Curses are contagious?

Curses are contagious?

By Frankie O

Upon moving to Chicago some 19 years ago, one of the first things I became acutely aware of was the curse that had befallen the beloved, at least on the Northside, Cubs. Of course if you know me, you know what my reaction was: Laughter. This city obviously doesnt know anything about a jinx in spite of what Uncle Lou dubbed Cubby occurrences. 104 years? Whatever! I have almost half that with my football team alone! Although I will admit some weird things happen to them, Bartman comes right to mind, but most of what I have witnessed with the Cubs seems self-inflicted. When I think of a curse, I think of weird stuff happening out of nowhere, on a repeated, relentless basis. Like what happens to guys who wear a red bow tie for a living.

Currently Im in the middle of a stretch in my life where I just cant seem to get out of my own way, I mean at least more than usual. Speaking of which, out of nowhere on Tuesday, at six in the morning, I was startled out of my once a week eight-hour slumber by my wife who said that my presence was needed on the front porch: IMMEDIATELY! What now? A headless rabbit, thats what. Honestly?! How does something like that happen? Im really asking myself this? The real surprise is that it took this long! I mean, everyone finds severed animal carcasses on their doorsteps in the morning, right? Thats normal.

Thats also one unlucky rabbit. I should have kept his feet.

As I was trying to get back to sleep, with the vision of the disposal running through my head, I amused myself by wondering who I had ticked off to cost the poor bunny its life. Then it occurred to me that I had recently done something that I never thought I would ever do: I had publicly denounced one of my hometown teams, the Sixers, in favor of the Bulls in last years playoffs. Well you know how that turned out: D-Rose promptly blew out his knee in the first game. And for good measure Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng were injured during the hard-fought series to ensure the Bulls demise.


I guess I angered the basketball gods. Sorry Bulls fans. My bad.

But that should have been the end of it right?

I still follow my Fightin Phils with a psychotic passion, but I did check out on them kind of early this year when I saw where things were headed. I think that was in April. What can I say? I can only beat my head against a wall so many times and most of them are used up with my family. Give me a reason to believe, not Ty Wiggington!

So during the summer I turned most of my attention to the White Sox, and for most of the season that was a fun thing. Then the bottom fell out. Wait a second. That sounds eerily familiar. Compete all season long, to the point where even the non-believers get on board, then gag. Hold on here. Thats the Frankie O Philly team curse. You know, the one where a team is thisclose to winning and then doesnt, often losing in spectacular fashion.

Almost good enough.

And in some instances a coach is given 14 chances to torture. What is the definition of insanity again?

But the Sox thing got me thinking. But that must have been a coincidence, right? Theres no way that I could have brought my luck here is there? I couldnt have opened some weird Philly-Chicago portal like the one in the Malkovich movie could I? The Sox season could have happened anywhere, my being here was just an unfortunate happenstance.
It would have to happen more than once for someone to think this is real.

I had no effect on the Cubs. They shot themselves. Again and again. They wanted to be awful. They never allowed the fan connection that is required to rip your heart out, at least with the sober ones.

And Im not happy that there wont be a hockey season, but at least I cant be held captive by a lost-in-the-woods crazy Russian astronomergoalie. My hockey heartbreak already occurred over the summer when the Flyers offered all-star defenseman Shea Weber the second largest contract in NHL history and gave visions to Flyers fans of Claude Giroux manning the front line and Weber manning the blue line for years to come. Two all-world talents on one team. NOT! The cash-strapped Nashville Predators matched the contract offer right before they locked him out. Even when theres no season, I suffer! Whatever!

So I guess a good barometer for the Frankie O effect would be the 2012 Monsters of the Midway.

Lets see. Theyre coming off a devastating season in which Jay Cutler had led the team to a 7-3 record, but suffered a season-ending injury in the seventh win. Then without a quarterback they then lost the next five games in every conceivable fashion to shatter their once sure playoff hopes. (One could say without a competent QB they had their heads cut off. Sorry, its late.)

That kind of season can happen to anyone though. Besides, did anyone think they had a chance without a big-time receiver? I didnt think so. In a way, Bears fans were spared the agony of getting bounced within a whiff of the final prize with a fatally-flawed team. Remember 2010? That hurts worse.

Then the unthinkable happened. The Bears went out and got the wide receiver they have wanted for generations. They would finally be on par offensively with all the big boys. It was a master stroke. Brandon Marshall didnt come without risk, but hes well worth it. This could be the start of something special. Uh-oh. Of course it all depends on how an aging defense can hold up, but theres hope. Where have I heard this before?

The life I have led has taught me there is nothing worse than having the football team you root for get you close then not be able reach the summit of Mt. Lombardi. Getting there must be great. It happened here once and I hear about it every day, 27 years later. But I digress.

To be truly cursed, you need to be set up for success and then have the bottom fall out, say in consecutive years, in much different ways.

How did this years 7-1 sound? A month ago it sounded great.

Now, there are some realists here that have understood the issues of the offensive line, but 7-1? With a defense that can seemingly take away the ball from an opponent at will? This is a team that can go places, so hop on board! Ive really heard this one before and my stomach is starting to get queasy.

The true measure is that in spite of losing three out of four and guards dropping like flies, fans keep thinking that the tailspin will end NEXT week. Oh my God! Its happening here! What have I done?

As much as I want to help, I dont know if I can. And after last weeks awful home loss to the Seahawks I have a familiar feeling on how this is going to end up and its as messy as my front porch was earlier this week. For the second year in a row.

We want to analyze and theorize everything that happens, but some things in this life are just going to happen, due much to forces beyond our control or understanding. I look at where this Bears season is heading and where its come from and I want to close my eyes and yell Lookout! There has been a force unleashed here that shows no mercy and takes no prisoners.

By taking sides against my former hometown with my current one, I have obviously transferred the lifetime of suffering on an unsuspecting metropolis. It wasnt my intent, but then it never is. All I wanted was to be a part of something here. Unfortunately, its part of something where rabbits are running around without heads and pro teams are ripping out hearts.

I didnt mean for this to happen.

Im sorry Chicago.

My bad!

What can the Cubs expect from the Cleveland Indians in the World Series?

What can the Cubs expect from the Cleveland Indians in the World Series?’s Dan Hayes and JJ Stankevitz saw plenty of the Cleveland Indians while covering the White Sox in 2016, and set their sights on what kind of a challenge the Tribe will provide the Cubs in the World Series.


The American League’s second-best offense has slowed down considerably in the postseason as its .635 OPS ranks seventh among 10 playoff teams in 2016. But the Indians have received enough clutch hitting from part-timer Coco Crisp and their star in the making, shortstop Francisco Lindor, to make the most of their stellar pitching in the playoffs.

In the regular season, the Indians finished second in the American League in runs scored (777) in part because of an aggressive approach on the base paths and even though the team’s best player, Michael Brantley, was limited to 43 plate appearances because of injury. The Indians ranked second in the majors in extra bases taken with 186, two ahead of the Cubs, according to The team also finished second in the majors with an extra bases taken percentage of 45 and led the AL with 134 stolen bases in 165 tries (81 percent).

The offense is centered around designated hitter Carlos Santana, who blasted a career best 34 home runs and posted an .865 OPS. First baseman Mike Napoli and second baseman Jason Kipnis also established career highs in homers with 34 and 23, respectively. Kipnis finished with 68 extra-base hits, including 41 doubles.

Third baseman Jose Ramirez picked up much of the slack for a team that also was without projected outfielder Abraham Almonte for half the season because of a suspension for PEDs. Ramirez had 46 doubles among his 60 extra-base hits and produced an .825 OPS in an outstanding all-around campaign that could garner him a few MVP votes. Rookie Tyler Naquin also filled a big void in the outfield with 14 homers and 43 RBIs in 365 plate appearances.

So far, Indians manager Terry Francona has divided up the plate appearances among his outfielders in October. Only right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall has received consistent playing time as the Indians have platooned Crisp, Naquin, Rajai Davis, who stole 43 bases this season, and Brandon Guyer.

-- Dan Hayes


Andrew Miller may be having the best postseason a relief pitcher has ever had. The big-ticket trade deadline acquisition threw 11 2/3 innings in the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox and ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays, striking out 21 while allowing only five singles and two walks (that’s good for a laughable .132/.171/.184 opponent slash line). Manager Terry Francona hasn’t been shy about using Miller early in games, too — he inserted the 6-foot-7 lefty in the fifth inning of Cleveland’s ALDS Game 1 win over the Red Sox, and half of his six playoff appearances this year began in the sixth inning or earlier. Miller’s ability to throw multiple innings will put pressure on the Cubs to score early and often against the Indians’ rotation.

Francona’s willingness to use Miller early has been critical toward helping maximize the success of a starting rotation without two of its three best arms in the postseason. Carlos Carrasco (fractured gone in right hand) won’t pitch in the World Series, though Francona hinted that fellow right-handed All-Star Danny Salazar (strained flexor muscle in right forearm) could return to start in the World Series. Right-hander Trevor Bauer, who sliced his right pinky open while repairing his drone and only managed to record two outs before his finger gushed blood in Game 3 of the ALCS, will start Game 2 or 3.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

With or without Salazar and/or Bauer, though, Cleveland’s rotation has been effective. Corey Kluber is the unquestioned ace of the staff and allowed only two runs over 18 1/3 innings in three postseason starts, which stands as a continuation of his strong regular season numbers (18-9, 215 IP, 3.14 ERA, 3.26 FIP). Josh Tomlin has had a short rope, only throwing 10 2/3 innings in his two starts, but allowed three runs in that span with 10 strikeouts and three walks. Rookie left-hander Ryan Merrett threw 4 2/3 shutout innings in a clinching Game 5 win over the Blue Jays last week, too, showing no signs of “shaking in his boots” in his first postseason start.

The rest of Cleveland’s bullpen -- which tied for the second-best ERA in the American League (3.45) in the regular season -- has found success in addition to Miller in the playoffs. Hard-throwing closer Cody Allen has looked unflappable in five save opportunities, allowing five hits and three walks with 12 strikeouts. Right-handers Dan Otero (3.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K) and Bryan Shaw (5.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR) have been go-to options if Miller can’t bridge the gap between the starting pitcher and Allen, too.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Cleveland has found pitching success in the playoffs, even with so many injuries, given their 3.86 staff ERA ranked 7th in baseball.

-- JJ Stankevitz


Nobody has been as outstanding of a defensive team as the Cubs in 2016. But, the Indians are still near the top of the second tier team and have proven a remarkably improved squad over the past two seasons. Much of their improvement stems from the stellar play provided by Lindor, who ranked second in the majors in Ultimate Zone Rating (20.8) among shortstops and fourth in Defensive Runs Saved with 17, according to Combined with Kipnis, who ranked sixth in UZR (7.3) among second baseman, the Indians have a strong double play combo. Ramirez also proved to be a steady defender at third base after taking over as the full-timer following the release of Juan Uribe.

Though the club has missed the presence of starting catcher Yan Gomes, it has handled his absence extremely well. Not only does replacement Roberto Perez rate among the game’s best pitch framers, he also threw out 13 of 26 runners who attempted to steal a base with him behind the dish.

-- Dan Hayes


Francona won two World Series trophies with the Boston Red Sox, including the one in 2004 that ended that franchise’s 87-year title drought. He’s led Cleveland to two postseason berths since taking over in 2013, and the Tribe haven’t had a losing record in his four years at the helm.

The 57-year-old has been lauded for his aggressive use of Miller in the playoffs, deploying the lights-out lefty as a study bridge between a starting rotation beset by injuries and dominant closer Allen.

First baseman/catcher/designated hitter Santana is hardly a prototypical leadoff man, but he’s hit first in six of Cleveland’s eight games in the postseason after leading off 85 games in the regular season. And that’s the batting order position he’s been most effective from --- In the regular season, Santana hit .260/.385/.502 with more walks (67) than strikeouts (60) as a leadoff man. Francona’s willingness to eschew stolen bases and speed on the base paths has put early pressure on starting pitchers by having Santana on base so frequently.

Said Cubs starter Jon Lester, who pitched for Francona in the Red Sox 2007 championship run: “I know that manager on their side’s going to be prepared, I know their coaching staff’s going to be ready.”

-- JJ Stankevitz

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

As Cubs players and generations of fans celebrated Christmas in October, Jon Lester had to be The Grinch for a moment. Sure, the Cubs would party from Saturday night into Sunday morning, probably get “a little bit” drunk and enjoy the franchise’s first National League pennant in 71 years. But the reality of the Cleveland Indians would set in once the Cubs got rid of this hangover.

“We ain’t done anything yet,” Lester said during the Wrigley Field celebration after the Cubs eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Nobody likes second place.”

There are enough Boston Red Sox connections in this World Series that Lester already knows what to expect, starting with Indians manager Terry Francona, who became a father figure as he dealt with a cancer scare as a rookie.

There are ex-teammates from those championship teams in 2007 (Coco Crisp) and 2013 (Mike Napoli, Andrew Miller) at Fenway Park. There is the accumulated experience from throwing 119 postseason innings (2.50 ERA) and becoming one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation.

“I don’t want to sound like a smart-ass, but we got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “I know that manager on their side’s going to be prepared. I know their coaching staff’s going to be ready. I know their players are going to be ready, just based on one player alone, and that’s Mike Napoli. I know what he brings to the table. He helped transform our 2013 team.

“Come Tuesday, we got to put the gloves back on. We got to get ready to fight and grind and do what we’ve done well all year. We got four more games to win.”

After limiting the Dodgers to two runs in 13 innings, and being named the NL Championship Series’ co-MVP along with Javier Baez, Lester should be a worthy Game 1 starter opposite Corey Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner.

This is why Lester took a leap of faith with Cubs bosses/ex-Red Sox executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and chairman Tom Ricketts’ family and what had been a last-place team in 2014.

Two seasons into the $155 million contract that signaled the Cubs would be serious about contending – and not just in the Baseball America/Baseball Prospectus prospect rankings – the franchise has won 200 games and four playoff rounds and remained in position to dominate for years to come.

“Theo and Jed and the front office and Tom and all these guys had a belief,” Lester said. “I believed in that belief. The talent here speaks for itself. I didn’t do anything – I came here because I wanted to win in Chicago. I’m just happy to be here and be a part of this and get to this point.

“(But) we’re four hard wins away from doing what we set out to do in spring training.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

As bright as the future looks on the North Side, Lester will be 33 next season and his left arm has already accounted for more than 2,000 innings during his decorated career. John Lackey turned 38 on Sunday. Jake Arrieta only has one more season before becoming a free agent.

The Cubs built their franchise around young hitters, with the idea that they can figure out the pitching later with free agents, change-of-scenery trades and bounce-back guys. Easier said than done. They have a true No. 1 starter now in Lester, who as a free agent watched a recruiting video that imagined what it would be like when the Cubs win the World Series.

“This isn’t it,” Lester said. “It’s been a tough playoffs for us to this point and it’s only going to get tougher. We’re going to enjoy it. We’re going to show up Tuesday in Cleveland ready to play. We’ll see what happens.”