The last few days have been kind of weird for me and I’m sure some of you may have noticed it in my writing, or lack thereof. I suppose some of that could be attributed to the manner in which the Cubs gave up Saturday’s game, since I was struggling to find a source of inspiration in any of that.
But more had to do with the passing of my grandfather late Saturday night. Rest assured that I won’t take up your time eulogizing him too thoroughly here, though I think you’d probably enjoy many of the stories. And while I never realized it until now, some of my awful dad-jokes and puns are a direct result of his goofy sense of humor.
He was also a big Cubs fan, both of my grandpas were, and I couldn’t help but think he waited until after the game was over just to make sure the rest of us could finish watching it. It’s going to be weird going back home and not comparing fantasy baseball teams or discussing the state of his various stock holdings and the results of his most recent euchre binge, but I take solace in knowing that he established a damn strong foundation for so many people.
My uncle recently shared a really great picture of himself and my grandpa in the bleachers at Wrigley from what must have been 30 or so years ago. And on the last Saturday of the season, my uncle got to take his son to his first Cubs game; my brother and I went too, all of us enjoying a perfect afternoon and a Cubs win. Not bad.
Wow, that was far more than I intended to get into and I appreciate you sticking around. I guess my point in all this is that sports, particularly Cubs baseball (at least for me and, I assume, most of you reading), can run a lot deeper than the shirt on your back or the hat on your head. You don’t need to read the stories of fandom to know that. Perhaps my recent experiences imbued Monday’s game with more meaning that it otherwise deserved, but man, was I fired up about it.
Like any team, the Cubs have made their fair share of blunders; to paint them as some sort of angelic organization devoid of flaws would be silly at best. Even so, they’ve got some guys on the roster who you just can’t help but root for, and I found myself drinking in their postgame quotes and realizing exactly why I could never be an impartial journalist. Not a very good one anyway. Shoot, that’s probably not going to help me in my quest to get credentialed.
You could almost feel the molten takes leaping from the flaming meteor that was Daniel Murphy’s fly ball as it tracked a collision course with Kyle Schwarber’s glove. The parallels were too close to ignore, what with the playoff pressure and the former Met having been a part of the series in which the “Schwarber can’t play left” idea was tattooed onto the forehead of the national consciousness.
As if on cue, the TBS broadcast duo of Ernie Johnson and Ron Darling took up sticks and lambasted a Clydesdale — how they got such a large dead horse into that tiny booth, I’ll never know — for the next inning or so. Not that they were wrong about the play itself, a biff-n-boot botch job that allowed Murphy to reach third and eventually score the game’s first run.
Schwarber was eventually lifted for Albert Almora Jr., who came on to face the left-handed Sammy Solis and singled home Ben Zobrist to tie the game. The big slugger was cheering as loud as anyone, and he came right out and owned his mistake when speaking with the media after the game.
“I should’ve caught that ball and I didn’t and that led to a run,” Schwarber admitted proactively. “I’m gonna take full responsbility on that, before anyone else asks me: It’s my fault. The ball shoulda been caught and I didn’t catch it.
“We’re not gonna ever give up. Everyone has each other’s backs, and that’s the most important part — they picked me up today. When we were going through the line, I was giving everybody hugs because they picked me up right there and it was big.”
It’s gonna be fun to see what happens with the assessments of his defense moving forward, so I’m hoping he just blasts a pair of homers and makes people forget about it.
Rizzo on ESPN
“You can’t recreate this, it’s hard to explain,” Rizzo told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt. “The intensity, the fans are into it, the Nationals are into every pitch, we’re into every pitch.
“It’s a lot of fun and you gotta enjoy these moments because you don’t know how long they’re gonna last for you. You can’t take these moments for granted because it’s not gonna happen every year and we try to have as much fun with it as we can.”
The line of questioning then turned to strategy and whether Dusty Baker had done the Cubs a favor by pulling Max Scherzer following the Zobrist hit.
“Absolutely,” Rizzo said. “He’s dealing, Scherzer’s one of the most ultimate competitors. You hear what he does and you see him pitch every fifth day, he’s one of the biggest competitors in this league. He’s the reigning Cy Young for a reason…so to get him out of the game does us a huge favor.”
Bryant on Rizzo’s hit
I realize I’m running longer than I’d planned, so now I’ll start cutting the commentary back a little bit and just share some quotes.
“I didn’t see that,” Kris Bryant said when asked about Anthony Rizzo’s “Respect me!” celebration. “I just saw his baserunning mistake.”
Bryzzo is the best.
Zobrist comes through
There was a lot of criticism of the Cubs’ lineup heading into Game 3, much of it leveled at the decision to play Ben Zobrist over Javy Baez. It worked out in the end, with Zobrist logging his team’s first hit and making a terrific defensive play to keep things clean in the 8th inning.
“There was no thought that it wasn’t going to happen,” Zobrist explained after the game. “It was just: When is it going to happen?
“When we make mistakes, as a team, the mantra is: So what? Now what?”