Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Lest We Forget, Rome Wasn’t Built In a Day

I’ve actually been thinking about this topic for about two weeks, and to be honest it would have probably been slightly more appropriate before the recent stretch of divine intervention, but I digress…

The 2008 Cubs were the best Cubs team I’ve ever seen. (Considering the amount of bickering that has been going on recently I’m sure this will be debated, but statistically speaking and seemingly intangibly speaking, they were one of the best.) They could beat any team and no matter the defecit, they were in every game. Almost straight through from April to September, the 2008 Cubs ran in to few glaring issues that ever threatened their chances of winning the division and they ended up clinching a week before the end of the season. That’s when the fun ended.

From one of the greatest offenses in club history to one of the biggest eggs laid in playoff history, that team took a nose dive. But that didn’t even seem to be the worst part. Nor was the worst part that they were so dominant all year and were being discussed as the easy National League representative in the World Series. The worst part wasn’t that pretty much the entire team, with a few notable exceptions, was expected to come back in 2009. The worst part wasn’t even the fact that I had accepted that we sh*t our pants in the playoffs, not even that mattered.

No, the worst part was that I was convinced that no matter how good the 2009 Cubs were, the entire season would just be one giant pressure cooker set to implode in October. I was sure that from April through September it wouldn’t matter how big our lead was, or how dominant our run differential was. The only thing that would matter would be 3 games in October.

Think about it this way: on June 22, 2008 the Cubs were 20 games over .500, had a 4.5 game lead and a +112 run differential! That team was unstoppable. I truly felt in my heart that last year was going to be the year. As we all know, it wasn’t.

Exactly 1 year later we are 3 games over .500 and only 2.5 out of first place. Oh, and our run differential? +12. Exactly 100 runs less than where we were last year at this time. That’s not going to last. This team is virtually the same lineup. They will hit. And the playoffs? No one’s talking about the playoffs; no one is saying this is a lost season unless we get out of the first round. All of the pressure right now is on having a successful season and making the first round. You could even almost make the argument that stumbling and sputtering through the first 2/5ths of the season could be the best thing to happen to this year's team. Now the pressure isn't about “Yeah, you’re winning, but what about in October? What you’re doing now doesn’t matter until you win a game in October.” The pressure is about now. It’s about a division race in the middle of the summer. Something the 0-for-October team from last year didn’t have to deal with.

I'm not being naive, either. This team is by no means perfect and currently has plenty of holes. They’ve frustrated and infuriated me all season, but this division is still there for the taking. They are the best team in the division, and I don’t think many would disagree that even in third place it is still theirs to lose. The two teams ahead of us whom we beat by 7.5 and 11 games last year? They got worse.

Look, (imagine Uncle Lou here) the point is there’s nothing wrong with a little adversity as long as you learn something from it. At this exact point last year The World Champion Phillies were coming off a 5 game losing streak (in the midst of a 1-7 stretch), only 7 games over .500 and a 1 game lead in the division. I bet anything they’d say the adversity and challenges they fought through the entire season are what propelled them to be the last team standing at the finish line. Let’s keep this in perspective.  It couldn’t hurt. Go Cubs.

This is spot on. I read many

This is spot on. I read many a blog post in October that pointed out the relative ease with which the Cubs waltzed into the postseason last year, in contrast to how the Phillies and Dodgers had to fight tooth-and-nail to win their respective divisions.

Hopefully the Cubs can benefit from this struggle, along with a boost from the "Manny-like" addition of Aramis Ramirez shortly after the All-Star Break.

This team is virtually the same lineup. They will hit

All respect to you Augie, but I believe the metrics have changed and the classic example is…….

The idea that this now nearly two months long slump by Soriano is either somehow normal for him or even puzzling is naive. Ten HR right out of the box, spring in his step, a new off-season conditioning program and then suddenly.....nothing.

Just like Ordonez.
Just like Ortiz.
Alex Rodriguez benched.
Tejada and Beltran: nice averages, little power.

I could go on and on but the point is pretty clear when you consider that uniquely: Alphonso Soriano without home run power is an empty vessel.

The Manny Rameriez bust has had a profound effect on baseball and I don't think that it is coincidence the longest "slump" of Sorianos career began then. The drip, drip of the impending release of the Juiced 104 is mentally wearing on him as well.

His bat speed is down to zip, we see weak flys to right again and again and those semi-solidly hit balls that used to reach the seats are now barely warning track fly balls.

I don't think that a month long disappearance to the DL and a three week Sosa surge upon his return is in the cards again any more either.

And I think his teammates know this too. While he is but a cog, he is the highest paid and most often used cog. The ripple effect of his spectacular decline is and will continue to infect each part of the machine as a whole.

To destroy an army, you must cut off its head.

To beat the Cubs…..the Fear has done your job already.

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