The thrill isn’t gone for Cub Country, yet

Wrigley FieldDexter Fowler, who hit Game Seven’s fourth pitch over the center field fence? He’s a Cardinal now, having signed with the rivals during the offseason. Aroldis Chapman, gassed at last and serving Rajai Davis a game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth? Back to the Yankees from whence he came.

David Ross, who atoned post haste for a wild throw and a run-scoring bounce off his catcher’s mask by hitting one out on Andrew Miller’s dime? Retired. Jason Hammell, the missing man of the rotation with an elbow issue? Free agent, not likely to return, joining a small pack of marksmen who think Joe Maddon doesn’t really know as much about handling pitchers as he thinks.

Journeyman Ross came and went with very different bangs

Game Seven: David Ross, about to meet Andrew Miller's ball for a date over the center field fence . . .

Game Seven: David Ross, about to meet Andrew Miller’s ball for a date over the center field fence . . .

Willie Mays didn’t get to retire like a champion, and neither did Mickey Mantle. Nor did Henry Aaron, Ernie Banks, Yogi Berra, George Brett, Lou Brock, Harmon Killebrew, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Mike Schmidt, Ozzie Smith, Billy Williams, and a small passel of Hall of Famers.

How many major league baseball players get to retire as well as David Ross?

Chapman, Cubs answer the “big ask”

Eight outs? Sure! Why the hell not?

Eight outs? Sure! Why the hell not?

Something unexpected happened in Wrigley Field Sunday night. The Cubs—the real Cubs, the ones you watched or heard about all regular season long, the ones you remember from their pre-World Series postseason rounds—came to the ballpark.

They left their impressions of Cub calamities past somewhere. Who knows where? Who cares? The hosts who let the Indians make off with the valuables and leave them tied up in the closet didn’t wait for the cops.

“That history thing” is lost on these Cubs . . . so far . . .

Baez (left) and Russell celebrate after Russell's second two-run bomb in two NCLS nights . . .

Baez (left) and Russell celebrate after Russell’s second two-run bomb in two NCLS nights . . .

You’ve heard it until you’re almost as sick of hearing it as you might be sick of watching Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez pitch. (He takes so long between pitches it’s rumoured the Cubs might pay Mike Hargrove royalties to call Baez the Human Rain Delay.) You know. The Cubs haven’t been seen in a World Series since two months after World War II ended.

Anything possible? Including the impossible?

Baez slashes home what proves the game-and-set-winning run . . .

Baez slashes home what proves the game-and-set-winning run . . .

This is the kind of thing that used to be done to the Cubs, not by them. The Giants went to the bullpen in Game Four of the division series Tuesday night. Leading by three runs. Their mission: save it and force the set to a Game Five in Wrigley Field.

Mission aborted by four Cub runs in the ninth with only one out on the board. Season aborted by a bullpen that began to look like it was finding itself in the postseason until they lost each other, the plot, and the ball game.

Words, potentially, for the Red Sox to die by?

It came forth within half an hour after Game Three ended with Yadier Molina in self-professed shock, Allen Craig sprawled across the plate in disbelief, the Red Sox slinking to their clubhouse, the Cardinals whooping it up between their dugout and the plate area. All because of an unusual but no-questions-asked correct obstruction call.

Farrell tried a futile argument with Dana DeMuth---who merely affirmed Jim Joyce's obstruction call---but Farrell's own preceding strategies helped set up the disaster . . .

With Middlebrooks, Saltalamacchia, and Uehara surrounding, Farrell tried a futile argument with Dana DeMuth—who merely affirmed Jim Joyce’s obstruction call—but the manager’s own preceding non-strategies helped set up the disaster . . .

Even if he was lost to explain what just happened, manager John Farrell took it like a man.

The Boston Red Sox, raised from the dead

Big Papi mid-fives celebrating Red Sox fans . . .

Big Papi mid-fives celebrating Red Sox fans . . .

A year ago, the Red Sox were playing out a disheartening string, just hoping to finish the season with whatever was left of their dignity. They played under the lash of a front office who’d become something like lost souls, and a manager whose idea of quelling the gases remaining from that stupefying September 2011 collapse was to light matches.

Today, the Red Sox sit, stand, scamper, and strut as the American League East champions. And one of the keys was shown by pitcher Ryan Dempster, in the middle of the champagne-spraying clubhouse celebration, after they nailed the division on the arm of Jon Lester’s 100th career win.

Chipper Agonistes

The look says it all, after the double play opening throw that sailed away . . .

The greats don’t always get to choose the manner in which they leave the game. But whatever you believe about instant or at least same-day karma, Chipper Jones surely deserves better than to have his Hall of Fame-in-waiting career end like this.

His own throwing error, opening an unwanted door to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League’s first-ever wild card game; his own Atlanta Braves victimised by a soft fly to the shallow outfield ruled an infield fly when the Braves might have loaded the late-tying runs on base.