Monday, October 05, 2009

Dealing with the Black Hole of Sports Known as Chicago Baseball
What time is the Bears game? Are the Hawks playing tonight?
It is October. In many areas of the United States, baseball fans are salivating at the aspect of post-season play, which will begin tomorrow. Fans in the Detroit and Minneapolis areas have an exciting one-game playoff. The winner advances. The loser goes home. For Chicago baseball fans, the season realistically ended several weeks ago. How depressing. Although many Chicago fans line up in either the Cubs or the White Sox camps, I am one of the rare breed who supports both teams. Doubly depressing.

Last year at this time, the Chicago White Sox won a one-game playoff against the Minnesota Twins to join the big boys in post-season play. The Chicago Cubs were the National League favorite. The potential of a Cubs-Sox World Series? Out of this world. Unfortunately, real life intruded, as the Sox were not able to get past the first round (not exactly a shocker) and the Cubs, true to form, continued their now 100+ years streak of futility.

Hopes were high for 2009. The Sox would be playing in the weakest division in baseball and the Cubs made some moves to put some left-handed bats in the line-up. The results: pure crap. The Sox were maddenly inconsistant, showing stretches of great play and stretches of play more befitting a Class AA team. The Cubs? What a disaster, from signing Milton Bradley to getting rid of Mark DeRosa (who then ended up with the Cardinals -- yuck). Despite a huge payroll, the Cubs were terrible. They had lots of excuses (to see how a good team deals with adversity, check out the Anaheim Angels) but little in the way of performance.

The toughest part? The main enemies of the teams (the Twins and the Cards) showed that things can be done in a different way. The Cards did everything right this season, from acquiring great players (DeRosa, Holliday, Smoltz, etc) to playing excellent fundamental baseball. They came from behind countless times in the late innings. They have one of the best managers in baseball. They are easy to despise. They do things the right way.

The Twins? Well, they seemed as hapless as the White Sox, but knew when to turn it on late in the season. They even depended on the Sox to beat the Tigers in two out of three games to tie with the Tigers at the end of the season. Even if they do not win game 163, they showed much more heart than the Sox when it really counted.

What to do for next year? Sweet Lou says that he will be back next year, but the Cubbies would be best to make a hard run at Tony LaRussa. The Cubs need to make a decision about Milton Bradley and get a decent player at second base. They have a bloated payroll but at least should finally have the ownership situation rectified. Perhaps the Ricketts family will have some new ideas. The payroll is killing them, though.

The White Sox have interesting questions. With the addition of Jake Peavy, the Sox now have one of the best rotations in baseball (Burhle, Danks, Floyd, and Peavy). Will they keep Bobby Jenks as closer? What will they do about Alexei Ramierez? Is Gordon Beckham for real? What to do about the "old guys" -- Konerko and Dye? Who should really be playing in the outfield? The Sox, in my opinion, have the opportunity to be one of the better teams in baseball next year -- if good decisions and moves are made.

For now, however, those of us who root for Chicago baseball teams will have to be content to watch non-Chicago playoff games. There is always next year.

Thank goodness the Bears and the Blackhawks have legitimate shots at championships this year. It helps ease the pain in October.


Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

Good analysis, good post.

The Cards did everything right this season,

Them's my boys.

12:01 PM  
Blogger OhCaptain said...

You could always cheer for my Twins against Goliath. I was able to cheer for your White Sox for 3 days in are probably one of the few who knew just how hard that was.

Personally, I'm hoping for a Cards/Twins WS. Wouldn't that be interesting.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

The Cards and Twins? YES!! Let's do it.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Mondogarage said...

Gawd, I'd love to see a Cards/Rox NLCS at this point, and a Rox/Twins WS. Sadly, it now appears neither is really likely to happen.

12:14 AM  
Blogger Shrike said...

I am increasingly disenchanted with the competitive imbalance in the AL East. There is never any margin for error for my Blue Jays; they have to get lucky nowadays to make the playoffs considering how much the Yankees and Red Sox are able to spend on payroll.


2:16 PM  

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