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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.

Go Cubs!

After yesterday's heart-ripper-outer of a game, the Cubs have lost seven of
eight for the first time since last June. They still have a four-game division
lead and an 84.5% chance
of winning the division, thanks to the Brewers losing five of their
last seven, so things are not actually as bleak as they may seem.
(And yes, the chances of them missing the playoffs entirely are very, very small. But we're not discussing that. Yet.). Still, with Zambrano and Harden in various levels of gimpitude, the
collective angst here in Chicago is not unfounded. As Rob wrote earlier today, Harden is scheduled
to pitch on Thursday, and Zambrano on Saturday, so we'll know more (and
know just how freaked out to be) in a week or so.

In the meantime, maybe WXRT's Lin Brehmer
is right and the Cubs are suffering under The Curse Of Jon Bon Jovi.
Apparently the Cubs are playing "Living on a Prayer" during pitching
changes. "Living on a Prayer"? Seriously?

It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not.
We've got each other and that's a lot for love
We'll give it a shot.
Whoah, we're half way there
Whoah, livin' on a prayer

I don't think "it doesn't make a difference if we make it or not"
adequately captures the true feelings of Cubs fans (not to mention players
and management). The Cubs aren't "living on a prayer," either; they're
living on strong pitching (expect for the 9th inning yesterday), solid defense (ditto), and the best offense in the
National League.

Of course, a textual analysis of the problems with "Living On a Prayer" doesn't address just how crappy Bon Jovi is. I mean, seriously, I understand how the desire to appeal to the widest possible audience often manifests itself in a rush to the lowest common denominator, but this is ridiculous.

I wish I had a long list of viable, higher-quality alternatives to offer,
because we're all about solutions here at TCR, but alas the last few weeks have
reduced my brain's capacity for that sort of critical thinking to
almost nil. But for starters, how about "Nothing To Fear (But Fear Itself)" by Oingo Boingo?

I await better suggestions in the comments. In the meantime, I will officially add my voice to Lin Brehmer's: no more Jovi at Wrigley. Not
now, not ever. Life's too short to listen to bad pop metal.

In a move that will surely change the landscape of Cubs blogging, one-time TCR writer Christian Ruzich announced that he was moving back to Chicago. A new job has necessitated a call-up from the minor leagues (Harrisburg, PA), and Ruzich and his family should be back in the city before the playoff roster deadline.

Scouts question what, if anything, Ruzich can bring to a Cub Reporter team without any glaring weaknesses. Known for his wit and insight in the early '00s, Ruzich has not been a regular fixture on the TCR scene in years, appearing only occasionally to offer a web link, off-hand remark, or occasional comment post.

Unnamed sources within the TCR organization have questioned whether Ruzich has anything left, but are quick to say they're happy Ruzich has returned home: "If all he does is hang out at the TCR clubhouse, telling stories about the Don Baylor days, that would be great. I'm just worried that, if he tries to write again regularly, he might upset the team's chemistry down the stretch." When asked if he saw this as an opportunity to re-establish himself in
the Cubs blogging world, Ruzich mentioned that he has been doing towel
drills for months, and hoped to be able to contribute to the team in
any way possible.

Tags: 

Apologies if this is 3/44 -- Cubs batting stances, past and present:

This guy has a whole series of batting stance videos up. A nice diversion on a day off.

From a link on the new blog by Paul DePodesta (really), here's Carlos Zambrano helping out "career minor leaguer Ron Stilanovich" and his Hardball video series.

Lesson #19: Taking One For the Team

The Cubs catch a break this weekend, as the Diamondbacks come through town and the Cubs don't have to face two of their best pitchers. Brandon Webb pitched last night, and with all due respect to today's starter Danny Haren, the Cubs have to be happy to miss Micah Owings as well.

Even though Owings isn't pitching, though, we still might see him in the series. He's gotten quite a bit of press this year, but unlike Webb it's mostly been for his bat. Last week against the Astros, he hit a home run. To the opposite field. As a pinch hitter. In the sixth inning. After the opposing team brought in a reliever specifically to face him. Using a sawed-off piano leg as a bat.

OK, not that last one, but still. It was quite a feat. ESPN ran a great chart after that game. Here it is updated through today:


Highest Career OPS (min 75 PA):

1. Babe Ruth 1.164
2. Ted Williams1.116
3. Lou Gehrig 1.079
4. Micah Owings 1.056
5. Barry Bonds 1.051
6. Albert Pujols 1.041
7. Jimmie Foxx 1.037
8. Hank Greenberg 1.017
9. Geovanny Soto 1.011
9. Rogers Hornsby 1.011

While this isn't necessarily a candidate for inclusion in the next edition of How to Lie With Statistics, setting the bar at 75 PA is just the tiniest bit misleading. I mean, look who's tied with Hornsby! Still, that's pretty heady company, and there's no denying that Owings is an excellent hitting pitcher. With the help of the amazing BaseballReference.com Play Index, I pulled up a couple of other charts that put Owings' accomplishments in a bit more context:

Hi, everyone. What's new? With the Cubs back in the playoffs for the first time in four years I thought it was a good time to dip my toe back in the Cub Reporter writing pool again. Truth be told with the group of guys writing here now, I've been content to sit back and relax, and just read and enjoy. But since it's playoff time, I thought it was time to dust off the old Ex-Cub Factor and see whose quest for the Commissioner's Trophy is, ultimately, doomed. For those who are unfamiliar with the Ex-Cub Factor, I wish I could point you to the pages and pages of stuff I've written about in the past, but all my All-Baseball archives are in limbo at the moment. I was able to find a couple of pages that show what the Factor has looked like back to 1980 (as well as showing my propensity for starting a big project and then not following through, but that's another story). So what is the Ex-Cub Factor? As I wrote long, long ago:
The Ex-Cub Factor was originally coined by writer and Cub fan Ron Berler, who wrote an article in 1981 stating that since the Yankees of that season had five ex-Cubs on their roster, they were doomed to lose the World Series if they got there. Chicago newspaper legend Mike Royko picked up on the factor early on, and was a tireless champion of it, especially after Berler's 1981 prediction turned out to be right, as the Yanks lost to the Dodgers in six games.
The ECF is very simple: if you have three or more ex-Cubs on your playoff roster, you cannot win the World Series. Only twice since 1945 has the factor not held, 1960 and 2001. Interestingly in both of those cases, the ex-Cub-laden team won the Series by beating the New York Yankees in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game Seven of the Series. As Mel Allen said, "how about that?" On to this year's rosters (a caveat -- playoff rosters don't need to be set until tomorrow morning so it's possible that some of these guys will be left off the rosters once they're finalized. Of course, that only matters for one team, as you will see). Here are the ex-Cubs currently lurking on the rosters of the eight playoff teams: PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (3): Antonio Alfonseca, Tom Gordon, Jamie Moyer LOS ANGELES ANGELS (2): Gary Matthews, Chris Justin Speier ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (2): Juan Cruz, Augie Ojeda CLEVELAND INDIANS (2): Joe Borowski, Kenny Lofton CHICAGO CUBS (1): Steve Trachsel BOSTON RED SOX (1): Julian Tavarez COLORADO ROCKIES (1): Latroy Hawkins NEW YORK YANKEES (1): Kyle Farnsworth So as you can see, the Phillies are phucked this year, since all three of those guys are locks to make the roster. All they can hope for, I guess, is to match up against the Yankees and hope that the Game Seven Corrollary continues to hold true. One thing I think is interesting (though unrelated to the Factor itself) is that every single other team in the playoffs this year has at least one ex-Cub reliever. The Cubs have scattered their late-inning pitchers around baseball like a Johnny Appleseed of million dollar arms and ten cent heads, and many of them are pitching for a ring this year. Odd. Oh, and to answer two questions that come up every so often: * The Cubs can be affected by the Ex-Cub Factor. This came up in '98 when the Cubs had three ex-Cubs and I got a ruling from Ron Berler himself. * Players who only played in the Cubs' minor league system do not count. For this year that means the Red Sox don't need to worry about Eric Hinske.
Game Chat Carlos Zambrano vs. Matt Belisle Christian here...Not sure if anyone at TCR Central is going to be able to post lineups before game time, but here are the probables. After yesterday's win and the Brewers' doubleheader loss, the Cubs are 1 1/2 games out of first place, the closest they've been to the top this late in the season since 2003. AZ PHIL UPDATE: Hiya Ruz! Despite the RHP starter for CIN, both Cliff Floyd and Jacque Jones get the day off. Maybe Jones has been (or is about to be) traded. Also, Koyie Hill is getting the start at catcher. Here's the lineups... * bats left # bats both Lineups:
Alfonso Soriano, LF * Scott Hatteberg, 1B
Ryan Theriot, SS Ryan Freel, CF
Derrek Lee, 1B * Ken Griffey Jr, RF
Aramis Ramirez, 3B Brandon Phillips, 2B
Mark DeRosa, RF * Adam Dunn, LF
* Mike Fontenot, 2B Jeff Keppinger, SS
# Angel Pagan, CF # Javier Valentin, C
# Koyie Hill, C Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
# Carlos Zambrano, P Matt Belisle, P
"How about Chicago? Is it cold there now or not? Talk me out of Tampa" -- Joe Nichols, "Talk Me Out Of Tampa"
Following in the footsteps of Derek Zumsteg's Seattle-based look at Lou Piniella's managerial stylings, I have two links from Tampa Bay Devil Rays bloggers regarding Sweet Lou. It isn't pretty, and the more of this stuff I read the less excited I get about Piniella taking the helm of the Cubs. * "Good Riddance," by Jim Wisninski, RaysBaseball.com, September '05 * "A Devil Ray Perspective On Lou Piniella," by Patrick Kennedy of DRays Bay, posted on Bleed Cubbie Blue last week
Whatever Lou Piniella's strengths and weaknesses are, one sure thing is that he is never boring. Stories of his many and varied umpire arguments and on-field freakouts are legendary, and thanks to YouTube we can watch a few of the best of them over and over. May 28, 2002: Lou disagrees with a call by John Shulock and covers both home plate and Shulock's feet with infield dirt: September 18, 2002: Lou disagrees with C.B. Bucknor about a call at first. He ends up tossing the base into the outfield (twice) and injuring his shoulder and hamstring. Good times...

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