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25 Sep 2009

Cubs = AAA (Another Annus of Awfulness)

Author: AnnKillion | Filed under: Bay Area Sports

The Cubs are in town for their one and only visit to San Francisco, and so we have our annual contest of which fans have suffered more. Of course the Cubs fans have – 101 years without a World Series win and 64 years without an appearance. The Giants have simply been without a championship for 55 years and for their entire existence in San Francisco. But they’ve been to the World Series three times since. Yippee.

The Cubs are having another one of their horrible, cover-the-children’s-eyes kind of years.

They’re ten games back, and they’ve imploded. This week the Cubs have suspended Milton Bradley for the rest of the season, months after signing him to a three-year $30 million deal (what insanity was that?).

Bradley has had an escalating series of issues with the Cubs, but the straw that finally broke the Cubs back was he did the the worst thing you can do in all of Cubdom: he told the truth.  

“You can understand why they haven’t won in 100 years here,” Bradley said to a local scribe, while unloading on the club.

Now, I don’t think Bradley is rational or his actions defensible. But beneath his paranoia and anger-management issues, he has a point.  Personally, I don’t really have anything against the Cubs (well, except for the fact that a Cub fan threatened to punch me when I was rooting for Tony Gwynn in a Tahoe casino during the 1984 playoffs). But I do think there is a culture of losing, where fingers are pointed. The Curse of the Billy Goat is more like the Finding of the Scape Goat.

I say that because I was at the Bartman game, when the Cubs were six outs from the World Series in 2003. And I witnessed the power of Loserville.

When Bartman stupidly reached out for the ball, the life was sucked out of Wrigley Field. Instantly. It was as though a curtain dropped, the lights were switched off. All went from joy and happiness to absolute despair in a milli-second.

 On the field, the players felt it – Moises Alou went ballistic. In the stands, it was as though everyone collectively had witnessed a death.

Which of course, they had. But the thing was – they caused it. Not Bartman. It was the collective Cubs angst, the bizarre overreaction, that dropped like an anvil on the scene and led to complete ruin.  The Marlins went on to score eight runs, six unearned.

And that was it. Thanks for coming. Close as the Cubs have been to the World Series.

I’ve always been a fan of the way Dusty Baker handled a clubhouse and a team, so during those years I winced every time I heard what Cubs fans had to say about him. He had tried to change the culture, but the culture caught up with him that night. Yet somehow that failure became his fault. They couldn’t wait for Baker to get out of town. Lou Pinella was going to save them.

Yeah, that was the ticket.

Pinella’s team finished first in both 2007 and 2008 and were swept out of the playoffs both years, by the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers. This year, with the third-highest payroll in baseball, the Cubs have been trailing St. Louis most of the season.

Now it’s Milton Bradley’s fault. The cursed (scape)goat.

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