UI Cubs fans still waiting for their team to show up



By Alex Paull

There has always been talk about how the Chicago Cubs are a cursed team. From the Billy Goat incident to the black cat of ’69 to the ball getting through Leon Durham’s legs to the Bartman game. While these curses don’t fit the bill, there’s one that does. The Chicago Cubs are cursed by bad play and a lack of composure when it comes to the postseason.

Going three-and-out in the playoffs two consecutive years, the Cubs seem to resemble former Bears’ offensive coordinator Terry Shea’s offense rather than one of the top offensive clubs in the National League. While the Los Angeles Dodgers’ momentum can’t be overlooked coming into the playoffs, particularly the Manny Ramirez factor, it is rather unfathomable that the Cubs would just lay down like they did.

“Everyone deserves some blame,” said Ryan Leahy, a former Illini now at Columbia College. “I just don’t think they are prepared and capable of handling the postseason pressure. They go and have an outstanding season, and when it comes to October, they just can’t keep it together.”

It seems fans could go on for days listing the problems the Cubs had during their brief playoff stint, along with the power outage at the plate in all three games, the Cubs exemplified all aspects of how not to play.

“All of their fielding, hitting and pitching stunk,” said Kevin Petray, junior in Aviation. “There isn’t really one specific player to blame. I was pretty upset to see the Cubs lose. I was surprised because they had a really good season.”

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In Game 1, Ryan Dempster, who had a 14-3 record at home this season, issued seven walks, topped off by a James Loney grand slam that the Cubs never recovered from. While Dempster gave up only four runs, he didn’t make it out of the fifth inning and opened the floodgates for their vaunted bullpen to pick up where he left off.

During the regular season, Chicago finished with the highest defense efficiency percentage – the measure of the number of batted balls turned into outs by a team – in the National League.

In Game 2, as lopsided as the match was, most of the blame could be placed on the gloves of the entire infield, with everyone lending a hand to Zambrano’s rough second inning. Derrek Lee, a perennial Gold Glove Award candidate, botched a potential double-play ball that would have gotten them out of the inning. Not to be outdone, DeRosa, channeling his inner Alex Gonzalez from the ’03 Cubs, started the trend with his own botched double-play ball that would have also gotten them out of the inning.

Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Theriot did not help Chicago’s cause, adding two errors of their own. By the time the dust had settled, the Cubs were heading into the bottom of the second inning down 5-0, compliments of Russell Martin’s bases-clearing double. The Cubs eventually lost the game, 10-3.

To cap off this year’s run, the Cubs once again drew the short end of the stick in Game 3, losing in a pitcher’s duel, 3-1. To the Cubs’ credit, if there is any, the defense limited itself to one error, while pitching kept them in the game. However, like Games 1 and 2, the Cubs did not have the clutch hit to make the Dodgers pay for their mistakes.

Time and time again, the Cubs stranded runners in scoring position, leaving nine men on base. The Dodgers outscored the Cubs 20-6 in the series sweep.

“You can’t win a game without scoring runs,” said Eric Crowley, former engineering student at Illinois. “I don’t know if you can pin the blame on anyone in particular, but they certainly weren’t hitting well. That’s typical Cubs baseball.”

The Cubs did have a playoff run, but it was a run that raised the question of whether they were looking ahead to the World Series. Their performance was not good enough, and Cubs fans are ready to see heads roll. Which heads those are is a topic for debate through the offseason.

“To be honest, I really don’t know,” said Leahy of the offseason. “I think they have the talent and one of the best ball clubs in baseball, everything is there, but for whatever reason they can’t keep it together. I don’t know what kind of moves they can make because they already have some all-stars. I just don’t know what else can be done to help them.”