By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Maybe we should refer to it as “Bloody Sunday.” Not as in the metaphorical cliché, but instead “bloody” as the curse word so popular across the pond. Because if you weren’t cursing at your TV, radio or online device (or, gasp, in person), then you weren’t watching Chicago baseball on Sunday.
Starting pitcher Jon Lester and the Cubs gave up 10runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first inning of an eventual 14-3 loss. The White Sox were no-hit into the ninth inning by something named Kyle Freeland of the Colorado Rockies en route to a 10-0 loss. It was all bloody terrible and a fitting cap on the first half of a gross baseball season so far in this city.
With the All-Star break comes a chance for all of us to get the hell away from baseball for a few days, and it seems fans and players alike could use that. Of course, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Cubs should be defending a World Series title, and the White Sox should be opening a window just a crack to show you what their organizational plan will look like solidified in a few years.
Perhaps both teams are doing exactly that and it’s just difficult to see through the steamy haze of suck everyone is wandering through. Maybe in a few months we look back on two teams at very different stages of success and say, “That ended up being productive.” Until then, let’s unplug.
Not just taking a break from baseball. I mean rip the cord of the console out of the wall and reset the game. Blow on the cartridge, as it’s obviously defective. Don’t speak of Bloody Sunday or any of the season’s first half on either side of town until we’re in a safe place way down the road to nod satisfactorily about it.
“People just want to get away from this, get away from the grind,” Lester said Sunday. “It’s not for a lack of effort, it’s not for a lack of preparation, but for whatever reason it is what it is.
“We have to … take four days, regroup, refresh and show up on Friday ready to go. The big thing for us is to forget the record, forget our batting averages or ERAs or win-loss (records) and just get back to playing good, sound baseball, and the talent on this team will speak for itself.”
Lester wore all of the season so far on his face as he spoke to media Sunday after being taken to the woodshed. I’m sure having to sit in the clubhouse and think about it for eight-plus innings instead of getting out of Dodge didn’t help, but kudos to him for facing the cameras, I guess. Still, he was a physical representation of a collective desire to get the hell away.
“It’s been a grind for everyone,” Anthony Rizzo said of the season’s first half. “You learn a lot about yourself. Obviously, we had higher expectations than that, and we all hold ourselves accountable. It will be nice for everyone to be able to relax and get away from the game for a few days.”
The Cubs aren’t having fun right now. It’s painfully obvious that the World Series hangover is real for this team, and to be honest, it’s tough to blame a group for being less than sharp coming off one of sports history’s biggest wins if we factor in all the psychology involved in that process and the aftermath.
Meanwhile, White Sox manager Rick Renteria calling not being no-hit on the final game before the break a “moral victory” speaks to a similar desire on the South Side to just be away from baseball for a bit.
And neither side can be faulted for wanting the time off. Professional baseball is a massive grind, physically, mentally and emotionally. One of MLB’s ironies is usually having the best teams feature the most players in the All-Star Game and therefore not getting much of a rest. In this way, the Cubs and White Sox sending only Wade Davis and Avisail Garcia, respectively, to Miami this week supplies the opportunity for as many players to rip out that cord. And if the lone team reps are a player who wasn’t on the Cubs last year and a player most fans had written off as a bust doesn’t aptly speak to how weird it’s been around here, what does?
“We have to get to the point where last year is literally gone,” Ben Zobrist said of the Cubs. “It was tough doing that the first half. But if we stay with ‘today,’ that’s where we’ll have our best games.
“There was some fatigue going into spring training (and the first half).”
On the South Side, a largely Carlos Rodon-less first half, no in-season trades for a piece of the future so far and the White’s Sox AL-worst record need the Men in Black mind erasure treatment. We knew the White Sox were going to be bad, even that they had to be bad in order to eventually get good. It doesn’t mean we can’t repress the memories in the process.
On Sunday, Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward spoke of the need to take it “one day at a time, one series at a time.”
“It will be more magnified in the second half then it was in the first,” Heyward told reporters.
We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, let’s get far away from what’s driven Renteria to get ejected five times this season. Ignore the Cubs’ place in the standings. Forget all that bloody baseball we didn’t actually see these last few months no matter what anyone else tells you.
Let’s all unplug and restart anew. Bloody hell.
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.