What's at stake here?
I take a lot of heat from my cohorts in Cubfandom about our name, "Goat Riders of the Apocalypse". Now, you'd think it would be the goat riding part that would get mouths a-twitterin'. After all, how funny does it look to see a three-hundred pound man riding a goat, huh? Well, as it turns out, and I s'pose its supposed to be a secret, but more people ride goats than you'd know.
But, no, people are on me about the "apocalypse" part. "Isn't that a little much, Mr.
Sloth, I mean, Bob?" It's all this 9/11 backlash, I reckon. Humor is dead, or at least, they removed its feeding tube, and people have come a lot closer to real-life apocalypse then they care to be.
But, as we've been trying to point out here on this here website, the Cubs apocalypse is coming, this year, right here, win or lose. I've been telling everyone since the day Dempster walked the two Mutts, and LaTool gave up the walk-off bombpop, that the Cubs have a Critical Mass achieved for this year, right here, and don't think the media doesn't know it. Why the hell you think they've been over-reacting about every little thing that comes out of Mesa? Sure, the scribes and the talking heads are skitterin' around like a daycare with open cases of M&Ms, over the steroid issue. They're Over-Sensitized. But, more than that, they know, like you and me know, that 2005 is the year. Or else.
I think we all know what would happen if they win. But what if they lose? The nucleus of this team is gonna blow apart like a runaway nootron at Fermilab, and the chain reaction that would result is gonna make the unrest of the past two years seem downright Civil in comparison.
Let's start at the tippie top, Andy McSweatervest. Isn't he vested in the Trib stock plan by now? He's had 10 years now to build something, and his bosses are throwing (in their eyes) unprecedented sums of money at this thing. Sure, every last seat in the house is filled for this year, and they're gonna build their new museum to put next to the old one (Wrigley Field), and he made the rooftop owners pay homage, but if this team was being operated as a solely competitive enterprise, McFail would be gone.
What about Hendry, and his decision not to bring in a proven closer? Surely he's enough of a "baseball man" to realize that no matter HOW good Hawkins' stuff is, he is not suited for the role. To pin all our hopes on Borowski is folly, and unless he can pull off some deadline-day magic that puts us over the top, he might be feeling end-of-year pressure as well.
For sure Dusty Baker will be gone. He's NOT Tribune Tower material, what with him and his magic dust, his inability to handle the Great Cash Cow himself, the 2003 NLCS collapse, last year's public relations fiasco, his unwillingness to stand up and field the hard questions... and, all that will fade in comparison to the shitstorm that will stir up this year if we don't win. They only brought him in under public duress, and they'll eat the last 4 million, and bring in a company guy, like Riggleman or Jim Tracy, somebody white, bright, and vanilla.
As of right now, the all-star left side of our infield can become free agent in 2006. If this season turns sour, the clubhouse atmosphere will turn far more toxic than it already is. Think those two guys are staying? How about Corey Patterson? He is a key component of this 2005 team: I'm even willing to say (brace yourself, Chuck-o-San) as Corey goes, so does the team. If he checks in with his 175 strikeouts and otherwise poor pitch judgment, don't you think he'll be used as mortar in yet ANOTHER rebuilding project? Right now, the only two position players under contract for 2006 are DLee and Barrett. If we lose this year, they may have to go back to names on the back of the home jerseys again, to help us recognize who's wearing them.
Pitching... God, what a wreck that will be. In 2006, Maddux will be 40 years old, and he's no physical specimen like Clemens, Nolan Ryan, etc. With nothing to play for, might he just decide to stay home? If we lose in 2005, it will likely be due in large part to frequent, nagging injuries to Wood and Prior, and if so, it will stretch into 2006, and if you say otherwise, you're kidding yourself.
Hawkins will probably literally spontaneously combust by the trade deadline if all isn't going well, so if we're losing, I see someone trading for him. I don't see Borowski coming back, ever, to his old form at this point, and the rest of the bullpen will be involved in a bizarre rotation of spot-starting, long relieving, closing, with the great Dusty Baker at the helm, and the potential for an unprecedented level of burnout amongst the staff is there.
In the meantime, the one man we all take for granted, Zambrano, IF his arm holds up, he'll keep taking the ball, and throwing and throwing all the way to a lucrative free agent deal with Atlanta in 2007, where he'll win three Cy Youngs and lead them to an unprecedented 20 straight division winning seasons.
Gloom and doom? NAAAHHH, ...more than that!!! All hell, fire and brimstone will break loose if the Cubs don't win this year.
Ahh, but what keeps us coming back is the Glorious Appearance of a World Series at Beautiful Wrigley Field (descriptive adjective included as a requirement of law). What if... what if the pitching staff holds up, our hitters hit for average AND power, take walks, score runs, play the field, back each other up... nobody will want to play us in a seven-game series, and the lights will shine the brightest!
And in the end, as 97 years of pent-up emotion and passion gush forth in an almost religious fervor, the country and the baseball world will know that all things are possible under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all! And the seven seals will be unbroken, and the seven trumpets will sound, and the seven seal judgements will be poured out onto New York, and Los Angeles, and San Diego, and Miami, and..