It was a fun ride while it lasted. Trash-talking at work is always easier when my beloved Cubs are in 1st place. Now I, along with the rest of the Cubs Faithful, get submerged back into the anxiety-ridden no man’s land of 2nd place in the month of September.
We are not just starting the month of September either….we are 1/3rd into the final month of the regular season, and the time and place for excuses has long since been passed by. There is no competition for this division title. There never really was. All of our “rivals” in the Central are….well….to borrow from Denny Green’s timeless rant….they are who we thought they were. Old and injured is the tale of the Cardinals, and the Brewers were overachieving in the first half of the season. No surprises there. I am surprised, however, that the Cubs still seem unable to jell as a team, which is evident from their inconsistency. In 2003, the Cubs clinched their division on September 27th….it went down to the wire that year, too. Were you hoping Sweet Lou would get our Cubs in gear, and run away with the division quickly and easily? You know better….
I remember 1984. Rick Sutcliffe, Jody Davis, a young Ryne Sandberg, and the Sarge leading the way. I think 1989 often is overlooked, but I remember that year with equal clarity. There was a new guy named Mark Grace keeping the pace with Will Clark of the Giants, and who could forget Greg Maddux, the immortal Mike Bielecki, and Sutcliffe was still around. What about 2003, though? Such painful memories have clouded what should be remembered as one of the greatest periods of time for any Cubs fan. Never before had there been such a buzz about the Cubs. Our young pitching phenoms seemed to be leading us to destiny. Dusty Baker was a first-year coach who seemed to be taking us to the promised land. The Cubs didn’t just win the division….they allowed all of Chicago, and all of the Cubs Faithful around the world, to cheer wildly, for a division title, but also throughout a playoff series win! Champagne was flowing, fans were chanting “Go Cubs Go” louder than I have ever heard it.
It wasn’t Bartman’s fault.
I wish that foul ball had been a homerun instead. I wish there was no error by Alex Gonzalez. I wish Moises Alou and Mark Prior hadn’t lost control of their emotions. It would have been simpler if it was “just one of those days” for Prior. While Cubs fans would have been disappointed when Kerry Wood couldn’t close the door on game 7, the future would still have seemed so bright, and the success of that season so great, that I think we all would have been allowed to remember 2003 more fondly. Instead, just to mention any of the events that occured during 2003 in the month after September, brings many of us into a depressed and saddened state of mind.
Time to Swing the Ax
Ever cram for an important test at the last minute, when you should have been taking it seriously all semester? Did you ever take longer than you said you would, to do some home improvements around the house? What about that 50-slide presentation for work, that details endlessly everything that your team plans on doing to raise profits, which you never executed on?
Most of us are probably guilty of, at one time or another, not following through. We talked the talk, but we didn’t walk the walk.
There is nothing wrong with preparation. There is nothing wrong with managing and delegating appropriately. Eventually, though, someone has to step up and get the job done, without waiting for someone else to come through first.
Abraham Lincoln once said “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my ax”.
It is now September 10th….and those six hours are up.
Individually, I have no major problems with any of the Cubs players. Sure, I can nit-pick here and there: Zambrano needs to stay mentally focused, Lee and Ramirez need to be hitting more homeruns, our rotation was fine….Trachsel should have been used only in the event of an injury, and Piniella has screwed up by not consistently giving Murton or Floyd the majority of the playing time in LF. Even with those comments, I still am happy with the talent….but they just seem to be underachieving. We are missing leadership. Lee doesn’t quite have the personality for it….Aramis would rather be the #2 guy….Kendall has fire (but so did Barrett) but the leader also should be a top producer, ala Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, John Smoltz, etc…. Kerry Wood would normally be that guy. Hard to be the vocal leader when you are a rarely-used middle reliever, though. I thought that was what Piniella’s job was? To take this team lacking in fire and leadership, and give them a big kick in the backside. While the attitude of the team is greatly improved over the 2004-2006 Dusty Bunch, as they do not whine and complain as much….they do seem to lack fire. You can’t just hope the guy on the bench next to you hits a homerun and saves the day. You can’t go into the 9th inning down 5 runs and go down 1-2-3. You can’t do that, and expect to win the division. The 2003 Cubs won 19 of 27 games in September, allowing them to keep playing into the next month. I don’t believe they need to duplicate that achievement this time around, but they need to play winning baseball, and they need to do it asap!
Until next time, CCO Readers, let’s hope Piniella gets this team pumped up, let’s hope this team can get themselves fired up, let’s crush the Cardinals and put them out of contention for this year, and let’s go Cubs!