Goatriders of the Apocalypse

The Cupcakes are the Problem

The cubs are coming off of a 97-win season, where the team went to the Playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since man took flight in an airplane.  Changes have been made in this offseason to the players that will be on the field, and most hope to have a new ownership group in place by Opening Day.  The 2009 Cubs' team looks to bring a more balanced attack offensivley, with an extremely nasty pitching staff, and a restructured bullpen to close out games.

 

 

However, I see one problem outside of the team's control that could have a significant impact on the way this season plays out:  And that is playing in the CUPCAKE NL CENTRAL

 

 

In 2009 the Cubs will play close to 50% of their scheduled games (80) against their feeble counterparts in the NL Central.  Its hard for me to view playing half of the season against second-rate opponents as a good precursor to the Playoffs.  I think that playing so many games against a lower-level of competition puts the Cubs at a distinct disadvantage when October rolls around.  Simply by being in the division they are in, the Cubs will not see the type of competition throughout the regular season that gets a team primed for the Postseason.  I for one, believe that the Yankees/Red Sox/Rays are all better teams because of the intense competition throughout the season between the teams within the division.  Look no further than last season, where the Cubs and Angels were each the best teams in their respective leagues throughout the regular season.  But both had few meaningful games down the stretch and each team looked unprepared and exited the Postseason quickly.  Consistently playing the best competition in the game is what makes a team get better.  The Cubs are currently in a situation where they get to bully teams for the better part of the season, while at the same time being shielded from some of the better competition in the other divisions.  Then the Playoffs roll around and the team has to suddenly "turn it on" because meaningful games are being played, but no one on the team is in a rhythym because none of the games the last 2 weeks meant anything anyway.  Just look at the pitchers that are in the NL Central, where very few aces exist and most of what is there isn't going to get a team ready to face a Cole Hamels or Johan Santana in the Playoffs.

 

 

The cubs face one of the most difficult challenges a team can face; which is improving without having much quality competition to consistently challenge them.

agreed, to a degree...

I don't think the impact of the weak division is really that big of a deal, though there is something to be said for it. It may seem that there is a "pressure cooker" which forged the St. Petersburg, FL Raymonds into Champions of the 10-player League last year, or it could just be sheer coincidence. Remember the Phillies won the world series last year, and the NLE was hoooorrrrriiibbblllleeee.

I do think that we should really do is send a team from the NLC packing to the AL West so that we can be at 5 teams per division. I vote for the Cardinals.

Leagues need even numbers of

Leagues need even numbers of teams so everyone can play every day.

That

That is an excellent point. You couldn't really take a team from the NL and move them to the AL without adding 2 more teams to each league through expansion. So the way I see it, if you contract instead and remove the Cardinals and White Sox from MLB, then really how could the league improve more than that?

I hear ya

The divisions at the very least should be balanced, except butt-pirate Bud Selig still treats the Brewers like they are his love-child & until he is gone nothing constructive will ever be done in MLB. The Phillies and the east were a disappointment during the season, but they played good baseball when it mattered most. I personally think that playing inferior teams throughout most of the season is something that will not help any team improve. The cubs will play 80 games against the NL Central, most of the division is awful, throw in the Padres and Nationals games and the team is up near 100 games out of 162 playing nothing but CUPCAKES.

I would say playing lots of

I would say playing lots of easy games gets you a better chance of making the playoffs. Once you've done that, anything can happen.

OK

But playing lots of easy teams doesn't challenge a team and get them ready for the environment that is the MLB Playoffs. We saw last season that shutting it down after clinching an easy division makes it difficult for any team to "turn it on" when the Playoffs start.

The Cubs lost to the

The Cubs lost to the Dodgers; you think the NL West was better than the NL Central?

Overall no

Overall no, the NL West wasn't better than the NL Central, but they played more meaningful games down the stretch to make the Playoffs and played better baseball at the end of the year. The Dodgers were no lock to make it in, instead they rallied the last month of the season, and that push to get into the Playoffs carried over into the first round. The Dodgers weren't a better team, they simply were the hotter team with guys playing loose and in a groove, whereas the cubs came in resting their players and not playing for anything down the stretch. The Dodgers were better than the Cubs for 3 games, and that's all it took to send them packing. The biggest difference in the 2 teams is that those weren't the first 3 meaningful games the Dodgers had played in to that point, but for the Cubs Game 1 was the first meaningful game the team had seen since you tell me when. As a result, the Dodgers just kept on playing the game the same way and the cubs showed up looking like a deer in headlights.

I would argue the World

I would argue the World Series drought added to the tension in the third base dugout. That ish ain't goin' away easily either.

Of course it did

But so too did having a beat up catcher that couldn't grip the bat with 2 hands in September. It didn't help matters much that the team lacked a healthy true #1 starter to hand the ball to in game 1 and 4. Having a manager such as Joe Torre in the opposing dugout had to be intimidating as well. And playing a hotter team in a short series is always a horse race.

But how would things have been different if the team had given their players more regular rest throughout the season as opposed to all at once at the end? More to that point, if the cubs had played better in the final 2 weeks the Brewers likely don't make the Playoffs and as a result the Cubs wouldn't have even matched up with the Dodgers in the Division Series. There are lots of "what ifs" but there is only one reality.

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