Monday, July 21, 2008

Uh Oh - The Lump Has Shown Up

All of you Cubbie fans out there know what I'm talking about. The lump that comes into the back of your throat when you start to worry about the season at hand getting away.

Last season the Cubs were magical and pushed their way in over the 2nd half. They came back on the young Brewers, beginning with their series in Chicago when June rolled into July. The lump wasn't there then. But when the Cubs dropped 4 of their last 6, against Cincy and Florida, and re-entered a race they had all but won a week earlier. Being swept by the dead Marlins in September got many Cub fans starting to worry going into the Postseason. Then it grew when our Rookie Phenom Reliever Carlos Marmol gave up 3 runs in 3 innings and blew Game 1 in Arizona. The same game where our 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 hitters combined for 1 hit and 8 Ks. Then when resurgent starter Lilly gave up 6 runs in 3.1 innings and chucked his glove in game two. We all kind of knew things weren't going to turn around. And then they didn't.
Flash back to the Fall of 2003 when once again the Cubs were sneaking their way into the postseason. That whole season they rode on the crafted by God arms of Wood and Prior. They charged into the postseason with a couple of 14 game winners and an 18 game winner, oh and Carlos Zambrano was their 4th starter. Pitching was crucial and they had it. Without a lot of offensive help Dusty rode Prior and Wood's arms into the ground, literally, but the Cubs looked like they were there. This could be the year, their year. They beat the East winning Braves in 5 great games. Wood won two games and drove in the 2 go ahead runs in game one and Prior won Game 3. They looked like they were headed to the World Series. They just had to get past the pesky Marlins. After dropping game one (in 11) they took the next 3 (2 on the road) and were beating the Fish in every aspect of the game. Then, well you know the story, 5 outs from the World Series, Foul ball, etc.

Here's the thing. The lump came late in those seasons because leading up to it they were in a battle, they were the ones hunting, not those being hunted. Well the lump has come already this season for me. It's very, very small, and can still be corrected and hopefully erased in the near future. But the lump is there. It started miniscule back in June when the Cubs went on their fun little 6-10 streak against the Devil Rays (0-3), White Sox (3-3), Baltimore (1-2), and San Fran (2-2). But they recouped going into the break winning 6 of 9. I calmed down and got excited about the 2nd half (which I still am). But this weekend the lump came back with a fury. They went 1-2 against the Astros. Their bats were dead quiet scoring 2 runs in 2 games on 2 solo shots (Edmonds and Zambrano) and not much else than that in the first 2 games. They had a flurry of hits yesterday but not enough to clear up my qualms. They scored 9 runs yesterday but 5 were in the 9th against struggling relievers. Hopefully it's a sign that they just needed a couple warm up games after the break, since 8 of their players were traveling to and from New York last week and playing in the marathon game.

But the lump is still growing. The fact that Fukudome, the Outstanding Rookie who was getting on base seemingly every at-bat not too long ago, has lost his patience, and his AVG/OBP/OPS dropped from .305/.416/.837 in April and .293/.388/.792 in May to .152/.204/.443 in July and has been moved the the 7th spot in the lineup. Growing. Woody the ex-Ace from 1998 to 2003 has remade his legacy as a dependable clsoer in the recent year. Why the move from Ace to closer? Because Dusty Baker rode his arm into the ground (as mentioned earlier) in 2003 and Kid K spent the last 5 years on and off the DL. But he came back strong this year, and now is looking at his first trip to the DL this season. Growing. Alfonso Soriano is coming back from his second DL stint and a broken wrist can impact an entire season, ask Derrick Lee and his 2007 stats. Growing. The fact that the Brewers have CC and are making a push. Growing.

The Cubs have led almost all season and have had their best season in Decades, and really one of the best seasons of anyone in recent memory. But because of that these glaring ifs that have come up are just a little too scary for me. Instead of the magical season where everything seems to be coming up Cubs until the postseason, we got that 3 months early, so the question then is this. Are we getting the Cubbie lump 3 months earlier than before. Only time will tell but I'll tell you this much. As a Cub fan the lump is there. Will Kosuke break his slump, Wood come back throwing fire, and Soriano pick up where he left off in May? It's possible and maybe my lump will recess until the NLCS/DS or World Series. I'm just thinking out loud. Is this the early exit for the 2008 Cubs? Ask me in August.