General view of Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles

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Spiegel: Football Is Back, But Baseball Won't Go Gently

This is a time on the sports calendar to cherish.

Matt Spiegel
September 06, 2018 - 3:17 pm
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(670 The Score) It’s dreary out. People are wearing full-on autumn raincoats in the South Loop. Football season starts TONIGHT.

But like a corpse in The Holy Grail, baseball stands up and screams, "I’m not dead yet!

Today, I will watch endless replays of Javier Baez’ trip around the bases in Milwaukee on Wednesday night. The derisive apathy on his face as Brewers right-hander Jhoulys Chacin nervously threw twice to first even though Baez was simply standing on the bag is gold. One of the useless throws nearly got away. Baez makes people crazy, and it’s the best. After Anthony Rizzo singled, extremely stable veteran Lorenzo Cain crapped down his leg at the sight of Baez daring for third base, airmailing a horrific throw. El Mago hustled home, and there's simply no one like him playing this sport today. Cain just has to laugh.  

Yes, I know Khalil Mack’s Bears jersey is already fifth in sales via Fanatics.com -- and the dude has been here less than a week. Many of your souls hunger for athletic violence. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers better get a facemask full of the real No. 52 several times Sunday night.

But how about this generation’s Babe Ruth being told he needs Tommy John surgery and four hours later hitting two home runs? Shohei Ohtani’s surgical recovery will be as unique as his free-agent process and his 2018 season; he should be able to serve as the designated hitter by early spring, even while not pitching for 12 months.

I have two fantasy football lineups to set tonight. Bears fervor is at toxic levels in the collective bloodstream. I reached so hard for Jordan Howard in my CBS fantasy league that the recap software laughed in my face:

In the bad picks department, nobody made a worse move than you. You selected Jordan Howard with the 17th pick in a bold (read: almost certainly wrong) move.

Cram it, drone writer jerk, Howard’s going have 15 touchdowns this season.

But hold on a minute everybody, did you see Trevor Story hit it 508 feet on Wednesday night? He had three homers altogether and basically broke Statcast.

Look, this isn’t a "my sport is better than your sport" column, because frankly, that case is settled. The NFL itself is disgusting. Baseball doesn’t come with the nauseating knowledge of the years taken off players’ lives through brain injury. It doesn’t force you to swallow the gross amoral stance of "the shield" on basically everything, nor deal with endless rule frustration at what a catch or a helmet tackle is.

I still love football, even with all of that powerful intellectual discomfort.

This is just the time of the year when I end up spiritually driven to "rage against the dying of the light" that is September, to remind you that there’s room on the interwebs, radio airspace and your screens for baseball too.

Don’t just move on to the shiny loud spectacle of the NFL. See the MLB storylines changing just as the leaves prepare to.

The Cubs avoided a sweep, got back up four in the division and admitted they're probably facing a closer-less postseason without Brandon Morrow. Manager Joe Maddon has done this before with the 2008 Rays, and it’s an actively compelling tightrope every night. Eloy Jimenez would of course bring more eyeballs to the White Sox, but they now give you a host of young high-ceiling starting pitchers every week, and this team has become extremely interesting as a whole. I believe the rebuild has turned a big corner. 

And nationally? The unexplainable Oakland A’s just tied their season series with the Yankees in the precursor to a coin flip wild-card game. Todd Frazier faked out the umps with a rubber baseball after a first-row dive in Los Angeles, then had to cop to it a day later. Because it’s Los Angeles, of course Brooke Shields ended up with the real baseball. The Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Cardinals are fighting for NL wild-card spots, while the Rockies somehow stay atop the NL West. Carlos Martinez is sometimes closing games in St. Louis and looms as a fascinating potential playoff bullpen option. Need physical conflict? How about broadcasters Mario Impemba and Rod Allen having enough of the Tigers season and each other that they get into a physical altercation at the ballpark? (Read the full story for the surprise mention of The Score’s original morning show host.)

Football people, I hear you. You’ve been waiting, and this week is your Christmas. Me, I’m over here waxing rhapsodic about baseball and dreading Yom Kippur.

But can’t we all just get along?

There’s neither desire (nor ability I suspect) on my part to be a football joy-killer. Harmless joy should never have its breaks pumped. It’s all too rare these days.

But the 2018 MLB season has been really weird, still demands our attention and should culminate with an odd and special fall. I believe the Cubs will make their fourth straight NLCS and go back to the World Series. That lineup is just so damn long, and the starters are finally grooving as a group. Cole Hamels has made the rotation hum.

Let’s watch this denouement together.

And seriously, robot scribe jamoke, did I really reach that much for Jordan Howard? 

BEAAAARRRRSSSS.

And baseball.

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

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