Nothing easy in 2009 please
The Cubs are going to win the NL Central this year, right? Who is going to get in their way?
The Cardinals? Please. Outside of Pujols, their infield sounds like a law firm. Barden, Greene and Thurston - Attorneys at Law.
The Astros? Give me a break. Half their team is having his ass hauled in front of Congress.
The Reds? Two words: Dusty Baker.
The Brewers? They resigned Eric Gagne. Nuff said about their pitching situation.
The Pirates? LOLz.
Yep, seems like clear sailing for the Cubs in Aught Nine...but that’s exactly why I’m worried.
I know we like to showcase our optimism around here, and to tell you the truth, I feel better about this year’s Cubs than the team on the field last season. But the potential lack of competition within the division worries me.
I wrote a little bit about this near the end of last season, but I’m a fairly firm believer that a team needs to be competitive all season (especially after the ASG) in order to have the right mindset for the playoffs - That mindset being that every game counts.
Sure it’s nice to coast to the playoffs. It’s nice to be able to rest your stars or to know that your spot at the October table is reserved. But recent history suggests this isn’t the best way to win a championship.
Take a (very un-Colin and unscientific) look at the last 10 World Series champions...
2008: Phillies won division by 3.0 games
2007: Red Sox won division by 2.0 games
2006: Cardinals won division by 1.5 games
2005: White Sox won division by 6.0 games
2004: Red Sox won Wildcard (3.0 games behind Yankees)
2003: Marlins won Wildcard (10.0 games behind Braves)
2002: Angels won Wildcard (4.0 games behind A’s)
2001: Diamondbacks won division by 2.0 games
2000: Yankees won division by 13.5 games
1999: Yankees won division by 2.5 games
Outside of the 2004 Red Sox (who coasted to the Wildcard) and the 2000 Yankees, the most recent champs had to compete to make it to the playoffs. I feel that one could argue this competition only helped when it came down to business time in the postseason. I find this especially true for the '05 White Sox who nearly blew a HUGE division lead in September but caught fire in the last week, which helped them roll to the ring.
Now, there is nothing the Cubs can do about their division sucking. They can’t make their opponents better (Well they can, but let’s not get into that). The only thing they can do is motivate themselves.
Maybe the embarrassment known as the 2007 and 2008 NLDS will be enough, but over 162 games I think the team will need more than that.
A lot of the responsibility is going to fall on Lou. He’s got to keep the team motivated and the players need to respond. This is where I’m hoping Mount Milton Bradley will play his biggest role by erupting gallons of liquid hot motivational and competitive lava all over Wrigleyville (OK, that visual was a little weird). I want him to give the team a killer attitude. I want the Cubs not only to win the division, but to win 120 games an put the fear of God in every team they face while doing it.
Maybe another club in the division will step up and prove to be a formidable opponent. Who knows. I have a feeling there will be at least one surprise team in the NLC this season, but everyone knows the 2009 Cubs are built for one thing and one thing only: the playoffs.
So if they play every game like the way they were built to then things should be fine...but is that possible over a lengthy season?
Is anyone else worried? Am I just making a big deal out of nothing? Are things too good to be true and I'm just looking for a reason to justify my eye twitch? Talk me down people.