Monday, September 29, 2008


1910 -- World Series -- Athletics win 4-1

1918 -- World Series -- Red Sox win 4-2

1929 -- World Series -- Athletics win 4-1

1932 -- World Series -- Yankees win 4-0

1935 -- World Series -- Tigers win 4-2

1938 -- World Series -- Yankees win 4-0

1945 -- World Series -- Tigers win 4-3

1984 -- NLCS -- Padres win 3-2

1989 -- NLCS -- Giants win 4-1

1998 -- NLDS -- Braves win 3-0

2003 -- NLCS -- Marlins win 4-3 (NLDS -- Cubs win over Braves 3-2)

2007 -- NLDS -- Diamondbacks win 3-0

2008 -- ?? -- ??????????

In my lifetime, the Cubs have been to the postseason five times, the sixth will begin on Wednesday at 6:30 est. I have only been in Chicago for one of those seasons -- the heartbreaking collapse against the Padres in 1984, that was also the unfortunate harbinger of a move to San Diego shortly thereafter.

In 2003, we were at Turner Field for the Cubs' first playoff win since 1908 in what was the single greatest sporting event I have ever attended to date.

Without question, however, this is the single best Cubs team that has represented Chicago in the postseason in my lifetime.

The 1984 team had a better offense -- six players with more than 80 rbis (Ron Cey; Leon Durham; Jody Davis; Ryne Sandberg; Gary Matthews; and Keith Moreland) although none had more than 100 and Cey put up the best power numbers with a meager 25 home runs (Durham was the only other Cub with more than 20). The pitching, however, was Rick Sutcliffe and well... not a lot else. Lee Smith and Tim Stoddard were great out of the pen. Steve Trout was decent, Eck had a decent season, and Scott Sanderson was my favorite pitcher on the staff, but when you look at the strikeout numbers for the starting staff, it is shocking. Steve Trout walked 59 batters and struck out 81 in 190 innings.

In 1989, Sutcliffe and Sanderson were joined by Greg Maddux and Mike Bielecki to make up an amazing starting rotation. Wild Thing closed games out from the pen, and the bridge to Mitch was the quality middle relief work of Paul Assenmacher and Les Lancaster. But the offense was remarkably impotent -- no one batted in more than 80 runs, Sandberg hit 30 home runs, and Dawson added 21, but no one else even approached 15 home runs. Mark Grace was the story, but Vance Law, the third baseman, was a better representation of the offense -- .235, 7 home runs, 42 rbis, and 38 runs scored in 408 at bats.

In 1998, the offense came from the triumvirate of Sammy Sosa (.308, 66 home runs, 158 rbis, and 134 runs scored), Mark Grace (.309, 17 hrs, 89 rbis, and 92 rs), and Henry Rodriguez (.251, 31 hrs, 85 rbis, and 56 rs). Kerry Wood struck out 233 batters, Rod Beck successfully closed out 51 games, Kevin Tapani won 19 games, and Terry Mulholland had an amazing win. But Mark Clark and Steve Trachsel (despite winning 15 games) did not offer a lot on the back end of the rotation and North Siders were subjected to their first year of Felix Heredia in the pen.

In 2003, the rotation was tremendous but young: Matt Clement, Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano -- all with more than 13 wins. The bullpen had Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Remlinger, and a surprisingly effective Joe Borowski in the pen. But the offense was carried again by three players: Sosa (.279, 40 hrs, 103 rbis); Aramis Ramirez (.272, 27 hrs, 106 rbis); and Moises Alou (.280, 22 hrs, 91 rbis). And the rest of the team did not add much.

Last year, the offense was four guys: Derrek Lee (.317, 22 hrs, 82 rbis), Aramis Ramirez (.310, 26 hrs, 101 rbis), Mark DeRosa (.293, 10 hrs, 72 rbis), and Alfonso Soriano (.299, 33 hrs, 70 rbis). Zambrano was joined by Ted Lilly and Rich Hill in a good rotation and Carlos Marmol exploded into Cubs' lore. Dempster only managed 28 saves, but the bullpen was rounded out by Bob Howry (who had a good year), Michael Wuertz, and Kerry Wood.

This season? The only real question is the bullpen. Dempster has been tremendous as a starter this season (17-6, 2.96 era, 187 ks in 206 2/3 ip), Ted Lilly set a career high with 17 wins (4.09 era, 184 ks), Zambrano was erratic, but impressive overall (14-6, 3.91 era, 130 ks), and Rich Harden has been an amazing addition (5-1, 1.77 era, 89 ks in 71 ip). The offense was remarkably balanced: six guys hit 20 or more home runs (Ramirez, Lee, Soriano, Geovany Soto, DeRosa, and Jim Edmonds) and five players had more than 75 rbis. Aramis set the pace with a .289, 27 hrs, 111 rbis, 97 rs line. Ryan Theriot hit .307 at shortstop, with 22 stolen bases, and 85 runs scored. From 1 through 8 in the lineup, there is no real weak link in the chain. Carlos Marmol anchors the pen with video game like numbers (and a video game like slider), but Wood has blown six saves while converting 34. Bobby Howry has been horrid, Neal Cotts is awful, Chad Gaudin has fallen apart, leaving a lot of pressure on Jeff Samardzija to shoulder an incredible burden in his rookie season.

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