[Dodgers name Wrigley the Pepsi Defensive Player of the Game]
Not a week went by in 2008 when the century note 100-year-hoo doo of the Cubs and winning a World Series came up, and it took its toll. Both Torre and Piniella knew it. As the Trib‘s Paul Sullivan reports: You can look to Piniella’s line-up changes re Fukodome, the lack of hitting from Mr. Been There, Alfonso Soriano, or the Biden-level of gaffes from the Cub defense. All made a difference. Torre post-game, and Piniella pre-game, each made clear that History factored into their managing.
Hopefully the miscellaneous sounding “101” year hoo doo of 2009 will be just another number compared to the ominous, headline friendly “100” of 2008. Given that Sam Zell’s financially untenable idea of selling Wrigley apart from the Cubs has fallen by the way side, one hopes that a new owner in the form of Mark Cuban will alter the change in mind-set of a fan base. We’ll know in December, when the sale is announced. Until then, The Chicago Tribune reports Mr. Torre’s post-game thoughts on, if not the supernatural, at least the super-psychological and para-historical, here:
“I think with all their history, to open at home [at Wrigley Field], was an advantage for us,” said Torre, whose team swept the Cubs in the best-of-five series.
“To go out and win two in their ballpark was a huge ‘get’ for us,” Torre said. “They may have [beaten us] during the season, but we were in every single game. That made me think we would have a chance against them [in the NLDS].
“These players responded and this is about as satisfying as it can get.”
Torre was asked if the Cubs should have been the underdogs instead of his Dodgers.
“They had pretty good pitching, too, are you kidding?” he said. “Dempster and Zambrano and the way Harden pitched tonight. We just struggled [early in the season] to find out who we were.
For their part, Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry echoed much the same in a pre-game interview with The Sun-Times’ Mike Deluca this morning:
They played some of their worst baseball of the season at Wrigley Field in the playoffs, where they were expected to enjoy more than your typical home-field advantage. A few of the Cubs seemed happy to be in Los Angeles, away from the tension hovering over Wrigley.
˜˜Maybe we™ll relax here a little more,™™ manager Lou Piniella said.
But if they expected to reach the next round, the Cubs had to realize they needed to win at least one postseason game at pressure-packed Wrigley.
Maybe the biggest factor working against the Cubs this October is the underestimated strength of the Dodgers, who emerged from a joke of a division and weren™t taken seriously by many of us. With a healthy Rafael Furcal and the midseason additions of Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake, the Dodgers are a force.
Had they had all three players for a full season, they would™ve been legitimate 97-game winners ” just like the Cubs ” instead of reaching the postseason with 84 victories, becoming the only NL team still playing that didn™t win at least 90.
˜˜We knew they were a lot better team than anybody was giving them credit for,™™ Hendry said. ˜˜We weren™t looking at ourselves as heavy favorites.™™
Still, the new-and-improved Dodgers aren™t that much better than the Cubs, who had the best record in the NL.
There™s only one other explanation for what happened to the Cubs this October ” what seems to happen to them every time they™ve had a rare chance to play in October during the last century ” and Hendry wasn™t buying into it.
˜˜We have winning-type guys, so you can™t say they gagged it,™™ Hendry insisted. ˜˜It™s just unfortunate.™™
The script for 2008 was perfect. If only the Cubs had done a better job of performing in the final act.