Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Cubbie Power? Or just a third-place ball club like the White Sox might be

Is the World Series headed for Wrigley Field in 2015? Not likely.
I don’t know what to make of this year’s version of the Chicago Cubs.

I get the fact that the team’s fans are going to get all excited about a team that is likely to have a winning record – considering that the last five years resulted in losing records for the Cubs, and last-place finishes in each of the last two seasons.

SO THE FACT that it would take a collapse of historic proportions for the ’15 Cubs to be a losing ball club (even I believe the Cubs will win at least three of their remaining 26 ballgames) means this year is already successful for the team. They’ve already accomplished far more than anybody had any right to expect.

But do I really think of this as a ball club that has a right to think of itself as being championship-quality? I don’t think so.

Maybe I’m a traditionalist, but I can’t get beyond the fact that the Cubs are likely to finish in third place in their own division.

I can’t help but think that any team that has two other ball clubs in its own division that are better ought to be thinking in terms of next year and how to make themselves better to overcome.

THIS 2015 SEASON ought to be the year we ponder the quality and future of the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates – particularly since the Pirates themselves declined into decades of crud occasionally topped by mediocrity.

If the Pirates were able finally this year to prevail and win a National League pennant (for the first time since Sister Sledge ruled the music charts), that would be a remarkable baseball story in and of itself.

Yet there are those who are determined to believe that it is the Cubs resurgence that ought to be our prime desire. Then again, I don’t know that resurgence is the correct word – the team has been so awful for so many decades, while resurgence implies that they were once worthy.

Big national newsplay for a 3rd place ball club
Do you really want to know what I think of a third place finish? It means someone else is better (and I don’t care if you want to say that they are the best “third place” team in baseball).

HECK, THE CHICAGO White Sox also have the potential to be a third place team – they were only two games behind the Cleveland Indians by the end of Labor Day. They could wind up topping the Indians, while finishing behind the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins by the beginning of October.

The year 2015 could easily wind up being a baseball season in which both of Chicago’s ball clubs finished in third place!

It could also be a season in which, because of the quirks of modern-day baseball’s desire to have extended rounds of playoffs, in which the Cubs get dragged into the playoff picture come October – only to be the team that gets knocked out in a first-round play-in game. While all the legitimate “first place” ball clubs advance to the full-fledged playoffs.

I’m sure the Cubs fans are going to rant and rage (I anticipate your messages telling me how full of it I am) that a third-place finish under these circumstances is special. I just don’t buy it.

I’M INCLINED TO think this is a part of the rebuilding effort – and nothing more. This was supposed to be the team that wouldn’t have a serious chance of winning anything until NEXT year.

As in 2016, and not the perennial “next year” that Cubs fans always whine about.

So my own thought about the significance of baseball in Chicago this season is that I hope Cubs fans have enjoyed the boost they got in ’15. Although I wonder how many will rant that the New York Mets may wind up in the playoff picture this year, while the Cubs may not. Particularly if the Washington Nationals play well enough in coming weeks to win their division, while the Mets play well enough to be the other wild card playoff slot that Cubs fans seem to feel they already have clinched.

Will we get a 21st Century take on this moment?
Memories of 1969 and tales of that black cat (along with fables of a silly goat) may wind up being spewed as excuses. For THAT is the true character of the Chicago Cubs franchise.


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