(Note to readers: Please check out the lovely comment from Neil about his beloved grandmother, whose life spanned two epic eras in Cubs' history. In Comments below:)
* * *
As soon as I saw the costumes on the web, I knew the Cubs would be loose going to Cleveland, needing to win twice.
Still, how much is loose worth?
By Wednesday night I was questioning manager Joe Maddon’s tropism to yank his starting pitcher. Normal.
After the Cubs won on Sunday, to stay alive in the World Series, Maddon told his players to enjoy Halloween back home in Chicagoland. Never mind a workout in Cleveland on the travel day. Munch candy corn rather than clubhouse food.
Maddon was cool when he managed Tampa Bay, an educated mixture of geek and free spirit. (See the 2008 article by Alan Schwarz:)
Maddon was also cool managing the team with the long void in its dossier. He didn’t need to exhibit football-coach control over his players. Play. Then play.
This doesn’t imply anything negative about Tito Francona, the Cleveland manager. He’s good, too. But the Cubs needed to win two on the road, and Maddon showed proper insouciance by telling his players to take Monday off with loved ones, before boarding a flight to Cleveland – action-hero regalia optional.
The photos on the web tell the story:
The Cubs won Tuesday as Addison Russell, most recently seen as a lime-green Ninja Turtle, drove in six runs, tying the World Series record.
On Wednesday, Maddon properly had all hands in the bullpen as Kyle Hendricks pitched into the fifth inning. Hendricks, known as The Professor, is smart and unflappable and had thrown only 63 pitches when Maddon got him with a 5-1 lead. The Fox crew questioned Maddon’s short-twitch strategy, even for a seventh game, and so did I.
The questioning wasn’t so much about Jon Lester’s serious imperfections in throwing to bases as it was about using another very good starter that early, ultimately forcing Aroldis Chapman to go multiple innings, again.
Turned out, Chapman was as spent as anybody could have feared. His face said he knew he didn’t have it. Then it rained, after nine innings.
During the 17-minute delay, the player showing the most yips – Jason Heyward, in his first year with the Cubs, in a year-long slump, swinging at 57-foot pitches -- had the inner strength to call a clubhouse meeting, to remind the players how far they had come.
Then the Cubs held on for an 8-7 victory in 10 innings, past midnight. One grand old baseball city celebrated and another mourned.
Maddon had treated the players like grown men. Of course, so did Francona. Now the Cubs can wear any action-hero outfit they want for the parades and parties that may last all winter.
* * *
Here's another article by Alan Schwarz about Joe Maddon from the Tampa Bay days:
* * *
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.