The 24 hours have passed
In which we look ahead by looking back
Thank God for the 24 Hour Rule - if you have something important to pass along to someone in writing, it is said that you should wait a whole day before you put pen to paper, to temper your emotions, to stick to what is important.
Kurt wrote his postmortem to the 2008 season, and I must admit at first glance, I was wondering just why the hell I write on the same blog he does. But I must admit, first of all, that his Photoshop Du Jour was one of his best ones. He also managed to do what I am frequently unsuccessful in - he wrote about the Cubs, not about how he himself felt about the Cubs. That is an important distinction. We all have our opinions, which are not unlike buttholes. We all have them, and some of them stink. His "Dose of Reality" was his view of the Truth as it pertains to Cubs 2009, and at this point, Cubs 2009 is all that matters. It was a well-written piece, it was picked up by Deadspin, and then it was followed up by chicagocubsfan23, who managed to touch upon a vital point I will now drill home to you.
Before I light this wick, here's a pop quiz, hotshot.
Q. After the Cubs lost Game 2, what was your attitude?
1) Oh, we can win the next three games. We've won three in a row before.
2) AAAgh!! That's it! I hate this team, they've broken my heart for the LAST time!
3) Stick a fork in us, we're done. Let's hope Hendry can fix things again next year.
A: If your answer was #2, let me be the LAST person to tell you: FINE, DICKSTICK!! Get the hell off of my plane, bandwagon boy! I hope you freakin' break your freakin' legs jumping off, numbnuts! Don't ever come back, assrim, if I see yer face around here again, I'll push my fist through it!
The Cubs are NOT trendy, they're not the flavor of the day, there's no room for you headband-wearing freaks who file in by the droves like you're frequenting the new bar on the block, then bailing out when another one with better Stoli specials opens down the street. This wasn't even the worst postseason ever - not even close - so don't whine to US about your poor broken heart, when your Cubs History goes waaay back to the good old days when Fukudome was hitting over .300. Doucheboxes.
I think all here are united in our utter contempt for Bandwagon Boys (and girls, although we tend to be a bit more understanding when it comes to the ladies. You always were able to get away with more crap in our eyes, because deep down, we're in awe of you).
That having been said, let me address all of you in the First Category. Yeah, including you, Kurtis Evans.
Reason One: A new owner cometh
Honestly, I have little gripe with the current owner, at least since the end of the 2006 season. They fired the manager we hated, they spent as much money as could be spent, and for a lame duck ownership, have done everything we could have asked for. I'm not sure how a new owner gives us any additional benefit going forward.
Reason Two: The benefits of experience
I thought that was what last year was about? We should have been Playoff Seasoned in 2008, and there is no reason to believe, if we should be so fortunate to make it again in 2009, that things would be any different.
Reason Three: The crushing odds ... in favor
It may not seem so to you young-uns, but since 1984, the Cubs have made MORE than their share of playoff appearences. This was the sixth playoffs in 24 years, and if we're citing the odds of success based on number of appearences, the odds should have allowed us to poke through already.
Reason Four: The Cubs will keep making the playoffs
(And this is where I really lost my stack) Ahem. Deep breath. 3-2-1. Deep breath, again. Um, young man? We were supposed to go back in 1985, and we lost our entire pitching staff. In 1990, Ryne Sandberg hit 40 bombs, and we still finished in the back half. In 1999, we followed a 90 win season with a 96 loss season. I'm sure you remember 2004. DO NOT EVER TAKE PLAYOFF APPEARENCES FOR GRANTED. EVER. EVER. EVER!!!!
Yes, the Brewers are losing Sabathia and Sheets. I maintain that losing Sheets isn't that big of a deal, since he never won more than 12 games. If they come up with another young arm to go with Parra and Gallardo, they will continue to contend. The AssTrolls are also just one or two arms away, and while their owner is currently crying poor, he's the kind of Reinsdorfian snake who all of a sudden buys things when you least expect it.
Then we come to the Evil Satanic Fowl, the Funky Bunch from the Loo, who had a Miserable year injuries wise. There's no way 2009 could be as bad for them as 2008. Do Not Sleep on the Cardinals in 2009.
Reason Five: The names that change
I do not doubt Hendry's desire to win. In fact, he has done (nearly) everything we could have asked for. I was the drum major leading the Fu-ku-do-mayyy chant this winter, and how did THAT work out? Fact is, though, he is handcuffed, by many of the same players that have mentally melted down (Soriano, Zambrano, Ramirez, Lilly) the past two postseasons. None of the above are tradeable, nor is Fukudome. In fact, the only trading piece he has of any real value is DeRosa. (Maybe Theriot, too). Of course, the very thing that makes him valuable, his versatility, is the very think that makes him so valuable on a Lou Pinella team.
Reason Six: Newsflash: The Cubs aren't cursed!
Curses and Dutch porn sites are a topic for another day.
Reason Seven: The pressure is off
Really? There isn't any more pressure trying to break a 101-year-drought than there is breaking a 100-year-drought? That's just crazy talk.
Reason Eight: Lou Piniella is tired
Here's one we agree on. He is tired, and for the last two years, he has NOT prepared his team to compete in the postseason.
There was a big stink, you recall, around 1990 when Doug Collins, the popular coach of the Bulls, was fired after his team lost in the Conference Finals. Jerry Reinsdorf's infamous explanation was that "Doug took us from Point A to Point B. We need a guy who can now take us to Point C." C meaning Championship, of course. The new guy was Phil Jackson, and the rest was history.
Do not forget, Lou Pinella was also in charge of Mariners teams who won 116 games, but lost in the ALDS. He was in charge of teams with Griffey, ARod, The Unit, etc. and did not win a pennant. The one World Series he won was in 1990, against a heavily favored A's team, famously over-managed by a young Genius LaRussa.
I have concluded that over the long haul of a MLB season, Lou is a fine man to guide a team over the peaks and valleys. But he has lost his edge to manage Best-of-Fives in October. I could not BELIEVE he sat on his hands while Dempster got squeezed like a grape by the home plate ump in Game 1. That, more than anything, is what I credit for the meatball he served up to Loney. I also could not believe that he brought Pie, Ward and Fukudome along on his postseason roster, three guys who did not hit .200 in the second half, on a team desperately needing offense.
I have lost confidence in Lou Pinella to lead us in the postseason. Sure, without him, we might not get there, and you have to get there in order to win it. Nevertheless...
Reason Nine: All the pieces will be there
There isn't going to be much change, the same bunch of guys will be back for 2009 - players, managers, coaches. While in a way that makes for excellent marketing continuity, there is very little that actually suggests that the 2009 results will be any better than the 2008. In fact, history (1985, 1990, 1999, 2004) suggests that results will be worse. This was not a young team, and we'll all be another year older. And slower. The farm system will contribute nothing, and there aren't too many free agents that address key areas we need to improve on.
I see in the papers that Brian Roberts is back on the table, as is Sabathia. I think if both of them fell into our laps, it would be, um, a good start. Roberts is not the perfect plug-in fit. You'd have to move DeRosa to RF, which is not an ideal move, but one that at least has a chance of success because DeRosa would work as hard as he could to learn the position. That's the GOOD news. Roberts would also bat leadoff, which means the Human Hitting Streak, Alfonso Soriano, would finally have to move to a spot in the lineup more appropriate for him.
Just one problem. He's a prima donna headcase, there ain't no other way to put it. But he does hit, over a full season, 35/80/.300/.340 OBP. That ain't chicken feed, and in fact, there are weeks at a time he carries us (unfortunately, those weeks aren't in October). He has a history of tailing off badly when he is taken out of his 'comfort zone'. Do we know for sure if he would be able to hit as well if he were batting, say, sixth? Logic says why not? Human nature suggests otherwise.
Let's now look at, once again, fan favorite Derrek Lee. People love him - I am astoundingly disappointed in him, based on what he is being paid to do. He hit .600 this past week. Goodie, so did Mark Grace in 1989. He is a fine husband and father with a slick, slick glove and a patient eye at the plate. However, when you are hitting third in a lineup, you must have more Impact, and except for 2005, Derrek Lee has never been an Impact guy. In Florida, they hit him sixth, where he drove in his 90 runs and got on base to prolong rallies. I don't have access to the "splits" for NL teams out of the 3rd hole. I do know where Lee ranked amongst First Basement in MLB in RBI's. Tied for 16th. That ain't championship caliber. He can no longer be the third hitter. We will spend the entire winter, I imagine, making batting orders based on who stays and who goes.
It is a troublesome exercise - "But, Rob, we led the league in scoring!" Yeah, we did. By 56 runs over the Phillies, because of our superior patience at the plate the first half of the year. At the break, the entire team had a .360 OBP. The second half, .347. (Why did that drop so much?) A high OBP covers up a lot of sins, namely, poor lineup construction. This isn't a swipe at Lou - but he needs to take a hard look at where Lee hits, where Soriano hits, Ramirez, Soto, and especially Theriot. Is he for real? I think he MAY be, but they need to determine that and then make a lineup to maximize strengths and minimize our weaknesses.
Finally, keep in mind - we were unbelieveably healthy in 2008. Soriano was out for a month - and he is healthier than ever now. Wood was out for a month - and he is healthier than ever now. Zambrano may or may not have the start of big-time shoulder problems - but who knows, and besides, the shoulder ain't his biggest problem. The Maturation of Carlos Zambrano would go a Looooong way towards a return to the postseason in 2009. Do you want to bank YOUR hopes on all this?
I'm not turning in my Cub cap, by no means. I'm just approaching 2009 the way I have approached the previous 39 seasons - a little bit older, wiser, and more cynical than the year before. I got fooled too - I thought maybe we were Dominant Enough to get over the hump in 2008. My heart's broke, too.