Put away your dreams, everyone. It's over.
Last night's 10-3 Cubs loss to the Dodgers, which felt like the score was 100-3, was the most embarrassing postseason loss I have seen by any Cubs team, in fact possibly the most embarrassing postseason loss I've seen by ANY team.
Yes, I know. In fact, Manny Ramirez said it in the postgame press conference, which I listened to with little enthusiasm on the drive home: it takes three wins, not two, to win, and there have been seven five-game series in the history of MLB postseason play in which a team went down 2-0 and came back to win. They are:
- This 1981 "Division Series" between the Dodgers and Astros which was played because of the split season due to the strike. The format was 2-3 instead of 2-2-1 and the home team won all five games; the Dodgers shut out the Astros in game 5 to move on to the NLCS.
- The 1982 ALCS between the Angels and Brewers, played in the days when the LCS were five games. Again, a 2-3 split in which the home team won all five games.
- The 1984 NLCS. Nuff said.
- Moving on to the wild card era, this 1995 division series between the Yankees and Mariners. The split in '95 was still 2-3, and once again, the home team won all the games (the Yankees were the wild card).
- By 1999, the series was played in the format we now know: 2-2-1. The Red Sox came back and beat the Indians, losing the first two games at Cleveland, beating them 23-7 in game four at home and then winning game five on the road.
- The Yankees lost the first two games at home in their 2001 division series against the A's, took two games in Oakland including the famous play in game four in which Derek Jeter's relay cut down Jeremy Giambi, who was trying to score standing up.
- And, this 2003 ALDS between the A's and Red Sox; this time the Red Sox lost the first two games on the road before winning the series. Game Three, oddly enough, was started by Ted Lilly (for Oakland) and the losing pitcher was... Rich Harden.
I guess this means it can be done. But not by this team, not the way it's playing. Embarrassing doesn't even begin to describe the disastrous second inning last night in which Carlos Zambrano got not one, not two, but three ground balls, the last two of which could have ended the inning as routine double play balls, and none of them were fielded. The first one by James Loney -- that glanced off Ryan Theriot's hand for a base hit into left field -- that one I can understand, because Theriot appeared to be shifting to cover second base on a hit & run. It happens. Teams execute hit & runs all the time, and even to get to that ball was good effort on Theriot's part.
But the easy grounders booted by Mark DeRosa and Derrek Lee -- wow. I just can't understand those at all. You can't give a major league team five outs in an inning, especially in a playoff game. Z did the best he could to get out of the inning and his defense failed him, and when Russell Martin cleared the bases with a double, the crowd, which was jazzed up like a playoff crowd ought to be before the game, was silenced. All of us in our section sat there -- I can't even describe the feeling of being stunned that I felt throughout the game. It didn't help matters that by the 9th inning, the bullpen had helped tack four more runs onto the Dodgers' lead, including Neal Cotts allowing a single that scored the seventh (third earned) and final run on Z's record, so that when the Cubs got the remains of the sellout of 42,136 (maybe about half stuck it out to the end) noisy again with a two-run rally, it didn't matter -- maybe if it had been 6-1 instead of 10-1, the Cubs might have pulled off a miracle, but they had dug themselves far too deep a hole. Mike got me to laugh, finally, in the 9th inning when he said, "Maybe we've all been dead for 40 years and this is hell." (Was the fact that each infielder wound up with an error by the end of the game a macabre way of making each one feel better about himself? Or just another cruel joke?)
Yeah, that's what it felt like. Hell. (Although, maybe this movie describes it better.) The Cub offense looked like the 2006 version -- swinging and missing at bad pitches, or bouncing into groundouts. The only walk before the ninth inning was drawn by Z -- and then the second walk was drawn by Felix Pie, who had walked 21 times in his 266 major league plate appearances before last night. It's as if impostors showed up at Wrigley Field last night and put on the pinstripe pants and the blue shirts that Z favors. These guys couldn't be the ones who won 97 games during the regular season. What do you say about this? Management spent a ton of money and virtually every single move that Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella made during the season seemed the right ones, were hailed by most of us here, and almost every day new heroes were made, things Cubs fans hadn't seen in decades happened... and now this?
I received an email from BCB reader mjk83 this morning which read, in its entirety:
I will see you on Tuesday for Game 5.
Rich Harden and Ted Lilly will get this back to Chicago and Ryan Dempster will redeem himself.
..hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.
And those of you who have read this site for a long time know that I am, in general, optimistic in nature, want to see the best of things, want to hope against hope (you know, if you are a "certain age", this is the way Jack Brickhouse always was on the air back in the hopeless early '60s, even when the Cubs were down several runs late in the game, always hoping they'd pull it out, even though they never did)... but this one's just about too much for me. I hope mjk83 is right. Really, I do. But that hope is much smaller this morning than it ought to be, and as I write this I'm 99% certain I'm cancelling my trip to Los Angeles... the game tickets I thought I had in hand fell through, and to go out there without tickets to see what feels like it's going to be a series sweep? Why bother?
I hope I'm wrong. If I am wrong and there's a game five on Tuesday, of course I'll be there. I know there are a ton of FanPosts today, far more than usual, and there may be some duplication in topics but at this point, I'm just going to let you guys vent. If this really is the end... yes, we're left with the wonderful memories of a great regular season, but it may be an extremely bitter taste from 2008 that will take a long time to wash away.
Let's hope that isn't the case. Go Cubs.