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Reflections On The 2008 Season

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Before we move on to the Division Series against the Dodgers -- and I'll have some thoughts on that posted either later today or tomorrow -- I thought it would be nice to take a deep breath, a few steps back, and think again about this remarkable baseball season we have just experienced.

I've renamed the box on the right sidebar that contains the Cubs' record in their best seasons, that I've maintained on a daily basis since May, "Most Cub Wins In A Season". In the entire 133-season history of the Chicago National League Ball Club, this year's 97-victory bunch won more than all but eight of the previous editions. Of those eight, seven of them won pennants and the other one, the 1909 team, won 104 games and finished second (and likely would have also won the pennant, which would have given them five straight pennants, if Johnny Kling, their fine catcher, hadn't stayed home in Kansas City all year in a contract dispute). There is no doubt that this is the best Cub team in decades, likely since the 1935 Cubs won 100.

The 2008 Cubs led the NL in runs, and by a substantial margin: 855 runs scored; the next-best teams, the Mets and Phillies, tied at 799. They led the league in doubles, walks, OBA and SLG. They finished tied for second (with the Brewers) in ERA, and second to the Dodgers -- and this will likely come into play starting Wednesday -- in fewest runs allowed. They lost six in a row once, and apart from that the longest losing streak of the season was four. They had winning streaks of nine, seven, six and three five-game streaks. Their mission now is to win eleven of the next nineteen.

We all have our memories of our favorite games, performances and players this season. Personally, I love this team. There isn't a single player on the 2008 Cubs that I dislike -- although I'd prefer that Bob Howry not make the postseason roster, I think he's a standup guy who's doing the best he can, it's just not good enough. So to end this brief review, a few notes on how pre-season (or pre-POSTseason, if you are inclined to do so) analysis or looking at early-season performance isn't necessarily the way things are going to turn out.

  • When the Mets traded for Johan Santana, many in the mass media ceded the NL East, the playoffs and the World Series to the Mets. I asked, "Yeah, Johan and who else?" Santana did have a fine year for the Mets; he won 16 games and led the league in ERA. But despite his clutch shutout on the season's penultimate day, the Mets will be watching the playoffs on TV for the second year in a row.
  • When the Diamondbacks started the season 21-9, many of you here were worried that "those great pitchers" would once again shut down the Cubs in the postseason. I said, "They're not that good." They weren't. Despite picking up Adam "Me See Ball, Me Hit Ball Long Way" Dunn, the D'backs finished ninth in the league in runs scored and had to sweep their final series vs. the Rockies just to finish over .500.
  • When the Tigers started 0-7, I pointed out here that no team that had started that badly had ever made the postseason. I said, "They're done." Many of you disagreed. Turns out, they were done. They managed to squeak to three games over .500 on July 23 (55-52) and to within 5 games of first place, but have gone 19-35 from that day to today, when they will visit the Cell to try to deny the White Sox a tiebreaker game tomorrow with the Twins. You can bet Freddy Garcia is going to want to beat his former team and Ozzie Guillen, his close friend.

Speaking of the makeup game today, it is the first such game played since 1973. I posted this in the recap thread from Saturday's game; if you missed it, here are the circumstances surrounding the 1973 Padres/Pirates makeup game, courtesy of Mike Emeigh of SABR:

In 1973, the Mets were 81-79, the Cardinals were 81-81, and the Pirates were 80-81. The Mets had two rainouts with the Cubs to be replayed at Wrigley Field, while the Pirates had a single game to make up with San Diego. Had the Mets lost both games and the Pirates won their game, there would have been a three-cornered tie for the NL East title. As it turned out, the Mets defeated the Cubs in the first game of the scheduled doubleheader to clinch the division, while the Pirates were losing to the Padres. The scheduled second game of the Wrigley Field DH, being no longer necessary, was cancelled.

To expand a little on that, the two Mets/Cubs games were rainouts that had occurred on the season's final weekend, when the weather in Chicago was dreary and cold, but the Mets were already in town. The Pirates/Padres game had been rained out in April, and San Diego had to make a special one-day trip to Pittsburgh, much as the Tigers have to do today. The 1973 Padres were a terrible team; they lost 102 games, but their win that day helped to deny the Pirates a shot at a tiebreaker.

This has been a fascinating and joyful baseball season, filled with marvels. May those marvels thrill us as Cubs fans for four more weeks.