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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Post Mortem: The 2008 Chicago Cubs

I took awhile before writing this final 2008 baseball blog. The Chicago Cubs had a wonderful regular season. Not since Ryne Sandberg was MVP and Gary Matthews was the 3-hole hitter have the Cubs piled up as many victories. So, it was a shame they bowed out early to a hot Dodgers team.

What probably hurt more was the way they lost 3 straight games. Game 1: Ryan Dempster suddenly can't find the dish. Gives up a granny and the Cubs offense disappeared under the Meadowlands with Jimmy Hoffa. Game 2: A comedy of infield errors led this Cub fan to want drink excessively, start a fight with a 65 year-old Dodger fan geezer and hope Game 3 in La-la would be fa la la la, la la la la terrific. Game 3: No life in this body as the Cubs showed up dead on arrival.

I am not a poor, pitiful Cubs fan.

Sure, I am poor enough that a new Democratic president will have to give me a tax break in order for me survive through the Second Great Depression. Pitiful would be dependent upon whether my income, car options, job prospects, lack of girlfriend or living arrangements deserves such pity. (I think they do.) Cubs fan: We have seen the last 100 years leave us behind in a dusty trail of Texas dust. But I am not a poor, pitiful Cubs fan.

As an original member of the National League, one steeped in an odd ball history of very good play for nearly 34 years (1876-1910), that went through 2nd division droughts like the one between 1946-1966, and have the tagline lovable losers attached to one's franchise woes, ineptitude and managerial stupidity, it almost seems too funny to get an attack from a Ranger fan.

I wrote a piece about Josh Hamilton this season shortly after the Home Run Derby display. I felt that Texas had bargained shop a guy that should have been where I was, in life - and that was likely given his addictions and proclivities before he 'got saved.' But he turned it around. And that impressed.

I don't harbor any delusions about the Cubs or the playoffs. As Billy Beane was quoted (or miquoted): "My shit doesn't work in the playoffs." The Cubs' shit didn't work in the playoffs because they left their shit in the shithouse of 100 seasons of disappointments. I can relate to these Cubs, with all their potential, their dreams and ambitions, only to come up on the very short side of a playoff ass kicking.

But I don't need curses or Bartmans to know that being so close to the brass ring is actually more a kick in the teeth that being a mediocre also-ran team for 3 decades plus that can't find pitching, but digs up the hitters a plenty, is.

No one is promised a shot at the playoffs.

If the wild card was nixed, the Cubs would have played the Los Angeles Angels in the World Series this year. (Using pre-1969 rules.) Of course, many many millions of dollars would have been forfeited under that design, and thus, not in the best interests of baseball. So we have a playoff. We reward team mediocrity by allowing barely .500 teams in the dance as division winners or wildcards undercast in the same role.

The 1998 Cubs benefited from this rule. So did the 2003 Florida Marlins who beat my Cubs and the Yankees to boot. (And they, the Marlins, still can't get fans, a stadium deal or whatever else a South Floridian needs to root for them. Let me live on South Beach and I'll build the goddamn stadium for them.)

But I can't feel pity or sorrow for teams that haven't mastered the new playoff paradigm. I've seen enough baseball to know that it is as much luck as it is skill in building a champion - or at least a playoff bound team. Oakland did it with money that wouldn't buy a 3rd rate action film in Hollywood. Texas had A-Rod, and nobody else. Spent foolishly on pitchers that couldn't get me out.

But that's the past.

We all need to go forward except for those fans still lucky enough to root for their 2008 teams.

Go Tampa Bay!!!
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