Here We Go Again…

September 10, 2008 – 1:57 am by Hickey

In order to make things easier for the police, I’m just going to come out and confess: if 300-400 hobos in Chicagoland are found brutally murdered Wednesday morning, there’s a chance that I had some culpability in the matter. Or at least I might have if I didn’t take the proactive measures of locking myself in my room and flushing my car keys down the toilet. And once my keys find their way into the sewage system, there’s a chance they’ll find themselves rubbing against the waste that is rapidly becoming the 2008 Chicago Cubs season.

On the 39th anniversary of the black cat crossing Ron Santo’s path in the on-deck circle at Shea Stadium, the Cubs managed to put together a loss that was an even greater blow to the sternum than Sunday’s debacle in Cincinnati.

Tuesday night’s disaster, a 4-3 loss at the hands of the Cardinals, was decided on a walk-off weak-ass check swing 55-foot grounder by former Cubs castoff Cesar Izturis (whose lone highlight in blue pinstripes was proving that no matter how many times a team gets rid of Greg Maddux, it’s always going to be a really crappy transaction).

The Cubs record in September now stands at a less-than-impressive 1-6, which becomes even more less-than-impressive when one considers that the lone win was a 14-9 victory over the Reds in which the Cubs held an 11-1 lead heading into the 8th inning.

It’s hard to select what the most depressing part of the whole September experience has been. Is it the constant wondering over whether Carlos Zambrano will be able to return to the rotation at 100 percent? Or for that matter Rich Harden, who has also been skipped due to “discomfort?”

Is it seeing Derrek Lee bat into a double play seemingly every time someone is in front of him on base? Or that Kosuke Fukudome looks like he should be batting, I don’t know, 11th in the order?

Or perhaps it’s the ever-increasing signs that Lou Piniella is going senile. The Reds series opened with Lou showing up late to the ballpark because he and first-base coach Matt Sinatro got lost in Ohio while driving to Cincy. Why the hell didn’t they just get on the team plane? Or buy a GPS system?

It’s only gotten worse in the ensuing days. Against the Cardinals, the Cubs had a situation in the 8th inning with speedy Felix Pie at first and power hitting Geovany Soto at the plate. Sounds like a good time for a hit-and-run, or maybe even a straight steal. Or maybe nothing at all.

Instead, Lou had Soto, with his 21 homers and 80 RBI, try laying down a sacrifice bunt. You know, the same guy WHO HASN’T LAID DOWN A SAC BUNT ALL SEASON. ZERO. ZILCH. NADA. (For those Cubs fan keeping track, that would be the same number of sac bunts put down this season by players such as Carmen Pignatiello, Rich Hill and Hector Villanueva). At any rate, the end result was predictable, even if it’s rarely ever seen — Soto bunted into a double play.

The Cubs still hold a 4.5-game division lead over the Brewers, who haven’t been much more impressive this month. In fact, the Brew Crew appears to be well on its way to squandering what once seemed like an insurmountable Wild Card lead. But there’s still a good chance that the season’s final series, which takes place between the two teams at Miller Park, is going to mean something. (Unless, of course, the Cubs completely piss things away in the preceding series at Shea Stadium, which would be apropos given the suddenly startling similarities between this season and 1969. But that would only be a likely scenario if it were the Blue Jays chasing the Cubs down right now).

It is true that at least this year’s Cubs (presumably) have the wild card to fall back on if they continue down the path of another historic choke job. As recent history has shown us in the form of the ’05 White Sox and ’06 Tigers, you can still get to the World Series after a miserable September.  And the ’06 Cardinals won the whole thing despite being terrible for an entire season.

But this is the Cubs. And until I can be given concrete proof that you can touch the stove without getting burned, the panic will remain full-fledged. At least until they lull me back into thinking they’ll turn it around tomorrow.

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