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For this Cubs’ fan, last month was not pretty, and this month is even worse. Where have the boys of summer – and hopes of spring training – gone? More bluntly, what happened to the Cubs this season? Since mid-May my bright and shiny dreams have faded week by week to dim and dull until August smashed them to smithereens. It hardly seems worth it to clean up the shatterings with broom and dustpan. But, though it is dirty work, somebody has to do it.
Injuries, like foul balls that konk fans looking the wrong way, are the easiest pieces to sweep up, since they are the most obvious: for example, Aramis Ramirez’ shoulder. But by Aug. 1, the team was reasonably whole and healthy – and only a half-game behind the Cardinals. Four weeks later, would you believe ten-and-a-half?
As the month progressed and the team deteriorated, the Cubs missed the Mark (DeRosa) more than ever. “So-So” Soto wallowed in the sophomore jinx (I hope that is all that afflicted him) and Milton (Uncle Wilty) Bradley’s batting average struggled to find respectability while his personal style alienated fans. “Sorry” Soriano flashed and then fizzled. An adventure in the field, he was a wonder at the plate. (I kept wondering about his consistency, especially with runners on base.) As for “Head-Case” Zambrano and “Give-It-Away” Gregg, they became built-in Bartmans as far as the team’s post-season chances were concerned.
It was not all bad, though, despite August. Lee was back in form and a team cornerstone with Ramirez; Theriot had discovered power in his bat for a while, and Fukodome solidified himself on the team; Fox and Baker surprised; Hill and Blanco made enough noise to be noticed; Dempster, Lilly, Zambrano (when his emotions did not hog-tie him), Harden and Wells were top-notch when on their game; Marmol-aid was back in place and Wells, at least, the Cubs’ rookie-of-the-year.
Most of the season was a kiddie roller coaster ride until it turned mean with August’s plunge. The screams coming from me and other Cubs’ fans as the plunge continues are not about fun but frustration and futility – feelings too familiar to Cubs’ fans. It is only mid-September, and there is nothing left of the season – not even a spoiler role.
The good news is that we are spared the anguish and ineptness of the Cubs’ post-season play, I will not have to eat my words this time around, and there is new, “bleedin’ blue” blood in the owner’s suite. What the last will mean for the off-season and next year remains to be seen. Since the Cubs are now at 101 and counting, it is time to stop marketing them as “loveable losers” and for the Cubs themselves to stop buying into that mindset. It would help if they could not afford to do so.
Now what do I do with this dustpan full of last spring’s dreams?