Well, here we are again. Exactly where we were a year ago. Three and done to an NL West team. Once again, no offense does the Cubs in. So, we pack up our baseball dreams for another off-season and wonder just what the fuck went wrong. There's tears to be shed, teeth to gnash, and axes to grind, but I'm going to try and inject something positive here.
My brother-in-law and I were talking about the Cubs today. He's a White Sox fan, one of the only good ones I know, and as an outside observer whom has mostly Cub fan friends, I'd like to pass on some of what he said.
Like me, he doesn't believe in curses, goats, or any of that nonsense. I don't believe the Cubs are damned, but we both agree that the weight of history sometimes suffocates this ballclub. The point he made was that each of the players has it in their head that they don't want to be the guy on the highlight reel 5, 10, or 30 years from now that makes the play that blows the game. Consequently, he said, you can see it with every sharply hit groundball, the player going "Ohshitohshitohshitohshitohshit". So many times, because they're trying to avoid making the mistake and turning into an Alex Gonzalez, they end up making the mistake anyway. Same with the offense.
He said that if the Pirates had the kind of year that the Cubs had, there still wouldn't be the pressure to perform, and thus they probably would play to the level of their ability. I really can see that. No matter how good or bad the Cubs are, if they get to the post-season, there's that extra element of history added in that no other team in the league now carries. In a sense, the Cubs end up not only playing an opponent, but a legacy of past Cub teams. And each time we get close and fail, that burden becomes larger and larger.
Now I did say that I see a positive. Let me share it with you now. The Cubs have won the division two years straight now. Most of this team will be back next year. To my mind, the Cubs remain the favorite to secure a third Central title, barring any serious overhaul from Milwaukee or Houston. To me, St. Louis is still going to be in a rebuilding phase. Houston is dangerous, but they also need some more pieces. We're still the deepest, most complete team in the league. There are plenty of other teams that have won their divisions and not gone on to the World Series. The Cubs will get more scrutiny because of the history, but I think that's an important point.
What I'm saying is that despite the back to back titles, I think this team still has the idea that they don't belong in the post-season. I think Lou has done a remarkable job in trying to eliminate that sentiment over his two year tenure, but it's not completely gone. I don't know how many division titles it will take for this team to break through that barrier, but I believe it will happen, and it will happen soon. The Braves teams that dominated the East for so long only won one World Series. I honestly believe if we can keep putting solid teams on the field and winning the division or Wildcard, that our time will come as well. I don't expect Jim Hendry to sit idle, I expect we'll see just as much activity in this offseason as last. This was a good team. They didn't break through, but they will come back stronger next year.
So I will not give up. I will get drunk and wallow for a few days over this defeat, but I will recover and look ahead to 2009. It's now 100 years. That's a nice even number. So this wasn't the year. The year is coming my friends.