You know things are getting weird in Chicago when the Cubs drank shots of whiskey before their three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Cardinals volunteered to put their historic rivalry to rest, even suggesting they celebrate together Sunday at Wrigley Field.
Strange times, indeed, this wacky final weekend in the National League.
The Cubs are gathering their party favors as they lowered their magic number to 2 on Friday with an 8-4 victory over the Cardinals. They expanded their NL Central lead to 1½ games before the Milwaukee Brewers took the field Friday night against the Detroit Tigers, and potentially can clinch their third consecutive division title Saturday.
Yet, for a team that has taken team parties to another level, the Cubs’ celebration has been, well, a little awkward.
It dawned on the Cubs on Thursday that they never got around to celebrating their playoff berth when they clinched at least a wild-card spot Wednesday night with their victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. They planned to wait and celebrate in style after they clinch the NL Central title, but what happens if they don’t win it, and the Brewers are the division champs?
They would be in the playoffs, for the fourth consecutive year, but wouldn’t have celebrated their accomplishment.
So Cubs manager Joe Maddon rounded up his players Thursday afternoon, and told them no matter what transpired during their game that evening, they were going to at least have a mini-celebration.
The Cubs won, increasing their lead to one full game over the idle Brewers, passed around glasses filled with whiskey before reporters entered the room, and toasted their season.
“We had them all in the big circle [of the clubhouse],’’ Maddon said, “and I wanted to praise them and congratulate them for the work they’ve done.’’
So why in the world didn’t they celebrate Wednesday when they officially clinched their playoff berth?
“A lot of the guys were gone,’’ Maddon said, “when I figured things out.’’