It has been three days now, and I'm just now coming to grips with the debacle that was the Cubs in the 2008 National League Division Series.
The 2008 Cubs were supposed to be the team that erased all of the bad memories. They were the team that would make us forget goats, black cats, Leon Durham, Will Clark, corked bats, steroids, Steve Bartman and LaTroy Hawkins (the last one is for laughs).
This team was too deep everywhere: a potent lineup 1-8 (1-9 when Zambrano was on the mound); An enviable front five in the rotation that included two all-stars and a potential third; an improved defense featuring gold glove winners at first and center, a potential winner at third and an emerging defensive force behind the plate; a solid bench; and a talented bullpen featuring one of the scariest 1-2 punches in Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood at the end.
Instead of waltzing through the playoffs, the Cubs pretty much shit the bed three straight nights.
I could stomach losing the first game. The Cubs hadn't played a game that mattered in about three weeks, and the possibility of being rusty was there. There was no excuse for the performance in Game Two, however. It was just an awful display—pitching, hitting and defense.
And Game Three was sealed before it even started. I had the same feeling about this game that I did after Game Six in 2003 (the Bartman game). I knew the Cubs had no chance. And when Rich Harden gave up that crucial two-run double in the first, it was over. A 2-0 deficit was too much to come back from, especially with Cy Kuroda on the mound.
So, 97 wins, a season chock-full of memories, back-to-back playoffs for the first time in 100 years, and a giant turd sandwich to finish it all off.
Where do the Cubs go from here? The core of the team is back next year, with only a couple questions. The main free agents include Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood, and I'd be shocked if they weren't back. I hope they let Edmonds walk (even though, and I'm shocked to say this, I enjoyed him on this team), and I'm ready to let Sean Marshall have the fifth starter job.
The team is set at first (Lee), short (Theriot), third (Ramirez) and catcher (Soto). I would love to see the team make another run at Brian Roberts, and move DeRosa to right full time, with Fukudome as the most expensive late inning defensive replacement in history. I think Reed Johnson and Felix Pie can platoon in center, with Soriano in left.
The bullpen should be fine, with Marmol and Wood forming the solid combo at the back end again. Bob Howry should be allowed no where near Wrigley Field.
This season will sting for a long time. The promise, the fun, the magic—gone just like that. Oh well, we'll get 'em next year.