Monday, October 13, 2008

The End of the 2008 Cubs: An Exercise in Catharsis

I was fearful of the 5 game series all season, and knew that the whole thing could come crashing down in 4 days. I was optimistic, but realistic. The LA team the Cubs played early this year was nothing like the team that went ~16-7 in September, and had dominating pitching from Lowe and Billingsley. The Cubs played their best baseball in June-early August.

Game 1 - I had told people that all it would take is one early HR to deflate the ballpark, and that Dempster, while good/very good all year, was never really dominant. The crowd wasn’t really that hyped at gametime, which may have been because it was 530p, and when Dempster kept walking guys (he wasn’t getting squeezed, he was wild), you knew it was a matter of time. Sho’ nuf, the grand slam ended the game, and the crowd knew it.

Game 2 – I was confident that Zambrano (on long rest) would pitch well, and the 830p start meant a much more lively crowd pre-game. They played Going the Distance from Rocky as Z ended his warmups and went to the dugout, and the crowd was as loud and electric as I can remember at Wrigley. Very positive energy. Z then blew the Dodgers away in the 1st, and in the second gave up a lead off single, then got three straight double play balls. The first was a single that went through shortstop, as Theriot was covering second on a hit and run. Bad break. The next two batters hit routine ground balls that DeRosa and Lee booted. Inexcusable. Then Furcal bunts for a hit. Then Martin hits a ringing double. 5-0, all unearned, but they count. Game over, series over.

Game 3 – I resisted all efforts to get me to a bar to watch, and the Long Haired Filipino Dogwalker and I watched at my house. I told LHFD that if the Cubs don’t take the lead early, they lose. Dodgers get a two-out RBI hit in the first, and it was done for. The body language of the Cubs was awful, like a late-era Knight IU team during an early round loss to Pepperdine.

As far as the offense, I always believed that pitching and defense win in the post-season, as only the good pitchers pitch. The fact that the Cubs didn’t get hits (in any situation) was not surprising, as they faced a good staff that was peeking.

They won most of their games by scoring 5+ runs, and you cannot or should not expect that in the post season. You need to catch the ball and make good pitches on good hitters. The Cubs did neither.

Neither Soriano or anyone else here is catching flack, but I am avoiding coverage, so who knows. He is who he is, and I had no expectations of October greatness from him.

As my brother and I talked about the 2009 Cubs during the end of Game 2, I think Lee is a guy who is expendable. He never expresses a great love of the fan base (sometimes the opposite), has seemed distracted (rightfully so, his daughter is going blind) all year, and spoke openly about the pressure the team felt after Game 3. There was a tangential reference to him going (possibly to San Francisco) in the Tribune’s ‘look ahead’ article I read.

Ah, that felt better. That is the most I talked/wrote about since it happened. Thanks for the catharsis.

(I am looking forward to the expansion IU Hoosier bball team. They could be OK, like .500, and a victory over Illinois, I think, is possible)