Posted by: Mark Nielsen | October 1, 2008

Cubbies and Other Strangers (aka MLB Missiles of October)

I’m watching with chagrin as my beloved Chicago Cubs, now in the ninth inning, look likely to drop Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series, at home, to a bunch of no-name Dodgers. The score is 7-2. To add insult to injury, 42-year-old Greg Maddux has been sent in by Joe Torre to mop up his former teammates.

I’ve been strangely silent on the subject of the Cubs this year on Marking Time. Perhaps like many a faithful Cub fan, I didn’t want to jinx them, or go out on a limb by publicly expressing a belief they can go all the way.

Cub fans are the original “gloom and doom” fans of the National League, just as the Red Sox fans were in the American League up until 2004. The superstitions abound, which may be why this year we genuinely have believed it’s going to happen. It’s been 100 years since our last World Series victory. That’s a nice round number: 100. And the free agent acquisitions, from Hardin to Jim Edmonds, have worked out pretty well. Plus the club finally learned you have to spend some money to build a good team.

But they’re shaky again– “sleepwalking” as my wife called it –now that the postseason has actually begun. Deer in the headlights. Could not string three hits together in one inning all night. Derek Lowe is a good pitcher, but he left in the sixth inning. And still the Cubs slept, as the Dodgers kept hitting missiles out of the park.

The stat that Dick Stockton just cited is that the game one winner in the five-game divisional series has won the series something like 21 out of 28 times. Better wake up, boys. In this economy, I wouldn’t give us down-on-our-luck Midwesterners any more reasons to jump out their windows than we already have. (Translation: no I still have not found a job…)

I was not a supporter of Lou Piniella’s decision to start Ryan Dempster in Game 1. He’s been so consistent all year that it would not have mattered if they gave him Game 1 or Game 2. Meanwhile Carlos Zambrano, he of the great passion and the easily bruised ego, most likely took it hard when he was not considered the ace anymore, despite throwing a no -hitter less than a month ago.

Now it’s official. Game 1 to the Dodgers, by that same 7-2 score. So now we’ll see if Big Z can pitch a high-pressure, “I told you so”, lights-out game tomorrow. I sure hope so. If not, it’s lights out for the Lovable Losers of Wrigleyville yet again.

At least I have two other teams to root for in the playoffs: the White Sox and the Red Sox. Both are limping in, if you believe the critics. But the White Sox are riding a wave of momentum after three straight wins to get in, while the Red Sox are crafty, and still pretty talented, despite injured stars and the departure of Manny Ramirez midseason.

I’ve never been a proponent of the idea that Cub fans have to hate the White Sox, and vice versa. I like baseball. Plus I tend to appreciate underdogs, in sports and in life. So it should be obvious why I’d be rooting for all three of these teams (the Red and White Sox World Series wins the past few years notwithstanding… in the long view they’re still perennial losers). For the same reason, I’m still doing a little jig over the absence of the Mets and Yankees from this postseason.

As a fan of the underdog, one might argue that I should be looking for a Brewers and Rays World Series. To which I reply: I’m crazy enough to believe the Cubs can still make it, but I’m not THAT crazy.


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