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.
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……