Be warned: those cute, lovable Cub fans are like mogwai just waiting for someone to feed them after midnight. If they ever win a championship, they will be come more annoying than you could possibly imagine. They won’t just invade ballparks around the league and annoy you with their sheer numbers -- they’ll also have a special kind of arrogance that you just can’t buy in the store. They’ll invade ballparks and spray the arrogance at other fans from high-pressure nozzles, and they’ll sing "Cracklin’ Rosie" in between innings, or something. Empathize with them now, but know and fear what a championship will bring.
Now that that’s out of the way, we don’t have to be especially worried about that happening this year. The Cubs have been pretty bad this year. And, yet again, I kind of feel bad for them. Only two seasons ago, the Cubs won 97 games. They probably felt that they were reasonably set up for the future. What, would a couple of All-Stars in their early 30s just disintegrate? Would the late-20s utility players having career years suddenly regress? Would the star pitcher signed for the better part of the decade suddenly get removed from the rotation after a four starts, and then also turn into an even more unstable head case? Yeah, like that’s all likely to happen.
Whoops. Even though the Cubs had five starting pitchers with an ERA+ over 100 this season until they traded Ted Lilly, they aren’t scoring a lot, and the bullpen had too many flammable pieces behind Carlos Marmol. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, both fantastic last year, have been Rowand and Rowander for the Cubs this year. That doesn’t explain everything. Sure, Lee and Ramirez are down, but the resurgent Geovany Soto and the Zitonian rebound from Alfonso Soriano help make up for those bad offensive performances. Last year’s OPS+ for the Cubs team that finished over .500: 88. This year’s: 89. So while the offense isn’t helping them win, they aren’t worse than last year.
No, the difference between last year and th…ah, who cares. They’re the Cubs. One of their soul-crushing playoff moments came at the hands of the Giants. I mean, that’s low. So either they’ll always be a cursed franchise, or they’ll eventually win something and turn into a reminder that every franchise other than the Giants can win a World Series, neener neener neener. Either way, their Schleprock vibe kind of creeps me out, and I wish they wouldn't remind us of their cursed presence, or look us in the eye, or use the good linens.
Hitter to watch:
Geovany Soto. The answer was Geovany Soto. Of all the pitchers and hitters who tinkered with their windups or swings, of all the player s who got into the Best Shape of Their Lives, the one guy who did it and saw an improvement was Soto. Congratulations. Now please, Geovany, don’t hurt us.
Pitcher to watch:
Wait, it says here that Carlos Zambrano is starting tonight. Awesome. He might try to dig up the pitching rubber and beat someone. He might climb the left-field foul pole and swat at encroaching planes. He could come out on the field with a fire extinguisher and completely envelop the home-plate ump. I don’t know why some people weren’t in favor of a Rowand-for-Zambrano swap – running into walls is a great trick, but it can’t beat pure craziness.
After four games, we’ll be sick of the Cubs and their fans. Just a little tired of all these four-game series, here….