Aug 30, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcherJake Arrieta
(49) reacts after thawing his final pitch of the ninth inning for a no hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Cubs won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Without elaborating on the details, a national television audience watched in HD as Jake Arrieta disemboweled the hapless Pirates at Wrigley Field on September 27th. Go ahead. I dare you to watch the gory footage shot from the Met Life blimp. It makes those old Faces of Death VHS tapes (oh, college dorm life) seem tame.
While the game unfolded, I couldn’t help but think of the scene in A Christmas Carol in which Ebenezer Scrooge is shown by the Ghost of Christmas Past a tombstone with his name embossed on it. In that ballgame, the Pirates were Scrooge, PNC Park was the to-be tombstone, and the shrouded specter was the impending wild card game itself.
And what did Jake Arrieta represent? He’s the personification of the notion that there is no plump turkey or festive feast the next morning. The fog rolls in, and there’s just blackness. Tiny Tim is on his last breath.
Since the Bucs clinched home field advantage on the last game of the season, the city of Pittsburgh seems to be equal parts excited by the prospect of a third-straight wild card game hosted on home turf, and terrified at an imminent shift exit by the likes of Arrieta’s physics-bending cutter.
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The Doomsday Clock is at 7 seconds ’til midnight.
The wild card preppers are justified. Jake Arrieta is the Seventh Seal of the Cubbie Revelation unleashed by the great and powerful Harry Caray in the Sky.
I’m sorry about all the end-of-life-as-we-know-it/specter of death references. But to Pirates fans it feels like the end is indeed nigh. In Jake Arrieta’s 40 innings thrown in September, he’s allowed 2 earned runs and has posted a 0.45 ERA. He’s 3-1 versus the Pirates in 2015, posting a 0.75 ERA. Only Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen are batting over the Mendoza line against him.
Me? I love it all. Sure, it’s an easy stance to take as simply some dude who gets to relax in his springy bentwood Poang chair and watch Jake Arrieta cast the filth from his magical right arm, rather than face it in the batter’s box. But frankly, this kind of widespread dismal forecast by Bucco Nation stokes the ravenous fan that abides deep in my soul.
For instance, consider the recent report by KDKA that a fake Pirates Parrot Twitter account tweeted to Arrieta, “Be ready for a sea of black.” And Arrieta tweeted back, “Whatever helps keep your hope alive, just know, it doesn’t matter.”
Jake Arrieta is the Seventh Seal of the Cubbie Revelation unleashed by the great and powerful Harry Caray in the Sky.
Arrieta made it personal between himself and the collective Pittsburgh Pirates fan. This is great! If pre-game trash talk from an invincible opponent to the competition’s fan base doesn’t rile you, your fandom is lame and needs to be retired.
Yes, I am betting against the Bucs in the Wild Card game. But this is David versus Goliath. (Of course, the Pirates are Goliath: the lumbering half-wit. The Cubs are David, who is armed with the most technically advanced long-range weapon of the time…not a sling shot, but that cutter than breaks out of the zone like nothin’ you’ve ever seen.)
Callers to the 93.7 Fan Morning Show suggested a few ideas that might spook Arrieta, like inviting the injured Jung-Ho Kang, or Steve Bartman, to throw out the first pitch. I have a better idea. Forget the black out. Leave your black tee shirts at home. The wild card game should be Steve Bartman costume giveaway day. (Perhaps the costumes could be purchased from Chicago-area Salvation Army stores that have warehoused leftovers from Halloween ’03). Imagine if you’re Jake Arrieta standing on the mound, surrounded by a rollicking sea of 40 thousand Steve Bartmen, and fending off wave-after-wave of green turtle necks and Walkman headphones.
Here’s another idea: Fly in Johnny Cueto to throw out the first pitch, but he must drop the ball before the toss.
The few optimistic Pirates fans in existence repeat the cliché ad nauseam, “Well, Arrieta has to lose at some point.” Yes, he DOES have to lose at SOME point. Probably some Tuesday night in mid-May next year. But maybe, just maybe, that point will be Wednesday night at PNC Park.
Who am I kidding? It’s seven seconds ’til midnight…and I friggin’ love it.