When it comes to Chicago Cubs baseball, if recent events have taught us anything, it’s never say always. One of my favorite things to say here at Prose and Ivy is, “We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh”. Given our performance in the past against the lowly Pirates, it always appeared on the year’s schedule as a gift-wrapped blessing. A small three day break if you will where wonderful things happen like Cubs home runs flying out of the park, pitchers dominating on the mound, Cubs ending up on the right end of a blow out and W flags are hooked to the flag pole rope at the top of the first for it’s inevitable rising after the top of the ninth. Plan to head home early folks because the Pirates are coming to town. There won’t be any Cubs batting in the bottow of the ninth because there won’t be one. These games are given. The Pirates can’t handle the talent and the skill level the Cubs bring to their games. Regardless of how the Cubs were going, if you see Pittsburgh coming up on the schedule, get ready for at least a three game turnaround and find your brooms. The Cubs were about to seem the Pirates and all will feel right again in Wrigleyville.
That was then. This…is now.
All of a sudden, the Cubs can’t be counted on to beat one of the worst teams in all of baseball and the cellar dweller or the NL Central. See that .342 winning percentage and the 17 games that they currently sit behind the division leading Reds? Don’t let that fool you! When the Pirates have had the all-of-a-sudden priviledge of playing the Cubs, they are a surreal .800 ballclub! In ten games against the Cubs this year, they’ve won 8 and lost 2. What?!? WHAT!?! There are certain things that this blog feels it can count on: baseball magazines and websites and blogs will have the Cubs listed as contenders in the Central, talk whether this is the year and then the Cubs will let you down come October (some seasons even earlier); Dempster will predict the Cubs will win it all; Carlos Marmol will be responsible for at least six heart attacks across the midwest throughout the course of a season; Sox fans will hate on Cubs fans and vice versa; and if nothing else is going our way, hey hey…at least ‘We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh’. Well, that last one apparently no longer applies. And it just may be a blessing in disguise.
Think about how this season is going. The Reds lead the NL Central and the Cubs currently sit in fourth place looking up at the unfortunate view of Brewers behinds, hardly even keeping the Cardinals in sight, while the Reds are a ******** 10 games out in front of them. The offense thinks it’s still the off-season. Carlos Zambrano is seeing a shrink. Piniella seems to be snoozing through the first half of the season. All of our ‘all-stars’ suddenly look too old, too injured, or too apathetic. Castro started out hot and then cooled off to an average pace. Wells can’t seem to find the form that kept him one of the club’s most dominant pitchers in ’09. And for some reason, we CAN’T beat the Pirates. Fine. If that’s the way it is…if that’s the way it’s going to be, then perhaps the rest of the things we’ve come to expect can start to make a change as well.
Perhaps the head shrink can get Zambrano under control and he can perform out of the bullpen upon possibly returning after the All-Star break. Perhaps Wells can find his form and start to lead this club through a charge to possibly make up 10 games to the top of the division. Our crosstown rivals just made a huge push to put themselves in the club of relevant baseball teams for this year, and if they can do it I KNOW we can do it. Perhaps we will find a way to win one run ballgames in the 2nd half of the season. Those eighteen losses in one run games might just be the single most frustrating aspect of 2010. Perhaps since what has become the norm against Pittsburgh has been turned on it’s head, maybe all of these other things we’ve come to expect from this team this year can take a change of course as well. Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise.
Of course, if it does happen there is a very good chance that we may have a few different guys wearing that same disguise as there are rumors that everyone from Zambrano to Marmol to Fukudome to Lilly are on the trading block. I’m not sure how far behind we need to be for Ricketts to consider himself a seller as opposed to a buyer. He’s a good business man it seems, but he’s also a fan. I wonder how hard it must be for him to make rationale decisions when analyzing at point this particular team is no longer going to make the push it needs to contend. I wonder if Ricketts thinks Pittsburgh is just another symptom of an extremely frustrating and disappointing Cubs season. I wonder if he can find a way out of this mess and find the blessings in all of this turmoil. So many fans on-line if you read around the Cubsblogosphere have already said ‘please, no more’ or are very close to taking that flag and throwing it in like a towel. I don’t like our odds against the rest of the league if we can’t even handle Pittsburgh. However, I didn’t expect Pittsburgh to put the beating on us the way they have. Hopefully an unexpected 180 on this season’s trajectory is around the corner as well. If not Pittsburgh, we’ll always have fool’s hope, right?
(Any thoughts you’d like to share can be done in the comments section, or if you’d like, you can call into tonight’s Baseball Bloggers Alliance podcast. I’m guest hosting tonight at 11pm EST and you can find the show’s site and information here! And since I’m hosting with WebSoulSurfer who runs a Padres blog, I’ve included a clip of the Derrek Lee/Chris Young fight. Why not? Enjoy. Go Cubs Go!)