“Trust us, it’s much more exciting when you’ve gotten a few drinks in you.”
~MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred
Baseball is America’s pastime, mainly because it was the first sport to establish itself here so it kind of called dibs. It’s the same reason why we call the moon the “Neil Armstrong Sphere in the Sky” but we’re willing to allow it because baseball has given us a rich history that’s tied to everything we love about being American, included but not limited to 19th century pitchers getting kicked off their team for pitching a game drunk and then leaving the stadium with prostitutes.
In the modern era, however, baseball tends to fall by the wayside in terms of popularity when compared to your more concussiony sports out there. Part of it is the fact that baseball is, at its heart, a 3 hour event with a pace of play that we would be generous in describing as “cerebral.” A day out at the ballpark is a right of passage for Americans, and a relaxing way to get shitfaced on beers while eating whatever the fuck the stadium tries to toss your way, but everything sort of melds together in a season of 162 games where your team is almost always playing. It’s a grind, and many would rather watch 16 high-importance games played out over a season than a thousand innings where even historically good teams can count on losing 60 games while their fans who have shitty tastes in food shout to anyone that can hear them about how they, not you, are the Best Fans In Baseball™.
All that changes in the playoffs, however, when stakes are raised and the sport that we grew up mumbling “yeah I guess I like it” about actually becomes one of the best sources of sports drama in all of America. So, in a rare case of being super topical, we’re going to give you a preview of the National League Championship Series between the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs. For those of you who root for the American League, well fuck off we’re not doing a preview for that series because the Blue Jays are not American and if we wanted to write about Canadian professional sports we’d become a hockey blog.
So now, without further adieu…
America’s Official* 2015 NLCS Preview
In one corner, we have the 2015 New York Mets, who just yesterday won game 5 of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers and potential Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. In doing so, they also had to beat Clayton Kershaw, another potential Cy Young winner and last year’s fucking MVP. This is their first time in the NLCS since 2006, and they are looking for their first World Series birth since 2000, and their first World Series title since 1986.
They won the NL East, again for the first time since 2006, going 90-72, bolstered by a pitching staff that ranked 4th in baseball in ERA and 2nd in quality starts, which was supported by a mid-tier offense that became much more explosive after the deadline acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes, who hit 17 home runs in the 57 games he played with the Mets, possibly after selling his soul to the devil.
Playing the Mets in the National League Championship Series are the Chicago Cubs, a phrase that doesn’t register as English when you type it into Google Translate, and which has caused every Chicagoan who was alive in 1969 to start seizing uncontrollably. The team is impossibly young, with a starting lineup that featured four rookies for much of the season (Shortstop Addison Russell will miss the NLCS with an injury, leaving the team with three) including Rookie of the Year soon-to-be-winner Kris Bryant and delightfully doughy possible home run trickster god Kyle Schwarber. This is their first time in the NLCS since 2003 when *breaks down sobbing* and they are looking for their first World Series birth since *smashes windshield of police car* and their first World Series win since all the way back in *burns down Murphey’s Bleachers*.
Since baseball is broken and will never fix itself because they made the firm commitment to stick their dick in a hole back in 1943 and refuse to yank it out, the Cubs went 97-65, which forced them to win the play-in Wild Card game against the 98 win Pittsburgh Pirates before defeating the 100 win St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. Despite being the third winningest team in baseball, they will never once have home field advantage in the playoffs because, again, dick, hole, 1943.
The Mets boast a handful of big name talents, such as Curtis Granderson, who has had his best year since 2011 when he lead the league in runs and RBIs, David Wright, who missed much of the season with an injury and a scary diagnosis of spinal stenosis, and the aforementioned Cespedes who came here from Cuba specifically to commit hate crimes against baseballs. The team hit 177 home runs this year, which was the 9th most among MLB teams, though their on base percentage and batting average were among the worst in the league.
The Cubs match up eerily similar to the Mets in most of these categories. Led by Bryant, who hit 26 home runs with 99 RBIs in a rookie season where he was called up to the Majors two weeks into the season, as well as Schwarber, who hit 16 home runs in 69 games and, as he was born in 1993, definitely giggled at how many games he played, and anchored by the 26-year-old “veteran” Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs were 12th in home runs, 2nd to last in batting average, but 12th in on base percentage. Only a handful of teams in history have struck out more in a season, but they also had the 2nd most walks of any team in baseball.
The Cubs and Mets respectively had two of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball- the Cubs team ERA was 3.48, while the Mets were 3.43. While the Cubs spent $155 million to acquire three time All Star and World Series winner Jon Lester, they have rested their team on the shoulders of possible-mutant Jake Arrieta, who ended the season 22-6 with an ERA of 1.77, a WHIP of 0.86 and 236 strikeouts who still might not win the Cy Young because apparently a glowing meteor fell from the sky this year and Arrieta, Greinke and Kershaw were the only three people foolish enough to touch it. On the way, he pitched the first Cubs no hitter since 2008, and from August to the end of the season he was 11-0 with an ERA of 0.41 in 12 starts. In all of baseball, the closest a pitcher has been to that dominant in that stretch was hilariously named Spud Chandler, who had an ERA of 0.83 in 1943.
The Mets aren’t exactly fucking around with their pitchers, however. Jacob DeGrom, who won two games in the NLDS, had a 2.54 ERA with 200 strike outs. Matt Harvey “only” threw a 2.77 ERA, and they’re trotting out Steven Matz, who was 4-0 with a 2.77 ERA after being called up, and Noah Snydergaard, who responded to people making fun of his name his whole life by tossing a 3.24 during the regular season on the way to possibly be the fourth starter for the Mets. The Mets staff is scary deep.
THE COACHING STAFF
The Cubs hired Joe Maddon this year, who is a delightful goofball who has a reputation for handling young talent, and who spent the season setting up random events for the team to keep them loose and calm. The Mets get their cues from Terry Collins, who has coached the Mets since 2011 and is known as being “feisty and intense” which, when a team is doing poorly, means he is an asshole, and when the team is doing well, it means he pumps up his team by getting kicked the fuck out of games for arguing balls and strikes with an umpire.
The Mets consider themselves a long-suffering fan base, to which most Chicago fans respond with, “Oh, that’s cute.” It is hard to be a Mets fan in New York, since New York is a city saturated with unironic Yankees fans, which are the second worse kind of baseball fans other than sanctimonious Cardinals fans. New York is such a Yankees city that when people from other countries buy clothing about New York because apparently European fashion involves a lot of wanting to be American, the Yankees symbol is what they choose to wear. The Mets have had to deal with being surrounded by those assholes every year since 1962, with a lot of lean years in that period. However, considering the fact that the Cubs haven’t even been to a World Series since 1945, the Mets again will have to face being second fiddle as literally every single media outlet falls over themselves to fellate the rise of the Cubs.
Cubs fans, however, straight up don’t give a shit, because you don’t know suffering like they do. There are two kinds of Cubs fans- real Cubs fans, and bandwagon suburbanites. The latter are usually seen stumbling and puking around Wrigley Field sometime after leaving the field in the 8th inning, and are biding their time at Sluggers until they have to catch the Metro back to Naperville. These are the fans that most people (read as: White Sox fans) are thinking of when they talk shit about Cubs fans. Real Cubs fans, however, are just the saddest, saddest group. They have been shat on by the team they root for their entire lives, and on the rare occasion something good happens, they hold their breath waiting for Ashton to pop out behind the shrubs and tell them they just got Punk’d. Cubs fans are loyal to a fault, and are absolutely delirious with how this season is going, but we’ve actually heard one of our Cubs fans staffers say, “Well, we were 7-0 against the Mets in the regular season, that feels like it’s setting us up for a fall.”
WHAT CITY HAS BETTER PIZZA?
You are going to hear so much bullshit talk about New York and Chicago as pizza cities during this series. It’s going to be insufferable. We would be absolutely shocked, but utterly relieved, if we went through this whole postseason without some asshole on TBS dubbing it “THE PIZZA SERIES!” And it’s just going to be awful. People are going to be just, constantly arguing about which amazing thing is better than the other amazing thing. It’s fucking pizza, you don’t have to rank it, just eat it, get fat, and die young and happy like the rest of us.
(That said, as we HAVE ranked it already, Chicago beats New York by a hair)
HISTORY OF SUFFERING
“Fuck outta here.”
WHICH TEAMS NEED SKI GOGGLES TO KEEP OUT CHAMPAGNE SUDS?
So, when a team celebrates making the playoffs or winning a series, they go hog shit crazy and party all night long, spraying copious amounts of champagne fucking everywhere. It’s literally the coolest thing about baseball playoffs. In the past few years, more and more teams have taken to wearing ski goggles so that their widdle eyes don’t get huwrt. Above, you see the Mets covering their eyes. And below, you see how the Cubs celebrate.
It’s not really mentioned at all by the Cubs or by the media, but they do not wear goggles. Is one way better than the other? No, not necessarily. We just think that it’s much, much cooler to see, say, Jake Arrieta pitch a complete game to win the Wild Card and tell reporters, “It hurts so good” than to see a bunch of wanna-be snorkelers partying in the locker room. There’s something satisfying and American about watching a bunch of millionaire athletes squinting because their eyes are stinging from alcohol, don’t you think?
TEAM WITH THE MOST PETTING ZOOS, PAJAMA PARTIES, AND/OR FOG MACHINE AND DISCO BALL CELEBRATIONS
Okay, so this section is just us letting our homerism shine through a little bit. The best thing about Joe Maddon, which we wanted to mention in the Manager section but decided to throw here, is that as a young team, they are remarkably loose, and a lot of the reason is because they have hilariously awesome events throughout the year. The above photo is from when they had a petting zoo of endangered animals in Wrigley Field. When Jake Arrieta threw his no hitter, the team had a pajama party afterwards, and Arrieta talked to reporters wearing a mustache onsie. Rizzo, pictured above, brought in a disco ball and a fog machine to the clubhouse which the team, and after every win, they party like this.
At the end of the day, the Cubs and Mets are a dream match up for Major League Baseball (who have spent the entire day shouting “ca-ching, ca-ching” once they realized there would be a Chicago versus New York series). The Cubs are young and energetic, while the Mets are riding an emotional season that has seen injuries, franchise records, and Wilmer Flores actively weeping during a game after learning he had been traded, only to still be on the team as the trade fell through.
And there you have it, your OFFICIAL* guide to the 2015 NLCS. It should be an exciting series, and at the end of the day, no matter who wins, we as Americans win, because at least we don’t have to deal with the Cardinals or Dodgers anymore.
*we know about as much as sports as your drunk uncle whose fantasy football team somehow always ends up with a 5-8 record