If it's September, the Cubs Must be Choking

by Jeff Siegel

The end of the major league baseball season is not without intrigue. Will the Boston Red Sox, who once had a 14 ½-game lead over the New York Yankees, complete one of the greatest collapses in history? (I did a Google search for Red Sox Panic – some 969,000 results). Will the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team playing 12 games better than its Pythagorean record, win the National League West? Will the Tampa Bay Devil Rays finish last for the ninth time in their ten-season history?

All worthy of note. But that’s not what everyone asks me with a week left in the season. The one consuming question: Will the Chicago Cubs choke again?

The Cubs, of course, are baseball’s perennial losers, the team that hasn’t won a World Series in a century. This is unprecedented. As the late Steve Goodman, a Cubs devotee of some repute, put it, “You know the law of averages says: Anything will happen that can” – except, of course, for the Cubs.

On Sept. 21, with nine games left to play, the Cubs led the Milwaukee Brewers by 1 ½ games in the National League Central. Neither team is especially good. The Cubs play outfield defense like a bunch of young children wandering around a soccer field, while their bullpen has been consistent only in its inconsistency. The Brewers are best symbolized by rookie third baseman Ryan Braun, who has 34 home runs and 22 errors. If they don’t bludgeon the other team to death, they’re in trouble.

Given each team’s weaknesses, it’s difficult to predict what will happen. It’s like handicapping a horse race at some track in the middle of nowhere. Someone has to win, but there is no way to figure out which horse it will be.

And, to be honest, I’m not all that concerned. I have been a Cubs fan for almost 40 years, which has hardened me to the slings and arrows of baseball fortune. The best perspective to view the Cubs comes from Job 5:7 (and this is significant, because I never get a chance to quote Scripture): “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” Or, as Louie Canelakas, my saloon keeper, explains it: “Life is about disappointments and then dying. So why should the Cubs be any different?”

For more on Chicago's Cubs from one of their long-suffering fans, please also see these previous entries:
(The photo from the 1908 World Series shows Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers headed for first as Cubs' catcher John Kling reacts. The 1908 Series is the last one the Cubs won. The photo is from The Chicago Daily News negatives collection, item SDN-007034. The photo is courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society via the Library of Congress and with this attribution it is used with permission.)

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inowpronounceyou said...

You gotta like the Cubs over the Brew Crew. No progeny of Cecil Fielder is leading anyone to anything but a good buffet. And, besides, the Cubbies have Sweet Lou P. now. He's going to scream until either they make it or he explodes. Either way, it's entertainment.

Jeff Siegel said...

Good points all, but I must use my four-decade perspective to note that Leo Durocher's screaming didn't help in 1969. And, even more sadly, the fact that a 42-year-old Willie Mays hitting just .211 didn't stop the Mets from winning the division in 1973, five games better than the Cubs.

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