While Milwaukee’s Flemion Brothers once sang, “I’m Sad The Goat Just Died Today”, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Jay Mariotti, observing the Cubs being swept by Arizona with last night’s 5-1 loss at Wrigley clinching the NLDS for the Snakes, wonders why a little animal sacrifice wasn’t more inspiring.

It’s sickening enough that someone would kill a goat, hang it on the Harry Caray statue the other night and post a video of the carcass on YouTube. But you know what’s really creepy? It had zero impact in reversing the most futile, maddening, wretched and incurably impotent daze in the history of American sports.

If sacrificing a billy goat can’t purge a curse, isn’t it doomed to last forever?

This isn’t a one-and-done in Cincinnati, where they’ve won championships. This is Cubdom, where despair comes with the game ticket and parking pass. As much as Lou Piniella tried to ignore the past, it ended up overwhelming him in Arizona, where he made the error that ended up sabotaging the cause — removing Carlos Zambrano after six innings of a 1-1 game — and was roundly ripped. “I bring in (Carlos) Marmol, it’s like the goat left his grave, right? Like Leo Durocher turned in his grave?” Piniella moped Thursday. “For God’s sake, we got a five-game series here.”

Turns out it was a three-game series. Which means Piniella, in trying to preserve Zambrano for a possible Sunday start, was guilty of trying to win Game 4 before he even had won Game 1. Sure, the Cubs primarily lost because their highest-paid stars bombed out, with Aramis ($75 million) Ramirez going 0 for 12 with five strikeouts and Alfonso ($136 million) Soriano going 2 for 14 for an offense that hit .194 and went 2 for 23 with runners in scoring position. They had at least one runner on base in 13 of 27 innings, yet managed only six runs and four extra-base hits. When Mark DeRosa ended the fifth by grounding into a double play and Derrek ($65 million) Lee dittoed in the seventh, it was over. Not that Zambrano, the $91 million man, would have stood much chance on three days’ rest. And not that Ted ($40 million) Lilly would have saved the Cubs in Game 5 after his debacle the other night. But Piniella, with his strategic blunder, dared to tempt fate. Maybe he now grasps Cubdom.

By contrast, Cubnut of The Cub Reporter’s attempt at rational analysis…still portends doom and gloom for the future.

Trying to be as dispassionate about this as possible, I have to say that winning 19 more games than last season and going from last to first in the Central and replacing Johnnie B. Baker with a real Major League Manager (who obviously made some mistakes in the post-season) were all great advances for this organization. What™s more, we will go into ˜08 with a lot of guys on the roster who I will be glad to see back“some vets, some young guys“which has been the case in my Cub-fan life not very often. Those are some of the positives I will take away from this season. However¦

We choked. And even with some of the desirable players I just referred to coming back next year, we™re far from a sure bet to return to the playoffs. If the Brewers take some smart next steps, I could see them leaving us in their dust for the next several years. And with a new ownership group taking possession sometime soon, it™s really impossible to know what direction the Cubs organization will take.

Sincere congrats to the D-Backs, whom I figured would finish a distant second to L.A. last spring (of course, I was also pretty sure the Rockies would manage no better than 3rd place, and not with a winning record, either).  But while Arizona’s return to prominence is all the more startling given their relative youth, here’s a couple of sobering thoughts that should demoralize every right thinking baseball fan :

1) a television commercial pairing Eric Byrnes and Dane Cook is probably just days away
2) the further the Snakes go in the postseason, the more loot Randy Johnson collects from his playoff share.