By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) “Best win I’ve ever been a part of.”
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said that to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal while both were dripping with alcohol in the visitors’ locker room Tuesday night following Chicago’s rally to win Game 4 and seal the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants. And Bryant ain’t wrong.
It wasn’t just the Cubs getting a step closer to what feels like the completion of a mission, one that began with the acquisition of executives Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Jason McLeod and the rest of the progressive front office, which then gutted the organization of all the stank of a century-plus of mismanagement and using Band-Aids on holes in a submerged ship. They abandoned that ship and built a new one, and it floats on pretty straight and true.
It wasn’t just the second of back-to-back (-to-back, if you watched the Dodgers-Nationals in Tuesday’s opening act) amazing playoff baseball games to end a wild four games in a best-of-five series. This one went the Cubs’ way, unlike a long Monday’s journey into Tuesday morning of Game 3.
It was eight innings of Little League from the Cubs before they decided to be the Cubs in the ninth inning. They were like the hell-cloud of nuclear rain suddenly opening on an unsuspecting opponent that we’ve seen the Cubs be all year, despite how much we keep forgetting this team is never out of it and at all times is one inning away from dissolving a foe into a steaming pile of goo.
Game 4 was all of that. But what made this win the best Bryant has been a part of and the best I have witnessed in my Cubs-consuming lifetime was that it slew a giant besides the Giants. It slew the giant of ignorance.
It takes many different forms, that giant, but it’s a particularly chaotic one when it finds its way to Wrigleyville. It began its stomping around after the Game 3 loss — the only loss in four games and one that took 13 innings and came after four innings of yeomen relief work by Mike Montgomery. The Cubs were clearly bad and doomed, up 2-1 in the series with home-field advantage. The ogre of stupidity does a fantastic job of kicking rationality out of the heads of drunk fans and blabbering paid talkers alike. And, boy, was that damn giant raging around Chicago for most of Game 4.
The national TV broadcast was bringing up how the Cubs were just six outs away from closing out the Giants the game before, activating the conditioned reflexes from 2003 without going quite low enough to mention a certain bespectacled, headphoned fan. But there were at least shots of goats on my TV.
It was the perfect setting for that awful giant to stomp around nationally and locally and get Cubs fans to twitch through mumblings of curses and inevitabilities.
Then Joe Maddon happened. While there’s legit criticism to be made about his moves in Game 3, faith in Maddon was shaky for all the wrong reasons among a Cubville that’s overpopulated with village idiots.
With the Cubs down 5-3 in the ninth, I’ll let CBS Sports’ Matt Snyder describe how Maddon topped Giants manager Bruce Bochy in mind games:
Addison Russell was due up for the Cubs, but he was a mess in the series at the plate. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon sent lefty Chris Coghlan to the plate — but it’s important to note that Willson Contreras already had a helmet and bat in the dugout. Bochy countered with left-hander Will Smith.
Once Smith was announced, Maddon went to Contreras, who had gotten several strong swings in the series.
Did Maddon dupe Bochy into getting the right-handed Contreras a lefty to face? It’s possible. Regardless, it worked out as Contreras would come through with a two-RBI single to tie the game.
Booties of the Giants were clenched up and down the roster as the Cubs took the lead on sloppy defense and won the game. And the giant of ignorance fell — the one that thinks Pedro Strop needs to straighten his hat and that absolute treasure Javier Baez needs to tone it down.
That ignorance thrives on the strange Stockholm syndrome of Cubs fans who take comfort in being uncomfortable and bathing in fatalistic masochism. It’s the giant pile of smoking crap that denies all conclusive evidence that shows this is the best Cubs team of anyone’s lifetime and the best team in baseball right now and there are no cosmic forces working against them or anyone and talking about fate in sports is not cute or fun or cool. It’s ignorant.
The giant is never quite fully dead and will probably gain new breaths against the Dodgers or Nationals next and probably an American League team after that, but for now it’s knocked unconscious while those ledge-sitting Cubs fan quitters come back on the bandwagon with typical temporary amnesia.
And until that dumb giant wakes up again, Kris Bryant was right. That was the best Cubs win any of us has ever been a part of.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.