Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Monthly archives: October 2008


From the Ashes
2008-10-13 20:37
by Phil Bencomo

So: I've got this image bouncing around in my head of the Cubs' 2008 season. It should be a pretty picture of a remarkable season, evoking pleasure and awe. A division title, 97 wins, a no-hitter: A season for the ages, right? But that's not how we remember seasons. We remember how they end.

This picture in my head -- which, I suppose, is really more like a video clip -- is sort of a sadistic cross between the Hindenburg and the Titanic. Totally cheesy, I know. Lou Piniella stands at the helm, Cub players bustle about making sure this enormous boat-blimp launches successfully, and all is good on the Earth. What more, a celebrated writer for a national magazine writes a cover story proclaiming this behemoth's magnificence and even the significance of success! The world cannot contain its excitement, the boat-blimp rises from the sea to glory, and ... well, you can guess how it ends.

* * * *

Here's part of the reason I waited so long to write this post:

Reality's great cruelty: In the end, love always brings suffering.

The greater the love, the more devastating the loss.

To suffer over the loss of something unloved is to not suffer at all.

There's always ... next ... year? <sob>

Yep. My scribblings, in the aftermath of the sweep. I had more -- and nearly wrote an entire post based on them -- but that piece of paper, filled with so much angst and self-pity, has since been destroyed. You're welcome.

It's only natural to be upset. After all, I did just watch the winningest Cub team in my lifetime follow for six months a perfect script like a Westminster champion follows its owner -- only to reach the playoffs, roll over, play dead, and never get back up. It was simply torturous, not unlike my ensuing post would have been to read. Again, you're welcome.

But that was 10 days ago, and I've moved on. That's the way of the Cub fan, the way of our favorite absurd franchise. Remember 2008 for all of its good times, lick the wounds from the bad, and hope for a better tomorrow. What more is there to do?

* * * *

What happens when you don't wait: Stuff like this. Wow.

* * * *

Last week, during my alternating angry/depressed stage, a friend remarked that there are only two ways for the Cubs to win a championship.

"And you wait until now to enlighten everyone?" I asked.

"Look," he said, "either they're so good, unbelievably good, that they just won't and can't lose, or else they squeak into the playoffs as the team that gets hot late, then surprise everyone, and coast through on momentum."

To 2009 and either 130 or 86 wins!

Riding the Red Bull
2008-10-02 12:16
by Phil Bencomo

Joe Posnanski:

Are the Cubs mortally wounded by losing Game 1? I say no — the Cubs are still the better team. BUT they obviously need a big performance from Carlos Zambrano, and man oh man, it's scary to put 100 years of pain and the passion of Cub nation on the Red Bull himself. My only prediction is this: Zambrano will either be utterly dominant or he will absolutely suck. I don't think there's an in-between, not tonight, not for Carlos.

Exactly. Let's not skirt around the hard fact: This game is a must-win, if the Cubs are to have any chance at winning the series. And to win, Zambrano must pitch well tonight, and the Cub lineup must start hitting -- in short, the Cubs must play like a 97-win team.

That's a lot of "must"s. But it all starts with Carlos, with whom there is rarely any middle ground between brilliant dominance and spectacular failure. His two mid-September starts may forever define him: A no-hitter on the 14th; and an eight-run, 1.2 inning debacle five days later. The no-hit Carlos pitched after 11 days of rest. Tonight, he will throw after seven.

I can't say which Zambrano will appear, but it will be obvious from the start. If he's on, I will sigh with relief. If he is not, I can only hope that Lou Piniella makes not the same mistake -- trying to squeeze just a little bit more from a pitcher with nothing left to give -- two nights in a row.

Dodgers at Cubs: NLDS Game One Chat
2008-10-01 14:30
by Phil Bencomo

We're going to try an experiment, folks. You see, Dodger Thoughts has, to put it conservatively, a very active comment section. Cub Town does not. I know this.

Any chat thread here will pale next to the chat at Dodger Thoughts. But I'd still like to provide a place for Cub fans to mingle among themselves.

Now, that said, if the number of participants shrinks below (or fails to ever rise above) three or four, myself included, I'll probably shut it down and send people over to Dodger Thoughts. They're civil people over there, I promise, and I'm sure it'll be far more enjoyable than spending three hours chatting essentially alone with me. Ahem.

It's up to you, readers. If you want to chat here during the game, go for it. I'll be around. But if the place is looking deserted (and it shouldn't be too hard to tell), I'll make an announcement.


* * * *

Ryan Dempster at home, 2008: 14-3, 2.86 ERA, 109 hits allowed in 129 innings.

Derek Lowe on the road, 2008: 5-6, 4.42 ERA, 106 hits allowed in 93.2 innings.

Hardly a complete picture of the match-up, but it makes me feel warm and fuzzy, so we'll go with it.

The wind's blowing in, and fall is in the air. Let's start off right, boys. Just win.

Dodgers at Cubs, 5:30 p.m.

The Expanding Man
2008-10-01 06:22
by Phil Bencomo

Several times each week, my legs grow agitated, as I suspect any anthropomorphic body part would if it too spent hours each day stored under a desk while important tasks are carried out above. "Preposterous!" my legs exclaim. "You know full well just how relative of a term 'important' is. Just think of all the 'important' things I can do!" I try to explain the valid reasoning and necessity of sitting at my desk, forcefully adding, "This is not a democracy." But legs chafe at such tyranny, it seems, and before I can muster the militia to quell the treasonous revolutionaries, I am unwillingly out of my seat, walking out of the building and into the great unknown.

I try to console myself, choosing in my mind some plausible destination that I will, in truth, never reach. I instead wander aimlessly, led by legs that weave from street to street on naught but a whim. But frightened I am not. Perhaps I was once, but the legs always grow tired or bored after a time, and order is restored once more.

I've come to cherish such walks, in a way, when my feet carry me unimpeded over the always-growing mountain of tasks to be completed and down into the deep, fertile valley of boundless thought. My mind wanders in such times of quiet solitude.

Some of my most inspired thoughts and ideas come to me as I walk, and in similar situations that leave the mind free while the body performs some thoughtless, rote act. These thoughts may meander toward the Cubs, but they just as likely will not. I have spent the last several days searching for words to fill the void in my head where the 2008 Cubs ought to be, and inspiration eludes me. But tonight, my legs stirred once again.

* * * *

As I walk, Steely Dan's "Deacon Blues" plays in my head. It'd been lodged there, in my head, for a few weeks, but yesterday it suddenly broke free. Where before it was a soft buzz that occasionally floated through my mental chaff and into consciousness, "Blues" now plays endlessly, only dropping into the background, as if on some mental audio ducker setting, when I am distracted from it by thought or stimulation.

* * * *

I'll learn to work the saxophone
I'll play just what I feel
Drink Scotch whisky all night long
And die behind the wheel
They got a name for the winners in the world
I want a name when I lose
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues

* * * *

I walk, and I think. Why have I struggled so mightily to find words for the winningest team of my lifetime? I ask myself. It was pointed out to me last week that, largely, I only write posts of substance following a poor showing. That is, I thrive on the Cubs' setbacks and, in turn, my own misery. I'm not sure that's completely true, but it lands close to the heart of the matter. Have I become such a cynic that I cannot motivate myself to write anything positive, for fear that something dastardly is close behind to negate my enthusiasm, my hope, my carefully crafted words? Do I even have the capacity for optimism anymore?

The lake comes into sight. Perhaps my character has become irreparably flawed, I think, returning to my thoughts. Consider: Among Cub regulars, only Ryan Theriot (95) and Kosuke Fukudome (92) have OPS+ numbers under 100. Swap Mike Fontenot for Mark DeRosa at second, DeRosa for Fukudome, and put Jim Edmonds in center over Reed Johnson, and only Theriot has an OPS+ under 111. And that every starter in the Cubs' playoff rotation recorded an ERA+ of at least 110. And that the bullpen, though a bit shaky at the lower rungs, is, among those due to throw the bulk of the innings, outstanding.

And I can muster nothing.

I've taken to appending "if they get there" to the end of all my statements regarding the Cubs and later playoff rounds, and it's entirely indicative of the shell that surrounds me, deflecting unbridled passion and keeping me safe from its potential harm. Then something clicks. But is that shell, I ask silently, protecting or depriving?

Removing the scar tissue may leave me vulnerable, and may result in great emotional pain, but does not the chance at boundless ecstasy outweigh any cost? A life steeled against potential harm is steeled against both good and bad. What kind of life is worth living in anticipation of failure?

Maybe, I think, I can change. Maybe I can open myself to the world as never before, and leave both parties better for it.

* * * *

You call me a fool
You say it's a crazy scheme
This one's for real
I already bought the dream

* * * *

My feet slow to a stop. They've been carrying me along the lake. The sun has since set, but it is hardly dark. I look ahead, my gaze running parallel to the shore. Chicago, lit up in all its glory, dominates the view, and fireworks fly from Navy Pier into the night sky. I stand, and I watch. Minutes pass, and even as I turn toward home, I cannot tear my eyes away. Yes. Warmth fills me, despite the cold, and I smile.

* * * *

This is the night
Of the expanding man
I take one last drag
As I approach the stand
I cried when I wrote this song
Sue me if I play too long
This brother is free
I'll be what I want to be