The [Monday] Papers
5. Lou Piniella is ridiculous, too. He's easily the Cubs' MVP. He took a typically ill-fitting roster, held an extended spring training into June in which he nearly lost the team, overcame the managing rustiness that had him running out of players whenever the team went into extra innings, and brought the team back from the brink by using the whole of the organization on a daily basis - treating the organization's minor league players as an extension of the major league roster. His bluntness also allowed him to banish underperforming players like Jacque Jones and Scott Eyre to the bench only to bring them back in the fold when their turn came around again. Finally, it wasn't his staged explosion against umpire Mark Wegner on June 2nd (watch the hat-kick 14 seconds in) and Carlos Zambrano pounding the hell out of Michael Barrett in the locker room that sparked this team's turnaround (though it was nice to see Derrek Lee later that month later taking a few swings at Chris Young to signify they were done taking shit ("The Fighting Cubs!" I yelled at the TV) as much as an organizational meeting around that time when Lou wrested control of the team from Jim Hendry and figured out how he was going to piece together his crappy spare parts.
I was one of those who preferred Joe Girardi to Lou Piniella, and wasn't fond of Jim Hendry's free agent binge; in a way, though, Piniella did it Girardi's way, using players such as Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot to spark the team. Their contributions have been far more important than those of veterans Lee and, say, Aramis Ramirez. Geovany Soto, Carlos Marmol, and, shockingly, Jacque Jones and Ted Lilly have also been key. Soriano is still being overpaid.
It's a tough team to figure out, but a team I think I'll like better next year and the year after if Lou sticks around and continues to shape the roster.
Diamondbacks in five.
6. New Cubs Video! Our popular Cub fan theme song "Please Stop Believin'" is now on video and updated for the playoffs.
7. And don't forget The Cub Factor, the country's best Cubs column.
8. Richard Roeper and Rick Morrissey want you to believe that Steve Bartman was not to blame for the Cubs collapse in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS against the Marlins. They are among that ilk who like to blame everything that happened after the Bartman incident - Mark Prior's meltdown (a walk, a wild pitch, a single), Alex Gonzalez's error on a double-play ball (not Alex Rodriguez as Roeper writes today, but there for the grace of God . . . ), and even Kerry Wood's choke in Game 7.
I'm sorry, and I don't want to be mean, and I can't imagine what it is like to be Steve Bartman, but everything changed after he got in Moises Alou's way trying to catch that ball. To blame everything that happened after that is to blame the effects but not the cause. In the bar where I was watching the game - the Beachwood, natch - an instant foreboding filled what had been a celebratory air. Even before the next pitch we were screaming "The Curse! The Curse!"
It wasn't much different at the ballpark. A gloom descended; the Heavens shifted. I'm not sure if dark clouds suddenly appeared overhead, but they may as well have. The fans felt it and, more importantly, the players felt it. Hence Prior's sudden wildness - and Gonzalez's need to rush a double-play attempt instead of just having to get one.
It was Bartman.
We don't like to face that fact because it seems so lacking in compassion. But that doesn't make it less true.
9. "Over the years, [Bartman] has turned down all interview requests," Morrissey writes. "Good for him."
So if Bartman called up Morrissey today and said he wanted to talk, Morrissey would decline?
10. "Foul-Up In '03 Is History" - except in this headline atop the front page of the Sunday Tribune, where it clearly lives on.
11. "Cubs' collapse in Game 6 of NLCS, many of its faces, just distant memories" - except in this subhead on the front page of the Sunday Tribune, where it's like it just happened yesterday.
12. "A Headache of a History Lesson." The headline atop the Sunday Tribune sports section, just in case you hadn't gotten the message that nobody is thinking about Bartman anymore.
13. "In hiring Lou Piniella, we made a loud statement," Cubs President John McDonough told the Sun-Times. "We said, 'We're serious about this.'"
I thought the Cubs told us that hiring Dusty Baker and Don Baylor before him made that statement too.
14. "[Piniella] is hard-nosed; he's all business," McDonough says. "Nothing else matters. There's nothing else on his agenda. He doesn't play favorites."
Calling Dusty Baker!
15. "Until you have a manager who has the guts to put [young players] in, you just don't know," says Oneri Fleita, director of player development. "People have no idea what that does for an organization. We carry the Cubs games on TV in every clubhouse in the minor leagues. The players would look up and see a guy who was with them the day before on the field playing for the Cubs. They knew [Piniella] was going to put them in the game . . . you can't describe the feeling it gives the players."
16. "What has made this season different? A combination of factors. McDonough's determination early on, for instance, that Hendry's job was too big for one man. Enter Randy Bush, who was promoted to assistant general manager from the special assistant to the general manager."
17. "You know and I know the Cubs will be the death of us all."
The Beachwood Tip Line: Don't be scared.
Posted on October 1, 2007
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