Curse of the Billy Goat

What is the Curse of the Billy Goat?  By now, you’ve heard a lot about how the Cubs haven’t made a World Series appearance since 1945 or won the championship since 1908. But do you know why? Here’s your cheatsheet on the Cubs’ terrible Billy Goat Curse...

BYOG.  Back in 1945, a Greek immigrant named William Sianis owned the nearby Billy Goat Tavern. He decided to bring his eponymous pet goat to Game 4 of the World Series, because—I guess, that’s what people did back in 1945. Despite having tickets for both himself and his goat, Ushers kicked them out of the stadium because other fans were complaining about the smell. As he was forced out, Sianis raised a crooked finger (I assume) and shouted “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” Despite being up 2-1 in the series at the time, the Cubs went on to lose in 7 games, and the Curse of the Billy Goat was born.

The Curse rears its ugly head. Obviously, the Cubs have a long history of losing, but the most quintessential curse moment came in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS with the Bartman incident. In that game, the Cubs were up 3-2 in the series and were just 5 outs away from moving on to the World Series. In the 8th inning, they were up 3-0, when a fan named Steve Bartman tried to catch a foul ball, deflecting it away from Cubs left fielder Moises Alou. After missing that would-be out, the momentum of the series completely shifted and the Marlins rallied to win Games 6 and 7. In the aftermath, Bartman became the most hated man in Chicago and even had to have police camped out on his block for the next couple of weeks.

Breaking the curse. Cubs fans have tried basically everything to lift the curse, including inviting William Sianis’s nephew Sam and a descendant of the original goat to the stadium in 1998, getting a Greek Orthodox priest to bless the dugout with holy water in 2008, and holding a 40-lb goat-meat eating contest in 2015Some people even want Bartman to come back and throw out the first pitch at one of the World Series games. In the meantime, Cleveland is taking advantage of the curse, so you should expect lots of goat cameos.

Walk-off

What's a walk-off?  In a baseball game, the away team always bats first (called the "top" of the inning) and the home team always bats second (or the "bottom" of the inning). This means that in the last inning of the game, the home team always knows how many runs they need to score to best the away team. A walk-off occurs when the home team scores a run that gives them the lead in the bottom of the final inning of the game. The home team can immediately "walk off" the field because they’ve already won, instead of finishing the inning.

For example, in the recent 2016 AL Wild Card game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles the score was tied 2-2, so the game went into extra innings. By the bottom of the 11th inning, both teams were still locked in a stalemate. The Blue Jays just needed to score a single run and they would win the game. With 2 on base and one out, DH Edwin Encarnacion hit a home run, that won them the game 5-2! They didn't have to keep playing the game even though the Blue Jays still had 2 more outs.

David "Big Papi" Ortiz

ICYMI 2016 is Boston Red Sox designated hitter David “Big Papi” Ortiz’s last season

What’s he known for?  Big Papi is a member of the elite 500+ home run club. He has the 2nd most home runs of any Red Sox player, behind only Ted Williams. And many of those homers came at clutch times; Papi played a key role in each of the Red Sox’s 3 World Series victories since 2004.

What’s with the nickname?  Ortiz was released by the Minnesota Twins in December 2002. He signed with the Red Sox just a few weeks later and showed up to spring training without knowing many people. He couldn’t remember his new teammates’ names, so he started calling everyone “Papi.” They started calling him Papi back and the nickname stuck.

Why’s he retiring?  At age 40, Papi says he has aches and pains, but you would never know it from watching him play. He’s having the best farewell season in MLB history. So far, he’s already hit 37 home runs, the most of any player in his final year.

Farewell tour. All season long, Big Papi has been given gifts and honored at ballparks across the country. But he shouldn’t expect such a warm welcome from the N.Y. Yankees; one Yankees fan is trying to get the entire stadium to collectively moon him. But when they go low, Papi goes high. He penned a moving letter to Yankees fans saying he’ll miss the rivalry because it made him a better player.

A blemish on the legacy.  Back in 2003, before there were penalties in MLB for doping, Big Papi tested positive for steroids. He said it was an accident and might have come from taking various vitamin supplements. It’s unclear whether the PED allegations will keep him out of the Hall of Fame. It may help that all 10 of Ortiz’s All-Star game selections happened after testing became more stringent in 2004.

Jake Arrieta

Who is Jake Arrieta?  A lot of the Chicago Cubs' success has to do with their ace Jake Arrieta, so we thought it was time for a spotlight.

Don’t mention him to Orioles fans.  Arrieta started off his career with the Baltimore Orioles where he was a mediocre pitcher at best, so they dumped him off in a trade to the Cubs.

Did he get better?  Ohhh boy did he.  Last year, Arrieta won the NL Cy Young award (psst—it’s given to the best pitcher in each league), because of his historically good performance. He had a 0.75 ERA in the 2nd half of the season, which was the lowest 2nd half in the history of baseball. (Psst— ERA stands for earned run average.  If you need some perspective, an ERA under 3 is considered pretty awesome).  He’s known for having a spectacular and wide repertoire of pitches at his command.

How’s he doing this year?  He’s already on a roll.  He is 6-0 to start this season with a 1.13 ERA, and had a no-hitter against the Reds earlier this year.  He is doing so well that some of his fellow players even asked him if he was using PEDs.  He wasn’t. But he was flattered.

That’s great, but how can I use this info to my advantage?  If you’ve been trying to drag your boyfriend to Pilates, just tell him to man up and give it a try like Arrieta.  He’s been using Pilates for the past couple of years to help him with his flexibility and strength, and even got half the players in the clubhouse into it.  Maybe it’s the Cubs’ secret sauce?

MLB All-Star Game

What is the MLB All-Star game?  The All-Star game or "Midsummer Classic" is played between teams composed of the biggest stars from the National League and American League. Fans voted online for their favorite players, who will start the game. Managers and players picked the pitchers and bench players.

What do the winners get?  Unlike the other major sports’ All-Star games (which are just fun and meaningless exhibition games), the MLB All-Star game has very real stakes. The winning league gets home field advantage during the World Series!

Do the fans get it right?  The fan-voting process isn’t perfect. For example, in 2015 MLB canceled 65 million votes after Kansas City Royals fans stuffed the ballot boxes. In 2016, it didn’t look like there was voting fraud, but some people still aren’t happy that the starting lineup is picked by a popularity contest.