Cubs

What Are You Looking At?

What Are You Looking At?

Thursday, October 15th

Its baseball playoff season once again and decisions have to be made. Decisions for Chicago fans that is: Do I watch? Or is it time for the Bears and Hawks?!! Well, for me, its not so easy to let go. (Besides the point that I have a team in the hunt, not to rub it in.) As one that is VERY used to his team leaving EVERY dance early, I have been faced with this decision, like clockwork, four times a year for about 25 years now, thats what having a sports affliction will do to you. Now, as much as Ive been disappointed by the performance of the team I root for in each of the four major sports, I cant help but watch how those sports are performed at the highest level. Besides, like reading a book or watching a TV show, once Ive invested the time, I always have to know the ending! People always ask me which of the 4 is my favorite and I tell them that its hard to choose, thats like asking me which one of my kids is my favorite. Well, with the kids, it depends on the day, and with the sports, it depends on the time of year. (teasing!) This time of year presents itself with so many options (a thankful distraction to the oncoming of the 7 months of winter!), you sometimes have to choose.

Like me missing the Hawks five-goal comeback the other night, since I was watching a playoff baseball game, the Monday night football game (a tradition like no other!) and doing social studies homework with my 10 year old. There is only so much of Frankie Os attention span to go around! (unlike his waistline or hat size!) But, as usual, my sports priority at this time is baseball. The American pastime. The playoffs provide us with the ultimate reality show. Drama, agony, more agony (sound familiar?) then someone gets voted off the island until only one remains. Im addicted. Go figure! (And winter cant really start until baseball is over, can it?) Another reason I watch, and this is for Cubs and Sox fans, I want to know if these teams are really that much better than the team I root for. So far, the answer is: Yes and Yeesssss!! By watching OUR team for most of the year we can become narrow in our focus, seeing them play against the highest level of competition only occasionally. If they have a decent series in these match-ups we feel they can compete. But the thing all teams have to prove is if they can play at that level for a long stretch, against teams that are equally as good. Thats called exposing your flaws. The teams that are left are here for a reason: Theyre good! And not just at one thing. From the front office on down, this final four belongs, on every level. The main thing that I have taken from this years teams is their incredible balance in every phase. These teams have all been put together by the front office with balance (although, given an open checkbook I could have put together the New York team!), are managed with balance (no surprise that 4 of the best are here) and, most importantly, perform on the field in all phases of the game (power, speed, pitching and defense define each). These teams dont beat themselves, take advantage of opportunity and, as witnessed by all four mounting huge comebacks against elite closers, never give up. This combination is hard to beat.

As an example of something that I see from these teams, that I dont see from the Chicago teams, is something that I witnessed in that Monday night Phillies game. Facing a 2-run deficit and the probability of having to return to Philly for a game 5, the at-bats they had against Huston Street were like watching a how-to video. Not afraid to take pitches, working the count, fouling off tough 2-strikers, the Phillies batters put themselves in a position to succeed. Rollins got a single after being 0-2, Utley worked a full count walk, and then, Howard did not miss a 2-1 fastball to tie the game. My favorite at-bat though was Jayson Werth. With a 2-2 count, and having fouled off a tough low and outside 2-strike slider, and KNOWING that Street was going to keep throwing 2 strike sliders, he adjusted his swing (cut it down, not trying to do too much) and plopped a low and outside slider into right field to score the game-winning run. Now those were professional at-bats, when it mattered most. Now I ask: When was the last time you consistently saw that on the Northside? (I can just envision Soriano taking the same approach!)

So as Chicago embarks on a, once again, too early off-season, I suggest that everyone enjoy the post-season for what it is: baseball being played at its highest level, even if it is teams that you dont root for. And while youre watching, look for clues as to what the team that you root for needs to do to get to this level, then, you can turn on a Hawks or Bear game. Summer is over.

Grandpa Rossy and the 5 biggest things from Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 4

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USA TODAY

Grandpa Rossy and the 5 biggest things from Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 4

The Cubs aren't dead yet.

Once again, this team has proved they play their best when they're forced to with backs against the wall.

The Cubs finally showed some urgency for the first time in the NLCS, continuing to pile on and smashing the narrative that scoring first on an early home run is not a good move. 

The door won't shut on this 2017 season for at least another day, thanks in large part to this guy:

Farewell, Jake

Making what is almost assuredly his last start in a Cubs uniform and at Wrigley Field, Jake Arrieta was masterful, navigating a relentless Dodgers lineup and giving the Cubs a much-needed deep outing, tossing 6.2 innings.

He struck out 9, working around 5 walks and 3 hits while throwing 111 pitches, his most since May 21 against Milwaukee.

And how's this for justice? Arrieta tied the Cubs all-time postseason record with his fifth playoff victory Wednesday night.

Arrieta had his ups and downs Wednesday night, but he did plenty to remind Cubs fans of all he's done in blue pinstripes the last five seasons.

I mean, just look at the movement on some of these pitches:

A hat-tip to Arrieta for a brilliant Cubs career:

Grandpa Rossy = Bill Murray?

David Ross went full Bill Murray Wednesday night, hyping up the crowd just by his mere presence. In the first few innings of NLCS Game 4, these were the biggest cheers from the 42,195 in attendance at Wrigley Field:

1. Willson Contreras HR off the video board
2. Javy Baez HR to the left of video board
3. David Ross shown on video board

Ross was hanging around the Cubs before the game, visiting with old teammates and chatting for a few mins with "son" Anthony Rizzo during batting practice.

The Cubs finally looked like the team that displayed legendary resiliency from last fall with Grandpa Rossy in attendance. Don't even try to act like there's no concidence there.

Javy Time

Baez was 0-for-20 this postseason entering Wednesday night and that number bumps up to 0-for-23 when taking into account last fall, too.

So naturally, he hits two bombs and shows everybody why Joe Maddon keeps writing his name in the lineup.

Let's tell the story of Javy's night in GIFs:

Ball don't lie

Joe Maddon wasn't f-in around. He brought in Wade Davis in the eighth inning against the heart of the Dodgers order and of course, this game couldn't end without controversy and some edge-of-your-seat thrills.

A few batters after yet another Justin Turner homer, Davis appeared to have struck out Curtis Granderson on a pitch in the dirt. But after a conference by the umpires, they ruled it a foul ball, despite what seemed like pretty clear evidence on replay that Granderson did not make contact with the ball.

Joe Maddon erupted, leading to a lengthy argument that resulted in his removal from the game.

After nearly 10 minutes without throwing a pitch, Davis roared back and struck out Granderson anyway.

After throwing 34 pitches in the eighth, Davis came back out firing in the ninth to shut the door for a six-out save.

Power plays

Willson Contreras hit a ball 491 feet, nearly taking his own face out on the left field video board.

It was the first Cubs run of the game, giving them the lead for the fourth time in the series off a longball. The other three times in the NLCS all resulted in Cubs losses, but this time, however, they crushed the narrative with one blast after another into the wind blowing out to dead left field. 

The Dodgers responded with their own homers - first by Cody Bellinger in the second inning and then by Turner (also off the scoreboard) in the eighth.

The first five runs in the game were all scored on solo homers.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night:
 
1. Nick Schmaltz returns but sizzle doesn’t.

You didn’t expect the fireworks of the season opener but you figured Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane would connect pretty quickly again. The speed was certainly there. The connections on passes were not. It wasn’t just that second line, though: it was another night on which the Blackhawks’ offense was sluggish. 
 
2. Tripping along.

I joked that tripping is the new slashing. Maybe that’s not the case league-wide but it was for the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks took five tripping penalties overall, including three in the first period. It was a clear sign that the Blackhawks were trying to play catch-up all night, and they didn’t fare well at it.
 
3. Power play gets something but…

It took until late in the third period (when the Blackhawks’ offense seems to get going lately). The Blackhawks got two late power-play goals, a reminder of what they can do when they battle for the puck and show some spark.

“Our sense of urgency in the puck area, be it 5-on-5 or on the power play, that’s the differential of keeping the puck in the offensive zone and making plays off it is one of our strengths,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t do that very often and we haven’t won many battles.”
 
4. Starting slow.

Why these are happening is a mystery, and they’ve been most evident in the Blackhawks’ last three games, which have all come against division opponents. Too much relying on Corey Crawford again and not much in terms of shots, be it quality or quantity through the first two periods. The Blackhawks were outshot 17-8 through the first 40 minutes on Wednesday. While they created little they gave up way too much.
 
5. Patrick Sharp OK?

Sharp was injured late on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks-Blues game got chippy in the final five-plus minutes. Quenneville thought Sharp was fine but he wasn’t positive at the time of his postgame press conference.