The biggest Chicago sports story going into the fall of 2015, besides Patrick Kane’s did-he-or-didn’t-he rape allegation, is the Cubs making it to the playoffs for the first time in seven years, and the first season with manager Joe Maddon. There is near hysteria on the AM airwaves, and newspaper articles are comparing Jake Arietta’s pitching dominance with names such as Gibson, Martinez, and Clemens. It’s easy to get caught up in the mania surrounding the Cubs right now. Me? I’m gonna take a pass.
It’s not only because all these hopes and dreams can be dashed with just one loss on October 7. It’s that there are just too many parallels to can’t-miss Cubs teams of seasons past to go in blindly this time. People are calling the grandfatherly Maddon the wise old sage of baseball, the one whose experience and baseball acumen will put a stake through the billy goat’s heart. But, do the names Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella ring a bell? These baseball wisemen were also supposed to lead the Cubs out of the baseball desert. After leaving Chicago, Baker and Piniella are best remembered for blowing a 3-1 NLCS lead in 2003, and getting swept in the ’07 and ’08 playoffs, respectively.
While there is no doubt Arietta has been nothing short of brilliant, past Cubs playoff teams had aces Rick Sutcliffe and Mark Prior. Those two also had amazing seasons, but couldn’t pull their teams through in October. They’ve had Gold-Glovers have their mitts turned into frying pans (Alex Gonzalez, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez), and sluggers go meek (Sammy Sosa, even though he had enough juice in him to light up Wrigley Field). Leon Durham pulled a Bill Buckner two years before Buckner, when his name became synonymous with booting a routine ground ball.
Sure, there is a lot to get excited about the 2015 Cubs. They are young, hungry, and talented, and skipper Maddon seems at times to possess the wisdom of Solomon.
But, no. I will not fall for this prank again. This lifelong Cubs lover will not be jilted this time. Never again will I be left standing at the World Series altar to ask, “How could I have fallen for them again? Why did I think this time would be different?”
Believing in the Cubs requires a certain pain tolerance, and I have reached my threshold. Not only will I not jump on the bandwagon, I am nailing my shoes to the floor. I am closing my eyes until it’s safe to look.
When will I know the coast is clear? When Steve Bartman shows up in Wrigley, and the Cubs’ faithful greet him with forgiving cheers. Then—and only then—will I trust the Cubs again.