How about a nice, hot, steaming cup of reality? Nine reasons to believe the Cubs will shine in 2009
To: The Cub Fan Army
From: The Goat Riders of the Apocalypse
Subject: You need to wake up!
Hi there, Cub Fan Army. Sorry it took me so long to return your desperate EMails. You know the ones - they had subject headings like "The Cubs lost game one! It's all over!" And, "If you don't believe in the curse, you're insane!" And, lastly, "Jim Hendry needs to completely dismantle this abortion of a team, ASAP!"
You remember those? I can't tell you how badly they pissed me off. Hey, I'm a Cub fan too, just as much as you are. I sat through all the games, I wore my jerseys on a daily basis - and there's nothing dorkier than wearing baseball jerseys in a foreign city when you're not even going to a game - I cursed when something stupid happened, I bellowed joyfully whenever the team won, and I harbored those same fantasies of a World Series in Chicago later this month. In other words, when the wheels came off, I was in the car just like you. So why is it that I am excited about the 2009 season while you're moping, complaining, and making comments so absurd that I just feel this compelling urge to travel back in time and stop Al Gore from inventing the internet?
Hey, we're all bummed out. I don't even want to look at the boxscores right now. ESPN - which was a daily trip for me as recently as two days ago, is now on my personal banned list. Hell, a Cubs blog - even one as cool as this one - would probably be the last place I'd want to visit right now. (And yet, ironically, here I am writing on one. The gawds must have a strange sense of humor.)
I guess I'm here for a good reason, actually. It is apparently my duty to tell you why you need to get back on board. Apparently, I am to serve as Voice of Reason in these troubled times - and that should tell you just how desperate Reason must be right about now. But hey - if you're here reading this, I don't think you're looking for somebody who shares your sadness. I think you're looking for comfort. I mean, hey, if you came to the Goat Riders of the Apocalypse for anything other than heralding of doom, demise, and hellfire, then you are going to be sorely disappointed, my friends, because I'm going to give you nine reasons why the Cubs will be fine in 2009. And you know what? I could have given you more, but 9 fine in 2009 just fits.
Reason One: A new owner cometh
Yep, in case you were living under a rock somewhere, here's a news item for you: The Cubs are going to be sold soon! Wow! Crazy! And while we do not yet know the name of the next person to own the Cubs, I can guarantee you one thing: that crazy son of a bitch will be flying into town in a moneyplane, and he's going to be looking to win. Maybe that guy will be Mark Cuban. Maybe it'll be a surprise. But whomever it is, you can bet that they will strive to give the Cubs all the financial backing they need to get the right players for the job. That is a huge advantage for the Cubs.
Reason Two: The benefits of experience
While you lament the fact that the Cubs "choked," that their players did terribly, that they should be shipped out of town in a shiny box for some other schmuck, have you ever considered that a player who reaches the playoffs a lot eventually gets comfortable there? Sure, Alfonso Soriano tanked again. Does that mean he'll always tank in October? Sure, Ryan Theriot, Mark DeRosa, Aramis Ramirez, and even Derrek Lee played Not It with the baseball in Game Two. Does that mean they'll never be comfortable fielding groundballs with no room for error? I say no. And that leads us to the third reason...
Reason Three: The crushing odds ... in favor
Legendary - and possibly overrated - A's GM Billy Beane once famously said something like, "as a GM, all I can do is assemble the best possible team to get to the playoffs. Once they're in, it's a crapshoot." And if we actually look back on all the teams to win a World Championship this decade, we might be shocked to discover that many of them failed to do it on their first try. A lot of those teams competed and floundered in the playoffs, but rather than see their GM label them a squad of failures and dismantle them, they were tinkered with, they were improved, and they eventually succeeded. The best example - the Cardinals. Since the year 2000, it took them 6 trips to the playoffs before they actually won a World Series. But win it they did ... to our dismay. In other words, if the Cubs keep making the playoffs, they're more likely to actually win them sometime.
Reason Four: The Cubs will keep making the playoffs
While some fans expect the Cubs to return to the mean - they're the frackin' Cubs, after all - what they have failed to consider is this simple truth: the Cubs didn't reach the post season via fluke. And, unlike past seasons in which we could count on a good 3-5 year waiting period before a playoff return, these Cubs are in good position to climb back in the saddle again next season. And probably even the season after that, too.
Reason Five: The names that change
Okay, so maybe some of these guys need to go. I hate to break it to you, but Soriano is not one of them. Neither is Fukudome, nor DeRosa, nor even Derrek "DP" Lee. But what you can count on is for Jim Hendry to evaluate the team fairly and take steps to improve them again next year. While this squad will look very similar in '09, they will not have rested on their laurels, and the players brought in will be guys Hendry targeted specifically for one reason: because he wants the Cubs to win the World Series.
Reason Six: Newsflash: The Cubs aren't cursed!
I know, you are reading this message on a website called "Goat Riders of the Apocalypse." Unless you think we are a covert Dutch porn site, we are obviously paying homage to the Goat Curse and the joke that a Cubs championship will herald the end of the world. But guess what? Curses aren't real! And even if curses were real, it would take more than an angry tavern owner with a pet goat for them to occur! Otherwise, people would be breaking out in boils all the time! Don't believe me? Fine! I hereby curse all those who believe in curses to suffer from immense flatulence for the remainders of their life! May you never smell fresh air again! Hah!
Reason Seven: The pressure is off
How many times did we hear about how, if the Cubs didn't win this year, it would be 100 seasons without a championship? All year long, it was 100 that, 100 this, a century of futility, blah blah blah. Well, sorry Cub fans, but it happened. And while next year is technically worse, it just doesn't have the same ring to it - "one hundred and one years of futility" just has too many syllables. Since the Cubs have already accomplished that one goal they were desperate to avoid, it shouldn't be on everybody's minds next year. At least, that's the theory.
Reason Eight: Lou Piniella is tired
Sweet Lou is old. He wants to go home. He suffers from "senior moments." He quite frankly looks like he's about 7 months pregnant (sorry to bring it up, Lou, we love you). Lou Piniella came to Chicago to end his career on a high note - by winning a World Series. While Jim Hendry has extended him through the 2010 season, does anybody expect him to be here that long? Lou Piniella doesn't want to take 2 more years to win a Series. He wants to do it now. He probably has half a mind to make the team fly to Philly as if the Dodgers had never won anything. Piniella will stop at nothing to achieve is goal next season, and if that means forcing his team to win on sheer will alone, he'll do it.
Reason Nine: All the pieces will be there
You think the Cubs were a complete team in '08? Just wait until you see them in '09. Imagine a Cubs team with a Fukudome who has adjusted to major league hitting. Imagine a Cubs team in which Soriano stays healthy, Soto blooms as a sophomore, and the Cubs bullpen finds their groove in a season without Eyre and Howry. Imagine a Cubs team with an even stronger offense - that is the direction they are headed in this off season. They were already the best team in the NL. They're going to get better. They are going to win.
Still not convinced, Cub Fan Army? You've still got goats and Bartmans dancing in your head? I will leave you with this, and I just want you to think about it for a while:
Maybe life is not fair, maybe the world is cruel and stinging, maybe our hearts were made to be broken. But between all the heartbreak and sadness are moments, infantisimal in length yet seemingly infinite. It is these moments that define our lives - your first kiss, the first night spent with the love of your life (and the last), long departures and short reunions. Our love of sports in general and Cubs baseball in particular can certainly be described as cruel. We live with heartbreak, this weekend is only the most recent example. But our moment is coming, even if some of us will never live to see it. And that moment, when the Cubs win, it will be glorious. Believe me, it's coming. And if you don't believe ... well, what the hell are you doing here to begin with, then?