First baseman Anthony Rizzo, left, and outfielder Ian Happ celebrate a Cubs win.

Jim Young/USA Today Sports

Spiegel: A Perfect Wrigley Field Summer Day

The Cubs' win Wednesday had so much to like and so much intrigue.

Matt Spiegel
July 26, 2018 - 9:44 am
Categories: 

(670 The Score) We had tickets, but seating charts and experience told us they were in the shade for nine innings. On this damn near perfect Chicago summer day, shade was unacceptable for my fiery Latina.

Who Loves The Sun? She does. Later, at night on the balcony, I play her that song from The Velvet Underground’s "Loaded." She didn’t dig it. I kept trying to turn her toward my beloved VU, with pretty things like "Candy Says" and "Sunday Morning." No dice. I gave up there, not bothering with the seedy side via "Waiting For The Man" or "Heroin."  There's heavy intellectual attraction for me in the Velvets story with Warhol and Nico, et al. But the music itself ain’t for everyone.

I digress. Digression is where my curiosity gets fed, and I follow its lead.

So we needed seats in the sun. The secondary market was loaded with options this Wednesday afternoon. We used our shady placebo tickets to get into the Park at Wrigley and decided to hang there and wait out the sellers. You can buy tickets right up until the first pitch at 1:20 p.m. after all. How low could a desirable pair on the first-base side go?  

Thus began our game of "StubHub chicken." Oh, did I make myself laugh with this description. WRITE THAT DOWN, SPIEGEL, IT’S ANOTHER OF YOUR GREAT ORIGINAL THOU——. Um, hey pumpkinhead, that exact phrase has been on Urban Dictionary since 2014. Whatever, it still felt like mine when it popped into my brain. I guess it belongs to all of us. 

You’ve probably played StubHub chicken before. At 12:30, the ones we want are $120 a pop. No chance, let’s enjoy the day and chat amongst ourselves on Gallagher Way. Homegirl is on SeatGeek, monitoring what appears to be an inferior price point.

12:45, the ones I’m eyeing are down to about $100, with options. Exciting, tempting, but let it ride, baby!

12:55, I see a couple at $80. Damn, I'm a god at StubHub chicken. Let’s give it 10 more minutes.

1:05, something has gone horribly wrong. Suddenly, none of the seats in the closest section to the field are there anymore. Is 1 p.m. the magical secondary market bubble? Have I blown our best chance to sit in sunny luxury?

I panic and call in the closer. She's greatly displeased and agitated. But like a surly, much better-looking Rod Beck, she gets it done, closing out two on SeatGeek for $66 apiece. 

StubHub chicken was exciting, if unnecessarily stressful. I clearly crumbled under pressure but regret nothing. Section 32 was good to us.

What a ballgame. Cubs left-hander Jon Lester was the story, with a typically tough-minded bounceback game after his worst start of the year against the Cardinals. Albert Almora Jr. had two opposite-field doubles and his daily allotment of wow catches in center field. Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock struck the ball with authority. These were two really good teams playing clean, efficient ball for about seven innings. 

But a gorgeous bare-handed double play turn by Nick Ahmed off a feed from Ketel Marte in the fourth inning was foreshadowing. In the eighth, Ahmed got cocky and tried to make the same barehanded throw on a much tighter double chance. Ian Happ’s takeout slide was rule-perfect and effective, Ahmed’s throw sailed into the stands, and the lead run scored all the way from second.

The season-ticket holders behind us were great fun. We played "moundball." Instead of a plastic cup passed around, filled progressively with dollar bills, we agreed to keep "brain score" and settle up at the end of the game using PayPal or Venmo. This was aptly renamed "millennial moundball." THERE IT IS, SPIEGEL, THE WORDSMITHERY IS ON POINT.

By the way, I saw Millennial Moundball at Lounge Axe in 1994, I think, opening for The Bad Livers.

One Joe Maddon moment drove me bananas in the pivotal eighth inning. I loved pinch-hitting Javier Baez there, even with his newly gimpy knee. Tie ballgame, leading off the inning -- take out the driver young man and hit a bomb for the lead. Instead it was a swinging bunt, the worst-case scenario for his wheels. Baez gutted it out up the line and benefited from a horrific errant throw by family restaurateur T.J. McFarland, making an awkward limping turn and coasting into second base. Tremendous. It was a scary moment for his leg, but the lead run was in scoring position. Mission accomplished.

Now pinch run for him immediately. Use a pitcher. We were calling for it in the stands. Mike Montgomery? He’s done that before. Somebody, anybody. Maddon was on the top step, third-base coach Brian Butterfield was conferring, Happ was waiting to step into the batter’s box to allow time, home plate umpire Chad Fairchild was looking into the Cubs dugout. Damn near a minute passed, the pitch clock was disregarded. No substitution. 

Happ took a pitch. Finally, out came a body, Tyler Chatwood, to pinch run for Baez. It all worked out fine, and the right move was made. But there was no earthly reason why one pitch should have been allowed to be thrown with Baez out there in danger. Who wasn't seeing El Mago hobble as he made the reluctant turn on the bad throw?! Who was failing to advise Maddon in the moment, if he himself was perhaps balancing other responsibilities? It felt like the kind of breakdown you see in the NFL, when a busy head coach doesn’t challenge an obvious play. Assistants have to have his back.

Perhaps I'm overly angry. I have some free time and energy. Happ picked up his manager by taking a pitch. No harm, no foul. But my god, man, be as on top of the game as we jamokes are in section 32.

A final note: cap-tip to the impressive young Happ. He made a great catch running toward the wall in right field. I mentioned his textbook slide to disrupt the double play. And you know how patient and smart he has been at the plate the last two-plus months. Since May 7, Happ has an OPS of .910. In those 63 games, he has been unintentionally walked 44 times in 220 plate appearances. That walk rate of 20 percent is exactly the same number that makes Mike Trout the overall season leader.

Happ has a great eye and a steady heartbeat. But he's also obviously getting serious respect from home plate umpires around the league. That respect after just 205 big league games is pretty special. His calm demeanor at the plate probably has something to do with it. More volatile young players should learn from it.

Follow Matt Spiegel on Twitter @MattSpiegel670. For more from and about Matt, visit www.mattspiegel.com.​