The baseball season is now down to a long weekend, with the Sox and Cubs both in miserable slumps. As a pessimist, I should have anticipated this, but this season is unprecedented. It all started back in March when we were supposed to attend a Spring Training game between the two Chicago foes. It was cancelled, along with many of our plans this year. When the season finally officially began on the 24th of July, I did not have great expectations for the league to make it to the postseason. The Cubs jumped to the top of their division but stumbled against the slower-starting Sox in their first series. The Pale Hose finally claimed the top spot in the AL Central over the Twins and Indians, only to falter down the stretch. I’ve watched them go 3-7 against the Twins, Indians, and Reds in the past week or so.
The last two nights have been particularly painful for the White Sox, losing in walk-off fashion to Cleveland on both occasions. On the other side of town, the Cubs lost another one this morning, their third straight, to the last-place Pirates. They could have helped the Sox in the series before that against the Twins, but Minnesota took two of the three. They did top the Indians in two of three, after a 12-0 drubbing of the Brewers and a no-hitter by Alec Mills. However, the poor-hitting Cubbies are now in danger of being caught by the Cardinals, Reds, and Brewers. The Covid-plagued regular season ironically all comes down to a three-game series against the Sox at Comiskey (excuse me – Guaranteed Rate). For a historical first, they each play in role in the other’s playoff fate this late in the season. Sadly, I just watched the Sox blow another early lead by the Indians – at least it’s not the last inning last the previous two, although there’s still three innings to go. It’s looking like a repeat of last night’s disappointment, with the White Sox up by one again after a Yoan Moncada triple in the 7th. If the Indians make it a four-game sweep, the Sox could fall to a full-game behind the division leading Twins, who are idle today, and could potentially face the perennial powerhouse Yankees in their first post-season appearance in twelve-years.
On the other hand, if the Cubs lose all three to the Sox, they could be passed by the Reds and/or Cards. It will be a tough weekend about who to cheer for in each critical game? Allegiance could easily change depending on the circumstances. In a normal season, both Chicago teams would be facing division rivals rather than cross-town foes. It’s just another Covid quirk, that also includes a expanded 16-team Playoff field, empty ballparks, limited homefield advantages, and designated hitters for both leagues. The World Series will take place in Arlington, Texas, another deviation from normalcy. It’s been a tough year for baseball purists.
The Covid-Cardinals are of particular concern to me, with respect to the Cubs. The Red Birds have seven games remaining, while standing only one game behind the Cubs in the loss column. They would have to win all seven to pass the Cubbies, but also postseason seeds are at stake. Three losses to the Sox would give them 27 for the year, while San Francisco, Cincy, Milwaukee and Miami could also disrupt their current #4 NL placement, down from #2 just a few days ago. This weekend, and possibly Monday, determines who plays where, who, and when. I’ll have to wear a Sox sock on one foot and a Cubs on the other.
In other sports important to me, the Celtics are in trouble, while the Lakers dropped their first to the dangerous Nuggets, who have miraculously come from behind in their last two series. The Timbers won their second straight match, outdueling the regional rival Seattle Sounders 1-0 last night. Against all odds, each sport has somehow persevered over threats of the virus. Thankfully, there are live sports to watch every day, including both NFL and NCAA football. The Pac-12 announced today that they will join the other power conferences in pursuit of a 2020-21 National Championship. However, teams won’t start play until November 6th, with a 7-game schedule. They reversed their initial decision and joined the BIG-10 in delayed reconsideration. It sets the stage for college basketball to start, missing only a few non-conference games this year. But first, I’ll focus on a expanded baseball Playoff that involves a very rare joint appearance by both of my teams – Cubs and Sox.
P.S. The White Sox brought in a reliever named Bummer following a 4-run collapse in the bottom of the 7th to the never-give-up Indians. It seemed like an appropriate name to describe the bullpen in this series. The red-hot Tribe took a 5-4 lead in response to falling behind once again in the series. Hand then shut-down the Sox, with two strike-outs and a easy grounder to finish up the 4-game sweep. Cleveland is now just one-game behind the Sox and two short of the Twins, after 5 straight Pale Hose losses. I couldn’t be more frustrated after cross-town losses today at a time when teams need to be playing their best ball. Who wants it more this weekend – the Sox or the Cubs?
They say that the Portland air quality is the equivalent of smoking twenty packs of cigarettes a day. Make mine Lucky Strike! Maybe I’ve been watching too much Mad Men in these solitary evenings? Breakfast for them usually consists of booze and cigarettes after a late-night affair. Breakfast for me is a 3-mile run, followed by a good cough. In these times, there are three different types of coughs: smoke, Covid, and allergy related. I tried my best to get the smoke out of my lungs this morning. It seemed worse than yesterday.
Despite it being a work day, there was no one on the streets this morning. There were some open businesses but no customers. I didn’t even see another crazy runner like myself, just a few folks walking their dogs and, of course, the homeless. The city is shut down and restaurants that expanded their outdoor service capabilities all have their arms up in the air, wondering what tragedy will befall them next. People were just starting to come out of hiding, and then the fires fill the air with harmful smoke. There’s no “Lucky” about it!
We still do plan on going whale watching in a few days. Hopefully, the sea air will clear out my lungs. Rain is in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. We get enough gray skies here in Portland during the winter months, but this time of year is usually comfortably sunny. Now this “Strikes.” People have retreated once again to the safety of their homes and the economy continues to suffer. What if this was twenty-five years ago with no internet and cable to keep us entertained? Amazon has to be making a killing, while small business continues to suffer!
I had sports to keep me occupied yesterday. A no-hitter by the Cubs, another victory by the White Sox, and Da’ Bears pulled off a football miracle. It was a rare Chicago sports sweep by my favorites. Also on the positive side personally, Tom Brady lost in his debut with the Buccs, as did the Cowboys in the fabulous new Chargers stadium. Only the Colts had a live audience in Jacksonsville to watch my biggest disappointment of the day. The Portland Timbers also lost to end the evening on a sour note. Then it was back to Mad Men and their pitch about “Luckies” being “toasted.” Ironically, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” was the title of the episode.
After all the Coronavirus quarantines the St. Louis Cardinals went through this season, I suppose they earned a break or two. They had only played 5 games when most teams were approaching twenty in this shortened baseball season. The White Sox had no worries about anything contagious, they couldn’t catch anything. The Cardinal hitting was pathetic after all this time off with little dribblers in the infield that the Sox couldn’t handle. If the Sox actually got an out, it was quickly reversed by replay. Apparently, the Pale Hose gift wrapped the double header as a welcome back gift to the Red Birds.
The Cubs, on the other hand, made several spectacular catches against the Brewers. They were however jinxed by the announcers who pointed out that the team hadn’t gotten off to such a winning start since 1907. Two losses to the Brewers later, they were back to their normal selves. I haven’t seen a team strike out more with runners on base than these last two days at Wrigley. Naturally, Christian Yelich single-handedly beat them in Friday’s game with a 3-run homer. Poor relief pitching proved disastrous in yesterday’s match-up. The Cubs can at least even the series today, while the White Sox can only salvage some dignity. The Cubs go on to play both the Cards and Sox next week, perhaps adding to my frustration.
The Portland Trailblazers and Damian Lillard continued their winning ways yesterday by clinching the final playoff seed in the Western Conference. They are one of the hottest bubble teams, and the LeBron Lakers will be in for an unexpected challenge in the first round. There is no home court advantage and no fans as unprecedented times persist in the NBA. The same circumstances allowed the Portland Timbers to prevail in their Orlando bubble. Can a Portland team do it again?
Indy 500 qualifying went off without a hitch yesterday, but Conor Daly couldn’t find the speed he showed in Friday’s practice session. Marco Andretti won the day, while Conor failed to make the “Fast Nine.” It’s fun to watch the second and third generation drivers like these two speedsters. Rossi, Herta, and Rahal also came from famous fathers of the Speedway that were part of my generation. Owners like Andretti, Penske, Rahal/Letterman, Ganassi, Coyne, and Foyt have been familiar names in Indianapolis since I can remember. However, seeing the empty stands for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” was all new to me.
Today’s “Fast Nine” action will determine the coveted Pole for next Sunday’s race. I’m glad there are plenty of live sports on TV to keep me entertained on weekend afternoons. Baseball, hockey, soccer, and racing have all managed to continue their virus-disrupted seasons. College football appears to be the biggest casualty as more and more schools push towards spring. Once winter comes, it may be back to the doldrums of nothing fresh to watch. I’m concerned about the fate of my favorite sport, college basketball. It was hard enough to deal with the loss of the tournament early this year.
The Cubs couldn’t catch a break and the Sox couldn’t catch anything. No one could catch Marco Andretti yesterday. Who will catch the biggest NBA prize? Hopefully, nobody will catch or spread the bug, causing further delays to these competitions that relieve the boredom of self-isolation.
After a restless night, I’ve decided to drink nothing but water today. There were too many sleep interruptions last night by my bladder. I’ve got to make some consumption changes, including Diet Coke and wine. Citrus foods, chocolate, spicy foods, sugar, tomato products, processed meats, aged cheese, and nuts are also recommended foods to avoid. Yesterday, I had two Diet Cokes, two glasses of wine, a banana, a cheeseburger salad with tomatoes, two cookies, half a chocolate turtle, sausage/egg casserole, ice cream, and assorted snacks. With a morning run, I burn most of this off and maintain my weight. However, it’s not exactly a healthy diet – it’s whatever I can get my hands on.
I’ll definitely stay away from alcohol and Diet Coke these next few days. I’ll do some experimentation and see if it results in fewer wake-up calls. Friday, I plan to have a couple of beers at the “Leadership Meeting.” I’m just not that disciplined, but I can start to make some changes. I must have gotten up ten times last night – a new record. Fortunately, I don’t have issues getting back to sleep, but obviously I’m not getting any deep, restful stretches. I’m looking for change.
I was excited for the Portland Timbers’ championship last night and enjoyed the final episode of Perry Mason. The pandemic continues to favor my teams with the White Sox, Cubs, and Trailblazers claiming victory yesterday, in addition to the Timbers. That is a rare day in sports. All that winning should have led to sweet dreams, not an up-and-down nightmare. I’m reading the Luckiest Man, the Lou Gehrig story. This should not be disturbing my sleep, despite the Yankee connection. I haven’t been a Yankees’ fan since childhood and somehow grew to hate them as an adult. To help relieve myself of this silly anger, I’ve explored the life of Mickey Mantle and now Gehrig, who was slightly before my time. Is all this Yankee nonsense upsetting my bladder or is it the food and drink?
Company’s come and gone and we’re back to the boring old routine. My wife has gladly cooked and cleaned for days, showing the love for her two daughters. It’s my turn to cook dinner tonight – an easy cheeseburger salad recipe. Our schnauzer Tally can also rest after five grueling days of bone wars with her doggie niece Falco. A quiet day at home is a well-earned reward for all of us.
Our next daughter adventures will take place in San Francisco just over two weeks from now. A weekend at the Ritz Carlton will start our journey to Florida. All of us will then get together for a pre-Holiday getaway to Kauai. Hopefully, the virus will not interfere with our plans. It’s already gotten in the way too many times this year.
Tonight, the Portland Timbers battle Orlando for the MLS is Back championship, perhaps their first since 2015. Maybe the city will get some positive exposure after all the bad press about the never-ending riots? I enjoyed some of the family games we played these past few days, including jackboxtv.com. It was much more exciting than any of the professional games we tried to watch on TV or “Shark Week.”
Looking back at this past week of activities entertaining company, the time has passed quickly. We’ve done some wine-tasting, sight-seeing, long drives, hikes, dinners, and a picnic. It was the antithesis of stay at home, but a much needed change from isolation. We’ll return to our quiet life together prior to the 2,600-mile cross-country drive next week. There’s plenty of company waiting for us on the road ahead.