Wait, what?

Wait, what?

By Frankie O

One of the occupational requirements of standing behind a bar is that people are going to unload everything thats on their mind to you. Im not an alcoholic counselor so much as a counselor whose patients have been affected by the amount of alcohol, or sometimes not, in their system. One of my favorite comments meant to uplift, or at least to make someone feel a little better, is that no matter what they did, in the scheme of things, it just didnt matter. And if they wait just a little bit, someone would do something worse to make what they did yesterdays news. How cool is that? Really, its as old as time and as short as the next news cycle. For the most part were a world of observers and its fascinating to watch what people will do next.

This week, obviously, depending on your perspective, has not disappointed. Hall of Fame voting controversy? What Hall of Fame? Somewhere, Bud is saying thank you.
Now while Lance nor Manti have stopped in to pull up a chair, that doesnt mean that there hasnt been a lot of advice imparted on their behalf, or judgements being made in the court of public opinion.

As far as Armstrongs revelation, now that was..stunning!!! That he used PEDs? No! Who didnt suspect that? He was the most dominant and successful rider ever in the dirtiest sport ever. The smoke has been raging around him for as long as we can remember. That he finally admitted it, now that is something. Roger Clemens he aint. So the simple reaction isnt surprise, its why? I mean even with all of the findings against him he always remained obstinate, to the point of being delusional. But in this world we live in, even in spite of any mounting evidence, if you remain steadfast and win the press conference (Chicago term) there will be those who remain with you. The thinking then, as always, was that he was doing it for the cash. By admitting his transgressions, he would be on the hook for all kinds of civil litigations, so the admission stands to lose him millions. So again, why?

Well your guess is as good as mine. I think he is as defiant as ever.

(Side note: Does anyone, even your partner, do the look of righteous indignation better than Oprah? I mean really?)

I dont feel an ounce of contrition by Armstrong in any clip of the interview that Ive watched. He seems devoid of any human emotion. The irony here being how emotional so many people are by the seeming virtues he espoused in the face of the ultimate battle. To fight disease in a life and death battle and win is as inspirational as anything well witness. Defiance in that battle is a tremendous asset. But from my small sample size, that hard edge is usually softened on the other side. Staring ones mortality in the face, you would think, tends to do that. Armstrong just got more adamant in his stance. It seemed like almost every guy that raced with him was admitting abuse, in courts of law-this is no small matter- and it just seemed to make him angry. That those guys, broke the code.

I guess admission is the first step on the road to recovery, but if its not sincere
Its hard to imagine a larger fall from grace. Sad.

And now for something completely different, the Manti Teo hoax.

Another example that real life is stranger than anything someone can make up. Um, wait a minute, maybe a bad choice of words. Lets just say that Ive been so desensitized that nothing can surprise me anymore. Well almost anything. When I heard about the Deadspin article on the way to work on Wednesday night, I was like, wait,what?

In this age of the internet I guess we better get used to stuff like this. I thought this kind of thing was done with the Tom Hanks movie, Youve Got Mail. Call me old fashioned.

I just found the article amazing. The reaction being: How could this happen? The next question: Whos lying? Its hard to refute the timeline of the story since just about every part of it is documented in print or on videotape. Crazy.

I was reminded of a scene in one of my all-time favorite movies, North Dallas Forty. In the scene Mac Davis, as Seth, (Why he never got more acting gigs off that role is beyond me.) is describing to Nick Nolte, as Phil, about the previous nights debauchery in great detail. At one point Phil is like whoa and Seth says, Wait, I didnt get to the weird part yet. And Phil responds, The weird part? The weird part?!! To which, Seth replies, Yeah, it got weird. Classic. And prescient.

The thing that gets you is that even with all of the information put right in front of your face, it makes your head spin. (A Deadspin head spin?) Even better yet, there is a term for what allegedly happened to Teo: Catfishing. Thats based on the alleged documentary Catfish. I tried reading the plotline to the movie and it gave me a headache. But it must have struck a nerve since there is now a TV show by the same, MTV, but still. This is definitely not Kansas anymore.

What it has taught us is that on-line romance trickery is pretty complicated. That is, if thats what truly happened here.

But its so hard to connect the dots without looking first at Teo.

Again with the larger-than-life hero not being who we think he is, or should I say who we want him to be.

I know that Notre Dame came out last night with a statement and press conference, but who knows? What do they really know?

There are so many unanswered questions from beginning to end, its hard to give anyone the benefit of the doubt, no matter how admired.

All I know is that this story is going to be the topic of the bar for the foreseeable future.
And in another weird part, my inner cynic is not ready to pounce, yet.

Maybe Im just too confused, or its just my logical side telling me it might be a little early to drop the hammer.

For most of us to decide, Teo is going to have to come clean and explain a lot of things.
For all of our sakes, lets hope its not with Oprah. As weve seen before, and again now, that usually doesnt have a fairy-tale ending.

Cubs go quietly into winter, their reign as defending champs finally over

Cubs go quietly into winter, their reign as defending champs finally over

The armchair psychology went like this: Force the Los Angeles Dodgers onto the plane, let them think about it during the long flight to the West Coast, get in their heads during Friday’s day off and feel all the momentum and pressure shift in this National League Championship Series.

At least that’s what the Cubs told themselves and the media, whether or not they actually believed it, playing the kind of mind games designed for lesser teams. From Theo Epstein and the top of baseball operations down, the Cubs had enough connections to the 2004 Boston Red Sox to hope they could become only the second team to overcome an 0-3 LCS deficit.

That dream officially ended at 10:15 p.m. on Thursday when Willson Contreras lined Kenley Jansen’s 93.3-mph cutter at backup shortstop Charlie Culberson, another symbol of Dodger Way game-planning and the overall depth to withstand the loss of All-Star Corey Seager as he recovered from a back injury. The mosh pit formed in the middle of Wrigley Field, where it got very quiet except for a few sections of Dodger fans cheering and Gary Pressy playing the organ.

The Cubs are no longer the defending World Series champs after an 11-1 loss that had no drama or suspense and felt more like a getaway day. There will be no Game 6 or Game 7 this weekend at Dodger Stadium.

“I only experienced winning,” said Albert Almora Jr., a rookie outfielder on last year’s forever team. “Jon Jay told me: ‘Look at the expressions on their face when they’re celebrating on your field and let that sink in and learn from that and build from that.’”

You believed Almora, a baseball gym rat, when he stood at his locker and said: “It hurts.” But when the clubhouse doors opened to the media roughly 30 minutes after the final out, you didn’t really feel any tension in the room, more like a collective exhale, a time to sit around and drink a few Presidente beers and realize that the Dodgers deserved to go to the World Series for the first time since 1988.

“They just flat-out beat us,” said Kris Bryant, who got the first hit off Clayton Kershaw, a garbage-time homer in the fourth inning when the Cubs were already down 9-0.

Bryant is everything you could ever want in a franchise player – diligent on the field, polished off the field, even more productive in many ways after his MVP campaign, someone who doesn’t even drink during clinch celebrations – but even he admitted he still felt the World Series hangover that bugged the Cubs.

“I was just looking back at last year,” Bryant said. “I didn’t get home until like November 10 last year with all the festivities after winning and stuff. I think that really caught up to some of us this year. So I don’t know, maybe the extra time to recoup, maybe train a little harder. I am getting older, so I got to watch that.”

The reporters chuckled along with Bryant in a room where the sound system played classic rock like Dire Straits and Tom Petty. The Cubs know they should be good again in 2018 – and for years after that – and didn’t exactly sound devastated.

To be honest, Wednesday’s thrilling Game 4 win felt like the Super Bowl for this team, Jake Arrieta getting a standing ovation and tipping his cap before signing his free-agent megadeal somewhere else, Wade Davis having the guts to finish off a 48-pitch, two-inning save and the Cubs feeling the adrenaline rush of staving off elimination for another night.

When Jon Lester saw the media gathering by his locker, he joked: “What? I didn’t do s---. Why the f--- do you want to talk to me?”

“Obviously, nobody likes to lose, but we’ve been in the NLCS for three years in a row,” said Lester, who raised the bar for expectations when he signed a $155 million contract with a last-place team after the 2014 season. “You know how special that is. I know everybody kind of goes back to the first half of the season and they like to nitpick. But we won the division, made the playoffs and made it to the NLCS.

“Sometimes, you’re not always going to be in the World Series. The Dodgers are a really good team. They’re playing really good baseball right now. This series showed it. Sometimes, it is what it is, and you just kind of move on.”

The Cubs had Lester, a three-time World Series champion, lined up for a Game 6 that is no longer necessary. Jose Quintana – who shined against the Washington Nationals in the last round and battled Kershaw to a draw in Game 1 – didn’t give his team a chance this time.

Quintana, a signature trade-deadline move made with multiple playoff runs in mind, allowed runs in the first and second innings and left the bases loaded in the third for Hector Rondon, who watched Kike Hernandez drive the second of his three home runs into the right-center field basket for a grand slam.

The Cubs were desperate enough that John Lackey, five days before his 39th birthday, pitched two innings in what was likely his last game in a big-league uniform. Lackey kept walking out of the clubhouse and declined to speak with reporters: “No, I’m good, man.”

“It’s not easy to be the best,” outfielder Jason Heyward said, “but that’s what you want. You don’t want easy. You don’t want to expect to be going home every year. You want to be in October. You want to have a chance to win the World Series. And you want to be one of the teams that expects to be there.”

That’s what the Cubs will be next year, when the last day of the season won’t have the same big-picture perspective. It will be either a stinging loss or spraying champagne.

“Seems like a hundred years ago, right?” Lester said about his decision to sign with the Cubs. “It’s one of those Catch-22s. You look at it as it’s a disappointing season for the simple fact that we didn’t make it to the World Series. But you got to look at the positives, too, in that moment whenever you get on a plane to go home.

“We gave ourselves a chance. It just didn’t happen this year. We got beat by a better team. We beat them last year (in the NLCS), and they beat us this year, so you got to tip your hat sometimes, and you move on. We’ll be ready to go in spring training.”

Sluggish offense plus Dodger pitching equaled disaster for Cubs in NLCS

Sluggish offense plus Dodger pitching equaled disaster for Cubs in NLCS

Your National League Championship Series final: Cubs 8, Enrique Hernandez 7.

When the Cubs look back at why they struggled in the NLCS and what they’ll need moving forward, many questions are likely to involve fixing an offense that was dormant for almost all of the postseason.

Thursday night’s 11-1 loss in Game 5 of the NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers put an exclamation point on a lopsided series, one in which the Cubs were outscored 28-8. Hernandez nearly matched the Cubs’ entire output in the clincher with three home runs and seven RBIs. While the pitching shares much of the blame, a Cubs offense that produced a .168/.240/.289 slash line and scored 25 runs this postseason is perhaps an even bigger culprit.

“(The Dodgers) pitched very, very well from start to finish,” said utility man Ben Zobrist. “It was tough to overcome that. We are going to get our homers. But as a whole, I felt like they kept us off-balance and they kept us from having good quality at-bats consistently. When we did get something going it wasn’t much. It was one run here or there or a couple runs here or there. But they pitched a great series, kept us from really exploding like they can as an offense.”

The Cubs’ bats have been ice cold for the entire postseason. Aside from a nine-run showing in their Oct. 12 NLDS-clincher over the Washington Nationals, the Cubs never appeared to be as formidable a bunch as they were in 2016.

Their scores by game entering Thursday’s loss were: 3, 3, 2, 0, 9, 2, 1, 1 and 3.

By the time the Dodgers plated two early runs off Jose Quintana, the Cubs looked to be in for an uphill battle against three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. That condition was upgraded to next-to-impossible by the time Hernandez blasted a grand slam off Hector Rodon in the third inning to put the Dodgers up 7-0.

As it were, the Cubs finished with four hits and didn’t score until Kris Bryant homered to make it 9-1 in the fourth inning. It was Bryant’s first round-tripper of the postseason.

The struggles of Bryant and teammate Anthony Rizzo were well-documented. The pair produced a combined .169/.210/.206 slash line with two home runs, nine RBIs, three walks and 28 strikeouts in 81 plate appearances. Bryant thought it had to do with a team that was worn down running into outstanding pitching.

“It’s a little of both,” Bryant said. “It took a lot out of us that first series, some really good pitching with the Nationals. Obviously with the Dodgers, too. I think they had a group of players that really turned it on at the right time and were clicking whereas we didn’t. That was the difference. But a ton of credit to them, they just flat out beat us.”

Bryant and Rizzo weren’t alone in their struggles.

The leadoff position alone went from a force of life in 2016 with Dexter Fowler to virtually no production this postseason. Jon Jay, Albert Almora and Zobrist went a combined 4-for-36 with three hit by pitches from the leadoff spot.

Catcher Willson Contreras (.748) was the only Cubs regular to finish with an OPS above .700. Javier Baez produced a .451 OPS, Zobrist registered a .416 and Jason Heyward finished at .403.

By comparison, the Dodgers have six players with at least 20 plate appearances this postseason with an .800 or better OPS. That doesn’t of course count Hernandez, who made only his fourth start of the postseason and went nuts. He homered off Jose Quintana in the second inning to give Los Angeles a 2-0 lead. His grand slam in the third after Quintana exited put the game out of reach. And Hernandez’s ninth-inning blast off Mike Montgomery to center was icing on the Dodgers’ cake.

Figuring out how to remedy their offensive issues figures to be one of the Cubs’ top priorities this offseason. One way the team could help jumpstart Bryant and Rizzo is by acquiring a better leadoff hitter, something they lost when Fowler departed via free agency last winter. The team saw its production from the leadoff spot drop from an .815 OPS in 2016 to .745 in 2017.

“We did enough to beat Washington and that’s all you need in the postseason,” Rizzo said. “We didn’t do enough to beat the Dodgers. They pitched better than we hit. End of story.

“They’re good. There’s no excuses. You’ve got to play better. But at the end of the day, it is what it is. It’s baseball. You hit the ball at the guy or you don’t.”