I noticed a recent comment about being content with the 'novelty' of making the playoffs. Are you saying just making the playoffs is 'good enough'?
If you have been around 25 years (or longer like I have) with this team, you have seen them make the playoffs 6 times. Four times in the last 11 seasons. That's rather impressive compared to the majority of franchises. We are a fortunate generation to have that stretch of 'success'. Think of the folks that lived and breathed the Cubs from 1945 to 1983 (sorry '69 Cubs, I was 6 and can remember). Basically, we were one of the worst franchises in baseball.
For me, the 'novelty' has worn off. This is a franchise that needs to win and win now. Honestly, just getting to the World Series isn't enough. Look at Atlanta. Between 1991-2005, they missed the playoffs only once yet won the Series only ONCE. Ever notice their fan base near the end of that stretch of playoff appearances? They couldn't even sellout during the playoffs. We were practically the home team when we went down there in 2003. Atlanta lost the feeling of the 'novelty' also. Then there is the Yankees. I'm not particularly fond of the Yankees or their fans. However, they expect to win every year. Anything other than that is a failure. I might not be that extreme, because I don't see Yankee fans with big hearts like us Cub fans.
Being content or just happy with an appearance should not be considered a 'novelty' or sense of satisfaction. That ship has passed. We have had the opportunities. Each playoff team we have is/was different than the next. Curses? Yet another way to pass the buck without pointing the finger at the players and coaching staff. Lovable Losers? Bite me.
Tonight I'll wear my emotions on my sleeve with 100% confidence that we will win. If there's another outcome, I will be extremely disappointed, miserable and plain old pissed. We have the best record in the NL and coming out of the strongest NL division. We should be in the World Series. If not, it will be considered a FAILURE. NO EXCUSES!
I'm from Maine, Red Sox country. But, until I went to college, I only got to see the Cubs because they played day games (thank you WGN) and no one else in my family liked baseball. Therefore, I am the most hated type of fan -- the sports bigamist. I am a Cubs fan first and a Red Sox fan second.
Let's just say that in 2003, I was in a very uncomfortable position. I cannot begin to describe the pain I felt that year. To this day, if I ever see Alex Gonzalez I will kick him in the nuts. I don't even care if I get the right Alex Gonzalez, I just want to kick some nuts.
Currently, I live in DC where one Aaron Boone played this year. I boooood him incessantly whenever his name was called. Of course, I also boooood Christian Laetner when he played for the Wiz, but I digress....
This Cubs team needs to take on the attitude of the 2004 Red Sox, in that they approached the last four games of the ALCS as a series of one-game playoffs. They did not go into Game 4 thinking, "We need to win four games!!!" They went into that game thinking, "We need to win one game."
I think that this Cubs team, as well as last years', has been going into EVERY game of every postseason series thinking, "We need to win this series...NOW!!!" Obviously, that is not possible, and that vein of thinking will ultimately lead to failure.
Part of the reason this team was so successful during the regular season was due to their ability to put the previous day's game behind them. If they come out flat Saturday (defensively and/or offensively), then theirs is a problem with motivation and coaching. If they come out hot and still are unable to capitalize, then the fates are conspiring against them and there is nothing can be done.
This does NOT mean I believe in curses -- like I said before, I am also a Red Sox fan -- I know of which I speak. So can it. Shit happens.
Were the Cubs the better team in 84? Yes. In '89? Meh. In '98? No. In '03? Even. In '07? Statistically, yes -- by the math the D-bags should never have been that good. This year? Yes (hell, the Cardinals were better than the Dodgers). Will the Cubs buck up and show it? Remains to be seen.
Now, I'm not dumb enough to say, "The Cubs will win on Saturday!" But, I will say that, despite Kuroda's insane K/BB ratio (nearly 3:1) over 183.1 innings pitched, the Cubs actually have the advantage. They are the better team. They won 97 games in the toughest division in the NL.
Rich Harden was a combined 10-2, with 34 earned runs over 148 innings pitched, for an ERA of 2.07. In the NL, he went 5-1, with 14 earned runs over 71 innings pitched, for an ERA of 1.77. Obviously, this guy is our Ace and unquestionably the man we want in this position. Let's just hope that the defense can hold up behind him.
Science willing, the Cubs will get to game four. If so, Ted Lilly's record was 17-9, as well as 10-4 on the road, with an ERA of 4.09 (3.77 away from Wrigley). Not to mention his 2.875 strikeout to walk ratio, all gives me hope of returning the series to the Friendly Confines and Dempster showing why he won 14 games there.
Let me close with this: I know it sounds corny, and I know it sounds insanely stupid. But, if the Cubs (and the fans) would just address the series as a bunch of one-game series instead of trying to win it all on every swing, all will be OK. The pitchers are sound; overall, the defense is sound; the batting is usually sound. Just go out there and do what we all know you can do.
Why, might you ask? Has berryhill lost it all? Has he gone off the deep end? Maybe... I don't think so...
I was there last night. It wasn't pretty. I was not happy. Then again, how can you be when your infield defense collapses? 2-0 is a pretty big hole to come out of, but when asked why I am still on board with the team, I cannot help but reply with "why not."
Rich Harden will toe the rubber tomorrow. He has been far and wide one of the best pitchers in the game this year. Moreover, he has the head to buckle down and get it done. And he wants to play for blood, Johnny Ringo. Harden has been on the wrong side of a comeback from a 2-0 deficit. Now he wants to make it right.
If "Rally" Rich Harden can work his magic, we have Lilly for the next game, who has been the best pitchers on our team in his past outings. I'd love to see him flirt with a no hitter again.
Right now, this team really has nothing to lose that it already hasn't. That can be a dangerous thing. This team can stop the bleeding and rally. Right when we seem to be limping and wearing down, we tend to step up and bring the heat. Why not now.
Why did I get out of bed?
Why did I read the coverage?
Why must Rich Harden go and say those things wherein he takes on the responsibility for Game 3 and says we can do it? Why get my hopes up Rich? Why do I let you? Rich wants to show up Derek Lowe for an insult a few years ago, bless his sexy Canadian butt.
Is it too much to ask for just ONE win. Just don't lay there passively and go down without a fight? SHOW ME YOU ARE MEN not...whatever disgusting pathetic crap you were last night.
Yeah. I'll be at Irish Oak with a bunch of other girls on Saturday night. I'll have my Harden jersey on. If he delivers, good god, I will throw myself down at his feet and declare him my master.
Just one win. Do it for honor's sake.
And for crying out loud WHERE THE *(%$&^%$&#)!! IS REED JOHNSON? He would at least DIVE FOR CRAP.
P.S. Also, I feel I must state for the record that 97 wins or not, I would feel like this is a failure of a season without at least showing up to the WS. NO excuses, people. NONE. We have every piece of the puzzle. NO excuses. Dude, Michael Jordan and the crew were right back in the 90s: it don't mean a thing without the ring. NO EXCUSES. Everyone knew what the expectations were.
Game 1 hurt. The innocence of this team has been completely demolished. Looking down from afar, they look the same as all the other cubs teams. Personally, I'm not much better.I'm devastated. My faith in the goodness of the world has been destroyed, after one game. (I'm not actually that bad, I'm not straddling the ledge like so many other cubs fans, but I am pretty bummed) It reminds me of the movie Platoon a little bit, after they find the one soldier has been tortured and mutilated and killed by the vietcong, and they are full of hatred. Ryan Dempster's body is laying in the middle of some river in Vietnam, his blood trickling away with the slow current, and I'm pissed about it. Thats how I feel.
But today, Zambrano pitches. Zambrano is crazy and unreliable and damn talented and unpredictable. He will be fired up, and he wants to win this game probably more than any person on the planet. He's been so hit and miss this season that he can't be trusted, but his intensity and his not give a fuck attitude is perfect for this situation.
In Platoon, after the guy is killed they are pissed off. And they have to take a village following Tom Berenger's character, who they hate because he is crazy and kills everyone, and they know they can't trust him. But after he finds his friend's body in the river, Charlie Sheen says about Barnes(Tom Berenger): "Barnes was the eye of our rage. And through him, our captain Ahab, we would set things right again. That day we loved him."
To me, that is how I feel about Zambrano. As a cubs fan, our sense of rationality is gone. Zambrano's antics this year have given many cubs fans headaches (not me, I still love him), but I even am queasy about him starting this game with the way he has been pitching. However, his intensity, his qualities that make him so frustating and worrisome, are exactly what make him so appealing today. Not despite of, but because of his flaws, this is the man I want on the mound today. And despite everything that has been said in the media, Z has a history of being clutch. (Sorry, season openers don't count)
Of course, in the movie, they turned to Barnes and he killed innocent people and he just typically fucked everything up until Willem Dafoe comes into stop it, which is a distinct possibility with Zambrano today. But following Zambrano, the face of the organization, at this stage, in THIS game, doesn't just feel right, it is right.
I'll try to edit out the questionable language - sorry for that earlier.
I told myself I wasn't going to post anywhere today. That I was pretty much going on blackout. I'm just so mad.
All of a sudden, us fans are getting razzed for being "quiet" or "apprehensive" by Kaplan* and by TBS and that people at the Cell showed more energy. Yeah, Sux fans did show more energy the other day, but I don't think yesterday's crowd at Wrigley was representative of the fans that did fill our park every day this year.
1. "Apprehensive". YOU try living with a club that breaks your heart year after year after [insert words of choice here] year. And yet we keep coming back. DON'T YOU DARE. We have lost our sanity over this team and been genuinely depressed because of it. I CRIED ON THE TRAIN HOME LAST NIGHT. I CRIED IN MY CAR. I CRIED MYSELF TO SLEEP. Why? I just want this team to freaking WIN. I think about Ron Santo dying without ever seeing this damn club winning. All I have to look forward to is getting razzed by every [insert words of choice here] who yells "next year losers! cubs suck! cubs choke!" It would be one thing if I were allowed to choke said people so hard their eyeballs pop out and get my satisfaction that way, but unfortunately the law looks down on that. When I get bitten by a radioactive something, you best believe I will use my powers to cleanse the world of every single person who sneers at me regarding the Cubs. Zap! You're gone. I hate you. I loathe you. I want to eviscerate you and dance in your entrails wearing stiletto heels. Oh, did I mention I think I've lost my sanity?
2. People have every right to boo [insert word of choice here] playing. Soriano? SUCKED. ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-SIX MILLION DOLLARS for routinely questionable defense and O FOR FOUR LAST NIGHT! Swingandamiss! I'm having flashbacks of last year. If you're getting paid $136 million that means you are getting paid to PERFORM. Can't handle it? RETURN YOUR PAYCHECK AND GO AWAY. Just the other day, the Chicago media outlets were talking about how our "Big Three" needed to perform UNLIKE LAST YEAR against AZ. That would be: Soriano, Aramis and Lee. We had like what? A (singular) double from Ramirez? Nobody wound up crossing the plate after DeRosa's homer. (DeRosa's about the only sliver of hope I'm clinging to at this point, too.)
3. "Fans". And this is where I want to rip people's throats out. Who gets to go to the playoff games, let me ask you. Season ticket holders, fine, and then the lucky few who win the ticket lottery, fine. But who else? That's right - MLB officials, aldermen, corporate schmucks and then the [insert word of choice here] who can spend a couple grand on Stubhub from the other [insert word of choice here] who SOLD OUT and sold their tickets to the highest bidder. It's like that Miller Lite commercial about section "la de dah". And then they just sit there like bumps on a log. SO NO, us fans with normal paying jobs can't even DREAM of buying playoff tickets. We don't even get to go in the park. All we get is to sit at home or in a bar, and cry our eyes out. *And now that I'm hearing more about Kaplan - ok, fine, I see his point. I dare say he is right about it being a "corporate" crowd last night. At least he's not lumping us average joe and josephines in with that.
One game? Whatever. it's more than that. We all know how psychological this game and this club, especially, is. We're the best club in the NL. I believe that. But it doesn't mean a thing if people get stage fright and choke. If the fans could will this team to victory, they would already be WS winners many times over. At the end of the day, it is the team that has to perform. I cannot take another year like last year. I physically can't. I'm already a raging crying mess after game one. It's not like I'm going to switch allegiances either and be a fan of some other team either. I can't. It's this one or nothing.
Listen, my point is that this club makes even the most stoic person feel like jumping in front of the metra they just rode home to the suburbs on. I don't blame the players of the present for the failures of the past. As a fan, however, you and I carry all that baggage. And just like another dude posted - when all the evidence in the Cubs' past points directly to FAILURE with big blinking lights, it's damn hard not to wail and start pulling your hair at this. We have been conditioned for this behavior. And until a team comes along and breaks free and establishes a new "normal", we have no empirical evidence to believe otherwise.
Edited to revise Kaplan.
Denial: NO not again ! Anger : Damn Not again ! Bargaining: Ok I won't kick any more stuffed animals if you please let them win. Depression: They're not going to do it are they? Acceptance: OK same as it ever was. Repeat Denial: Maybe next year I will stop caring.
Our esteemed host Kurt Evans wrote the following after the Cubs 7-2 loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday night:
"I've predicted that if the Cubs lost Game One, they could be swept, and the negative fans are the reason why. I will stand by that prediction."
Kurt is a fan, like the rest of us and his opinion matters the same. Strike that...his opinions around here carry more weight, because this is his house, afterall. And since he and I are friends, and this is his house, I am not going to come in here and pee all over the furniture.
No, I don't need that much space, the corner will do just fine.
Negativity amongst the Cub fan base will not cause this team to get swept; 7 walks by your starting pitcher in just 4.2 innings, will. 2 for 19 at the plate with no RBI by the top five hitters in your batting order, that will also suffice. Actually, that is an improvement over last year's 1 for 20 performance by the top five against Arizona in game one.
Your leadoff hitter showing the plate discipline of a rookie in the second week of March, that will sting a bit.
Walking the bases loaded twice in the first four innings, that could have something to do with it. Had I mentioned that yet?
Sorry my man, I am just a bit down after this one.
Prior to Kurt coming on my radio show on Tuesday, I said the following in my show open (paraphrasing):
Am I the only Cubs fan that is scared that Ryan Dempster will revert to the mean? Am I the only Cubs fan that expects D-Lee to keep grounding into double plays, for Alphonso Soriano to put up the following two letters, K and E more than R-B-I? Am I the only Cubs fan that expects Zambrano to pitch the way he did in all but one of his September appearances? Am I the only Cubs fan that expects Fukudome to play like....well, Fukudome at the plate?
Hey, I still had hope. I still clung to the hope that this might really be the year. But I have gotten wiser in my late 30's. I now know how to manage pain better. I know how to distance myself between the shock of the 2003 collapse and the gut shot that went with it, to just sort of expecting the pain first and if it doesn't come, then being pleasantly surprised.
It's sad to say it, but I laid the groundwork in emotionally distancing myself from this Cubs team about two weeks ago, once it was apparent they were going to make it to the playoffs.
And especially when the Cubs had every chance to lay down, just a little bit more, against the Mets...or to rise up and swat away the Brewers, thus giving the Cubs the Mets in the playoffs instead of the Dodgers, the team that I had not wanted them to play since about the middle of July as I went through my playoff scenarios.
The old axiom is that good pitching beats good hitting in the playoffs. And I was not exactly sold on the Cubs pitching staff in a five game series.
A 162-game regular season? Heck yes, I like it. Five games or go home? Not so much.
Now, as we turn the page on this footnote in Cubs history, game one, we look ahead to game two...and Carlos Zambrano will be on the hill for the Cubs.
This dream of a season pretty much rests on his right arm...or rather, the stuff between his ears. How does that make you feel right about now?
One last point that rammed things home to me.
Our cats were looking at me really pissed off in the top of the 9th, so I got in the car to get them some food. I had my radio with me, and headphones on as I went into the store.
That's when Pat Hughes said the Cubs were on the verge of losing their 7th straight playoff game, which they accomplished.
I had totally forgotten that the Cubs were up 3 games to 1 in 2003. I remembered they had lost the last two, but I forgot they lost the last three.
Z....please....your city needs you.
Why We Cheer
You'll forgive me if this post is somewhat rambling. I'm currently sitting in GoatWriter Kyle's living room after indulging in several 2 dollar Blue Moon drafts this afternoon to settle my nerves (yea, you wish you lived in Champaign...kind of).
I grew up from as soon as I could understand baseball being a Cubs fan. I bled blue from the time I was 7, investing myself in our 1995-98 teams like only an elementary school kid could. I think it suffices to say that Kevin Foster was my favorite pitcher until The Moose stole my heart. That thing he did in the dugout where he'd flip the ball in his hand: Genius. Of course, I had to give that up for our very own slugger who happens to be a fairly good pitcher every fifth day. I mean, Big Z outslugged and outhomered 36 million dollar man Andruw Jones. Think about it.
I lived about a mile from school in elementary school. We let out at 3:30. Cubs games start at 1:05. I, a physics major now, did my first real mathematical calculation at the tender age of 7. If I ran home at a 10 minute mile pace, I could make it home for the 7th inning most days. This was a terrible mathematical calculation, which probably should have helped me realize I was to be a terrible physics major. But I'd get home, run into the kitchen, grab my Caffiene-Free Coke (not that it kept me from ending up short anyway) and Cheez-Its and have at it. The only TV we had at that time was an 18-inch piece of junk that had an antenna that only occasionally worked. I'd sometimes have to hold a piece of silverware on the antenna to extend the amount of metal and thus get reception. (I loved the Cubs that much...and was not at all shocked at the love of physics). That's what I did, all spring, all fall. Cubs.
I actually hated night games back then. They drove me crazy. Who the hell was Jamie Navarro? I didn't even know we had Frank Castillo on our roster. I got home during the 8th inning everyday, and therefore had an encyclopedic knowledge of our bullpen. Turk Wendell was my hero, Randy Meyers was still considered at least AA material, and Terry Adams...well...was Terry Adams. The only starting pitcher I did know was the quirky and awesome Foster.
To be honest, I didn't have any rabid passion towards the team, but they owned my childhood. I'd skip friends, sports, etc. It was all Cubs.
You could call the Jim Riggleman era a quiet point. The next part of my fan-ness comes 2003. I got rabid. I loved that team. I watched every game I could, and some I probably shouldn't. I believed in it. They looked like the BoSox would during 2004: simply a team of destiny. I sat looking at whatever the hell came on the television after the Game 6 debacle in total and utter shock, unable to think or move or comprehend. My little brother was at that game, and came home proud that he had shouted “Asshole” with 40,000 other fools at poor Bartman. I remember screaming at him for that. I mean, if you're going to yell that at someone, Alex Gonzalez was still on the field, and he needed to be unforgiven for being Bill Buckner 2.0, Leon Durham in Cuban skin.
I wept unabashedly following Game 7. I will admit that to anyone at anytime. I cried. A lot.
In the series of articles on ESPN that Kurt put up, there was one that resonated hugely with me, that of Billy Corgan. A part of my love for the Cubs died that day in October. I have been forced to spend the following years as a casual fan. I couldn't help it, really. I just couldn't reinvest myself after that crushing blow. Alex Gonzalez and Dusty Baker broke my will that night.
Some of you may recognize me from some of Kyle's posts as his “Pirates fan friend”. Now, that's just ridiculous, but part of my defensiveness about letting the Cubs back into my heart was finding another team I could root for...even if entirely as a joke and to make Kyle go crazy. After all, what I was really hoping for was for them to finish .500, which is not exactly “cheering” for a team. And never against the Boys in Blue.
This is the year. This is it. Part of my reinvestment is Kyle's investment in this blog. It's kind of hard to not pay attention to something when one of your best friends blogs about them constantly. Also, the amount of content leads to a lot of my time spent reading what happens here (seriously, do you have a day job Kurt...or just pretend to, cause I'm not convinced). But part of it is that whole 2004 Red Sox thing. That “Team of Destiny” thing. I'm willing to get hurt this time. Maybe if I get crushed again, it'll be hard to get back..
But this is that year. Loney just hit a Grand Slam. Kyle just punched a whole in his wall. I screamed.
I'm okay. It's why I cheer.
Image from the Daily Illini
The news out of Chicago tonight is actually surprising to some degree. Jim Hendry has picked up Lou Piniella's contract options, extending everybody's favorite Cubs skipper through the 2010 season.
This is predominantly surprising because Lou has given hints that he may retire if the Cubs win the Series this year.
Now, I personally think that Lou has turned out to be a tremendous surprise in the dugout. I expected him to be all kinds of wrong for the organization, but the Cubs have played exceptionally well for Piniella in his first 2 years at the helm. I'm tentatively supportive of this extension, although at 65 years of age, Lou runs the risk of losing his effectiveness in the dugout if he sticks around for too long. I'm sure some of our older Goat Readers (and perhaps even our Goat Riders) remember what it was like in Chicago in the early 1970's when Leo the Lip began to let things slip through the cracks.
Anyway, it's great that Piniella has been rewarded for his success. However, if he truly is going to retire upon winning a championship here, let's hope it happens soon - not because I want to see him go, mind you, but because I really, really want to see them win.