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.
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.