Although I am new to Bleed Cubbie Blue, I was there in 1969 as a 13-year-old kid, taking the Skokie Swift to Howard to Addison with my still best friend, arriving before the Park opened in order to claim our front row seats in the right-field bleachers among our new friends and other diehards and where I was initiated into the burden of being a lifetime Cubs fan by the glory and pain bestowed on us that fateful summer. Since then, I have religiously bled Cubbie blue, moving on from the bleachers to shared box seats four rows behind the Cubs dugout, and passing on this wonderful/dreaded legacy to my children who are now old enough to celebrate or grieve into a cold cup of Bud.
I mourned the death of my first Cubs hero, Kenny Hubbs, and later sat through Hooton's no hitter in the cold rain and was in the bleachers for Pappas' no-no with a better view than Bruce Froemming, and sat in awe while King Kong and Sammy launched prodigious home runs. I also watched in horror as a routine ground ball rolled underneath Leon Durham's glove in San Diego, and turned away in horror from the TV screaming, "NO! NO!", as the clueless FOX announcers replayed a clip of the Durham debacle as the set up to the Cubs' "inevitable" victory and World Series appearance only moments before Bartman. I have seen a lot of Cubs baseball in my 50-plus years, experienced all the highs and lows, and repeatedly wonder every year why "WE" can't win a World Series.
Maybe it's my advancing age and the certainty that the window of opportunity, in my still hopefully long lifetime, is nevertheless shrinking . But it is getting harder for me to believe that a World Series appearance, let alone a championship, will ever be in the cards. Is it because of a black cat or a goat or the "pressure" of 100 years and counting that it seems with few exceptions to make donning a Cubs jersey kryptonite? Maybe? But I don't think so. That's just part of the lure and lore of the Cubs that makes them adorable and cuddly. No one ever uses those terms to describe the Yankees or Cardinals.
The 2010 version is the clearest example that the failure to win a World Series this year (or even appear) will not be attributable to the occult or to extraterrestrials. At best, that is if Lee and Ramirez wake up, this is a team that will keep us interested and excited fueled by sun and beer. But it is not a World Series caliber team by any stretch of our vivid imaginations. There are no World Series quality players or leaders. It is a team of has-beens, might have beens and could bes. Nonetheless, we'lI collectively agonize over why this team is not performing better, driving in runs in key situations and running away with the Central Division. We have all drunk the Kool-Aid too much to know the difference between a World Series contender and pretender, and it's not all the zeros on the end of the paychecks. If zeros were a predictor of success, the Cubs would be defending World Series champions.
No, it's simple numbers that apparently Jim Hendry and the rest of the brain trust can't compute. Let's look at the career statistics of our top three offensive "leaders" in a few but important offensive categories and compare them with the top three from recent World Series winners.
Soriano -- lifetime BA .272, RISP w/2 outs .226, strikes out more than 20% of his at-bats and his highest batting average is with the bases empty at .288.
Lee -- lifetime BA .283, RISP w/2 outs .248
Ramirez -- weirdly identical to Lee. Lifetime BA .283 ,RISP w/2 outs .248, and has only once played more than 150 games for the Cubs.
Jeter - lifetime BA .316, RISP w/2 outs .316 and .309 RISP with less than two outs. Pretty consistent.
A-Rod -- lifetime BA .304, RISP w/2 outs .286 (I'll take it) and .345 with less than two outs!
Teixeira -- lifetime BA .287, RISP w/2 outs .305 and .315 with less than two outs. Wasn't he available instead of Milton Bradley?
Pedroia -- lifetime BA .307, RISP .293
Ortiz -- lifetime BA .281, RISP .295
Manny -- (he was on the team for their 2 World Series) lifetime BA .314, RISP w/2 outs .314, and .329 with less than two outs. And he was a "Dog." Huh??
Pujols -- .333 lifetime BA, RISP w/2 outs .328, and .346 with less than two outs. He's a freaking monster!
Holliday -- (he wasn't on the most recent WS team, but may be this year) .310 lifetime BA, RISP .293
Ludwick -- .272 lifetime BA, .302 RISP
Utley --RISP w/2 outs .280, with less than two outs .291
Howard -- lifetime BA .275, .277 RISP, .272 RISP w/2 outs
Ibanez --.298 RISP
Rollins -- .287 RISP
This is not rocket science. It is not even brain surgery. Is there any wonder anymore why the current Cubs offensive (syn. smelly, putrid ) leaders can't score runs when they need them or win a single playoff game? This is a rhetorical question. No answer is needed.
In the meantime, I will watch and follow every game, dutifully re-up my season tickets and with every three-game winning streak exclaim, "Maybe they've turned it around," and when the winning streak reaches five games I will confidently say, "Ramy is back! I'm just saying ...."