Goatriders of the Apocalypse

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.

Problem is you can spin it

Problem is you can spin it the other way too and say that a team which clinches on the last day is a team too tired to get through the playoffs.

A prime example of that - the 98 Cubs, who were running on fumes in October.

I don't think there's a specific forumula to winning in October. But I DO hope that 1. the Cubs will avoid painful slumps all summer long, 2. they will win 100+ in 2009 and 3. the Central still manges to be tougher than it looks to be so far.

I have to agree with you on

I have to agree with you on this topic, as I wrote a thread on pretty much the same thing a while back. The cubs are no doubt in a CupCake division, and without a doubt the NL Central lacks true competition that helps a good team get better. Taking the games against the Padres + Nationals + all NL Central opponents, the Cubs are looking to play close to 100 games against these teams. So, when everything is said and done, the team's record should look quite nice, but its debatable as to whether they will be battle-tested in earning that record. Playing in a weak division is a concern, but it can certainly be overcome. In baseball, anything can happen, that's what makes the game great - you have to play the games and watch to find out. If the cubs were to suffer injuries to key players, the playing field within the division could be largely evened out. Any one of the reds, cardinals, brewers, or astros could all outplay expectations or even make a blockbuster trade to acquire a game-changing player as well. Despite the fact that the cubs play in the biggest and probably weakest division overall in the sport, there are some quality players sprinkled throughout the rosters on the NL Central teams. Oswalt, Wainright, Volquez, Cueto, Gallardo, and potentially Carpenter are all quality starters the cubs will face anywhere from 4-7 times each; while the cardinals, astros, brewers and reds also feature some dangerous lineups the cub's pitchers will have to face as well. The fiercest of competition breeds success, and it ultimately is what gets a team ready to play on the biggest of stages, that is the Playoffs. Some of the missing competition from the division could be internalized as well, where players competing for positions and roles can continue to drive/motivate the guys throughout the season to compensate for weaker opponents.

There's no formula to prove

There's no formula to prove that having lax schedule can hurt or help your team. Going on recent trends though, it seems that the teams that run away with their division (ex. Last year's Angels, Cubs) seem less likely to win the championship than a team that has to fight for a playoff spot all the way up until the last week of the season. Of course there are exceptions all over the place, but I'm just looking at the last 10 champs. Most of them didn't have a free pass through the regular season.

MLB

I like to worry too. I know that the Reds have the Duster and the Cards are down but DAMN we have to play other major league players every day! I think sometime we forget how talented nearly ALL the guys in the majors are. When we say some guy Sucks! hell, he probably has stadiums named after him in his home town and his university. So I don't think it is ever easy. As soon as you even think its easy you find yourself 3 games under .500 and struggling for that wildcard.

But, this really, really, really could be the year!

Go CUBS.

Ivy Chat Chuck

Gitles said pretty much the same thing in his blog yesterday, and Yahoo Big League Stew took him out to the woodshed for taking it for granted that we are going to win the division.

One step at a time, peoples. Let's get thru spring training without any major injuries, then look at the regular season, then look at the playoffs if we are fortunate enough

What is more worrisome than

What is more worrisome than the division they play in though, has to be the team's performance in the Playoffs the past 2 seasons. The Cubs can't change the teams in their division, but they can change how they perform on the field at the end of the season. A team can benefit, in the long-run, from losing a close, hard-fought playoff series; as often times a team will lose a WS or late in the Playoffs before they win one. However, I'm not too sure what positive the Cubs can pull from being swept handily in two straight Playoff series. The experiences, I would imagine, have been demoralizing, but have done very little to quiet the screaming demons of the Cubs' past. Hopefully they were motivating experiences as well. In 2009, with the roster the team has assembled, assuming full health and two metric shit-tons of mental toughness, this team is fully capable of reaching its ultimate goal. The way I look at it, the Cubs history is the proverbial monkey on their back, but it is the only thing left holding them down. At this point everything else has come together, and if it hasn't its pretty damn close.

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