Over the left field wall at Wrigley Field there is a sign that was just erected that will promote Toyota automotive. According to fans and people around the stadium, the sign is obstructing the view of play on the field in reference to the fans on the rooftops. Score that as the first loss of the season for the loveable losers known as the Chicago Cubs. One hundred and six years, a Billy goat, a black cat, and Steve Bartman later… no title.
The Diamondbacks have won one, the A’s have moved from east to west and won four, the Marlins have won two! Hell even the team from the Southside of Chicago has won a title ending its own 89 year drought. Yet alas, no love for the team that made Harry Cary famous.
This will be year 106 that the Cubs will not play for a world series. They will not contend, not with a pitching staff of Carlos Zambrano coming off of an injury-plagued year, Ted Lilly and a cast of extras. Not with a bullpen that features a shaky Carlos Marmol and the converted wide receiver Jeff Samardzija who has little to no luck finding the plate.
Not with two outfielders (Kosuke Fukudome, and Alfonso Soriano) who have both been overpaid under achievers with little to no luck at the plate (remember how bad it was for Fukudome two years ago? Lou Piniella hated him so much that he didn’t want him in, around, on top of or hovering over the starting lineup do to his disappearing act in the second half of that season).
Not with a lineup that has no punch in it, especially in clutch situations, that’s even with all-star Derek Lee.
Looks like wait til next year is already in full effect.
When you look at the NL Central, the Pirates have more of a shot to win the crown over the Cubs. What’s happened over the last three seasons is that a team that thought it was making moves to inch closer to that ever so elusive title was actually going full speed backwards.
They gave Milton Bradley 30 million dollars to add some pop to their lineup last year. What happened? He hit .250 clashed with every possible person associated within the organization and was unceremoniously shipped to Seattle.
They hung on to Mark Prior and Kerry Wood too long to realize that they would never again regain the form that had this team 6 outs away from the World Series in 2003. In the process they hindered the progress of their eventual ace Carlos Zambrano.
They gave Alfonso Soriano 135 million dollars to be the team’s power hitting lead-off man and run producer. They gave Fukudome 40 million to be the next Ichiro. The result? Soriano has not hit 30 homeruns in two years and is a 5 or 6 hitter at best. Fukudome has been platooned in the outfield due to poor defense and his at-bats have been worse. He’s hitting .258 with 21 home runs and 112 RBI… IN THE LAST TWO YEARS TOTAL! Now you know why Lou Piniella wants to give him the Rob Dibble treatment so badly.
The stress of being the team carrying the burden of their 106-year curse has even affected players off of the field. In his parting shots to ESPN Milton Bradley said that he had derogatory comments thrown at him in public and that it has happened to other players in the organization like Soriano. Players are constantly reminded that their fans are starved for a title that two other organizations with just as bad of luck have already won.
The cross-town rival White Sox watched the curse of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the black sox scandal of 1917 go up in a puff of smoke (and great starting pitching) and the Red Sox won two world titles and have had a movie made surrounding the events leading up to the title (yeah I just mentioned Fever Pitch in my article. I think I’m going to be sick now). This maddens the lovers of the Cubs even more. It makes them pine for someone like Mark Buerhle to step and lead their pitching staff deep into October. They want a David Ortiz to be out of his mind clutch to lift their team out of do or die situations. What they have instead is a team of good players, but no one to grab the other guys by the jock-straps and lead the Cubs to victory.
When I say good players I mean no disrespect to the guys that they have. However, there isn’t one person on the field or in the pen that you can look to and say, he’ll get us a big win or get us out of a jam, or he’ll come through in the clutch. The Twins have Joe Mauer, the Astros have Lance Berkman, and the Royals even have Zach Greinke. Who do the Cubs have?
Any other year it wouldn’t have made a difference in the NL Central. The central for the better half of the last 5 years has been the league’s weakest division that is filled with teams that underachieve on a yearly basis. Not this year. The Cardinals have possibly the top 2 pitchers in the NL in Chris Carpenter and Todd Wainwright and reigning MVP Albert Pujols. The Brewers finally have some pitching to backup that potent lineup by acquiring steady arms in Randy Wolf and Doug Davis. The Astros have great young talent in Wandy Rodriguez, and J.R. Towles to mix in with proven vets like Carlos Lee and Berkman. The Reds and Pirates are two young teams full of talent that are ready to fly. What do the Cubs have to keep up with that? A depleted minor league system and back loaded contracts that will be tough to move if the Cubs decide to do so.
So here we go into season 106. Another year of hope that will be dashed, dreams deferred, and watching another team taste the sweetness of victory in October. Unfortunately for Cubs fans, it will be a sight seen far too often for them. The will hoot, holler, scream and eventually throw up their hands and utter that ever so infamous phrase “wait til next year.” However with the looks of this team, next year could be a few more years down the road. Maybe the fans should be asking for a few more signs to hover over the stadium to prevent them from watching even more catastrophe. I wouldn’t blame them at all.