Top Ten Signs The Cubs Will Win The World Series
1. 125-win season
2. Young talent, flanked by a couple veteran All-Star pitchers and a seasoned catcher.
3. The Division Champs Align.
4. Benadryl, other legal sedatives
5. Wild Card
6. Ricketts Family spends like Steinbrenner
7. Rumors of Wrigley closing
8. National League wins All Star game
9. Cub fans pray, heal
10. Ten Division titles in a row.
First, the wounds. As Spring Training, 2011 begins, the Cubs will enter their 66th season since a league pennant.
Keep in mind, back then, there were half the teams that compete today and there was no inter league play off system. That’s one of the many ways the Yankees racked up so many wins prior to 1969. And despite having won 7 World Series crowns since then, the Yankees have also lost more play off series than any other team in MLB.
Winning really has to become a habit. The new owners of the Cubs are the Ricketts family, and their message to the staff and players has been this: what do you need?
Imagine Dallas Green X 10. The Cubs gate at Wrigley and broadcasting rights have never been bigger, expanding each year. That is both good and bad. They have the cash to be proactive, and the patience to sell out despite under .500 seasons.
The fact is that WGN is a very well run network, and it knows how to woo its audience. Cubs fans are not fair-weathered fans, as Dodger, Marlin, Diamondback, Mets and Rockies fans are often found to be. The Cubs won’t let you be. You either fall in love with them or you learn to hate them as Cardinals fans do.
I grew up watching the Cubbies from Tucson, Arizona, when they 1982 team was horrible. We enjoyed our first year with cable TV, and WGN introduced me to Bozo The Clown and Wrigley Field. In 1984, I got my first taste of Harry Carray.
Two years later, I watched in awe, not realizing how big a deal it was to see Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe shock the nation by winning the National League East, setting up a fateful date with the team from the West that bore the ugliest uniforms known to man.
The San Diego Padres.
The HBO documentary Wait ‘Til Next Year is a 2007 film covering the romantic story of how the Cubs have won the hearts of the nation, only to leave every Fall Classic since 1908 empty-handed. The Cubs and Red Sox are often considered inter league cousins.
Now, God’s sense of humor, I married a woman whose father’s allegiance to the Padres is so great, the 1984 NLDS, specifically “Steve Garvey” is a topic that becomes an argument almost every time. He has given me so many autographed Cubs baseball cards and signed balls, it’s hard to hate him for loving his chosen team. He does not root for the Padres to spite me, he simply bought a home there before the Padres moved to San Diego.
Through his loyalties, my wife equates all teams from San Diego, and the name Tony Gwynn, with family, whereas the rest of the nation, that is, anyone living outside the boundaries of San Diego County, considers Game Four of the 1984 NLCS to be the darkest hour in Cubs history, and one of the saddest stories in MLB history. When visiting family, I have to be very sensitive to their adoration of their teams, and out of love for my wife, lacking a pro football team in my own life, I adopted the Chargers in exchange for my wife wearing a Cubs hat.
In the HBO film Wait ‘Til Next Year, celebrities articulate how they feel, (and how I feel) about that dreaded fastball over the plate hit by Garvey in 1984: We Hate You Steve Garvey. The fact is pitcher Lee Smith put a juicy fastball in Garvey’s sweet spot at that wrong moment in time. I could have hit that pitch out of the ballpark. Innings earlier, Leon Durham committed a Buckner-prophesying error at first-base, allowing the Padres to rally, making Garvey’s home run relevant.
Current Cubs announcers Bob Brenly once described Garvey as one of the most, arrogant, hated players in the league, and spoke about the ugly brown and yellow Padres uniforms that were worn by a team that won Game Four 7-5.
Here-here. Again, we, Cubs fans everywhere, hate Steve Garvey. His fist-pump around the bases as if he were Superman rescuing people from Lex Luther was not only uncalled for, it should have been grounds for Unsportsmanlike Conduct, and called out. I know, many players do this and it’s tolerated, but it isn’t legal. Umpires treat it like J-walking. Kirk Gibson’s lawn mower-starting motion with his right arm as he rounded second-base in the 1988 World Series should have also been called out too.
But, that didn’t happen…and what goes around comes around.
In 2007, the Coors Field confetti machine operator decided the winner of the National League Wild Card. As Matt Holiday slid past home plate without touching it, Padres catcher Michael Barrett collected the ball amidst a pile of dust and tagged Holiday out. Yet the home plat empire, with dust in his eyes, made a weak “safe” call, sending a mediocre, nothing-to-lose Rockies team to eight-straight play offs wins and a date with a real baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, who swallowed the Rockies whole in a four-game sweep in the Fall Classic.
That same year, the New York Mets, whose 1969 team also benefited from a lousy home-plate call in a pivotal series against the Cubs, suffered the worst collapse in major league history, resulting in the Phillies facing the Rockies in round 1.
In 2003, the only comforting thought about the Cubs loss to the Marlins was that Sammy Sosa was on drugs. There is no glory in a winner who is juiced.
You heard me, Mr. Bonds.
When the 2010 Cubs traded former Marlin Derek Lee to the Braves, my mind went to the 2003 NLCS Game Six, Eighth Inning. Blame the man named Steve Bartman all you want, Derek Lee’s bases-clearing double is what hurt the Cubs the most.
In his years with the Cubs, Lee never returned to what he had with the Marlins; neither would Juan Pierre, or Mike Lowell, or their greasy-smiling manager, Jack McKeon, who was the Vice President of the Padres in 1984.
As for the fateful 1984 Game Four, Lee Smith should never have pitched to Garvey. To his credit, Garvey did hold the all time home run record for NLCS, established with the Dodgers. Lee should have intentionally walked him to get to .186- batting Craig Nettles, and the Cubs would have made it to the Series. Assuming they did, momentum would have made their match up with the Detroit Tigers close, and they would have won at least one game at Wrigley.
Steve Garvey was later indicted for fraud in a business deal years later and fathered two children out of wedlock.
In 2008, the Cubbies faced a mediocre Dodgers team in round 1. They played so tight, they could not turn a double play. James Loney and Manny Ramirez should have never gotten a decent look at the baseball with runners in scoring position. It was later learned Manny played on drugs, serving a 50-game suspension in 2009 and failing to be a threat at the plate as he was in October, 2008 ever again. The Dodgers didn’t win that series, the Cubs gave it away.
Lou Piniella sat at a press conference after Game 1 of the 2008 NLDS and shook his head in a daze, “You don’t win 97 games like that.”
What needs to happen next is this. The Cubs needs to relax, either by conditioning or by medical attention. Yes, some fool with a goat said stupid things in 1946, but neither a goat, nor a bar owner, nor a black cat, nor a boastful manager (McKeon) nor a boastful player (Garvey), has the power to supernaturally ban any team from the play offs.
There is no curse. There are just expectations.
Thirty-two teams all start off on a level playing field in March every year. Cubs fans have a bad global reputation for being rude, drunken turds, even though my family, wearing Cubs colors, doesn’t act like that. When I attended Rockies games (residing in Denver), I am often ashamed at the antics of my fellows fans. I do believe that God, in his mercy, derails the possible riot-related deaths that Chicago might incur when the Cubs win it all.
Lord knows, when the White Sox won, a few million people greeted them in the street, not aware that the parade was for the World Series Champion Chicago White Sox.
No rioting. Few injuries. When the Cubs win, expect the worst.
Furthermore, talk of a team relocating has a surprising impact on a team’s moral and motivation.
As for team talent…
The talent from the farm teams and learning to look five-years ahead has helped the Cubs heading in 2011. Now, will that be the year? Who knows. Playing relaxed, which they didn’t, the Cubs 2008 squad was really their finest. It’ll happen when no one see’s ’em coming, or, when they are so dominating, no one dares to doubt them.
Another factor what will make the path to the Series more plausible is to see how the other divisions are taking shape. make no mistake: Pittsburgh wants to win. They have proven to be forces of darkness in football and hockey. And, they have won more Series than over 20 other MLB teams since 1925.
As my father-in-law Ed, the ultimate autograph seeker at PetCo Park would comment, the Padres have yet to win a World Series. Or pitch a no-hitter.
The Ricketts family has made it clear that they are in this for the long-hall, having suffered along with the rest of us fans, through every 4-outs-away moment that the Cubs have agonized over.
So pardon me if I don’t weep as Derek Lee puts on his Braves uniform. The guy hurt Cubs fans, albeit as a competitor doing his job for the Marlins, more than Steve Bartman ever could have – and I have looked at that still image of Bartman’s hand in Alou’s glove many times. It’s inside the playing area. That’s an out.
Would the Cubs have beaten the Yankees in the Series that year? Who knows.
I can tell ya this. Cubs fans have demonstrated such an unwavering faith in what the 2004 Red Sox enjoyed, that it is only a matter of time.
2011? Who knows. Pray for our team, for in His Name, All Things Are Possible.