So finally it looks like the foolishness about Steve Bartman will be laid to rest. I’m glad they are grinding up the ball, maybe sometime in the next decade or two they can quit obsessing over it. Lots of teams have late-season meltdowns (as a Braves fan I see it most years) but Cubs fans have raised denial and avoidance of the facts an art form. It’s Bartman, it’s this goat or this curse or some other injustice. They seem to do everything in their power to avoid the stark facts – you have to play all the way through to the final out of the last game before you have actually won. A big early lead does nothing for you if you can’t seal the deal. Having the best regular season record in history means squat if your team lays down in the divisionals. Enough about external factors – the Cubs did not advance last year because they melted down and no other reason. No one was robbed, no one was cursed. I’ve watched strong Braves teams not make it for the last 9 years and never had a handy excuse. I’m forced to admit my team didn’t want it bad enough and didn’t play well enough.
Interestingly enough, I think the Cubs will not make it this year again, and the seed of their defeat will be what most people think is the key to taking it all – the signing of Greg Maddux. He’s a case in point for the long-hallowed Cubs strategy of trading off a promising player before their peak in favor of overpriced talent on the downhill side of their careers. If they had kept him in 1993, that might have been something. Instead, the Braves got 12 good years out of him and when it is obvious that he’s declining in dominance, the Cubs sign him for $8M a year. I really wish the Braves had traded him before last year and kept Kevin Millwood, a pitcher with 10 or 15 good years left in him. That’s the Cubs strategy – sell low and buy high. My gut feeling is that is way to much money for Maddux. Cubs fans somehow think they are going to get 1994-1996 out of him, and that ain’t the case. My prediction – he wins 12 games or fewer this year. They’ll get some benefit from him in terms of grooming the young pitchers, but he just plain isn’t going to dominate and won’t be worth the money.