Monday, October 25, 2010

Texas versus San Francisco: What do they know about pain of perennial losing?

My recommendation to everybody is to go out and buy themselves a pair of earplugs; the better to block out all the incessant whining we’re going to hear in coming days from Chicago Cubs fans with regards to this year’s matchup in the World Series.

The American League champion Texas Rangers will take on that other league’s champions, the San Francisco Giants, in a best-of-seven World Series, scheduled to begin Wednesday.

WHEN PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES star slugger Ryan Howard failed to come up with a game-tying (or winning) hit Saturday night and instead made the final out, the stage was set for the futility World Series.

The Giants, after all, are the team that has never won a World Series since moving from Harlem to the Bay Area in 1958. That last Giants’ World Series title of 1954 was so long ago that Willie Mays was an up-and-coming star when he made that fantastic catch of what could have been Vic Wertz’ inside-the-park home run at the Polo Grounds.

But compared to the Texas Rangers, that is a boatload of success. The Rangers, who came into existence in 1972 when an incarnation of the Washington Senators decided the Dallas suburbs were better than the District of Columbia, have NEVER been in the World Series. 2010 is already a monumental season for them because it is the Rangers’ first American League championship ever.

So one way or another, either the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area or San Francisco is going to get a World Series title to celebrate. One of professional baseball’s streaks of futility will end this year. It must. There just isn’t any way that both teams could lose.

THAT IS WHAT will cause the complaining from baseball fans for whom the epicenter of their fanaticism is the Humble Abode of one Elwood J. Blues (a.k.a., Wrigley Field).

We’re going to hear a lot about 1908 – the last time the Chicago Cubs managed to win a World Series. It’s 102 years and counting since a Cubs team won everything. Cubs fans are going to get all whiny and say that people of San Francisco and Dallas have no clue what it is like to go so long and support a ballclub without getting a sense that the team accomplished something.

We’ll even get reminders of 1945, the last year that the Cubs actually managed to win a National League championship and play in a World Series – losing four games to two to the Detroit Tigers (the same team they beat for their two World Series victories in 1907 and 1908).

By comparison, having a major league team since 1972 that never managed to win anything (as is the case for the ballclub based in the Dallas suburb of Arlington) is just a minor set-back.

CUBS FANS WILL want to think that these teams don’t deserve to think of themselves as having to endure any particular record of futility. Perhaps Cubs fans will think that other teams are trying to steal their unique aura by making it seem like their World Series-winless streaks are worthy of note.

Now as anybody who has read my past commentary on matters related to professional baseball knows, I am not a Chicago Cubs fan. I find the breed to be too self-righteous. They whine about everything. And there’s something about that consistent knack for blowing ballgames that I as a Chicago native find embarrassing.

It’s like people think of the Cubs and assume that all of Chicago is a batch of losers just because of the baby blue bear cubs from the North (side, that is).

Personally, I have no problem with the futility angle being applied to this year’s World Series, because it is legitimate. I think the Cubs’ standard of futility is in its own category, and that it is ridiculous to downplay somebody else’s significant streak of being unsuccessful.

SO IT WILL be interesting to see which city ultimately gets to celebrate its first World Series ever, and which one gets to have to take on the old Cubs’ mantra of “Wait ‘til Next Year). Perhaps the losing team will continue to be futile for a long-enough period that they someday can be put in the Chicago Cubs unique classification of losing.

Insofar as this year’s World Series is concerned, I suppose I’m rooting for the Rangers because I’m an American League fan and usually support that league’s team in the All-Star Game and World Series.

Although I have to admit, when I saw Giants shortstop Juan Uribe hit what turned out to be the game-winning home run Saturday that gave the Giants the pennant, I couldn’t help but recall the final game of the 2005 World Series, particularly the last inning when Uribe made a dive into the stands to catch a foul ball, then barehanded a ground ball hit by Houston Astros pinch-hitter Jose Vizcaino for a throw to first base for the final out that let the Chicago White Sox break their own futility streak (88 years between World Series titles).

I do have to confess one thing – a part of me was hoping that the New York Yankees could have rebounded and defeated the Rangers for the American League championship.

LARGELY, IT IS because of the presence of Yankees’ relief pitcher Kerry Wood – whom Cubs fans used to worship as the man who would take their team to a World Series appearance (which obviously never happened).

I would have gotten my chuckle from seeing Wood finally make it to a World Series in Yankee pinstripes, similar to how I still remember the 1999 World Series for giving long-time White Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen his only chance to play (no hits and one strikeout in five at-bats) in a World Series, albeit while wearing the tomahawk of the Atlanta Braves across his chest.


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