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Cub Tracks Confounds Expectations

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The Harry-meter, the physics of October baseball in Wrigley, and other bullets

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Previously on it’s the Cub Tracks, we examined the fascinating phenomenon of meat, in several permutations, because Meat Loaf is no longer sufficient as a metaphor when one has to win three of five or four of seven to survive. No one here that was left alive in nineteen hundred and eighty-five (to pick a year that rhymes) will ever forget that object lesson...indeed, it is taken as gospel that the postseason may be capricious and that expectations exist to be confounded. The object can be propelled over the outfield wall by the opposition on any pitch, at any time.

Certainly any preparations are inadequate, and superstitions are nonsense, but on the off-chance that I can somehow influence the random, I’ve been growing my nails out for a month, to have adequate grazing surface. I have rubber bricks, a small bullhorn, and eleven of those 3x5 “W” flags, unopened. Home and road jerseys, Cubs sweats, Cubs socks (three pair), Cubs boxers, three different hats, even Cubs “marshmallow” booties I got from my ex for Xmas once. I refuse to shave until it’s over. I’m gonna bathe, though. I hope that doesn’t jinx anything.

My cats even have little Cub hats and tiny pennants. They won’t have anything to do with them, but they have them.

I have my Cubs mug and my Cubs cups, and plastic Cubs dishes that I got from Jewel/Osco back in the day. I have my jacket that I got from the same Jewel. There are Vienna Beef franks in my freezer. I have bright green Chicago relish. I sent away for sport peppers. I have a six-pack of Old Style in my fridge.

I have a ditty bag with a guitar pick from Steve Goodman, a souvenir Ron Santo-autographed miniature bat, and a picture of me and some of my friends playing darts with a board that wore Steve Garvey’s face. The ticket from the “Ryne Sandberg game” is in there, and a little bit of Wrigley Field dirt.

There’s a “Try Not To Suck” shirt, a “Fear the Beard” shirt, a “Vote for Bryzzo” shirt. I have Cubs glasses with a Cubs lanyard and a set of playing cards with the ‘60s logo on them. I worry that I don’t have enough gear.

Just a little ‘stitious. I dunno how I’ll make it to Friday. I’m a basket case already. How about you?

Here’s some stuff to tide you over ‘til the wild-card game tonight. As always * means autoplay on (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

  • ESPN*: 2016 Week 26 MLB Power Rankings. Back where we started.
  • Shelbie Lynn Bostedt (Chicago Tribune): If the Cubs win the World Series, Chicago might need 100.8M beers. On the Harry-meter.
  • Jay Jaffe (Sports Illustrated*): The big question facing each MLB playoff team. The Cubs don’t have an obvious weakness. So the burden of history is cited.
  • Jared Wyllys (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Unfinished brilliance: The 2016 regular season. “ feels like the Cubs have arrived at the stage they were meant for.”
  • David Kagan (The Hardball Times): The physics of October baseball in Wrigley. “...the difference between the dog days and the postseason at Wrigley isn’t just the fact that fly balls can become homers.”
  • Ted Berg (USA Today): Predicting the MLB postseason is pointless, but the Cubs are totally going to win. Yes. That’s what I’m talking about. 269 games? I’m all for small sample size.
  • Jeff Sullivan (Fangraphs): How the Cubs stack up within baseball history. “You could say the Cubs were the most outstanding baseball team in two decades.”
  • Aldo Soto (Sports Mockery): Mind-Blowing Records set by the historic 2016 Chicago Cubs. Good article; really annoying format.
  • ESPN: ESPN's experts predict the 2016 postseason. Odds? What odds?
  • Andrew Simon ( Who should Cubs root for in Wild Card Game? “...the club with three championships over the previous five years offers the more troublesome matchup.”
  • Patrick Mooney (CSN Chicago*): Why Giants pose bigger wild-card threat for Cubs. “Be careful what you wish for.”
  • Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): Mets, Giants, who gives a S#!%? Jake Arrieta doesn’t.
  • Tim Huwe (The Zygote 50): I endorse neither potential opponent. Indeed. Who the Cubs play doesn’t matter. It’s that the Cubs are playing that’s important.
  • David Schoenfield (ESPN): The biggest myths of October baseball -- debunked! I used to debunk my roommates in college. This is much the same.
  • Carrie Muskat ( Maddon wants Cubs to keep same approach for playoffs. “There's nothing different to do right now except play the game.”
  • Patrick Mooney (CSN Chicago*): Joe Maddon’s message to Cubs before playoff pressure turns up. “ the same game all the time.”
  • Jesse Rogers (ESPN): Cubs get later start times for Games 1 and 2, umpire crew assigned as well. John Hirschbeck’s crew is the core of the umpiring team.
  • Carrie Muskat ( Cubs vets carry on tradition, help youngsters. Matt Szczur: “They want you to be part of the family.”
  • Bruce Miles (Daily Herald): Innocence still not lost with these Chicago Cubs. "The veterans on this team are very youthful. I think also, and this might sound crazy, but the way we celebrate every victory helps,” opined Joe Maddon.
  • Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): How does Kris Bryant’s 2016 season stack up in terms of Cubs history? 8th on the list. In his second year.
  • Carrie Muskat ( Addison Russell's all-around play key to Cubs' fortunes. "He has a nose for the RBI," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "This guy on defense, it's getting to the point where there's no one else like that right now."
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times): Remember me? Kyle Schwarber still big part of Cubs’ 2016 playoff team. “He’s been with us all year. He’s one of the guys,” said Jake Arrieta.
  • Jim Bowden (ESPN-Insider {$}): Grading the playoff defenses: Are Cubs or Red Sox better on D? It’s no contest.
  • Buster Olney (ESPN-Insider {$}): Who is Buster Olney's NL MVP? Olney’s award picks. Sparkling analysis of the candidates.
  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Hendricks up for Players Association Awards. “All three Cubs are deserving of their candidacy...”
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times): They go, Cubs go: Dexter Fowler, rotation starts of big things in 2016. “[Winning] starts with pitching, and one through five, all our pitchers have done an outstanding job,” said Anthony Rizzo.
  • Andrew Joseph (USA Today): People kept tweeting at Jon Lester because they were angry at Lester Holt. Going to have to touch on politics just a bit here because this is too funny to pass up.
  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): Looking back at Jake Arrieta’s split season and how it stacks up. “...a tale of two Jakes.”
  • Paul Skrbina (Chicago Tribune): Travis Wood delivers for Cubs, on mound and even in outfield. Versatile player is valuable in more ways than one.
  • Matt Pettit (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Slighter sliders: The curious case of Hector Rondon’s missing pitch. “...hitters no longer fear Rondon’s breaking pitches.”
  • Jim Litke (AP via The News and Observer): Joe Maddon's fingerprints all over the suddenly dominant Cubs. "I see now what everyone was talking about," said Mike Montgomery.
  • Phil Rosenthal (Chicago Tribune): When Wrigley resisted the national anthem and other 'Banner' lore. The Cubs didn’t play the Anthem for decades.
  • Shelbie Lynn Bostedt (Chicago Tribune): 'Not what you see on TV': Chicago baseball players' wives reject shallow portrayals. The women behind White Sox and Cubs players are much more than their marital status.
  • Danny Ecker (Crain’s Chicago Business): Cubs plaza's new name (for now): The Park at Wrigley Field. Clunky. I was thinking “Atrium” or somesuch. They’re gonna sell the naming rights anyway.

Food for thought:

Thanks for reading. See you Thursday for another episode.