Monday, July 16, 2007

The Hottest Story in Baseball: The Chicago York Cunkees

This is a relatively brief article entitled "Watch out, Cubs making noise in NL Central". The article has to be brief, because by nature, the topic has nothing to do with New York, and Mike Celizic wrote it. We're going to be keeping track of how often he mentions or alludes to the Yankees anyway in this article. Ready? GO!

For more than half of the baseball season, we’ve been so consumed by gnashing our teeth and rending our garments over the New York Yankees, we’ve been missing what may be the best story of the season.


First of all, what do you mean "we". The collective group of analysts? Fans? Everyone who follows baseball has been too busy thinking about the Yankees to notice the other 29 teams?

And who the hell REMOTELY NEAR BASEBALL has "missing" out on what's going on with the Chicago Cubs? NEWS FLASH Celizic, when a team spends $300M in the offseason, the team isn't going to be overlooked, or hidden away, or under-the-radar, or anything of the sort. They've been talked about repeatedly on SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight. Tons of columns have been written about them. Their manager has been such a fucking attention magnet that it's been questioned whether Ozzie Guillen really is the most bizarre manager in Chicago.

That having been said, up to the minute, the Cubs are 47-43 and 3.5 games out of first place in a bad division. Is this really the "best story of the season"? Really? Weren't there any milestones reached? Isn't some guy about to break some sort of long-standing record? Magglio Ordonez, Hunter Pence, A-Rod, and the Brewers' infield minus Rickie Weeks have all been way better "stories" than some team spending a ton of money and winning 52% of their games.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Chicago Cubs are chasing down the surprising Brewers in the NL Central. After falling to nine games under .500 back on June 2 and watching manager Lou Piniella suffering a public meltdown, we pretty much wrote the Cubbies off, because they are, after all, the Cubs.

Losing is what they do.

"We" again. Who writes off a team like that in a bad division? Again, before the season, you wrote off the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres, so we won't be taking to heart anything you write off there, Mikey.

But as of Sunday night, they were on an extended hot streak that had taken them to four games over .500 and just 3.5 behind the Brewers, a young and exciting team that had been running away with the division just a couple of weeks ago.

That description was for those of you who are like Celizic and are hearing about the "Brewers" for the first time.

There shouldn’t be any question of whether the Cubs can catch the Brew Crew, not anymore. Even without perpetually injured Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, they’ve got more pitching -- especially in the bullpen -- than Milwaukee. With Carlos Zambrano finally pitching near his capabilities, they’re a dangerous team.

OK. You're done. Look here. Now look here. Notice anything? Collectively, the Cubs have had a 3.92 ERA. The Brewers are at 4.11. A noticable difference, but not astronomical. My problem is that "especially in the bullpen" garbage. You can just GLANCE at the numbers and notice that the Brewers' pen has been WAY better than the Cubs' pen. The starters are the only reason the Cubs have been a better pitching team than the Brewers this year. With Capuano and Bush underperforming like mad and Marquis/Marshall overperforming like mad, you can't justify the claim that the Cubs have "more" pitching than Milwaukee "especially in the bullpen". If anything, they're pretty damn close to equal.

They’re not slamming the ball out of the park, but they’re scoring .4 runs more per game than their opponents, while the Brewers are scoring .5 runs more. The Cubs have Piniella, whose passion, fire and baseball savvy could be a difference-maker.

Half of this is actually good analysis (though it's unexplained how it helps his case). The other half is a completely bogus lie. I'll leave you to determine which is which.

They also have owners who have to sell the team at year’s end and would dearly like to go out winners. Plus, if they’re selling the team, why should they care what they have to spend to win now? They’ll be getting it all back in November.

Because when you trade away young talent (the thing most sellers in the trade market for soon-to-be-free-agent rentals are looking for), you don't just "get it back" in November.

It could be a great race, because the Brewers haven’t held on to first place for most of the season by accident and aren’t going to simply roll over.

They have the big offense, led by Prince Fielder, who would be leading the league’s hitters in headlines were it not for the phenomenal year being posted by
Alex Rodriguez. They have youth. What they don’t have is the financial wherewithal to go shopping for experienced help before the trade deadline.


When did Fielder and Rodriguez play in the same league? Must've missed that one. And what type of stat is "headlines"? Leading the league's hitters in "headlines"? Major snub to Barry Bonds on that one.

I think that will make the difference. The Tribune Company will pay for one last run, while the Brewers won’t.

And let’s face it, the Cubs making the playoffs is always a huge story. And if they were to get to the World Series, a venue they last visited in 1945, it would be right behind the Red Sox winning the Fall Classic as the biggest story of a very young century.

Dangerously close to Yankee territory here, just try not to completely regress and lose focus at this've come so far! Don't let it sli-....

It’s funny that the Brewers-Cubs race is essentially the same plot line we’ve been flogging to death in the AL East -- a team with big hopes and expectations trailing another team for the first half of the season and finally getting hot.


Damn. Oh well, I guess you're back in your element now. Too late to save this one, folks, here he goes again.....

The difference is that the Cubs are actually doing what the Yankees have been unable to do -- catching the leader. OK, there’s another difference: in the AL East, it’s two of the most famous teams and ancient rivals in the game, the Red Sox and Yankees. It was the biggest story even before the season began, and we’re going to keep hammering on it no matter how poorly the Yankees play or how big a lead Boston has.

Four. Five. Six.

So....let's say it's September 15th. Yankees are 20 games back of Boston. You're going to keep hammering on that and ignoring all the heated pennant and wild card races. Cool. Glad your head's in the right place.

The Brewers can’t provide the same counterpoint to the Cubs that the Red Sox do to the Yankees. You don’t expect to see Milwaukee on top of anything. It doesn’t matter that they’ve been in first place on merit. They don’t have the history that makes your brain take them seriously. The Red Sox got to the World Series multiple times between 1918 and 2004, when they finally won again. The Brewers have been to the season’s final series just once, in 1982, and the last time they won was never.


I should also point out that a small, crazy subset of people who follow baseball take teams seriously on the basis of how well they have been performing. But most people are correct when they take the Yankees more seriously than the Brewers this year, because the Yankees have won like a bazillion championships in past years.

So even if the Cubs reel them in, it won’t seem as big as it would be if the Yankees were to somehow catch the Red Sox. That’s a story line with which we are familiar, one that resonates in every neuron. But in reality, it would be just as good a story because it’s the Cubs, and the Cubs don’t overcome adversity, they succumb to it.


So, the point of this paragraph was to say that a thing that doesn't happen too often will be almost as good a story or equally good a story as a thing that happens a lot and that the world is familiar with. Juuuuuuuust checking.

Even if they overtake the Brewers, as I think they will, they’ll still have plenty of opportunities to live down to their reputation in October. But they’ll also have a chance to overcome it. Boston did it; Chicago can, too.

Why not this year?

In retrospect, I wish I was counting Boston mentions too.

When The Onion came out with this article. I'm pretty sure it was directed at Mike Celizic.


larry b said...

how dare you mention hunter pence without mentioning troy tulowitzki

pnoles said...

I used up all of my allotted "Troy Tulowitzki mentions" in an earlier post. My total is now one (1).