The Cubs are odds on favorites to win the World Series this year. The Lovable Losers open up the 2016 season tonight against the Anaheim Angels. This is a potentially historic season according to the Chicago Tribune. Not the first rodeo for this 66 year old Cubs' fan, so let me remind you of other great Cubs' teams that never won anything. Fergie Jenkins, starting pitcher on the '69 Cubs, comments on the fantastic collapse of that team:
The 2016 Cubs are definitely loaded. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jayson Hayward and Jon Lester are probably future Hall of Famers. The 1969 team was loaded too, with four future Hall of Famers... Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ron Santo. That group never won even a division title. So, excuse me if I am not convinced that being "loaded" on paper guarantees championships.
Among the many explanations for the legendary Cub's collapse in 1969 is that Leo Durocher drove the team to exhaustion with his demanding old school managerial tactics. The 2016 club is supposed to be immune to this problem because manager Joe Maddon is such a laid back guy.
Excuse me for being a pessimist. I'm a lifelong Cubs' fan.
Memorable collapses in the 1984, 1989, 2007 and 2008 playoffs barely rate a mention, because none of those teams were expected to dominate or were full of future Hall of Famers.
The other legendary playoff collapse occurred, of course, in 2003. Dusty Baker was manager of that team, and he's supposed to be the ultimate players' manager. He's back this year managing the Washington Nationals, and he's supposed to cure a toxic clubhouse environment that has undermined a star studded team.
Mark Pryor and Kerry Woods led what was purported to be an pitching staff for the ages in 2003. Two of the greatest pitching prospects ever to play for the Cubs, both flamed out in careers dramatically shortened by injury.
But, it was the Bartman game in the National League Championship game that typifies the more than century old futility of the Cubs. Poor Steve Bartman! That collapse was not at all his fault. No, the villain was Alex Gonzalez, the journeyman shortstop who botched an easy double play ball. Had he made that play, the Cubs probably would have finished off the Marlins and advanced to the World Series. Below, video of that fateful 8th inning that doomed the Cubs.
Gonzalez' stone cold choke on that double play ball occurs at the 1:32 mark. Pryor had induced none other than Miguel Cabrera to hit a ground ball. The roof caved in after that play.
So, I go into the 2016 season hoping for the best and dreading the worst. That's the karma of a lifelong Cubs' fan. I fully expect this team to win the Central Division, advance one or two rounds in the playoffs, and then blow it in some ignominiously memorable fashion. My old friend from the Earl of Old Town, Steve Goodman, had it right a long time ago. He was dying of cancer when he recorded this video.
My time on this earth is running out, Cubbies! My dad passed away without ever seeing the Cubs win the big one!
I'll be heading home mid-summer to take in a game at Wrigley. Shit, I'll be satisfied if the Cubs win a game that I attend. That's been a pretty rare occurrence.
Go Cubs Go!