Reversing the Curse by Making the Worst Decisions

If the Chicago Cubs had lost game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night, […]

Howie Espenshied / 11.4.16


If the Chicago Cubs had lost game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night, their manager Joe Maddon wouldn’t have been run out of the Windy City on a rail (he has to much pedigree for that) but he would have been buying his own deep dish pizza for a while. Talk about first world problems. Over their 108 years of futility (the longest drought  in professional sports history without a championship) the Cubs have had some great teams that played great only to be cursed by the most random of circumstances that were beyond their control. There was the billy goat, and the black cat, and the “Bartman” incident. In all of those cases, the Cubs were messed over, and it wasn’t fair, and they were cursed. (Of course, they were also REALLY BAD for many of those years, so much so that when their greatest all-time player – Ernie Banks – would often smile big and utter “lets play two today!”, Cubs fans often replied with “do we have to?”).

So how did the Cubbies reverse the curse and win the 2016 World Series? Well, as you might guess if you’re following along, it was by doing everything within their power to LOSE the game. Joe Maddon was the chief offender – making head scratching decision after head scratching decision (most of which backfired) despite being regarded as the “smartest” manager in the game.  You can’t make this stuff up. Here are five of the more egregious errors that Maddon made Wednesday Night.  3 of them almost cost them the game, and two of them, inexplicably, worked.

  1. ct-cubs-indians-world-series-game7-photosMaddon took out his best pitcher all season with 2 outs in the 5th inning AND a 4 run lead! – What the heck was he thinking? Kyle Hendricks was cruising along in a 5-1 game and had just walked a batter. Maddon popped out of the dugout immediately and brought in his best “post season” pitcher, a very tired John Lester, in hopes that Lester could find the magic and give him 3 innings or so. Lester pitched valiantly, but went on to give up a few runs and allow the Indians to get back in the game before he left in the eighth. Had Maddon left Hendricks in the game, most of the talking heads believe that the game would have ended with a comfortable Cub win…….big backfire…..
  2. Maddon then brought in closer Aroldis Chapman in the 8th inning, even though he had pitched so much in the series that his arm was literally falling off! Chaos, of course, ensued. Not only was Chapman’s 100+ mph fastball losing some “getty-up” at this point, but the Indians had also seen enough of him over the course of the series that they were beginning to “square up” the fastball and started knocking it into next week.  When the dust settled at the end of the 8th, Chapman had given up 3 runs, and we had a tie ball game……….big backfire……
  3. In the top of the 9th, Maddon called for his hitter to execute a “safety squeeze” with one out and a 3-2 count! – For those who don’t know, a safety squeeze is a play that a manager will use in a close game when there are less than two outs and there is a runner on third. The batter is instructed to bunt the ball and the runner at third is told to “watch and then break”, just to make sure the ball isn’t popped into the air, or missed entirely. (That’s different than a suicide squeeze, where the runner is told to start to run as the ball is being pitched). There’s one blaring problem here. If you have two strikes on you and you bunt the ball foul, you’re out!, which is why few, if any managers will squeeze with two strikes. Baez, the batter, fouled the ball off for strike 3, and the Cubs missed a great chance to score that inning…….big backfire……
  4. During the top of the ninth, guess who was inconsolable, and crying uncontrollably in the Cubs dugout? Aroldis Chapman! Guess who Maddon sent back out there to get 3 outs in the bottom of the ninth? Aroldis Chapman! – Cubs fans had to apoplectic at this point.  What is he doing? It’s a tie game! And there’s no crying in baseball! Somewhere in the heavens, the ever positive Harry Carey yelled “holy ****, no!” Chapman, you guessed it, went on to get three straight outs with his slider, his second best pitch. Of course he did……….somehow, this worked………
  5. During a rain delay before the top of the 10th inning, Maddon decided it was a good idea to let his worst player, Jason Heyward, give a motivational speech to the troops. Wouldn’t you? The whole game, you’ve acted as your opposite self, and you’re the Cub’s manager, and you’ve made it this far. Why stop now?  What could go wrong? Nothing, apparently. Before the season, Heyward signed what is believed to be among the worst contracts in professional sports history – $184 million dollars for a guy who (all season and post season) couldn’t hit a baseball out of a wet paper bag. Well, at least he’s good for something.  After the Cubs scored two runs in the 10th inning and went on to win the World Series, every player praised Heyward for giving the speech that ignited them to victory……..somehow, this worked…..

I was told a few weeks ago by a friend that I look like Joe Maddon.  had never heard that before, but they said I have the same glasses, same nose, same hair, etc. I took it as a compliment (it doesn’t take much). Toward the end of game 7 though, I was beginning to view that as synonymous with being told that I resembled the inbred King Joffrey. I was witnessing an epic barrage of catastrophic decisions that suddenly resulted in something different, and perhaps the only thing out there that could reverse the curse. I had recently written here about about how I hesitate to believe that God intervenes in Super Bowl and World Series outcomes. I’m starting to rethink that. It appears that He may, and in secret and bizarre ways that we don’t expect. I’m sold. The foolish things certainly do confound the wise.