October 08, 2008

A little perspective: the 2008 Cubs vs the 2003 Cubs

This postseason sucked hard. But, was it worse than 2003? Let's compare the two seasons.

In 2003, we did not have a great team. Sosa was our only all-star quality bat (though our pickup of Aramis Ramirez was HUGE). The team was built around pitching, specifically Zambrano, Wood, and a splendidly awesome season by Mark Prior. Borowski somehow put a good year together at the end of what was a middling bullpen, at best. The team caught fire in September sneaking in with a 88-74 record, and managed to tough it out against the Braves. We all know what happened in the NLCS though.

On the other hand, the 2008 Cubs were clearly the best team in the National League. We scored the most runs in the NL and gave up the second fewest, played great defense, and arguably had 4 aces (when Lilly finally got it together) for the stretch run. Zambrano finally pitched a no-hitter, we saw Soto take over the black hole that had been the catcher position, and the Cubs rolled through the NL. It wasn't just the crappy teams either - with the exception of a series again Cincinatti we played teams with winning records all through September, compiling a record of 11-10 against them (some of which occured after we clinched, and were resting players). Our final record was 97-64, and we came into the playoffs ready to go. But we all know what happened - the team laid an egg, plain and simple.

So which was worse?

As raw as the wounds from this year's postseason have hurt, I still think 2003 was worse. We were 5 freaking outs away from the series! I find having defeat snatched from the jaws of victory much much worse than what happened this year. I was really bummed after the first game, but hopeful, but after the blowout in game 2, I had made my peace with the fact that it just wasn't our year (again). It was depressing, but it wasn't a stomach punch the way that 2003 Game 6 was. We also had almost 2 entire days to reconcile our feelings before the Dodgers finished off the Cubs, due to the off day and the very late start time of game 3.

As depressing as it was, it happened much more slowly, and I have a lot of good memories of this season - Z's no hitter, Soto's walkoff HR against the Brewers in September, being at the game (my first one at Wrigley in over 2 years) when the Cubs clinched their playoff berth, the 9-run comeback vs the Rockies...I could go on and on. This was a special team and a special season, and their poor postseason play is not going to take those memories away from me. So, unlike Al, I will not throw out the NL Central championship t-shirt that I bought at the stadium - it reminds me of the game I went to and the season as a whole, not how it ended.

The core of this team (the best in the NL) will be back next year, and have a better than decent shot of being in the exact same situation they were in this year (in the playoffs, a good team). If we keep winning titles, then, gorram it, we gotta win sometime. Just look at the Braves of the 1990s - they only won one World Series, but you gotta give yourself some chances. The best team in a short series does not win 100% of the time...just gotta hope the ball bounces our way next time (unlike those bad hops in game 2...)

Until then, GO CUBS

Cubs Win!