NAPERVILLE, IL – Can we move on to the main event now? Can we stop pretending that the NHL, NBA, College Hoops – hell, even Rugby – are at all capable of filling our hearts the way only the magic of Baseball can? I’m as big a fan of those sports as anyone… well maybe not rugby, as the only pitch I’m interested in is the one Noah Syndergaard throws – and I invite all comers to meet him 60′ 6″ away. But the 1st of March brings with it the first hint that Spring is near. And it, my friends, is glorious.
Every MLB team is a contender this time of year, and even fan bases where no shot of contention actually exists (looking at you Philly, Cincy, Atlanta) are energized.
As Adam Sandler said to Tea Leoni in the underrated “Spanglish,”The Earth, has a crack in it. And the result of this seismic shift has left us with a new rivalry. One between the Mets and the 3-time World Champion Chicago Cubs.” Wait-what? I don’t understand. The Cubs haven’t won the last three World Series. What’s weird though, is that pundits (not ours), Chicago fans and the Cubs players themselves, all act as though they have. Are we sure they’re not champions of something? Hmmm.
Everyone has described Chicago’s near North side team as being “…loaded, stacked, unbeatable.” The Cubs have signed all of the outfielders. Not new ones, or the free agents available this past winter. I mean all of the outfielders, seemingly. Must be the new new thing.
Boy wonder Theo Epstein had no sooner finished reading his portion of the Haftorah when he was hired at 14 by the Red Sox. Epstein built a Boston team that won the World Series in 2004… for the first time in 86 years.
With him now the President of the Cubs, there is a movement afoot to nominate both Epstein and Manager Joe Maddon for sainthood. But… The Cubbies have yet to win a damn thing. Their vaunted lineup, which marched through NL pitching like Haliburton marched through Iraqi oil fields after the war, met its match when it faced the pitching of the Mets in the NLCS. The Mets swept Chicago and it wasn’t even close.
The Money Ballers and their Zen-loving free spirit manager got demolished by the extreme fastball throwing Mets staff. All of the Cubs’ “genius” stuff was apparently nonsense. After that, ownership spent crazy money on good/not great players this off-season, bringing in free agents Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist.
If Epstein was truly the boy genius, why did he need to resort to checkbook baseball – essentially using money the supposed “Yankee way,” which his old Boston boss once famously described as the “evil empire.”
And Joe Maddon is universally viewed as the game’s best manager? Well, he’s never won a championship either and was guilty of not having his team ready to face the Mets in the NLCS. Maddon then got “out-managed” by Terry Collins every game.
My point is that while the Cubs do have an impressive lineup, their pitching, led by Cy Young Winner Jake Arietta (due to turn back into a pumpkin this season, btw), is not much to speak of. So while the rest of the baseball world has already crowned the Cubbies champs, teams like the Mets and the team that actually DID win it all – the Kansas City Royals – will have much to say to the Near North geniuses about that.
Cubs Win? Not so fast.