Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
by Derek Smart
Yesterday's victory over the Brewers was nice, especially since there's still the faintest glimmer of hope that The Professor can get to the fifteen win mark again this year and keep his remarkable streak alive, but the damage done in the first two games of the series has dealt a serious blow to one of the team's goals over the final weeks, which has been to get back to, then over, the .500 mark.
The Cubs must go 6-3 over their final nine just to get even, which of course means that 7-2 is the goal if they hope to breach the Maginot Line of mediocrity and have three consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1970-72 - certainly a meaningless achievement beyond the obvious symbolism, but when symbols are all you have
Or are they? Thanks to the fact that seven out of their nine remaining games are against the Astros, the Cubs have a shot, finally, at playing the spoiler - they haven't had a game against a team with their playoff aspirations in question since they defeated the Marlins on August 28th.
If the cuddle bears manage to post a 5-2 record in those games against the Astros - which amounts essentially to a victory in each of the two series - that would put some serious hurt on Houston, guaranteeing that the best they could do over these last contests would be to post a 4-5 mark (which would be no mean feat, since their other two games are against the Cardinals), leaving the door open for the Phillies to simply win each of their last three series against the Reds, Mets, and Nats to, at worst, force a playoff.
It's a delicious scenario, and while I'd rather have a chance to win the division or secure a playoff spot on the season's final day, without that as a possibility, the idea of quashing another club's hopes - particularly those of a bitter rival like the Astros - makes me smile a little inside.
Knowing that, there's probably something to be said about me as a human being - after all, it's not nice to derive pleasure over someone else's suffering (although it makes for a nifty word) - but I can take some solace from the knowledge that I am most likely not alone.
I think the majority of fans when confronted with the reality that their season is, for all intents and purposes, over, look for something that can lend the rest of the year some semblance of meaning, and while the "Quest For Being Not-Quite-Good-But-Almost" has been the theoretical motivating factor for the Cubs and their fans over the last few weeks, it lacks the visceral quality required to truly bring engagement in the proceedings.
Which is where the concept of "The Spoiler" comes in. As I said, it's a long way from nice, but when there's little else to put a fire in your belly, the opportunity to wreak vengeance of a sort - and really, what else is this desire to prevent the ascension of another team but a petty need to redress perceived wrongs, however slight they may be - helps to warm you on those cold winter nights.
And that's what we're left with. The hope of ruining another team's, and another fan base's, season. We could just say that we hope the Cubs can have a winning year themselves - which would guarantee, at worst, five victories over Houston - but such a thing is of cold comfort.
No, rooting for the seemingly positive in this situation simply isn't good enough. There's no blood to be found in the hope for 82 wins. What does it get you? Whether the Cubs win 82 or 75, the end result is still a lost season, and no amount of pontificating on the merits of "winning baseball" can change that.
So we hope to spoil the Astros' Wild Card aspirations, and while the side effect is likely an 82 win season, or better, it's hardly the point. Vengeance. Reprisal. Retribution. Call it what you will, but like it or not, it's what we're after.