal. Gonzalez move was brilliant.

2) New Orleans: Score 500- give up 500 = .500? If this team can stop a good offense, theyre scary.

3) Carolina: Ultimate fluke team of last year crashes with a thud!

4) Tampa: I dont think so!

NFC WEST

1) San Francisco: How can you not root for Singletary? I want winners! Surprise team uses easy schedule to get to the playoffs.

2) Seattle: With Hasselbeck: over .500. Without?: Way, way under.

3) Arizona: Remember, even though this team was one play from being the champs last year, they were 9-7. Pete Rozelles dream come true!

4) St. Louis: Thanks for playing; we have some lovely parting gifts. Besides, have you ever met a Rams fan? I havent, everyone in that town is rooting for the Cardinals.

In the postseason, I have:

AFC:NFC:
New England over Houston
Atlanta over Minn
Jets over Indy
NYG over SanFran
Then,Then,San Diego over Jets
Phil. over Atl.
Pitt. over N.E.
NYG over G.B.
Then,Then,S.D. over Pitt.
Phil over NYG

Then, drum roll please,

The Eagles over the Chargers in Super Bowl XLIII!!

Of course, my second week predictions end up like a lot of preseason ones: worthless, so I might as well get to type that once! Check back to see how I did. If I do well and you mention it to me at the bar, Im sure there will be a beer in your future. Otherwise, just hit delete!

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.”