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Mental Health Day
by Derek Smart
For starters, let me apologize for the down time yesterday. If you haven't already, you can see what was going on here. Needless to say, we here at the Toaster owe Ken a debt of gratitude. Or some scotch or something (okay, I'm projecting there).
It's important to note, however, that site issues or no, there was going to be no word from me yesterday. Recent goings on brought me to the point where I desperately needed a mental health day, and so I took it. Sometimes one needs to back away, gain a little perspective, and come at it fresh. I think it's clear from some of my previousposts that some perspective would do me good.
Of course, there's nothing so healthy to the mind of a suffering Cub fan than a big blowout win, and that's what our boys managed to deliver yesterday, scoring in every inning but the seventh en route to an 11-4 rout of St. Louis.
Really, it was a game that we all knew deep down had to come eventually, where the frustration and angst that had built up over more than a week of pathetic play came out in a beautiful explosion of run-scoring prowess, led as one would hope such things would be, by a suddenly re-energized Derrek Lee, taking his recent slump and breaking it over his knee like a balsa wood bat.
That the breakout happened to come against the Cardinals made it extra nice, especially since, even though I'd made a vow to myself before game time to focus as much as possible on the positives for the rest of the season, to cease the constant wallowing in the maudlin details of failure, I could still envision a losing streak that stretched out to twelve games by the end of the weekend.
It looked just like it would after the top of the first, as Greg Maddux struggled early once again and gave up a two-run bomb to Prince Albert. However, getting down early, looking like things were going to be the same old way, it seems like that's the most satisfying way to exorcise some demons.
It's what the Red Sox did in falling behind 3-0 in last year's ALCS, and while what the Cubs did yesterday was on a far smaller scale, the fact that they didn't fold after getting a strong sign that they could be in for another long day was a testament to their fortitude.
That doesn't mean that there's a month and a half long streak of stunning baseball on the way that will lead us to an Astro-esque promised land. What Houston did last year, and what they did for a couple of months this year, is extremely rare, and truth be told, I don't know that the Cubs have the personnel to achieve such a feat anyway.
What they do have is a chance to set a tone for next year. To say to the league, and to their fans, "Look, we blew our shot this year, but we are capable of more, and what you see now is a glimpse into the deadly machine you have to look forward to in 2006."
That's what I want to see. Derrek Lee finishing the year strong. Aramis Ramirez re-establishing his power. Nomar Garciaparra as "Nomar!" Matt Murton earning a starting spot. Corey Patterson proving that he belongs in the Majors. Carlos Zambrano harnessing his passion. Mark Prior dominating again. Kerry Wood showing he's valuable whether he starts or relieves.
This is what the final weeks are about. Establishing what this team will be in the year and years to come, whetting our appetite for the success that these men are capable of. But this time, instead of showing us what we could have and dropping it into a puddle of dung at the last possible moment, they will give it to us, finally give it to us from April to October.