The A.J. Pierzynski of Postseason Predictions

From the mailbag:

Reilly –
You’ve been awfully quiet about the Cubs’ loss to Arizona. Could it be you feel a bit of sympathy for the Cubbies? Could it be you were secretly rooting for Chicago to hoist another trophy over its head? Could it be that Sox fans were realizing it’s the Cubs’ turn to win it all? Are you secretly resentful that the Sox wasted their chance to maybe take back the city?

– Kathryn, Chicago

In a word, no. In many other words, so many facets of the Cubs’ abysmal failure have been oh-so-enjoyable that it’s simply been impossible to stop laughing long enough to document them all. Until now.

First of all, it should be noted that no major media outlet predicted the sweep. None. Eight of ten on the ESPN panel picked the CUBS. all seemed to think it would take five games for the D-Backs to obliterate the weakest team in the playoff pool, should they pull it off at all. Even those Cubbie-hating Redbird backers at Deadspin had the Cubs winning in four.

And that’s not even counting the nauseating cheerleading going on in the sports pages around Chicago.

How could the Cubs lose so badly? Because they played so badly. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when your leadoff hitter is standing in the box and moonwalking down the first base line while the wind turns his homers into lazy popouts, your big bats are hitting a combined sub-.200 and benchwarmer Daryle Ward is doing all the heavy lifting, your team is in trouble. Ron Santo can do all the late-inning whining he wants to about how D-Backs closer Jose Valderde is showing up the team and being a “weasel” and a “‘hot dog” out on the mound – nevermind that Santo praises Carlos Zambrano for the same antics and that Ronnie himself would do a little jig after every Cubs win en route to that magical second-place finish in 1969 – but the fact remains that this year’s Cubs were never any good. Ever.

People liked to point to Lou Piniella as the driver for why the Cubs could have gone all the way. Those people are stupid. To wit:

  • Piniella didn’t assemble the 1990 Reds team that won the World Series, and the only reason he was manager in the first place was because Pete Rose, engineer of said championship team, was thrown out of baseball just six months prior.
  • Piniella also once led the Mariners to win more regular-season games than any team before or since and managed them all the way to a sweep in the ALDS.
  • Piniella, when handed an actual managerial challenge in Tampa Bay, could never ignite the kids to anything better than a 70-91 record.

But hey, he’s got “fire.” And don’t forget that “Cubbie swagger” either. Those’ll take you far. So far, in fact, that when all was said and done the first-place 2007 Cubs won exactly as many playoff games as the fourth-place 2007 White Sox.
Meanwhile the Diamondbacks were able to do simple things like read bounces off the outfield wall, hit the cutoff man, steal at will, get timely hits, score early by coming out swinging and, you know, win the games that count. There’s a big difference between going toe-to-toe with the class of the National League and beating up on the Pirates.


Still, God has yet to smite the Cleveland Indians, the Red Sox insist on winning and the Rockies managed to win in a nice way. One for four and totally abrasive isn’t bad, but it’s never too late to be wrong again:

Cleveland vs. Boston: Boston put a serious hurt on the mighty Angels in the ALDS, but if The Gnats somehow couldn’t become part of God Hates Cleveland Sports lore, it makes sense the Almighty would be saving it for the World Series. Indians in 6.

Arizona vs. Colorado: The Rockies have won 17 of their last 18 games. This kind of hot streak cannot last forever. More importantly, the D-Backs obliterated those much-vaunted Cubs and if A > B, and B is a franchise so storied that it’s been 100 years since they’ve been any good, wouldn’t it make sense that playoff predictions are a huge waste of time? Diamondbacks in 6.

Somewhere right now in America, Ed Goren, president of Fox Sports, is cringing at the thought of a World Series without the Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs. Somewhere Everywhere else in America, plenty of people are just fine with the idea.