Friday, October 3, 2008

Did I Pick the Cubs? What, oh, What Was I Thinking?!

Is it too late to go back on my World Series pick from Wednesday? You know, the one where I said the Tampa Bay Rays would face the Chicago Cubs?

The good news is, I appear to have potentially been somewhat on the nose with the Tampa Bay pick; granted, it was only Game 1 of the ALDS against the White Sox, but the Rays looked intense and ready in a 6-4 win on Thursday. I don't think the White Sox have the pitching and offense to keep up with the Rays, who are virtually unbeateble at Tropicana Field.

But the Cubs? The best team in the National League this season? A team that won 97 games with a high-flying offense and a pitching staff that featured the likes of Rick "Can't Beat Me at Wrigley" Dempster, Carlos "Fireball" Zambrano and Rich "Hey, This is Much Better than Oakland!" Harden. Even Kerry Wood was in on the fun, giving the Cubs a reliable bullpen arm while actually managing to stay off the disabled list ... most of the time.

This looked like the year the Cubs might finally end the Billy Goat Curse. And the Bartman Curse. And the We're-Not-the-White-Sox Curse. After all, if Boston could exorcise its baseball demons in 2004 and the cross-town White Sox could forever banish Shoeless Joe a year later, why couldn't the Cubs finally win that elusive title 100 years after their last?

Because they're the Cubs. Losing is just a way of life for them. And I should've known better when I picked them to go to the World Series. Granted, I didn't forsee Dempster getting smacked around the ivy in Game 1, and I didn't think the Cubs' defense would implode to the tune of four errors in Game 2. But the thing with the Cubs in October is, you're probably better off betting on the unforseen. Conventional wisdom just doesn't work for this team.

So between the Dodgers' 2-0 lead heading back to Los Angeles and the way the Phillies are dispatching of the Brewers -- even knocking C.C. Sabathia out of Game 2 in the fourth inning on Thursday -- it's looking like we may be staring at a Philadelphia-Los Angeles NLCS. And if that's the case, I need to completely re-think my choice.

I find it almost impossible to pick against Joe Torre after the first two games of the Dodgers-Cubs series. This is a man who has made 13 consecutive postseason appearances as a manager, dating back to his Yankee days, and this time Torre did it without a plethora of high-priced free agents. Sure, he had Manny Ramirez tossed into his lap at the trade deadline, but the Dodgers were in NL West contention before then.

But the Phillies have Ryan Howard. And Chase Utley. And Jimmy Rollins. And Cole Hamels. And a rejuvinated Jamie Moyer. And Brad Lidge. Wait ... what was my argument for the Dodgers again?

So, Phillies-Dodgers in the NLCS. I'm gonna go with the Phils in six, mostly because of their rotation and that three-headed monster in the lineup. If Pat Burrell can get his back situated enough to be consistently effective, the Phils' chances of meeting the Rays in the playoffs look that much better.

But if I'm a Cubs fan, there is no longer any such thing as a lovable loser. If the Cubs do in fact finish this specatcular display of choking, there will only be one brand of loser on the North Side of Chicago, and it won't be very lovable. Then again, Cubs fans should take solace in three simple facts:

1) Bartman has absolutely nothing to do with this one.

2) Give it a few more days; the White Sox will likely join you in Chicago playoff futility.

3) The Bears might just give the Packers a run in the NFC North -- assuming Kyle Orton can keep from coughing up the ball. After this postseason, I think Chicago's had enough choking.

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