2008 Ex-Cub Factor Update
Here is this year's Ex-Cub Factor update:
Philadelphia Phillies: 3 -- Scott Eyre, Jamie Moyer, Matt Stairs
Milwaukee Brewers: 1 -- Jason Kendall
Chicago Cubs: None
Los Angeles Dodgers: 3 -- Nomar Garciaparra, Greg Maddux, Juan Pierre
Chicago White Sox: None
Tampa Bay Rays: 1 -- Cliff Floyd
Boston Red Sox: None
Los Angeles Angels Etc.: 2 -- Gary Matthews Jr., Justin Speier
A quick reminder: the Ex-Cub Factor, as coined by Ron Berler, popularized by Mike Royko, and brought to the Web by yours truly, says that no team with three or more ex-Cubs can win the World Series. Based on the numbers, then, only the Phillies and Dodgers are out of luck this year.
But I've been thinking abut the Factor recently and I wonder if it is as strong (and unfailing) as it used to be. The factor was originally born out of the idea that there is an ineffable "Cubness" (these days some might call it "Cubbery"), a stink of loserdom that works its way into the psyche of any player who toils on the North Side. Even after they leave the Friendly Confines, the theory goes, those players carry this Cubbie essence with them, and if you get a critical mass of ex-Cubs on one team, their combined futility is enough to deny their team the ultimate prize.
The Factor has been pretty strong; only twice (in 1960 and 2001) has it been defeated, and in each case it took walk-off hits in the bottom of the 9th of the 7th game (both times against the Yankees, no less) to overcome it.
The thing is, though, that I wonder if what it means to be a Cub hasn't changed over the last few years. After decades of management that ranged from boneheaded to non-existent, the team's corporate overlords seemed to wake up and realize they owned a baseball team in a major media market. They started increasing payroll to attract free agent talent; they hired some smart people to work on drafting and in the minor leagues; and they started bringing in proven talent at manager: first Dusty (a disaster, but still) and now Uncle Lou.
The net result has been three playoff appearances in the last six years. A casual fan might not think that's a big deal, but any Cub fan knows that's equal to the number of playoffs appearances the team had made in the previous 57 years.
It's more than just the playoff appearances, though. There has been a change in the feeling that surrounds the team. It's not like we're all suddenly, automatically, expecting the Cubs to be winners; it's hard to shake a hundred years of futility. But I think most Cub fans feel differently about the team's general prospects now than they did even a decade ago -- while we still acknowledge the problems of the past, and worry about them out of proportion with reality, we (or at least I) no longer default to the worst possible outcome when I start thinking about what's ahead.
As far as I know, Ron Berler never talked about what it would take to end the reign of the Ex-Cub Factor. I think a World Championship this year would probably do it; a pennant might be even be enough. But even if neither of those things happen, I feel like the Factor is on its way out. Being traded to the Cubs no longer means years of toiling for a second-division team, playing meaningless games in the best park in baseball and hoping for a ticket out of purgatory; I don't think it's a stretch to think that players can leave the employ of the Chicago National League Base Ball Club and no longer be branded losers from there on out.
Maybe the factor will come into play this year (although I hope it doesn't, because that would mean the Cubs aren't in the Series). If it does, it's possible that the Dodgers or Phillies will lose the Series, and the Factor will be said to have claimed another victim. But whether or not that happens, I have a feeling that, as time goes by, we'll hear less and less about the Lovable Losers and the effect playing for them has on the rest of players' careers.
2nd in defensive WAR, NL.
6th in NL in RBI
Go complain about something else, like, "they never play good against the good teams", or some other shit.
Addy really has trouble breaking through .250 BA -- after his hot streak got him to .251, he has gone 1-for-17.
Thank goodness for Jansen's 2 WP on Friday -- otherwise this would have been a sweep.
There seems to be a direct correlation with overconfidence in the Cubs offense against mediocre/young pitchers and really poor offense against mediocre/young pitchers. So, let's fear the Pirate pitchers!
Rizzo due for a power surge -- one HR in August so far. He truly does hit them in bunches.
Sometimes I'm not as supportive of Cahill as maybe I should be. There, I said it.
Rough 8th inning all around -- HBP, Cahill error, Javy's poor decision.
Oh well - given that the Cubs didn't look like they were going to score, it's better to lose in 9 innings, save the bullpen and get changed for the PJ trip home.
Baez still learning
heyward with his 3rd multi-hit game since the all-star break (all in august)...2nd in the past 3 games during his 7 game hitting streak.
he's gone from flirting with a sub-.300 ob% to nearing .310 ob% in 3 games (1 game was just a 1 for 1 pinch hit appearance). all 5 hits in the past 3 games have come in a row...neat.
stewart with 7Ks through 3ip...of course.
that 10-13 mph difference in his fastball/change is working today...and they're swinging at his crappy slider.
brock stewart...steven brault...fun times for the cubs hitters vs allegedly competitive teams...maybe.
Maddon would have started three lefties against the Dodgers, Montgomery, Zastryzny and Lester, except that he doesn't have the juice to do that. No manager does. Maddon has a boss, Epstein (and probably Hoyer, too), who gave him a starting rotation of five guys including Hammel. Maddon was asked yesterday about the starting group for next year and basically said, Not my call, that's why I drive away in my RV in the summer and occasionally check in, etc.
video of Maddon.
always nice that he actually tries to honestly answer questions. Does mention that he wanted to give Zastr? a chance in a meaningful spot rather than a mop-up role.
#Cubs Maddon: "I'm not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence" ... "It was the right thing to do today based on what I saw, what their lineup looked like and Rob Z.'s availability." #Cubs
Hammel not particularly understanding of getting pulled out...as he should. Be curious what Maddon had to say. All I can think of is is keeping arms fresh and maybe wanting to see if Zastr? is worth considering for the playoffs and how he'd do against the Dodgers.
Heyward, Russell, Baez, Bryant, Ross in particular...although Bryant's a bit hard to judge with all the positions.
Fowler and Rizzo in the top half of the NL for their positions as well (per fangraphs)...Zobrist right at the halfway cutoff for 2b in the NL.
I'm sure some luck is involved too, but the Cubs and Maddon knew what they were doing.