Cubs

The wait - and the weight - is over: Cubs fans celebrate World Series title

The wait - and the weight - is over: Cubs fans celebrate World Series title

There is a scene in the 2009 movie “Up In The Air” where George Clooney’s character (Ryan Bingham, a “job termination facilitator” for a human resources company) gives an inspirational speech at a corporate seminar. He stands at a podium in one of those big, sterile hotel conference rooms.

His talk revolves around how the things we love can be burdensome. He compares all of our interpersonal relationships to wearing a heavy backpack—and how all the conversations, negotiations and conflicts of those partnerships can drag a person down, with the straps creating divots in the shoulders.

Now take the Cubs fan’s relationship with the team. Imagine how heavy that backpack was until Wednesday’s Game 7 victory.

It was 108 years of misery. A century-plus of broken promises and unrealized potential. Bad drafts. Weak pitching. Questionable management. Failures in the postseason. And it carried over to derisive mocking at the hands of friends, family members, strangers on the bus, late-night talk show hosts and so on.

And much like the movie, Dexter Fowler hit one ‘up in the air’ and out of Progressive Field. 406 feet to be exact. The backpack felt even lighter after a 5-1 lead. It went back to having the weight of a hundred cinder blocks after nine innings. But Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Miguel Montero and C.J. Edwards helped to ensure the Cubs’ eventual cutting of the backpack straps, much like a college basketball team does to the nets after a championship. The Cubs cut down 39,467 consecutive, burdensome days. Their job was complete. The backpack lay in a shambles.

And just like that, the wait - and weight - was history.

Gone was the tired shot of the 1908 Cubs team photo, with the bizarre mascot front and center.

Gone, also, were the losses in the 1910 and 1918 World Series, the latter to Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox.

Out of the backpack was the inexplicable loss to the Philadelphia Athletics in Game 4 of the 1929 World Series, where the Cubs led 8-0 in the seventh and ended up losing 10-8. Also vacated: Babe Ruth calling his shot in the 1932 series. And the Cubs failure to capitalize on a 100-win season in 1935. Same goes for Gabby Hartnett’s 1938 “Homer In The Gloamin,” which was a mere regular season footnote after another stinging October loss to the Yankees.

Another backpack casualty was the 1945 World Series. No more carrying around that loss to the Tigers—the last such championship series appearance for the next 71 years. In fact, Sam Sianis’ billy goat may have started to eat away at the backpack a little. Don’t goats eat everything anyway?

The mundane Cubs of the 1950s? Gone. The blotchy College of Coaches era of the early 60s? See you later. No black cats of 1969 tugging on the shoulders anymore, either.

Gone are all the “Completely Useless By September” acronyms, fitting of the 1977 club that had an 8.5 game lead in late June and, somehow, finished 81-81 and 20 games back.

The audio of the Lee Elia tirade of 1983 is silenced. The vision of the ball going through Leon Durham’s legs in 1984 is now opaque. Cubs fans will no longer get chided about Andre Dawson’s MVP effort being wasted on a last place team in 1987. Or how Will Clark’s dominance in the 1989 NLCS led to the Cubs demise.

Does the 0-14 start in 1997 give you chills? Maybe not as much now. Ditto with how the Cubs fell flat against the vaunted Braves pitching staff in the 1998 NLDS.

Steve Bartman and the 2003 Cubs might have set the backpack on fire.

The players who smashed Sammy Sosa’s boom box after the 2004 season –perhaps the same ones who critiqued the team broadcasters after a late-season collapse-- probably took a few whacks at the backpack, too.

Still carrying around that burden of Ted Lilly slamming his glove to the mound in the 2007 NLDS? Don’t worry. It’s been released. Same goes for that James Loney grand slam in 2008 that sent Wrigley Field into a catatonic state.

The 100-loss team in 2012? Theo Epstein helped kick that to the curb as part of the new Cubs Way.

Turn the backpack upside down and shake out the one remaining artifact—the meager NLCS exit in 2015 against the Mets.

The wait is over. The ‘weight’ is a thing of the past, too. No longer are the talks of curses, billy goats, black cats and bad omens. The towels that were used by the Cubs pitching staff a decade ago are now backpack-free, currently used to wipe champagne out of the eyes. No more jabs about priests spraying Holy water on dugouts or freak injuries to prized starting pitchers. Forget about trying to explain the “Eamus Catuli” sign, a yearly numeric chronicle of Cubs failure, to confused onlookers. No more chants of “19-08, clap-clap, clap-clap-clap” in road venues across the country.

The Chicago Cubs are World Series champions, and their fans can finally raise their hands in victory above their sore, tired shoulders.

More on the World Series victory

--Joy to the World: Cubs finally end 108-year Series drought

--Finally: The Cubs are World Series champs

--The wait –and the weight- is over: Cubs fans celebrate World Series title

--Barack Obama congratulates Cubs World Series championship

--Famous Cubs fans celebrate World Series title on Twitter

--Ben Zobrist becomes first Cub ever to win World Series MVP

--Numbers game: statistical oddities of the Cubs World Series title

--Jed Hoyer: Rain delay was ‘divine intervention’ for Cubs

​--Fans give Cubs a taste of home in Cleveland

--Ben Zobrist delivers exactly what the Cubs expected with massive World Series

--‘Dreams come true’: Bill Murray reacts to Cubs winning the World Series

--Big surprise: Kyle Schwarber plays hero again for Cubs in World Series Game 7

- Ryne Sandberg: World Series ‘made it able for me to live in the present’

Brandon Morrow lands on DL after hurting back while taking his pants off

Brandon Morrow lands on DL after hurting back while taking his pants off

Remember that one time Sammy Sosa threw out his back while sneezing? Well, Brandon Morrow may have topped that on the Cubs all-time list of wacky injuries.

The 33-year-old closer was placed on the 10-day disabled list prior to Wednesday's game after hurting his back while taking his pants off upon returning from the team's road trip to St. Louis. It's being labeled as "lower back tightness."

"It's frustrating any time you can't get out there, and especially when you can't go because of something stupid like taking your pants off," Morrow told reporters on Tuesday.

And that's put the Cubs pitching staff in a tough spot for the rest of the week, given Wednesday's series finale against the Dodgers is the third game in a little more than 24 hours for the Cubs.

"I don't want to downplay anything," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "Obviously he had back spams, he had the same thing in spring training. We'll start treating it the same way we did in spring training; I think he was out about a week to 10 days. If things go as we hope, I think it'd be the kind of thing where he'd probably be able to be throwing before the 10 days is up.

"But we felt like it wasn't going to be something where he was ready this weekend and if he's not going to be ready all weekend, we can already backdate it three days so it made sense to put him on the DL."

Morrow is tied for fifth in the National League with 16 saves and owns a 1.59 ERA is 26 relief appearances this season. Justin Hancock, who served as the 26th man during Tuesday's doubleheader, stayed with the team as a result.

Pants, seat of the pants and sim games: The current state of Cubs pitching

Pants, seat of the pants and sim games: The current state of Cubs pitching

Dominating.

That's how a smiling Theo Epstein described Yu Darvish's simulated game at Wrigley Field Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, in the bowels of the "Friendly Confines," the Cubs' clubhouse was getting used to the idea of closer Brandon Morrow on the disabled list.

Such is life for the current state of affairs for the Cubs pitching staff with their two biggest additions from the winter now on the shelf at the same time.

Darvish threw roughly 50 pitches in his sim game against hitters Ian Happ and Tommy La Stella. He worked in all his pitches and liked the way his fastball and slider felt, but needs to refine his curveball and splitter with more work.

"I feel good," Darvish said through a translator. "There was some anxiety beforehand, but I think it turned out to be better than I expected."

Darvish said the anxiety stemmed mostly from his past elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery in 2014.

"Definitly the elbow aspect," Darvish said. "The anxiety came from whether I could throw at 100 percent condition."

This is the second time Darvish has mentioned his past elbow injury is in the back of his mind as he's worked through the current triceps issue. He said the same thing last week in Milwaukee after his first bullpen session.

Remember, too, Darvish was concerned about the possibility of cramps in his arm in his Cubs debut in Miami in late March.

It appears as if he has some mental hurdles to work through with his history of elbow problems, but he hasn't reported pain in weeks now and the MRI showed no structural damage in late May.

The Cubs do not yet have a set plan for Darvish after this sim game and will evaluate how he feels Thursday. If the reports are all good, he could head out on a rehab assignment shortly.

Darvish said he would only need one rehab start before he'd be ready to rejoin the Cubs rotation.

Meanwhile, Morrow's back tightened up on him in the wee hours of Monday morning after the Cubs made the trip back from the night game in St. Louis. He hurt his back taking off his pants, he said, and was unavailable Monday and Tuesday before the Cubs put him on the disabled list Wednesday morning.

"It's just one of those freakish things," Maddon said. "People bend over and hurt their backs all the time."

The Cubs have been uber cautious with Morrow all year with his injury history and now that they're in the midst of a stretch of 14 games in 13 days thanks to Tuesday's doubleheader, can't afford to not have a fresh arm in the bullpen.

"We thought it would be wise to give him a couple days," Joe Maddon said. "It's like a back spasm, back tightness. We just can't go with one less pitcher right now coming off the doubleheader. 

"...It's for him, too. I don't want him to go out there and pitch coming off that right now. There's really no reason to rush it back. Prefer him getting 100 percent well, getting him back out there when it's right and then moving on from there."

In Morrow's absence, Maddon will play matchups with the closing options as he did in Game 1 Tuesday. Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson and Pedro Strop all have experience closing.

The Cubs also don't have an update yet on Carl Edwards Jr. as he works his way back from a shoulder injury. He's been throwing from flat ground and looking "outstanding," Maddon said, but the team doesn't have a finish line yet. Edwards would probably need a short rehab stint before returning, too.

Then there's Brian Duensing, who is currently on the bereavement list due to the passing of his grandfather. The Cubs expect to have their left-handed veteran back by Friday.

All told, the Cubs are without Morrow, Edwards, Duensing, Mike Montgomery (rotation) and Eddie Butler (DL - groin) from their Opening Day bullpen. Only Cishek, Strop and Wilson remain from the group.

In their stead are Luke Farrell, Justin Hancock, Randy Rosario, Rob Zastryzny and Anthony Bass — all 5 of which have been pretty successful during their time in Chicago.

As if there wasn't already enough complications with the Cubs pitching staff, here are three more:

—The weather in Cincinnati this weekend
—Tyler Chatwood's wife is about to have the couple's first child
—Monday's rain/light-out at Wrigley Field pushed Chatwood back a day, so he cannot start Saturday's game

Let's start with the weather. As of Wednesday afternoon, there was a 100 percent chance of rain all day in Cincinnati on Thursday, where the Cubs begin a four-game series. The forecast doesn't look much better for Friday, either.

Even if the Cubs are able to play every game as scheduled, who will start Saturday? It can't be any of the current rotation members given none would be on regular rest. 

Chatwood would be in line to start Sunday's series finale in Cincinnati, but that's only if his wife isn't given birth at the time.

So right now, the Cubs don't know who's going to start either game this weekend. They could call somebody up from the minor leagues or give the ball to Farrell, who is still stretched out enough to give them 4-5 innings or so.

"It's totally by ear," Maddon said. "This is absolutely seat of the pants. We have Farrell, of course. By not using Farrell [Thursday or Friday], he would be a consideration, no question. 

"But other than that, we got a baby on the way, we got all kinds of stuff going on, so we're just gonna have to play that by ear."

With the pitching shortage, it makes what Jon Lester (7 shutout innings Wednesday) and Mike Montgomery (6 innings in Game 2 Tuesday) even more important to the overall health of the unit, eating up innings at a desperate time.

The Cubs' next off-day won't come until July 2, barring any weather delays. So this stretch will be huge for how Maddon and the Cubs coaching staff/front office handles the pitching staff.

But hey, at least it's only June and not October.