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The day Desipio was born for finally arrived five years ago
This column originally appeared on Desipio.com on November 5, 2016. Here’s a newly annotated version.
Of course, they made us wait.
A four run lead in the fifth wasn’t enough. A three run lead in the eighth wasn’t enough. The Cubs couldn’t, wouldn’t and maybe, they shouldn’t have, made it easy on themselves or on us. It took almost five hours. We sat through a rain delay. And it took ten innings.
But the joke, for once, was on the rest of the world. If there’s one thing Cubs fans are world-class experts on, it’s waiting.1
We had been waiting for eleven decades. We’d waited on prospects that never turned out. We waited on free agent signings that never panned out. We waited on rallies that never happened. On leads that evaporated. We waited forty years longer than anybody else for home games at night. We waited forever for edible food at the ballpark. Through it all, the only thing we did better than everybody else was wait.
So the greatest game seven in World Series history was right in our wheelhouse. If it was going to require a wait, it had met its match. This, we could do.
I’ve taken a few extra days (see, you guys know how to wait) to try to put this into words. The feeling we all had when Rajai Fucking Davis–who has 55 career homers in his entire, long, big league career–hit the only homer Aroldis Chapman gave up as a Cub. It wasn’t rage, it wasn’t even heartbreak. The feeling was way too familiar for either of those things. It was simply, “Of course that happened.”
But a funny thing happened on the way to the next momentous Cubs collapse. They didn’t let the Indians score again. Chapman retired the next four batters. He had nothing (for him, anyway) in game seven, and he faced the heart of the Indians order in the ninth, and he somehow got them out.
That wasn’t just important, it was crucial because of a bizarre top of the ninth that included less than speedy Chris Coghlan being used as a pinch runner (which became really important in the tenth), Coghlan performing a more legal version of his Jung Ho Kang broken leg slide, and them umpire John Hirschbeck’s seemingly intentionally misleading out signal after the replay.2 It included Jason Heyward stealing second and going to third because Indians’ catcher Yan Gomes has no right shoulder anymore. And then, Joe Maddon had Javy Baez try a squeeze bunt with a full count and one out. Joe’s a great manager, but he Grady Little’d the shit out of game seven. I guess he bizarro-Grady’d it considering he yanked Kyle Hendricks probably two innings too early and Jon Lester at least one batter too early.
Had the Cubs lost, I’m not sure Joe could have ever explained his bizarre series of moves. Now, he’ll never have to.3
Winning does that.
After Chapman finished the bottom of the ninth, the skies opened up and a 17 minute rain delay commenced. And what happened next is the stuff of legend. The Cubs got together as a team, no coaches, just players, and had it out. Some players cried, some shouted, but by all accounts, Heyward took control. He simply reminded them that when the game restarted, the Cubs were batting, they had the meat of their order coming up and goddamnit, they are the best team in baseball. Play like it and win the World Series.4
I distinctly remember writing the morning after game six in 2003 that the Cubs had the ultimate Mulligan in game seven. But that’s been surpassed. The rain delay provided it for this year’s team. And when given a second chance, they did not miss.
When the tenth finally commenced, 23 year old Cubs legend Kyle Schwarber was first up. I do not exaggerate when I call him that. A guy hits five homers as a rookie in the 2015 postseason, then returns from a shredded knee to get his first at bats in six months in the 2016 World Series and bats .412 with a .971 OPS and starts the World Series winning rally? Many poems and sonnets will be written about our dear beloved Kyle across the ages.5
Schwarber blasted a single through the Indians defensive shift and Maddon pinch ran Albert Almora for him. Kyle had been feeling his oats in game seven. He stole a base. He tried to stretch a single into a double. I think he’s convinced Steve Austin’s doctor fixed his knee and he has bionic speed now. He does not.
Almora’s not super fast, but he’s faster, and much smarter than Coghlan6, so what happened next, only happens if Albert is at first.
Kris Bryant missed the greatest home run in Cubs history by about five feet, and Davis caught it at the wall. Most runners would have been around second, thinking that they should be in position to score if it hit the wall. Albert could tell it wasn’t going to hit the wall so he tagged up and easily made it to second. That single move set up everything else. If Dave Roberts is a Red Sox hero for life a stolen base in game four the 2004 ALCS, Albert gets a statue for tagging up in game seven of the World Series in 2016.7
Future Hall of Fame manager Terry Francona walked Rizzo to set up a double play and bring up Ben Zobrist. It’s a sound strategy, but Zobrist may have been the single perfect person to bat in that spot. He wasn’t going to try to jack a three run homer, and he wasn’t going to strike out. He blasted a double past a diving Jose Ramirez and Almora scored and holy shit, the Cubs were winning. Another walk loaded the bases for Miguel Montero.
Miggy had two hits in the entire playoffs.
His first was a game-winning grand slam in game one of the NLCS against the Dodgers. His second? It drove in the eighth run in game seven of the World Series in a game the Cubs won 8-7.
Talk about making them count.
The bottom of the tenth was not without drama. The Stringbean Slinger, our man Carl’s Jr. Edwards was the best option to close out the Indians. A 48th round draft pick. A rookie. A guy who throws 98 miles an hour and weighs 97 pounds. And we were all cool with it. Carl retired the first two hitters. But then a walk and a hit and it’s 8-7 and uh oh.8
So Maddon went out and got Mike Montgomery to try to get his first career save.9
In game seven of a World Series.
The batter? Michael Martinez, maybe the worst hitter in baseball, and especially batting righthanded, which was why Montgomery was coming in. The Indians had nobody else to turn to.
On the second pitch hit hit a slow roller to Kris Bryant. Bryant, with a shit eating grin on his face the likes of which would make Chief Wahoo proud, scooped up the ball and set to fire to first base. The game was over. A hundred and eight years of bullshit was gone forever. And as he stepped, his front foot slipped on the wet turf. In another universe that slip makes the throw go wild and into the stands and the Indians tie the game. But amazingly, in our world, it doesn’t do a thing. The throw is perfect. Bryant slides to his knees after the throw. Anthony Rizzo easily catches it. And it’s over.
The Cubs won the World Series.
No shit. The Cubs won the World Series.
We lived to see it.
We never thought it was going to happen. We always wanted it to happen. We would daydream about what it would be like if it ever happened.
And it happened. And we saw it. And the final game was a microcosm of what being a Cubs fan is all about. They got an early lead and you felt good and then they gave half of it away–inexplicably as the result of a series of moves that even Dusty Baker would laugh at–and then they gave it all way.
But then they took it back.
Because, unlike every other time they’ve a chance to do something truly great, they were up to the task.
They are the best team in baseball and they have been since the day they showed up in Mesa, Arizona in February. They played like it every day. They won 114 games. And they played like it when they needed to the most.
Despite generations of ineptness, we’ve always had players and teams to cling to and hold dear. But the 2016 Cubs can not be compared to any of them.
They are The Immortals. They will never be forgotten. I hope this team goes on to dominate for ten more years, and it will be great, and we will love every minute of it. But the 2016 Cubs will never take a back seat to anybody ever again.
Every time they got pushed to the brink: The ninth inning of game four in San Francisco. Down 2-1 to the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Game six of the NLCS against Clayton Kershaw at Wrigley. Games five and six of the World Series. The tenth inning of game seven of the World Series.
Every damn time.
They came through.
You wait your whole life to find a team like this to root for. And then you get one, and they don’t let you down.
That’s why we waste so damned much time on this sport. That’s why we obsess over this stupid baseball team. Because we kept telling ourselves that some day it would all be worth it.
And some day arrived at the very end of November 2, 2016.
And I’ll be damned, it if it wasn’t worth every bit of it.10
The irony, of course is that the Garbage Family That Owns The Cubs™ expects we’re still cool with waiting for stuff like this. They are wrong.
Right? Remember that shit?
Boy, was I wrong about that. Some meatheads celebrated Theo handing him his hat after the 2019 season (presumably Joe’s dad’s old Angels’ hat that he used to shove down his pants for good luck) because of this. Joe Maddon won the World Series! For the Cubs! Man, we have dumb fans.
That speech helped a lot of people overlook what a disastrously terrible contract for the Cubs his turned out to be. Despite Theo nailing the Jon Lester deal, once the Heyward one proved to be lousy it empowered GarFam to act like Theo would do better work with a more restrictive budget. Nobody got more credit for a weight room save than Heyward that night except maybe Steve Kazor calling 9-1-1 when Mike Ditka keeled over with his heart attack.
Still true. Will always be true.
Coghlan might have been the only MF’er Albert was faster than.
He played center like he was the statue the next four seasons.
How would Carl’s career have been different if he gets the final out? Maybe not at all. But I think it would have been. You walk Brandon Guyer and you never throw another strike? Apparently, it happens.
Montgomery said he was so nervous that he couldn’t throw a strike in the bullpen. When he got to the mound and Joe handed him the ball, Mike told Miguel Montero that he wasn’t sure what pitch he could get over. In very Miggy fashion, Montero turned and as he walked away said, “I’ll figure something out.”
Still is. And it will always be. But would it kill them to at least try to win another one?