Sunday, October 5, 2008

Not Chicago's Finest...

It's been 100 years, and the same sadness that has loomed over the Cubs franchise for so long, still resides at Wrigley Field. Even in a season that generated so much promise, the Cubs fell short of their goal. And to add insult to injury, their disappointment came in embarassing fashion. This was supposed to be their year. The same Cubs' fans that, for so long, watched their team expecting the worst, were confident their sorrows were over. But what happened? The Chicago faithful has been left stunned for the past 24 hours, trying to find some logical answer to that question. I myself can't seem to find a reason. After seeing their 4 error performance in Game 2, I too, almost found myself believing in the curse. What occurred in the infield that game, was just too unreal.

The only explanation I can come up with for Chicago's collapse, is that they ran into an underrated and well-coached team in the Dodgers. Los Angeles finished 17-8 in September to capture the season-long divisional race it had with Arizona. Although the Dodgers had a somewhat easy schedule down the stretch, they didn't squeeze by the teams they faced, they annihilated them. Combine their hot play as of late with the playoff experience and knowledge of Joe Torre, and you've got yourself a team poised to make a run, if not at least some noise, in the playoffs. Let's also not forget about Manny. Since the addition of Manny, the Dodgers are 33-23. The organization felt his presence from Day 1. Ramirez is batting .394 with 19 homers and 56 RBI's, since joining LA. Stats that can only be described as "straight diculous", as Stuart Scott would put it. With numbers like those, it's no wonder Ramirez has helped transform the Dodgers into a World Series contender.

All in all though, it's not the Dodgers talent that should be evaluated right now, it's the Cubs play that should be called in to question. A week ago they were the NL's best team; the favorite to win the World Series. Now they find themselves watching the rest of the playoffs from home with their families. Another catastrophic collapse in Chi-Town. The Cubs' lineup couldn't touch the Dodger pitching. They put too much pressure on their pitching staff to be perfect. A task near impossible against a strong Dodger lineup. Lowe, Billingsley, & Kuroda made the Cubs look silly at the plate. Soriano, the multi-million dollar all-star, went 1-14 with 4 strikeouts in the series. Fukudome was 1-10; Ramirez & Soto, 2-11. The Cubs' all-stars proved to be complete non-factors in the series. You can't expect to advance with stats like that.

So once again, Cubs fans are forced to postpone their joys and happiness for at least another year. Hopefully, at least not for another hundred. It begs the questions: Is the curse real and what can the Cubs do to overcome it? What made the ball bounce the way it did at Wrigley in Game 2? Why couldn't the middle infielders execute a routine double play they've completed over and over throughout the course of the season? Once again all these questions are left unanswered, and will leave Cubs fans dumbfounded over the course of the next 6 months. I wish I had the answers. I myself was pulling for the Cubs this postseason. In fact, I've been pulling for them all season long. The Chicago faithful deserves a World Series title. I think they've had enough misery and disappointment to deal with in the last century.

I also feel terrible for good ole' Steve Bartman. I can't imagine what life is like for him these days. The man, a diehard Cubs fan, had to leave the city he loved so dearly and hideout somewhere in Florida. He's hated by all the people he cheered alongside for so long. When Buckner returned to Fenway and told the story of the hardships he had gone through in the last 20 years, I couldn't help but feel terrible for him. Yes, Bartman made a mistake. But Cubs fans can't say that Chicago didn't have a chance to win that game. It was still in their own hands to win that game and that series, and they blew it. The Cubs need to get their mind off the curse, and play the way they know they're capable of playing.

While it's unfortunate the Cubs have to wait another year for another shot at breaking the curse, they have to realize they still have a team very capable of doing the deed. They hit a slide at the wrong time. That doesn't mean they won't get hot come next October. They need to shake this year's ending off, and comeback with something to prove next season. I still think this squad can be the one to end the curse that has haunted this franchise for the past century. In fact, if this team sticks together, I don't see this curse lasting more than two or three more years. Until then, we wait.

Chicago, hang in there. Your finest hour will come.

Image taken from Yahoo! Sports

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