Former Editors of Deadspin
I think we here have all reached some sort of concensus on the Steve Bartman Issue, but in case you haven't:
Yes, Will Leitch is a gatdam Cardinal fan, and as such, this excerpt from his new book has a bit o' smug condescension about it. But seven years later, this still sticks me in the gut, just as wrenching as it ever has. And if this is not your logical process on how to interpret the Bartman Incident, then you just don't want to know, and probably you are one of the johnny-come-lately bleacher yahoos Leitch was talking about.
What's my point?
The 2003 Cubs were perhaps the best team in baseball that year, and even as superior as we were, we did not win a pennant, let alone a World Series. The 2008 Cubs were inarguably the best team in baseball that year, and we didn't even win a single lousy game in the NLDS.
When it comes to the Chicago Cubs, and I will repeat this until the day I die, and it will even be on my tombstone, I'm afraid:
At this point in time, after everything that has happened to this franchise, it is not simply enough to be competitive. It is not simply enough to be ONE of the best teams. It is not simply enough to be THE best team by a small margin. There is too much psychic clutter to work through; too large of a karmic mountain to climb, that simply being "good enough" can conquer. Hell, we were "good enough" in 1969, 1970, 1984, 2003 and 2008, talent wise, to win a pennant. You could make a case for 1971 and 2007, too.
I dare say - any other franchise would have five mother-trumping pennants that read 1969, 1970, 1984, 2003 and 2008.
For comparison: those of you who were around for the 1985 Bears - that team had some serious karmic baggage to overcome, too, some of it their own, but most of it due to simply being a Chicago team. Back then, we were the "city of Losers". Just being "good enough" wasn't going to cut it for them.
That team, kids, wasn't simply "good enough". It wasn't simply "the best team". The 1985 Bears had the single...most...destructive defense in professional sports history. I am absolutely serious, swear on the lives of my children, that every week, I was honestly afraid that the 1985 Bears Defense was going to literally KILL an opposing QB or WR. I honestly feared for Marc Wilson's very life; for Joe Ferguson's very life; and for Steve Grogan's very life. The 1985 Bears were literally 200% better than every other team they faced on a given day. Yes, they lost to Miami, but they had one off night. Nothing you have seen in the NFL the past 20 years even comes close to comparing. Five times more deadly than the Ray Lewis Ravens who won it a few years back, for example.
I don't know how else I can express it. Since then, of course, they did win, and the Michael Jordans won all their titles, the Hawks have been in a Finals or two, and even the Comiskey MethLab hosted a championship. So the monkey is off Chicago's back as being a City of Losers. It's simply a Cub thing now.
The only way the Chicago Cubs are ever going to win a World Series is to become two, three, five TIMES better than every other team in a given year. Otherwise, no.
We can blame all the goats and black cats and Bull Durhams and Bartmans we want. They are simply symptoms of the dread. Bartman was not aware of his surroundings; Moises Alou was a spaz; Alex Gonzalez was a loser; Mark Prior wore Tampax; and Dusty Baker smoked dope. They did not realize it, but they were all sub-consciously caught up in the "dread" that Leitch cites; it brought out the very worst in all of them in a most crucial time.
That "dread" is never going away; not until a team staffed with a super-human level of testicular fortitude can manage to rise above it. And that doesn't just happen, you have to be really, exceptionally superior to your opponents day in, day out to own THAT kind of swagga. We have to have 25 of the Most Interesting Men in the World to win this thing.
Not a bunch of pansies who lose to Pittsburgh.
Editor's note: GROTA is issuing an It Burns Your Virgin Eyes Warning! In this article, when you are least expecting it, our interview subject Will Leitch will let out a mighty curse that would make even the most hardened nun blush. Since we typically adopt a No Cursies! Policy, (rather than a No Curses policy; hey, we follow the Cubs) a warning has been issued. So, that's it. You've been warned. If you've got a problem with it, cram it up yer ... meh, nevermind.
Of course, everyone knows what's happened with Will since he last stopped by. First, an angry older gentleman killed Will and fashioned a suit out of his skin as Bob Costas looked on. Shortly after that incident, Will was on his way to New York Magazine. It's been all upwardly mobile for him this last year. Congratulations to him. That's just terrific. Just...terrific. I mean, it's okay that I'm still an amateur blogger, right? He's older than me, right? I still have a while before I have to try to accomplish something in the blogging world?
I swear to god, if I'm not writing for ESPN Magazine by the time I'm thirty, I'll just cry.
So anyway, he's back and ready to talk about important things, like the Cubs. And the Cardinals. And the Cubs and Cardinals. And maybe, just maybe, his answers to our questions can inspire all of us and bring a little hope into our world. Of course, that'd be pretty surprising, but it could happen.
And so, without further delay, we welcome Will back to lovely GROTA Mansion. And at his request*, we've skipped all the pleasantries and moved straight to the questions.
(* may not have actually been at his request)
GR: Okay, here's the most obvious question given that nobody expected much out of the Cardinals seeing as how it's basically Albert Pujols and a rag-tag bunch of ragamuffin kids. What would you say the key is to their success? Is Dave Duncan just a wizard or something (and I mean, literally, a wizard)?
Will Leitch: It's pretty ridiculous what Ryan Ludwick has done this year; you could make an argument he has been more important to the Cards than Pujols. (You'd be wrong, but you could make that argument.) Going into the season, I thought the Cardinals' best outfielder would be Colby Rasmus. Ludwick has been amazing (if streaky), Skip Schumaker and Joe Mather are a surprisingly effective platoon and it has been a sublime pleasure watching Rick Ankiel (swoon!) improve seemingly by the game. That outfield was supposed to be a wasteland; it's been the team strength. Much is made out of the rotation, but it has been anything from dominant. Lohse is the ace, and he's not having the season everyone thinks he's having, Todd Wellemeyer is only recently starting to look healthy again, if Braden Looper reaches the seventh inning we're doing backflips and Joel Pineiro ... well, I like the color of his glove. In other words: Duncan is getting too much credit. (I mean, he is the bullpen's pitching coach too. And if the bullpen were even halfway decent, we'd be battling you guys for first place rather than hoping the Brewers kill each other.) The offense (and defense, vastly underrated, as always) is the reason they're 10 games over .500 in a season in which we were idly dreaming of breaking even, maybe.
GR: Along those lines, the biggest surprise on the Cards?
GR: Does it bother you more that the Cubs are atop the standings rather than, say, the Brewers? Or is your only concern that the Cardinals are trailing?
Will Leitch: Dad, Wrigley is beautiful, and it's the Cards.
Bryan Leitch: But why would you go there? It's nothing but Cubs fans.
There's something pure and great about that. Why would I go to Wrigley Field? That's where the Cubs play. No other explanation necessary.
The only way I'll be able to accept the Cubs making the postseason is if the Cardinals make it too. Because this is your 100th year. This is the season everyone has been quietly waiting for. What better way to see it end than to the Cards in the NLCS? The two teams have never played in the postseason before. It kind of has to happen, doesn't it? We all need our Yankees-Red Sox moment.
GR: You are obviously far less biased than our writers - or readers, for that matter - to the point where you may in fact be a little biased in the other direction. With that in mind, in your unbiased opinion, just how good are the Cubs this year and, more importantly, do you think they will reach the post season and play like the best team in the National League, or will they get there and play like the Cubbies of old? (congratulations if you made it all the way to the end of that questions without having to re-read)
GR: You're in different circles than us working-class schmucks - what have you heard about the pending sale of the Cubs?
GR: Which Cubs pitcher do you want to see your team face the least? Which Cubs hitter makes you the most nervous when he steps up to the plate with runners on?
GR: Who would be better on "Rock Band", Mark DeRosa or Aaron Miles?
For 25 minutes, the crook had a gun to Miles' head, until the 5-foot-8 infielder, the son of a heavyweight boxer, took matters into his own hands.
He attacked the 5-foot-11, 175-pound intruder, and during the struggle, Miles bit Williams on the forearm while Williams bit Miles fiercely on the upper back. Both had their hands on the gun, and eventually, with Miles lying on top of the burglar, a SWAT policeman who'd broken through a window had no choice but to fire six close-range gunshots.
"We're downstairs in the parking lot, and you hear this, pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop," Ensberg says. "And we're like, 'Aaron's dead.' " But the cop hadn't missed, wounding Williams once in the face and five times in the upper torso. The burglar was still alive, but some of his teeth had literally been shot out of his mouth. Miles bolted through the broken window and down to the parking lot, straight into the arms of his teammate Rose.
"He nearly broke me in half," Rose says today. "He had the guy's skin in his teeth, blood all over him. I mean, the guy took a big chunk out of his back. He's cussing and saying, 'F -- those motherf--ers.' I'd never seen him like that."
GR: And finally, how does it feel to see Jim Edmonds on the Cubs and actually helping quite a bit? Cardinal fans actually liked him, right?
WL: I don't know what you're talking about. Come again?
And with that nifty little exercise in denial, we bring this interview to a close and get to the serious business of previewing the upcoming series. Thanks again to Will for stopping by. We'll all be watching closely as he ascends to dizzying heights at New York Magazine, only to have it all come crashing down after a well publicized incident involving a pontoon boat and a bottle of Grey Goose, leading to the inevitable decent into soft-core porn. On the plus side, I'm pretty sure Molly Ringwald is currently on the soft-core circuit, so he's got that going for him.
Cubs vs. Cardinals
Friday, August 8th, 1:20 PM CT
Ted Lilly vs. Braden Looper - Lilly's been pretty good of late, at least for his first five innings. That third time through the lineup, things can get a little dicey. Lilly's always been good against the Cardinals and I'm sure he's pitched many memorable games against them during his tenure as a Cub...I just can't remember.
Looper's well known for having a very large chin and an equally large amount of chin stubble. At least, that's what he looks like in his gameday photo. Looper's been Lilly-esque for the Cards this year, which is more than they could have reasonably hoped for. Of course, that has little bearing on what they actually hoped for, as reason has little impact on a Cardinals fan.
(Cardinal fans everywhere are realing from that little zinger)
Saturday, August 9th, 2:55 PM CT
Big Z vs. Todd Wellemeyer - Zambrano's been extremely great for a while now and, contrary to the rap on him early in his career, seems to now pitch to the pressure. With that, I'm expecting big things from him as he tries to bury the Cardinals. Actually, I'm expecting some thing more along the lines of "kill, burn, and bury the Cards...and then piss on the asses" as that's how Carlos rolls.
I'm always happy to see a former Cub succeed, so it's nice to see Wellemeyer doing so well. He extra innings debut back in '03 where he struck out the side is still one of my warm fuzzy memories from that year. Hell, it might be my only memory as I've blacked out the vast majority of that year. But Wellemeyer's a solid pitcher, although he's come back down to earth quite a bit since he fast start.
Sunday, August 10th, 7:05 PM CT
Ryan Dempster vs. TBA - In the past, the Cubs have always struggled mightily versus TBA, but that was the old Cubs. The new Cubs occasionally struggle versus TBA, but now it's much more of a crap shoot.
Dempster was decent in his last start an probably deserved a win as he allowed a grand total of two runs despite not having much of a fastball.
Cubs versus Cardinals! Catch the excitiment!