Friday, September 30, 2011

2011 Ex Cub Factor

The playoffs begin today. Since my favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, tanked and haven't been competitive in years, all I can do is watch and fight my jealous feelings.

We're not really into gambling over here, but anticipating the future and guessing what we can expect is fun. When handicapping the postseason, there are a few things to consider: strength of lineup, rotation, bullpen, health, bench, and on and on.

For accuracy, there's only one way to get the process started, and that's by calculating the ex-Cub factor.

The Farns was better at
fighting than pitching.
At times, late at night, with sleepy, half-damp eyes, Cubs fans lie awake at night and wonder, where their team's gone wrong. We remember the days of Corey Patterson swinging at the first pitch, although it was invariably over his shoulders. With haunted hearts, we stare at the ceiling, hoping to sleep without remembering any of the 75 back-breaking home runs Kyle Farnsworth gave up in a Cubs uniform.

This restless existence follows us, from the tribulations of prized import, Latroy Hawkins, through the history lessons of June swoons, September collapses, black cats, and competitively pointless Summers.

Last season, the San Francisco Giants overcame the presence of Mike Fontenot on the roster and Mark DeRosa in the dugout to win their first World Series championship since moving to California.

As usual, the 2011 postseason is peppered with lovable losers.

The relationship between fans of the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks has a kinship brought on by many, many Chicagoans who moved to the desert or migrate between the two markets. To put it in East Coast Biased terms, Arizona is like New York's Florida. Aaron Heilman is the former Cub eyesore that can be seen in their bullpen. The other two players are two of the more benign former Cubs one could ask for. Henry Blanco is a blog favorite, for his ability to maintain a colorful appearance while throwing out opposing base runners. Xavier Nady is a well traveled, professional hitter who's out with a broken hand, anyway.

It's good for Detroit that there's
no ex-White Sox factor.
Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers appear too savvy to fall victim of the ex Cub curse. Looking through their roster, I couldn't find a single player. The closest influence from Cubdom that I could is about as remote as Easter Island. Their Triple-A manager, in Toledo, is Phil Nevin, who hit 12 home runs in 67 games, as a 35 year old first baseman, outfielder, and emergency catcher for the terribly unlucky 2006 Chicago Cubs.

The stench of stale beer hovering over the Milwaukee skyline has just the slightest hint of former Cub skunk, as the Wrigleyville neighbors, 90 miles to the north, carry no fewer than four former Cubs on their active roster. The most prominent is their third baseman, Casey McGahee. Jerry Hairston acts as their mild-mannered utility player, while the rotation has more than enough awful from the likes of Sergio Mitre and Latroy Hawkins. Who can forget the communal venom spewed at Hawkins after he blew leads for the 2004 and '05 Cubs? The 2011 Milwaukee Brewers are an excellent team, from top to bottom, but they'll have quite more than a few ex-Cub demons to overcome if they're going to have a championship parade.

One reason why I am
so upset with the Cubs.
The New York Yankees look to have a roster devoid of ex-Cubs. On the other hand, their manager, Joe Girardi, grew up a Cubs fan, went to school at Northwesters, and had to different stints as a player with the Cubs. When it comes to winning, however, he has been through this before. He's been a winner in multiple places, with varying roles, and different supporting casts. As a manager, perhaps his famed and often ridiculed binder serves as the crutch that grounds him away from his Cubbie past. To his side, this season, he's added long time Cubs pitching coach, Larry Rothschild. To this day, seeing Larry Rothschild in a Yankees uniform harms my Cub fan sensibilities. He's a prime example of the Cubs tanking this season by choosing their less expensive minor league pitching instructor to join their less expensive triple-a manager in the Major League dugout.

At first glance, it looked like Ruben Amaro constructed a Philadelphia Phillies team with no former Cubs. Digging a little deeper, we realize that Ross Gload is still on the team. He made his Major League debut as a member of the Northsiders on August 31, 2000. He went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts, showing he was right at home with the 2000 Cubs team that would go on to lose 97 games.

Speed doesn't slump, unless
it swings like a power hitter.
Where you may least expect to find prominent ex-Cubs is 275 miles south on I-55 in Busch Stadium. Only this year, the St. Louis Cardinals have the aforementioned Corey Patterson, former closeted Cardinals fan Ryan Theriot, and Miguel Batista, who way back when Harry Caray was calling the games, pitched for the forgettable 1997 Cubs. Much like Gload in 2000, Batista did his part for the 94-loss squad by allowing 61 batters to reach base in 36 and third innings.

The current media and saberhead darling Tampa Bay Rays have as many ex-Cub cooties as any team out there. This is to be expected, as they traded Matt Garza to Chicago for a slew of players in the offseason. Of those guys, Brandon Guyer and Robinson Chirinos contributed at the big league level this season, while Sam Fuld became The Legend of Sam Fuld. His legend grew, when filling the shoes of embarrassed castoff, Manny Ramirez early in the year. In the bullpen, they have Kyle Farnsworth and Juan Cruz. To make matters worse, manager Joe Maddon's right hand man is former Cub outfielder, Davey Martinez. These elements would traditionally portend a negative outcome for the team, but it's tough to bet against the Amazin' Rays and their secret super boy, Matt Moore, these days.

Josh Hamilton may be
an ex meth head, but
he's not an ex-Cub.
The Texas Rangers are in better sx-Cub shape than they were last season, when they reached the World Series. In last year's postseason, Josh Hamilton, who is a not-really-ex-Cub-for-a-day, was terrible in the first round, dominated the League Championship Series, then struggled again in the Fall Classic. I'm thinking the official ruling should be that he's not even an ex-Cub, since he never once suited up for them at any level. In that case, they still have role player Andres Blanco, who should have minimal impact, and relief pitcher Clay Rapada shuffled his act on to Baltimore.

The science behind this study is nonexistent, but if the baseball gods are real, and they hold a curse over Cub players for life, we would be smart in expecting a Detroit and Philadelphia World Series to be won by the Tigers.

1 comment:

  1. The Phillies injured Jamie Moyer never officially retired and has said he fully expects to compete for a roster spot next year!