Football

vs.

RECORDS: Bears 7-8   Vikings 10-5

KICKOFF: 12pm

TV: Fox

READY TO BE KICKED IN THE NUTS AGAIN: Daily Norseman

It was only a year ago that the season ended in the same exact spot with just about the opposite feeling. The Bears marched up to Minneapolis, with nothing to play for essentially as the Rams were up big by the 2nd quarter to eliminate any chance of grabbing a playoff bye. The Vikings however, had everything to play for, needing to win to get into the playoffs. And the Bears used their face to mop the floor simply because they felt like it, because they wanted to. It really felt like they were on to something then, that it was just the beginning. After all, a team that does that simply for the sheer joy of it must’ve been capable of so much more.

One scared playoff game, one missed kick, and a broken coach and QB later and now it feels like that game might as well have taken place in another dimension. Of course, the funny thing to think about is if the Bears had rested everyone, let the Vikings in, would they have simply kicked their ass again a week later on the Lakefront? How would that have changed things? Rather pointless to think about in the end, but you can’t let it go completely, can you?

Either way, the Bears will slink off the stage tomorrow after a dead rubber against the Vikings. Minnesota is locked in as the 6th seed, preparing to watch Kirk Cousins embarrass himself in Green Bay, or Seattle, or New Orleans. Take your pick. So they’ll be resting everyone who matters, making it unclear what the Bears can get out of this other than a win that makes the record look a little better. And hopefully no major injuries to carry over into training camp or something.

The Bears are intent on playing the full team, or at least the one they have. The long-term casualties are still out. You get the impression if the Bears had even been representative last week, not even won necessarily but played well, they might treat this as a time-filler as well. But last week so helpless and sad, they probably can’t end the season with two of those. The offseason will be long and unpleasant enough without that kind of stench hanging over it. Or at least they can fool themselves into thinking there’s less stench.

Maybe 8-8 looks way better to them than 7-9. The difference in draft position won’t matter all that much, they’ll be entrenched in the middle of the second round either way. There won’t be any answers tomorrow, and those won’t come for a few months. The post-mortems have already started.

It’s funny, there have been far worse Bears teams in recent memory. But rarely has a season been this unenjoyable. Even the wins were whiskey-dick experiences. Only the one in Denver due to its excitement and the still very much present hope that was around in just Week 2, the first Vikings game, and the Cowboys win were ones you could get excited about. Feel good about. Washington was what was supposed to happen. The two over the Lions were far harder than they needed to be. The Giants suck. When were you excited to watch the Bears past September?

So we’ll dispose of this season tomorrow, slamming its head into the wall before throwing it out the door, cursing its presence in our lives at all and hoping to never see the likes of it again. We probably will. It’s the Bears after all. But at least there will be time to cleanse.

Baseball

Remember “Quiz Show?” Pretty brilliant Robert Redford-directed film. Great cast. Maybe the one time Hank Azaria played an unrepentant asshole. David Paymer and John Turturro are just awesome, and pretty much showcase the entire Jewish spectrum. Somehow it starred Rob Morrow, which gets funnier and funnier the more you think about it.

Anyway, the climactic scene is when Ralph Fiennes’s Charles Van Doren sits before Congress and admits he got the answers before the shows. And senator after senator compliment him for his statement, until the surly, frumpy one from New York (of course he’d be from New York) finally says that his colleagues are full of shit and that he shouldn’t be commended for doing what’s right. Which earns standing applause from the gallery.

That’s kind of how I feel about the Cubs non-tendering Addison Russell yesterday. It really deserves no more applause than getting a vaccination. It’s what you’re supposed to do. Except in one light…is it?

I’ve always been a shade toward the middle on the whole thing when it started last year. Obviously, Addison Russell is a giant piece of shit and I would have been sated had they tossed him in the same dumpster as the giant Wrigley cake from years ago. But, and I could just be drinking the Kool-Aid, I believed Theo when he said they were genuinely interested in his rehabilitation and what was best for Melisa Reidy, who they said had requested that Russell not be released. Multiple times when they announced they were not letting Russell go last year, Theo stressed that Melisa and their child’s well-being and wishes came first.

Sure, deep down I knew it was about not losing an “asset” for nothing, and the hope would be that he would hit for at least a month or two and not spend the season shoving his cleats up his ass every which way so they could trade him and get something in return. But it seemed a pretty good cover story at least.

Of course, Russell sucked all year and proved to be an inattentive dope as well. And the first paragraph of the statement tells you everything: If you haven’t seen it in full:

The first thing they mention is that his contribution on the field would not be anywhere near what he would have to be paid. And normally that would be enough. But Addison Russell isn’t normal.

Last year, they said they were keeping him because they wanted to be on the frontline for his rehabilitation, to make sure everything was being done for Melisa and their child, because they didn’t want to simply wash their hands. They wanted to be involved. They wanted to be on the front-line. They wanted to be at the head of change throughout the league. They wanted you to believe then that his performance didn’t really matter.

And now it’s top of mind.

Of course, they say that his adherence to whatever they set out for him off the field has been up to the standards they set. No one knows really what this has been, and I’m not sure anyone should, although some idea of how intensive it’s been would certainly help. Whatever it is, it certainly can’t have been “completed” in just a year. But now the Cubs aren’t really worried about it, because he’s not their player anymore.

They also didn’t miss the chance to trumpet their own horn, but at least they didn’t lead off with it, so they’re one step ahead of John McDonough. Still, using this at best uncomfortable situation and at worst abhorrent as a platform to boast about your accomplishments and changes, ones we can’t really put a finger on, doesn’t really scan fully either.

Clearly, the Cubs had no choice in the public’s eyes, and no one is going to criticize this move. It’ll be on Addison’s new team to make sure he keeps adhering to his growth and change as a person. Except if there is no new team, what then? What if it’s just on him until April or May? Or longer?

I’m certainly not unhappy he’s gone, though I bet I see even more #27 jerseys in the stands from jackasses who have to prove just how uncaring and menacing they can be simply because. But if it was all about his change and growth, and you were so involved, wouldn’t the Cubs have to keep him so they could as closely monitor it as possible?

That would have been an impossible choice to make. This was certainly easier. But if you take them at their word, always a bad idea when it comes to front offices in any sport, it might not actually have been the right one.

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Brewers 3, Cubs 2

Game 2 Box Score: Brewers 5, Cubs 3

Game 3 Box Score: Cubs 11, Brewers 4

Whatever hopes I had of the Cubs turning into an actual plus team, or at least one that can fake it, pretty much died this weekend. That doesn’t mean they can’t win the division. They still very well might, and I am tempted to say probably might. They could even win a series or two in the playoffs. Stranger things have happened.

But that’s just it. I’m now sort of relying on the “stranger things have happened” portion of my baseball brain/fandom. This was a chance for the Cubs to play like the big boys they claim to be. They didn’t do it. And there are just enough flaws0–the bottom half of the roster and the bullpen–that can’t be entirely fixed before the trade deadline and will just keep the Cubs from ever ripping off 14 of 17 or something like it to put this division to bed.

It’s going to be the drunk sex-est version of the last two months possible. Let’s run it through.

The Two Obs

-Let’s start right at the headline of the weekend and that’s Joe Maddon’s handling of his pitching staff. Now, according to any spreadsheet or analysis, pulling Hendricks after five on Friday is actually the right move. The value of one more inning out of Hendricks, the max you would get, is not equal to Kyle Schwarber taking that AB which essentially became a leadoff one after Bote homered with no outs. In a vacuum, or usually, that would be the right move.

Usually.

However, that doesn’t factor in the utter shambles the pen is right now, and Joe’s plan to get 12 outs involved absolutely nothing going wrong. With this bullpen. It’s the same thing that got Joe in Game 163 last year (what is it about the Brewers?). Normally, not letting your starter see the lineup for a third time, as Joe chose to do back in October, is the right call. But that assumes you have anyone who can consistently get outs from the pen, which you don’t have. In this case, the actual tools at Joe’s disposal outweigh what the “right” call is.

So things don’t go right, everyone throws too many pitches, and you have to use Strop. Who can claim he’s healthy all he wants but it’s pretty clear he isn’t.

-Then again, we’re not talking about any of this, probably, if Eric Thames is rightly rung up. Check out #3 here:

Or there was a pitch to Hiura before that that was a strike. If I want to be Sammy Sunshine, then the Cubs take two of three and we don’t worry so much. On such margins…

-Let’s skip to today and then get to the rest. Still up four runs, Joe pulled Q to get to a pen that just set the season on fire again. Yes, it was a bad 5th inning, but it’s not like Q was getting whacked around. The walks were bad, but he had gotten Saladino to strike out, Cain to lazily fly out, and Yelich’s double was off his fists and simply flared out to the right spot. Yes, you’ve got the off day tomorrow, but you still need innings from your starter. Joe got away with this, but had it gone balls-up it was not hard to see Joe looking for a job by Tuesday.

-Of his last eight outings, Cishek has only managed a clean one in two of them (no hits, no runs). He’s going to be toast earlier this season than last because Joe goes to him five times a week. Using him in the 8th last night was inexplicable, and Wick getting the Cubs out of it only made it more so. Yeah yeah yeah, not wanting to toss an untested kid into big spots and all that. Well that’s if the rest of your pen isn’t disgruntled clowns. He’s here, he has to pitch. This isn’t so hard.

-Right, to Kimbrel. I feel like anything this season we’re just going to have to live with, given the weird build-up for him. The dude probably hasn’t had March-June off since he was like eight years old. Most of the time he’ll look fine if not great. But there are going to be spotty outings, and that’s even with ceding the fact that sometimes the reigning MVP will just do that to you sometimes.

-Maybe moving out of the leadoff spot leads to the Schwarber binge. Maybe it’s too much pressure. That’s two high-leverage situations he finally homered in, so that’s a whole thing. That second homer is a juiced ball joke there, as that was a defensive swing. Then again, so was Yelich’s last night, so it giveth and taketh away.

-The importance of walks and hustle. Happ extends two innings for Schwarber. Contreras beats out some shoddy Brewer defense before Caratini’s homer. At least this was the kind of shit the Cubs weren’t doing earlier.

-Bryant looked terrible the past two days, and it would be a major surprise if he escapes an IL stint to deal with the knee that’s bothering him.

Hey, it could all still look ok with a sweep of the Cardinals. Onwards…