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Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Dodgers’

Chicago Cubs Playoff Baseball Takes Yet Another Cruel Turn

Posted by sportsmaven on October 1, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, this series is over.  That’s it, all up in smoke in 2 hours of bad baseball.  The Chicago Cubs were on the biggest of the biggest stage tonight.  Most everything has been going their way in what has been an amazing baseball season to this point.  What was needed was a Game 1 victory in the National League Division Series, to show the world what we have seen in Chicago for the past 6 months, but the Cubs came out flat, nervous, and scared, a virtual repeat of last season’s sweep at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The Cubs suddenly have developed a severe case of the flop sweats.  From the outset of Game 1, the Cubs looked shell shocked, scared.  Looked as if they were pressing, the pressure of all the expectations, burdens of 100 years of fan expectations, on their shoulders.  The burdens of 100 years of failed Cubs teams to make up for.  They took that on the field with them tonight and played as though they wanted to wipe out 100 years of expectations in one failed swoop.

After the game, everyone looked completely stunned, in a state of shock, with no confidence.  From the tone and look on manager Lou Piniella’s face in his post-game interview, to the tentative, shaky answers the Cub players provided after tonight’s 7-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, from body language, tone of voice, not one bit of confidence oozed from anyone associated with the Cubs tonight.

This team looked defeated.  And this is why this series and the season will be over for the Cubs in 4 or 5 short days.  The Cubs have an 0-7 record in their last 7 playoff games, going back to the 2003 NLCS, and there are no discernable signs of this trend breaking any time soon.  And now, ironically, the season is in the very erratic hands of RHP Carlos Zambrano in a must win Game 2 tomorrow night.

Tonight’s Cubs team performance, and RHP Ryan Dempster in particular, reminded me of actor Albert Brooks in the 1987 hit movie “Broadcast News”.  Brooks plays an uber intelligent reporter named Aaron Altman.  Altman is a neurotic, socially repressed reporter who is craving for a chance to dance on the big stage of network news, the anchor desk of the prime time news cast.

He wants to anchor the prime time news show.  When all the regulars are attending the White House Correspondents Dinner, Altman is given his chance to star on the prime time evening news.  Altman is beyond smart, almost overqualified in many ways, but he craves just one opportunity to shine in the limelight.

When the camera light blinks on at the most crucial moment when newscast begins, Altman suddenly realizes the enormous magnitude of the moment and his perceived inadequacy, he gets the “deer in the headlights” look in his eyes.

As the newscast contunues, he begins profusely sweating, so bad that William Hurt’s character described it as “singing in the rain”.  An utter disaster.  This is what happened to Dempster and the Chicago Cubs tonight.

The baseball gods are very fickle at this point of the season.  They don’t care about destiny nor the burdens of 100 years of baseball futility.  They have no room for perceived entitlement, fans expectations, nor do they care what you did yesterday.  They don’t care about predestinations, or history.  They certainly don’t care about curses, billy goats, or pressure.  All they care about is baseball played today, played well, and with execution.  Today’s game.

Tomorrow night’s game is the most important of the season.  It is the season.  The short divisional series is the great equalizer in the baseball playoffs.  It’s where dreams, hard work, and grandiose expectations go to die.  The Chicago Cubs are in a must-win situation tomorrow night and in Game 3 in Los Angeles on Saturday.  Carlos Zambrano, lets see what you’ve got……

Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Something Special In The Air In Chicago

Posted by sportsmaven on September 30, 2008

It almost didn’t happen.  Two series ago, the Chicago White Sox were left for dead.  They went into Minnesota to play the badly limping Twins, armed with a 2.5 game lead and left down by .5 game with 3 to play.  At least they were home and playing a Cleveland Indians team that was playing out the string in a disappointing season.  The Twins were doing their part, losing the first two games of their final series against an all of a sudden very tough Kansas City Royals team, but the Sox kept throwing the generosity back, losing their first two games as well.  Then, the first break came.  Indians LHP Cliff Lee, the probable AL Cy Young Award winner and 22-game winner was shut down due to a stiff neck.  The next break came in the form of a clutch outing by LHP Mark Buehrle on Sunday to extend the season.  The third break was facing RHP Freddy Garcia (who so happens to be married to Sox manager Ozzie Guillen’s wife’s niece) and the Detroit Tigers at home.  The break after that was Garcia pulled from the game in the 6th inning after shutting down the Sox, only to be followed by 2B Alexi Ramirez’ grand slam to win the game for the Sox.  The biggest break of them all?  Hosting a one game playoff for the AL Central Division title at home against Minnesota.

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

The local Chicago media has been focused on a dual Cubs/Sox playoff presence for most of the baseball season.  Both teams were in 1st place in their respective divisions for most of the season.  TBS made a huge mention of this fact tonight on their television broadcast, as well as the fact that it has been 102 years since both the Cubs and the Sox made the post-season in the same year.  Nobody else mentioned the fact that in the same city theme, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers also made the playoffs this season.  Little coverage, little play anywhere for that story.  Since 1901, the White Sox have made the post-season 10 times, in 2008, 2005, 2000, 1993, 1983, 1959, 1919, 1917, 1906, and 1901.  In the same timeframe, the Cubs have made the post-season 16 times, in 2008, 2007, 2003, 1998, 1989, 1984, 1945, 1938, 1935, 1932, 1929, 1918, 1910, 1908, 1907, and 1906.  The last time both the Cubs and Sox make the playoffs in the same year?  That’s right, 1906.  In contrast, the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s have made the playoffs in the same season 5 times since 1968.  The New York Yankees and New York Mets have shared post seasons three times since 1969 and the Dodgers and Angels have done it twice since 1961.

There have been 17 intracity World Series matchups in baseball history.  The Yankees and Mets played each other in the 2000 World Series, dubbed the Subway Series.  In 1989, the A’s swept the Giants in the Bay Series, marred by a devestating earthquake.   Then it’s the Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956 and 1955, 1953, 1952, 1949, 1947, and 1941.  In the middle, the St. Louis Cardinals vs. St. Louis Browns in 1944.  Before that, it’s the Yankees again vs. New York Giants in 1951, 1937, 1936, 1923, 1922, and 1921.  Chicago Cubs vs. the Chicago White Sox?  Once, in 1906.

I don’t know if this will be the year for the Chicago match up for the ages, but something special is in the air in the Chicago baseball world in 2008.  Lets hope that it’s not another century before this happens again.

Posted in Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Do The Chicago Cubs Own Destiny? Only Time Will Tell…

Posted by sportsmaven on September 25, 2008

Hardly a day goes by before someone spouts an opinion about who our beloved Chicago Cubs should or should not want to play in the playoffs.  Just this evening, I had a conversation with my wife, her cousin, and a couple of other well informed sports theorists on the merits of each team the Cubs may have to face in the upcoming playoffs.

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Like many others, I was initially caught up in the popular debate.  I originally wanted the Cubs to face the New York Mets in the NLDS, as the Mets provide a very favorable matchup for the Cubs.  Anyone, but the Philadelphia Phillies, I thought.  After the Cubs, the Phillies were the most complete team in the NL this season and played the Cubs very tough this season.  Then I jumped on the Los Angeles Dodgers bandwagon, Manny Ramirez included.  The Dodgers were less imposing, offensively challenged, and in the weakest division in Major League Baseball, the good old National League West division.  Ripe for the picking.

The Milwaukee Brewers?  Won’t have to even think about facing the Brewers until the NLCS, that is if they secure the NL Wildcard.  That bullpen, the streaky offense, did the Brewers ride CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets into the ground in their push to the playoffs?

Amidst the thinking of the various scenarios and how they would potentially play out, another scenario popped into my little head, like a great rush of fresh air.  It seemed almost too simple to comprehend, as though simplicity eliminated the potential of this concept to be with merit.

Really, it doesn’t matter who the Cubs play in the playoffs.  There are no Pittsburgh Pirates or Washington Nationals in the playoffs.  Every team that makes the playoffs is an excellent quality team.  Each playoff team has it’s flaws, some more than others.  The playoffs are seldom about the best team during the season, but rather, the team playing the best when the playoffs happen to be played.  It’s a crapshoot – the team with the hot hand has the best chance of going all the way, first to win 11games wins it all.  It means that the Brewers or Dodgers have as good a chance as the Cubs in winning a World Series.  It means that the Chicago White Sox or  Minnesota Twins have as good a chance to win it all as the Tampa Bay Rays or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Network analysts, newspaper sports columnists, Peter Gammons, Ken Rosenthal and other baseball talking heads get paid to spin their most favorable matchups for each playoff team, to analyze favorites and make predictions based on the results of a 162 game season.  It’s even vogue to pick a dark horse, playing on past runs of underdog wildcard teams such as the St. Louis Cardinals, who won 83 games en route to a unlikely World Championship in 2006 over a 95 win Detroit Tigers team.

The team that will win the 2008 World Series will be the team that plays unified team baseball, puts it all together at the right time, catches lightning in a bottle to ride a hot streak that lasts for a month, a team that powers through the 11 wins necessary to be called World Champions.  Destiny has already chosen the 2008 World Series Champion.  The only question remaining is if destiny has chosen the Chicago Cubs, or do the Cubs have the balls and heart to go out and get their destiny?  Come October 30th, we’ll all know the answer to that question.

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Chicago Cubs Bullpen Give Another Game Away

Posted by sportsmaven on May 14, 2007

My posts on the Chicago Cubs this season have generally not been glowing. Tonight’s post will not enter that territory either. The reason being is that the Cubs are headed for a mediocre at best season. Tonight’s game against the New York Mets is a prime example of that. Too many Cubs seasons have either begun with a flourish only to be bogged down by the realities of the level of talent, injury, or futility. Since the division winning season of 2003, the Cubs have been flat, and fundamentally flawed. There have been too many games where the Cubs failed to get bunts down, advance runners, hold runners from advancing, throwing to the correct bases, making too many mental errors, the list goes on.

Cubs Bullpen Give Another Game Away to Mets

(AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy)

This year, the problems again happen to be the same as other years — the bullpen has to be one of the worst in baseball. The Cubs bullpen is 3-10 this season. Ten losses in the first 36 games due to your bullpen. Tonight, 3 walks in the 9th inning, walking in the winning run, by P Michael Wuertz, up to now, the most reliable pitcher in the pen outside of Ryan Dempster. The timely hitting which seemed to appear at the turn of May has given way to the maddening inconsistency that dogged the Cubs in April.

The Cubs can ill afford to hover around the 2 games under .500 mark with roughly 25% of the season already in the books.  On Saturday, the Cubs bullpen gave up 6 runs in the bottom of the 7th after scoring 6 runs in the top of the inning to take a 7-5 lead, ultimately losing that game 11-7.  Some changes need to be made and quickly for this team. The surplus of outfielders might be a good start in picking up some reliable bullpen arms. The latest injury to 1B Derrek Lee is also a great concern. It was about this time last season that Lee was injured in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers that sent the Cubs into a downward, last place spiral for which they could never overcome. Losing Lee again would be a huge blow for this team’s chances. The Cubs have wasted brilliant starting pitching from Jason Marquis, Ted Lilly, and Rich Hill. The time for this team to come around is now. Excuses are running out, and so is time on a successful season at the rate it’s going now……

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