Blame Jim Hendry. Or, if you'd prefer, blame Alfonso "lost it in the sun" Soriano. Go ahead. But whatever you do, don't blame Kerry Wood or Carlos Marmol. Or Felix Pie for that matter.
For Wood and Marmol were happy and productive, especially Marmol, in their previous roles as set-up men for last year's Cubs. And Pie was learning the strike zone down in Iowa where he belongs.
But Jim Hendry, who generally manages the lovable losers, decided that closing is easy. Heck, anyone can do it.
Likewise, he decided the team didn't need an established centerfielder or leadoff hitter.
So, in preparing his championship buffet, he conveniently forgot to include these menu items as part of the recipe. And that has left our stomachs aching, kneeling to the bobblehead gods as we look elsewhere to satisfy our hunger.
This should come as no surprise to Cubs fans. After all, Hendry was the architect of the Dempster-as-closer era in Chicago.
Closers are a different breed. They may put on their pants like everyone else, but that's about where the similarities end. They have a certain panache, a kind of confident swagger and the critical ability to not only stare defeat in the face and laugh uproariously, but also to have a shot and a beer and forget about it 'til next time.
You will notice there was nothing about 95-mph fastballs or trick pitches in that job description. Oh yeah, those help, but they are clearly not enough.
Physical skill is but a pawn that the king hides behind for protection. And, accordingly, not everyone is cut out to do that job.
Likewise, Hendry should have known not to believe the hype surrounding Sam Fuld or Felix Pie, since he had personally gone through the Corey Patterson era.
Look, I understand that for Kerry Wood or Carlos Marmol to realize their 'royal ambitions' (as it were), they need an unobstructed opportunity, So I am not saying that they don't have what it takes to be effective closers.
Hell, it's not Marmol's fault that Soriano can't catch a simple fly ball. What I am saying is that it takes some kind of arrogance and stupidity for a GM to ignore such critical components of a baseball club.
Hendry looked at his pitching staff and noticed that he had three guys with the "stuff" to do the job. But nowhere did he factor in that none of them had ever done the job before. Nope, not even Howry, who had the most experience of the three, yet still not what you'd call any kind of demonstrated competency or expertise.
Hey, I'm reasonably intelligent, have an MBA, so I can run your company, right? Before you'd trust your company, your life savings, your "baby" to anyone, you'd expect that person have some experience and demonstrated success in the role, wouldn't you? That may explain why I'm currently looking for work but it hardly explains why Wood is the Cubs' closer.
That might be acceptable in a rebuilding year. But not with these expectations.
Building a ballclub without a closer, leadoff hitter and centerfielder is akin to building a bicycle without handlebars. Or an automobile without a steering wheel. I can hear that conversation - "Oops, sir, forgot the brakes, but trust me, it'll run like a dream"...stopping is overrated anyway.
That is one of the many reasons why I scoff at anyone who calls this "our year," too many crazy things seem to happen to the Cubs. Yes, they have a good team. But, a good team, similar to Wood and Marmol's good "stuff", ain't enough when you're the Cubs.
Too much history, too many goats, too much damn losing to have to hurdle over to think that small. No, sir, that's a lack of respect for the cosmos...a slap in the face of humanity...a direct double dog dare to fate itself.
No, man, if you're the Cubs, things aren't normal, business isn't usual when you're building a ballclub. You had better account for the inevitable weird things. You had better factor in the bad luck, and have an airtight team, preferably with a closer intact.
Otherwise, you're tempting fate. That's not an advisable thing to do when you've gone almost an entire century without winning. Come to think of it, that's the very definition of arrogance.