Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Twas the Night Before Game One

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Twas the night before Game One, when all through Chicago
Every stomach was turning, with all thoughts on tomorrow;
The W Flags were hung through the City with care,
In hopes that Saint Maddon’s boys soon would be there;
The Chicago Cubs fans were nestled, all snug in their beds;
While visions of champagne corks danced in their heads;
And some in their jerseys, and I in my cap,
Were tossing and turning, unable to nap.
When all of a sudden, I remembered this season,
I remembered the games back in May that were freezin’
Away to my iPhone I flew pretty fast,
To relive some moments, and dwell on the past;
The moonshot, the pickoff, the walk-off base hit,
The feeling of comebacks, this team never quit;
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a team that made all feel that “this year” is here.
With a little old manager, so lively and quick,
Who pressed all the right buttons, and made everything click;
More rapid than eagles, they ran all the bases,
Things were great, you could tell, by the smiles on their faces;
There was Jon, and then Jake, Kyle, Jason, and Hector,
And then Carl, and then Javy, Addison, Ben, and Dexter;
To the top of the scoreboard! To the top of the wall,
To left field, and right field, they hit the baseball;
There was Addy off Jumbo, the no-hitter by Jake,
The wall catch by Rizzo, that made Wrigley shake;
And wherever they went, the baseballs, they flew,
In Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Milwaukee, too;
I remembered when Fowler came back to the team,
And how Heyward and Zobrist fit right in Joe’s scheme;
I thought about Javy, his glove and his bat,
And Rondon and Strop – with his slightly turned hat.
Not to mention Contreras, what a lovely surprise,
And the skills he picked up from Rossy the Wise.
I then closed my eyes, I could hear and could see,
The crowd chanting loudly for their “M-V-P”
His eyes – how they twinkled, made for the silver screen
The crowd would go wild, for good ol’ seventeen.
And then there’s his buddy, his partner in crime,
With clutch hits and putouts, he was there every time.
His defense was great, nothing to underscore,
He’s tops in our books and he wears forty-four.
So tonight when you’re squirming, and thinking oh no!
Know that this team is different; put your faith in dear Joe,
He’s got that broad face and a little round belly,
That shakes when he laughs like a bowl full of jelly,
But he’s also the smartest, and brings out the best,
In his hitters and pitchers he’ll take care of the rest;
And if you are doubting, pessimistic this Fall,
Take a deep breath, just enjoy it, that’s all!
Just eleven more wins, all they need to achieve,
Forget the last 1-0-8, now it’s time to believe,
And tell all San Francisco, we’re afraid of no Giant,
You can keep your BUMgarner, we’ve got Rizzo and Bryant.

~by Matthew Fakhoury.

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It’s the Giants

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Billed as Thor vs. Paul Bunyan, Noah Syndergaard squared off against Madison Bumgarner in the NL Wild Card game at CitiField last night. And what a game! Syndergaard and Bumgarner were the story. Syndergaard went 7 innings yielding only two hits on 106 pitches with 10 strikeouts and 3 walks. He did not yield a hit until the sixth inning.

Credit the patient Giants hitters, however. The hardest team to strikeout in the majors made Syndergaard work for his outs. He got his 10 Ks, but he also was at his pitch limit when the Mets took the bench for the bottom of the seventh. He did not return for the eighth inning.

Meanwhile, Bumgarner was pitching to contact and conserving his strength. He too appeared dominant and was pushed by Mets hitters only in the bottom of the fourth. Though the Mets offered some tough at bats that half inning, they were unable to score. After that half inning, Bumgarner was back in control and cruising.

If you like pitching, then this was a very good game. But good things have to come to an end. In this game that happened in the top of the ninth. With the score still tied at 0 – 0, Mets Manager Terry Collins started the ninth with his closer Jeurys Familia, in a non-save situation. Familia gave up a lead off double to Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. In a move that I didn’t like, Angel Pagan then failed to bunt Crawford to third, striking out instead. But then Familia walked Joe Panik, bringing former White Sox great (and Hawk Harrelson favorite) Conor Gillaspie to the plate. Gillaspie hit a ball hard over the right field wall for a three run homer and the game was over. Bumgarner came out in the ninth and sat the Mets down 1-2-3 for the complete game victory.

The Giants will now face our hometown hero Cubs at Wrigley field Friday night. Game one of the five game Division Playoff will begin at 8 pm cdt. As Jimmy Durante used to say, “it will be uproarious”.

Pitching matchups

Madison Bumgarner will not pitch in Chicago in game one or two. He will not be ready again until game three which will be played in San Francisco next Monday. The Cubs likely will see Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore over the weekend in games one and two. Though the probable starters have not been announced as of this writing and Jeff Samardzija is an interesting possibility too, I see him getting the start in game four in San Francisco against John Lackey.

The broadcast

The ESPN broadcast team did a nice job with the game last night. Dan Shulman, Jessica Mendoza and Aaron Boone work well together. Mendoza displayed a sophisticated understanding of the mechanics of hitting and Boone is solid playing off Shulman’s capable play by play call. It took me a season or so to get used to Boone’s voice, but now that I am, I look forward to him.

Personal note

I found myself rooting for the Giants to win last night. I did not expect that, but I think I figured out why: Hunter Pence is the most entertaining player in the game today. I do not know a thing about him off the field, but on the field, he is fascinating. I cannot look away. He is a very fine ball player. He is a dependable fielder, base runner and a productive hitter. But he looks like a cross between a giant rooster and a marionette. Arms akimbo – all knees and elbows. Eyes of a lunatic chicken and hair like Robinson Crusoe. He is my favorite guy to watch who is not a Cub. I plan to enjoy watching him this series with the Giants whatever the outcome.

I say it will be Cubs in five.

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The Cubs Biggest Playoff Opponent – The Format

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

As a man who wrote an entire book describing “rational” reasons for the Cubs’108 year drought…I hope this does not come off as an excuse. The 2016 Cubs are clearly the best team in baseball…and that is not a subjective opinion. Whether one uses record, WAR, defensive metrics, pitching statistics, on-base percentage, the gaudy run differential…there really is no doubt. The Cubs are so good…that I would be willing to guarantee a title…if they didn’t have to play a five game series.

Of the major sports leagues, the MLB has always been the last to embrace any kind of change, and when they do make alterations… it results in half-assed or just plain bad results. For years the MLB resisted extra play-off teams:

  • From 1903-1968 there was one representative from the NL and AL that went to the World Series. For 58 of those seasons there were only 8 teams in each league…so…fine I guess.
  • In 1969 when the AL and NL each expanded to 12 teams, the leagues were split into 2 divisions of 6, so you had two play-off teams in each league playing in best of 5 league championship series. Of course the league championship series were changed to best of 7 in 1985…one year after the Cubs lost in 5 to the Padres.
  • This remained the status quo all the way up until 1995(forgive us for the strike…please!) when 4 teams from each league made the play-offs…3 division winners and a wild card.
  • In 2012 a fifth wild-card was added…to play a 1 game play-off with the other wild card entry.

While I love the idea of extra play-off teams, and regular season records do not always indicate who the best teams are, it is worth noting that:

  • Since the 1995 inception of the wild-card (21 seasons), the team with the overall best regular season record has won the World Series just 4 times. The good news? Twice it was the Red Sox with Theo players!
  • By comparison, there have been 6 wild card champions during that same time.

Examining year by year, one finds many examples of solid division champs that played in a tough division and hence had lesser regular season records, and therefore are deserved champs. Amongst the wild-card champs, you find the ’04 Red Sox who won 98 games finishing second to the Yankees only to vanquish them in the play-offs…a rightful champ. While I don’t want this to sound like a pre-emptive excuse for the ’16 Cubs, I believe the play-offs as currently structured allow for too much randomness. (See 2014 when both World Series teams won one game play-offs)

Obviously no one will ever be in favor of reducing the number of teams(Less money, less teams in the race), yet I think a bit more regular season relevance is needed. Why play 162 games if the “hot” team can win 1 game and is even with a team that has done it throughout 162?

Here is what I would suggest:

  • The two wild-card teams play a best of 3 series over three consecutive days.
  • The winners then play the #1 seed in a best of 7 (eliminate the 5 game series), then 7 NLCS, and 7 in the World Series.
  • Have the wild card games start in the last week of September…this could easily be done by (gasp) bringing back a few traditional double-headers throughout the year for teams.

Would you feel better knowing the Cubs, by virtue of winning the division, would have a 7 game series versus the wild-card winner?

I realize comparing sports is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, or really more like comparing apples with hard candy…yet I am going to use hockey to further illustrate my point. Hockey…much like baseball…is a random sport where the best team does not always win. Sometimes it just may take a hot goalie or “puck luck” for a team to win a hockey game. Yet as a Blackhawks fan, it has given me great comfort knowing that during this current run a team would have to beat the Hawks 4 times out of 7. Since 2010(the first cup), in three of the four years the Hawks didn’t win the Cup…they lost in game 7…twice in OT! In fact…if hockey series were the best of 5 rather than best of 7…the Hawks would not have won in any year in which they won the Stanley Cup! A 7 game hockey series takes as much of the randomness out as possible.

These last few weeks people have constantly asked my opinion of the Cubs chances…and my response is always the same-“the 5 game series scares me”. If I knew they would play three seven game series…I would almost be willing to guarantee a title.

Just like my Hawks! (In most years)

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5 Things to Know for Tuesday

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

1. Start Times Announced

I have been anxiously awaiting the start times of the game. When you don’t have cable and MLB channels it’s inner whore and doesn’t let you watch the playoff games on, you need to know when the games start so you can make plans on how you are going to watch. My plan as of now is to try to watch the games on the Fox Sports App on my Roku using my friend’s DirecTv login, otherwise I’ll go to the sports bar and be that guy that sits at the bar and nurses a coke the whole game.

So far only the game 1 and 2 start times have come out, but we should see the others announced after we know the matchups so MLB can arrange based on projected ratings. As of now, game one for the Cubs will be on Friday at 9:08pm EDT and Saturday at 8:00pm EDT.

2. Roster Speculation

The playoff roster does not need to be announced until right before game time, so expect a good amount of speculation as to who will be on it. As of right now, my roster looks like this:

Jon Lester
Kyle Hendricks
Jake Arrieta
John Lackey
Justin Grimm
Carl Edwards
Mike Montgomery
Travis Wood
Pedro Strop
Hector Rondon
Aroldis Chapman

Position Players
Anthony Rizzo
Ben Zobrist
Addison Russell
Kris Bryant
Jason Heyward
David Ross
Willson Contreras
Miguel Montero (Because of his left handed stick)
Dexter Fowler
Javier Baez
Tommy La Stella
Chris Coghlan
Albert Almora
Matt Szczur

I leave Jorge Soler off the roster for round one. If he gets injured and needs to be replaced, then he instantly becomes unavailable for round 2. I’d rather him rest a little more and be ready for the NLCS.

3. History

The Cubs won 103 ballgames this season. The last time they reached that number was 1910, when they won 104 games and went all the way to the World Series. I can honestly say that this team is the best in my lifetime and I would even go as far as to say it’s the best team in all our lifetimes. I’m completely bought in and have given my heart over to the idea of winning a World Series.

4. Enemy Territory

The Cubs play the winner of the Mets / Giants matchup on Wednesday and I already had a friend of mine who is a Giants fan calling me preaching the even year garbage. I don’t fear the Giants and I don’t fear the Mets. I fear the Red Sox, period. That being said, the matchup for Wednesday looks good and well worth your time to watch.

Madison Bumgarner vs Noah Syndergaard

Bumgarner, who set a single-season franchise record for strikeouts by a left-hander, displayed his standard-setting form against the Mets in a May 1 game. He struck out seven in six shutout innings that afternoon at Citi Field. Because the Mets did not need him to clinch a playoff berth, Syndergaard will start the Wild Card Game on seven days’ rest. In his first full season, he led Mets starters in ERA and strikeouts, and will be a fringe contender for the NL Cy Young.

5. Don’t Make Bets with Cardinal Fans

This summer I had a conversation on Twitter with a pesky Cardinal fan that had been following me since the NLDS last year. He seemed like a reasonable Cards fan and wasn’t a complete idiot so I engaged. I even went so far as to make a bet that the Cubs would win the division by 15+ games. The loser of the bet had to change their Twitter account to be the other team centric. A quick check of the standings shows I was correct, yet for some reason that Cardinal fan is nowhere to be found. Sad.

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Playoff Beard…Who’s With Me?

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

It’s a quick question this Monday morning.

Who is in for posting before pictures before the playoff beard and then after pictures when we win the World Series? We would shave Friday and go from there. Who’s in?

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