It pains me that the recipient of this award, an award I created specifically because of what happened in Los Angeles last night, is this particular group. Because this award can only be given once, and cannot be taken away until total redemption is achieved or until a more deserving team comes along, it is with deep regret that the winner of The Most Pathetic Team in the History of Sports Award is...without a doubt, the 2008 Chicago Cubs.
I know it's harsh, but if you think about it, this is a selfless act. It's selfless of me to hand over such a prestigious award and expect nothing in return. And believe me, nothing is what we did to receive this honor:
The Most Pathetic Team in the History of Sports Award is broken down into three parts:
The best in baseball? How about the most devastating karma bomb in baseball. Who of us wasn't subconsciously convinced of an eventual meltdown long before play began Wednesday night? I know I was. And I'm not saying I believe in the thoughts of one man affecting the outcomes of the universe. But thousands of us? Millions? Gathered in the same place, forty thousand first-hand witnesses to the demise looked down upon their team in grotesque sneers of disdain.
The Wrigley crowd was gutchecked quick, their wind was taken out by the second inning of both home games and we even began to boo our own players, to point fingers instead of stepping up and taking it with them. The performances were dismal, but where does it end and where does it begin? Are we really locked in a wheel of unacceptance and lack of confidence...are we really the Loser Yin and Yang of Baseball? We might be.
I resent my unavoidable negativity, but it's impossible for me to get rid of, steeped as it is in all my Cubs memories. Experience. Where in my memories, or in the memory of any Cubs fan alive today, is there a time when a good Cubs team hasn't underperformed?
It's the weight of these ghosts the players feel when they take the field on the big pressure nights, but geez fellas, call the Ghostbusters or something, that's no excuse for forgetting how to play baseball.
Ryan Dempster: Taken out in the fifth inning; seven walks, four earned runs. No control.
Carlos Zambrano: Taken out in the seventh inning; three runs earned, four unearned. Victimized by infielder errors.
Rich Harden: Taken out in the fifth inning; three walks, three earned runs.
The starting pitchers weren't able to go deep into the games. They proved, in succession, they were unable to stand up to the task of dominating the aggressive Dodger line-up. Much of this is more Cubs lack of effort than Dodger excellence.
Every Cubs infielder recorded an error.
Cubs outhit the Dodgers in two of the three games. The hits were meaningless however, for their infrequency and untimeliness. The offense was riddled with poor performance:
Alfonso Soriano: 1 for 14
Aramis Ramirez: 2 for 11
Geovany Soto: 2 for 11
Jim Edmonds: 2 for 10
Kosuke Fukudome: 1 for 10
Reed Johnson: No at bats? WTF?
And again, it would be nice to say how the Dodger pitchers deserve all the credit, that they were like shooting stars through the hearts of our boys, but they don't deserve that. Derrek Lee, Mark Derosa and Mike Fontenot all showed up and demonstrated to hitters equally capable that these pitchers could be touched.
This award doesn't go to a team that was just good and got beat, or outpitched. It goes to a team that completely blew it by underperforming beyond a capacity to comprehend.
The Attack Plan
There are certain strategies that can be employed in baseball to maximize winning. Playing well is one of these. To really blow a home stand advantage series, especially after being swept out of the playoffs the year before, there needs to be a total disregard for quality of play. There needs to be a complete mental breakdown between your abilities and your actions. In a word: CHOKE.
Put it on a big sign in your locker room. CHOKE. Embrace the words. When you're eating, don't choke on your food. When you're being interviewed, don't choke on your words. When you're watching Steel Magnolias, try not to get choked up. When you're in the shower, don't choke it. Stroke it.
Live inside the word CHOKE for the entire off season, because that is what you did. 97 wins? Those wins are so far away from what matters, they're like a Game Seven of the World Series daydream in a Turkish prison. Where was the game plan, where was the execution of strategy and skill? It was all so horribly sad.
Take a big chip on your shoulder heading into the next season. Look at that special word that defines you every day and think about how the 2009 Cubs are not the 2008 Cubs, but they are the Cubs and the sort of thing that happened to the 2008 Cubs, and 2007 Cubs, and 2003 Cubs...and Cubs for a century gone now, could very probably happen to you. Again. Unless you stop it.
I wrote myself a little note and put it up next to my computer screen here:
CHOKE. Except the C is a familiar red one. It's there to remind me of what happened...three times now in five years...and how it couldn't possibly happen again. Could it? I know I'd rather find out with this team than any other, but for now, hold your award high above your heads and say it with pride...I was part of the most pathetic team in the history of sports.