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by Phil Bencomo
Vizzini: He didn't fall!? Inconceivable!
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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A few months ago, I'd have told you, without the smallest shred of doubt in my mind, that a Cub playoff appearance was utterly inconceivable. A floundering bullpen and wholly inconsistent play had me resigned to another season of, at best, mediocrity. Cynical, perhaps, but at nearly ten games under .500 it gets awfully hard to find reasons to be optimistic.
But inconceivable was hardly the right word to use. Far too concrete, absolute. Improbable would have been a much better choice. And if there is one word that defines the Cubs' season, indeed, it is improbable. From worst to first, 2006 to 2007 ... it's happened so few times that, by May's end, only those drunk on the most potent Cubbie Kool-Aid truly believed, deep down, that the Cubs would take the world, and history, by storm.
But with two months to go, the Cubs have climbed not only out of their hole but also to the top of the mountain, improbably through and through.
Who could have guessed last year's fodder would be at the heart of a mid-season revival? Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall, to name two, weren't so wonderful in 2006. And to win so frequently without the bat of Michael Barrett, viewed just a few months ago as a vital offensive cog? And with Mike Fontenot, minor-league journeyman? Kerry Wood's return can only be called improbable; in fact, so can his ability to throw at all after so many injuries. The list goes on.
Will it last? Maybe, maybe not. I certainly hope so. I suppose stranger things have happened since the dawn of man. That men can be payed millions each year to play a game, and that fans care so much about those men, does seem pretty odd, if not insignificant and futile, from a certain perspective.
But I'll revel in the good times while they last, no matter how they came about. Man is an emotional creature; sometimes too much dissection, too much objectivity, makes us something less than human. Machines don't often surprise us, but, fortunately, people do.