OCTOBER 15, 2003 – Ok, if the fan
had reached over the home-run fence and pulled in a ball, making two
runs out of what might have been an out, then the Cubs could blame
But the reality is - despite the whining of Alou, who said in an
interview after the game that the Cubs, “would have been
celebrating” winning the series if not for the fan - that the fan
would have done no damage at all if: 1) the Cubs had any relief
pitching; 2) the Cubs had any balls.
The reason the play by the fan became such a big deal was
because the cubs were trying to sneak in the back door. They had a
3-0 lead with one out in the eighth, but, contrary to what other
newspapers are reporting and what the Cubs are saying, starting
pitcher Mark Prior should have been taken out before the eighth
Yes, he retired all three batters in
order in the 7th, but all the outs were on fly balls.
The first out in the eighth was on a fly ball. The reality was that
the Marlins were hitting Prior, just not quite in the right spot.
Then Juan-Pierre did hit it in the right area and got a double.
So, five batters in a row had gotten
good hits off of Prior. Not a single batter had been retired by a
strikeout, groundball, or pop-up.
Any true championship caliber team would
have had a closer who they would have brought in at that point.
Prior would have left to a much deserved standing ovation, and Gagne
or Rivera or some great closer would ensure that it was, “Game
But, the Cubs had no such closer, and,
in fact, were afraid to go to their bull pen at all. Even 100
MPH-throwing Kyle Farnsworth had been ineffective so far in the
So, instead, their manager Dusty Baker
and the rest of the Cubs simply hoped they would get lucky, that the
balls being hit by the Marlins – harder and harder with each batter
– would keep falling in the right places.
And it seemed it would happen again,
that the Cubs had managed a bit more luck and a foul ball down the
left-field line would be just within reach of outfielder Moises Alou.
It would have been far from a guaranteed catch.
In any case, the fan blocked it causing
what – a run to score? A runner to reach base?
No, it didn’t even cause a ball in the
pitch count. The count remained at two strikes, and so the game was
still 3-0. And, that batter only went on to walk. So even after
that batter, it was still 3-0, and all the Cubs needed was one
pitcher capable of getting a double-play ball or retiring two
batters. And we are not talking about facing Barry Bonds or Sammy
Sosa. The Marlins batters coming to the plate were decent hitters
but not spectacular.
But you could see it. And you could
feel it. The entire team collapsed. They had no balls.
Dusty Baker could have come out to the
mound and talked to the whole team, telling them to snap out of it,
suck it up, and focus on kicking ass. Instead, he let things spiral
and the team – still lost in a whining fit over truly nothing
serious – was too up in their heads for even their best fielder
to catch a simple ground ball.
And still Dusty didn’t stop play. And
still Dusty didn’t take Prior out.
But it didn’t matter. Because when he
took Prior out, the reality they were trying to avoid – that they
have no relief pitching – came out to play.
So, stop the friggin whining. The fan
did nothing but make your pitcher have to throw another pitch.
The problem was, Cubs, you were trying
to sneak into the World Series. That is not how it works,
especially for a team trying to break a half-century curse. No, you
must boldly strut your way in. You must be able to face adversity,
look the curse straight in the face and say, “Not this time.”
Instead, it merely winked at you and you all peed your collective
Tonight, the Cubs are playing at home
and have their best pitcher, Kerry Wood, on the mound. But none of
that matters. All that matters is whether or not the Cubs will
decide to be men tonight, true, brave, unshakeable champions who
show up knowing, determined that nothing and no one will take this
title from out of their grasp. They must be ready for more odd
occurrences like last night. They must know the curse will fight
back, try to shake them, test if they are really worthy of being the
first Cub team since 1945 to pull the Sword out from
Tonight, we will see if they are knights