I’m going to sprint through the baseball playoffs and sprinkle some ‘Maddon Moments’ in to explain, in my mind, what happened to Maddon and the Cubs, while using Ditka like he used Bears fans.
By the time you read this, the wild card games – October 1 and October 2 – may be over, or at least started. It doesn’t really matter much. Those four teams can douse themselves in all the champagne they want, but it’s pretty much a cheap victory. Put it this way, it’s the same kind of victory you get when you visit your elderly grandmother at her assisted living facility and win their corn hole tournament.
But before we dig into the wild card teams, let’s just take a look at the 2016-2019 Cubs vs the 1984-1987 Bears. If you look at their timelines, they are a tad similar. And you can argue both Maddon and Ditka can only deal with the hands they are dealt. True. Think of this like Texas Holdem. Ditka was holding the king and queen of hearts and staring at the ten, jack and ace of hearts face up on the table… and threw out the king ‘aka’ Wilbur Marshall. Maddon’s hand, while good, was an ace and a ten. Still a potentially winning hand, but could have been better. Cubs management bet high on a good, but ultimately bad hand.
OK, now let’s place a hand on the wild card teams – The Rays, the A’s, the Brewers, the Nats.
The Rays – one reliable pitcher, former Astro Charlie Morton. They can’t throw him out there every day but they will for the wild card game and beat the A’s. Then they have no one left, will face the Astros, and lose.
The A’s – home game, but unlikely they win. As of this writing, they haven’t even decided upon a starting pitcher for this game. If they do win, they face the Astros. Toast.
The Brewers – couldn’t win a piss-poor National League Central title. Lost three straight to end the season… to the Rockies. The Ice Age has a better chance of making a quick comeback than the Brewers have of beating the Washington Nationals. Done.
Maddon Moment, part I. Joe, you are – not were – a solid manager. I’m not a Cubs fan, yet I still appreciated you and your often-maddening decisions. But Craig Kimbrel? Yeah, you didn’t sign him, but W, T and F, Joe. He gives up a tater in one game against the Cards and it’s clear he should not be out there. The next night you put him in to watch him give up two taters on two pitches. Not a good decision. But hey, at least you’re not Mike Ditka. Just for a second, give some thought about their nicknames. Uncle Joe – the guy you always want to have at your house to liven up the party. Iron Mike – stubborn, unyielding, rusts easily.
The Washington Nationals are the only wild card team that stands a sniff of going deep into the playoffs. Trouble is, they are going to meet the Dodgers. The Nats have two high quality starters – Strasberg and Scherzer. However, unless the Dodgers get in a skateboarding contest and somehow break the bones of the terrifying trio of Kershaw, Buehler and Ryu, the Nats are not going to get past them. Hell, they are as scary as a drunk Mike Ditka. His face gets redder than a 15 year-old on a first date.
So now we move on to the Division Series: Yankees vs Twins; Astros vs Rays; Cardinals vs Braves; Dodgers vs Nationals.
Yankees vs Twins. The Twins won 100 games. Yeah. They won 50 in their own division, a division where the Tigers and Royals lost a combined 217 games. Their record is severely inflated and the Yankees will crush them.
Astros vs Rays. Three words – Verlander, Cole, Greinke. There may be more strikeouts in this series than an 80 year-old man in Tampa Bay trying to pick up college women.
Maddon Moment, part II. Joe Maddon cool; Mike Ditka hot. Joe Maddon took his ‘parting of the ways’ with the Cubs like a deadhead takes the news there’s no more weed – ‘Ok. That’s cool.’ Ditka? Not ‘hawt’ hot, but angry. A festering volcano everyone knows is going to blow somewhere, and he has, mostly in public, because narcissists tend to share. Narcissists also do what Ditka did – tell everyone on your team that, after winning a Super Bowl, it is best not to relax and take the easy endorsement money… yet doing it himself – a lot. Over the years he has endorsed, to name just a few: Campbell’s Soup, McDonald’s, Dristan, Levitra, Pontiac, Bruce Rauner AND Pat Quinn (windsock bastard). Maddon? Winnebago, because he HAS ONE, and Binny’s because everyone does Binny’s – including Ditka.
Alrighty, back to the MLB playoffs.
Cardinals vs Braves. Cardinals caught fire and won the NL Central, in spite of losing 2 of 3 against a Cubs team that clearly was thinking more about golf at that point. The Braves won a far tougher division. Braves in 4.
Dodgers vs Nationals. The Dodgers will do their Hollywood best to choke on this series, but they should prevail. Should. Dodgers always scare me, mostly because I’m a Giants fan, but nonetheless I’m taking them.
On to the Championship Series, but first Maddon Moment, Part III. In Joe Maddon’s only Cub World Series in 2016, he was a little fortunate the Cubs won. Game 7, he mismanaged his pitchers and put out a clearly worn Aroldis Chapman… who gave up a game-tying tater. IMO, he was saved by a rain delay. However, Joe had magic, a magic that apparently has been forgotten by the Trump-loving Cubs owners, the Ricketts. They deserve their fate of having sub-par teams for at least another decade, or until they sell the team. Remember Cubs fans, the Ricketts give no shits about you.
Mike Ditka? In his only appearance as the Bears Super Bowl coach, he didn’t let Walter Payton score a touchdown, and instead had the ball handed off to The Fridge. He rode the back of a terrifying defense to ultimate victory, yet worked damn hard to make sure Buddy Ryan was miserable enough to leave town to coach in Philadelphia for a team whose fans once booed Santa Claus.
Yankees vs Astros for the AL pennant. New York City is a place you can lose your mind, but what Astro is going to give up the chance to get to the World Series by soliciting a prostitute – Verlander? Excuse me while I guffaw. He’s married to Kate Upton. That’s not happening… and he will not allow any Astro to stray or they will incur his mighty wrath. In spite of the MLB really wanting a Yankees-Dodgers World Series, not happening either. Astros in 6.
Dodgers vs Braves for the NL pennant. This one the Dodgers could choke. However, the Braves spent a lot of the season leaning on, and inspired by, Ronald Acuna. Acuna Matada may mean ‘no worries’ but the Braves should worry – Acuna may not be able to play and if he does he won’t be 100 percent. Dodgers, despite the pressure, will win in 6.
On to the World Series, but wait… Maddon moment, Part IV. Do you all remember when Joe Maddon got angry at a fan and threw his gum at the guy? Or when he told many a reporter to shut up? Or when he challenged a caller on a radio show to meet him so he could ‘whip his ass?’ Yeah, neither do I. That was Ditka.
World Series 2019. Astros vs Dodgers. Do I have to tell you the winner of one of the most obvious mismatches in World Series history? OK. Fine. The Astros – unless they forget how to hit, pitch, field and run in some sort of voodoo amnesia – will turn aside the Dodgers as if they are merely a gnat on a Rhino’s ass. Astros in 5.
Speaking of asses – nope not Joe Maddon, Mike Ditka. I met him. Twice. The first time he was a surly son of a bitch. I chalked it up to ‘maybe he had a bad day.’ Second time was at his restaurant (make that ‘resternt’ as he pronounces it). To emphasize it – HIS restaurant. You know, the one place where people are paying way too much for a pork chop, if he could somehow muster up in any way to be nice, that would be the place? Nope. Acted like everyone was a bother to him.
Final Maddon Moment. The Cubs management gave Joe Maddon a 2019 team with older starting pitchers who were good but inconsistent, as much as they were in 2018. Plus, at the end of 2018, they knew they were desperate for bullpen help. Remember, 2018 did not end well either. Extra game to determine the division winner – that they lost at home to the Brewers. Wild card game at home – that they lost to the Colorado Rockies (the Rockies? Really? Yep). Yet, the Cubs management did nothing to address either pitching issue. Yes, the team underachieved this year. Absolutely. But most of that was due to the inability to close out games, and that is… well I will give it a 60/40 responsibility ratio with 60 being Cubs management. Joe still can’t manage a pitching staff, or get a pitching coach he will allow to make those decisions, but the Ricketts decided to help Trump more than help Maddon.
Ditka? Well we know how his run ended – as an angry, bile-spewing man who conned the New Orleans Saints into giving him a shot, where he failed spectacularly (15-33, no playoffs).
Joe Maddon will not end his managing career in flames. He’ll end up in California, soaking up sunshine, managing the Angels to victory. It could be the Padres, and I wish it were the Giants, but I think it will be the Angels. As it is, I’d be surprised if he goes anywhere but to the West Coast. Godspeed, Joe Maddon, Godspeed.