Reserve Your Cubs World Series Tickets Now!

This is the year! Seriously. Kind of.

Major League Baseball has a brand new innovation this year that makes it possible for even us lowly Cubs fans to reserve our place in line for World Series tickets . . . in 2010! I wish I was kidding. Well, I wish I wasn’t being sarcastic about not kidding.

For the low, low price of $20 ($10 for NLDS and $15 for NLCS) any fan can reserve the opportunity to buy World Series tickets at the home ballpark of his or her choosing (plus a $1 per order transaction fee, because it wouldn’t be MLB if they didn’t charge you for the convenience of buying the right to buy something).  So you can go right now and be assured that if the Cubs make the World Series, you’ll have a chance to buy a ticket at face value. No strings attached. No chance in hell attached, either, but that’s your gamble.

As Cubs fans, this is a joke. I mean, this year, this is an absolute waste of money. Had the playoffs not been a (crack) pipe dream since mid-June, it would be a nice opportunity to avoid the scalpers and get a real shot at playoff tickets with an additional surcharge as small as $10 per ticket.

But if you’re an enterprising mind, and you don’t mind going piecemeal at 2 tickets per household, nothing’s stopping you from buying the right to postseason tickets to any other team. Might as well buy reservations for White Sox World Series tickets. Or Cardinals, Reds, or any other rival whose fans you’d like to skewer with delicious price gauging.

This is all in theory, of course. I’m not advising anyone of doing anything unethical. But hypothetically, I know some good victims. Actually, there are probably Cubs fans who, as you read, are getting swindled into reserving seats for their place in history. Might as well make your money, too.

UPDATE: Be sure to check out Tim McGinnis’s take as a season-ticket holder over at Tales from Aisle 424.

We Can Get Through It . . . Just Once

Nothing drives home the reality of a season’s demise like losing a double dip to a team that’s been below .500 since Barry Bonds’ head was normal-person size.

To help ease the pain, I want to introduce any newcomers to a song that has become an annual tradition in the offices of And Counting. The above clip has nothing to do with baseball. It has everything to do with the inability to ever get it right. So if you’re as upset as I am that the Cubs’ best wasn’t good enough (cuz here we are back where we were before), I give you Mr. James Ingram.

On the Brink

Lose tonight, and the foregone conclusion becomes plain old reality.

If the Rockies win tonight, 100 Cubbie runs won’t matter.

But if the Cubs win . . . and the *gulp* Brewers win, Chicago’s playoff chances live on in blatant desperation.

A lot of other people have a lot of opinions about a lot of other Cub-related issues. Right now, I’m just contemplating the moment and leaving rational thought for another day.

The Cubs’ Last Gasp

There is one last step in the grieving process: acceptance. I just want to say, I’m not quite there.

I don’t pretend to think the Cubs have a realistic chance of winning the rest of their games. Or the Rockies losing the rest of theirs. Or the Braves cooling off dramatically. Or the Giants and the Marlins both failing their way through the final week. Obviously that’s way too many individually far-fetched and collectively impossible contingencies to hope for.

But the off day shared by the Cubs and Rockies has given our playoff chances one more day on life-support. However faint the pulse, however rattling the breaths, this dying vegetable of a season is not yet clinically dead.

I’ve gone through all the other stages of grief. I can’t deny the fate of this team. I lack the strength to appropriately arouse my anger at Paul Sullivan’s feeble excuses for journalism. I have lost all bargaining power. I’m done trying to be positive. But I’m just not ready to check the box next to Acceptance.

I’m going to enjoy the gigantic deep breath that is this off day. And on Tuesday, I’ll hope the Cubs can make it through one more day. I won’t even think about Wednesday.

Holler if you’re with me.

Milton’s Gone, and So Are Cubs’ Playoff Hopes

There are some facts about the Cubs that don’t need to be said. I’ve rounded them up here so they can huddle together in their unspoken misery.

  • Signing Milton Bradley was a mistake.
  • Suspending him was not.
  • The Cubs aren’t going to the playoffs.
  • Even the most jaded Cubs fans still harbored a tiny vigilante voice of hope deep in their hearts that was saying, “Let’s just wait and see how we* do this weekend in St. Louis.”
  • That voice is now muttering obscenities.
  • No matter the standings, it’s always nice to beat the Cardinals, especially after watching them prematurely rush the field in jubilant, firework-lit celebration.
  • Aaron Miles has had a bad year.
  • The Chicago media don’t like Milton Bradley. (Lesson to high-school jocks: Be nice to the nerds who don’t make the team and have to settle for praising you in the school paper; they will one day have the power to torture you.)
  • Jake Fox is a man’s man.
  • Only time will tell who overpaid more absurdly: Jim Hendry for Milton ($30 million) or the Ricketts family for this team ($845 million).
  • This season has been a disaster.
  • Someday we’ll go all the way.
*Yes, the voice deep inside the heart of skeptical Cubs fans refers to the team as “we.”

Cubs Have Bases Loaded with Off Season On Deck

The Cubs do this all the time in games, and now they’re toying us on a doom-defying playoff level. You know those games where the Cubs urge you to change the channel early? They give the opposition a 9-run lead, swing at the first pitch every at-bat and look categorically awful in every aspect of the game . . . for 8 innings.

Then the 9th inning rolls around, and the first two guys make outs (think “Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same“) and whatever totally unrealistic comeback hopes you may have entertained you then send packing on their dreary way.

Then a couple guys get on. Then a double. A walk. Two hit batsmen and a dropped popup. Suddenly the bases are juiced and the tying run is on deck. You swore you wouldn’t do it, but you’re now beckoning hope to come back and sit next to you on the couch. You let the thought of a miracle creep into your head and tickle your occipital lobe.

Invariably, someone Santo’s described as having “the power to tie it up, no doubt” flies out lazily to left, leaving you feeling like a grade-A sucker. Your head might actually assume the form of a sucker a la Woody Woodpecker.

Welcome to the 2009 Chicago Cubs. They’re trying to mess with us using the same illusion on a grander scale. Instead of making their lovely assistant disappear, they’re telling us the Statue of Liberty will vanish. Instead of staging their comeback down 7 in the 9th, they’re doing it down 5 1/2 on September 16. Well, I’ve seen this trick before, and I’m not falling for it.

Unless . . . well, unless they can sweep the Brewers and the Giants. Then . . . well, maybe then there’d be a chance. Aargh, Curses!

Alfonso’s Oil

In Paul Sullivan’s latest bout of actual news, he writes that Alfonso Soriano’s knee might be in for some serious treatment. Or it might not. The Cubs are considering subjecting the most tragically expensive knee in the Chicagoverse to arthroscopic surgery that would sideline him for *gasp* two weeks.

Or they won’t. For now, Soriano’s just getting the continued therapy and workout sessions that have worked such wonderful magic thus far.

Not that it matters. The playoff picture doesn’t have the Cubs in it right now. I believe in divine intervention, so I’m not ruling out anything. But surgery seems like the best option . . . for Soriano or just about anybody who thinks extra stretching and ice baths are gonna fix this multi-million-dollar problem.

Informed Hoplessness: Just How ‘Out of It’ Are the Cubs?

Reason for joy or just time to root for the Bears?

Now that Ted Lilly has finished his dissection of yet another team (just relax, Astros, and let the ether do its work) the Cubs are 10 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals, pending their discovery of yet another way to send the Brewers to their demoralizing defeat. The Cubs will be either 10.5 or 9.5 games out of first place in the National League Central, a climb few dreamers believe they can make.

Yes, even the incurable optimists are relegated to Wild Card wishes, and the 5.5 games by which the Cubbies currently trail the Rockies certainly seem more feasibly scaled than Mt. Pujols. But is the Wild Card picture really any less bleak than the layout of the NL Central?

Not much.

As far as I know, there is no official way to quantify the additional hurdle(s) facing a team that is 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc., in a playoff race. While the Cubs are 5.5 games back of the Rockies, they’re also .5 behind the Marlins, 2.5 behind the Braves, and 4.5 behind the Giants—the Cubs are a distant 5th place in the Wild Card standings. That definitely doesn’t seem a lot cheerier than being a very distant 2nd. So how do you know which position is worse?

Here’s the system I use: I take the total number of games the Cubs trail the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th teams, divide by 2 and add that total to the number of games behind the leader. Say wha? Here’s a little explanation.

Every team’s game result is worth one half game in the standings. In today’s game, the Cubs win was only half the story. The Astros also lost, completing the other half. The Cubs gained a half game; the Astros lost a half game, thus moving the Cubs and Astros one full game farther apart. For the Cubs to make up a full game on the Rockies, they need the Rockies to lose (to the Mets). In the economy of the standings, a Cub win and a Rockie loss are each worth one half game.

Prior to tonight’s games, the Cubs need 5 wins and 6 Rockie losses (11 total results or half-games) to catch Colorado. But to gain the Wild Card lead, they also need 1 Marlin loss, 3 Atlanta losses, and 5 Giant losses (9 half-games). That’s why I divide the other margins in half: a Cub win gains a half-game on everyone, but every other team’s result is independent of the Cubs’ performance. Clear as tobacco spit? Awesome. So the Cubs are, at this moment, 5.5 games behind the Rockies and a total of 7.5 games (adjusted to 3.75) behind everyone else.

The long and short of it: The Cubs are 9.25 games out of the Wild Card lead.

Since the Marlins and Braves play each other, one team will gain on them and one will lose, which will leave that number unchanged. If the Rockies and Giants both lose, it will drop to 8.5. If they both win, it’s back up to 10. Things can shift pretty fast in the Wild Card race, which can be both awesome and devastating.

Until I see the Cubs in 2nd place within 2 or 3 games, my money’s on devastating.

Day-Off Reflections: 2003

2003 gave us false hopes. Allow me to let it happen again.

Bring up the 2003 Cubs and three names come to mind instantly: Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Steve Bartman. Not exactly a flood stream of happy memories.

So I’m going to ask something of you that you’ve probably asked of yourself hundreds of times: forget the 2003 postseason and the 2004 SI cover jinx ever happened. If you can’t afford that much therapy, just pretend you can forget those things ever happened. Because once you set the dismal end aside, you might remember that 2003 was a dizzying, thrilling, spin-you-round-till-you-toss-your-cookies carnival ride.

The 2009 Cubs have now played 122 games. At this point in the schedule (after a 5-10 loss to the Dodgers) the Cubs were 64-58 and in 2nd place, a 1/2 game behind the Astros. Not a shock that the Cubs wound up winning the division, based on that position alone. But at a couple of points before and after the 122-game mark, the outlook was about as bleak as it is now.

Game 101. After getting swept at home in a 2-game series against the Phillies, the Cubs dropped one game under .500, putting themselves in 3rd place and 5 1/2 games out of the division lead. Things were really bad. Twenty games later, the Cubs were in 1st.

Game 135. The Cubs were shutout 2-0 by Doug Davis and Milwaukee, putting them back in 3rd place, a mere 3 games over .500, and 2 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cardinals. With only 27 games left to play, things looked really bad . . . again. Eight games later, the Cubs were in 1st.

Game 149. The Cubs dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to the Reds, putting them 2 games behind the Astros and 9 games over .500. Things weren’t hopeless, but with 13 games to play, it looked bad.

Game 155. A loss to the Pirates kept the Cubs 1 1/2 games behind the Astros, who lost to the Cardinals with 7 games to play. Darkness.

Game 159. Todd Van Poppel’s Reds beats the Cubbies, bringing them into a tie with Houston. Three games to play. Totally nervous.

Games 160 and 161. A rainout forces the Cubs to play a doubleheader with the Pirates—and the Cubs sweep! The Astros lose to Milwaukee, and the Cubs clinch the National League Central! There is much rejoicing throughout Cubdom! Exclamation points are overused, and no one cares!

Are things as bad now as they were then? It’s pretty tough to answer that question objectively, since I want the answer to be, “No, they were worse then, and there’s no way the Cubs can lose!” Being 8 games behind the Cardinals right now stinks. However, I would rather be 8 games back chasing 1 team than 5 games back chasing 2.

I use this rule of thumb: to calculate how far back in the standings a team is, I combine the number of games they trail every team in that race because you need all of those teams to lose. On July 24, 2003, the Cubs were 5 1/2 games behind the Astros and 2 games behind the Cardinals. I look at that as being 7 1/2 games out of first. As I said before, it only took 20 games for the Cubs to overtake first place after that point (which they would later relinquish and reclaim multiple times).

So the big question remaining is, are the 2009 Cardinals superior to the 2003 Cardinals and Astros? No, they’re not. In fact, he 2009 Cardinals aren’t even as good as . . . the 2009 Cardinals.

Let’s be realistic: Matt Holliday is hitting .394 with a .457 OBP and .688 SLG since joining St. Louis. With Oakland, those numbers were .286 / .378 / .454. I can’t guarantee anything, but it is highly likely that Matt Holliday won’t continue to put up the numbers he’s currently posting with St. Louis. Albert Pujols makes his teammates better, but unless he’s sharing HGH, he doesn’t make them that much better.

The Cardinals will probably slow down a bit. Past Cubs teams have shown the ability to close a big gap in a short amount of time. The big question is, can this year’s Cubs team feast on the smörgåsbord of suck laid out before them in the coming weeks?

I don’t know. But I don’t feel like a total idiot for hoping they do.

Pictures courtesy of MLB, Sports Illustrated

Cubs Must Go From Boys to Men

This long-distance dedication goes out to the Chicago Cubs from that special someone who knows you belong together, even if it seems like you’ll never be together: The Playoffs love you. They want you back. Please don’t say it’s the end. You just don’t understand how much I love you, do you? . . . You just won’t come back to me, will you? Just come back to me!

I can’t let go. It’s unnatural.