Chicago fans may be seeing the best team in baseball and it's not the loveable Cubbies. As a former coach and player, yes, baseball too, I have watched Chicago's baseball longest sports love play and win and play and lose. Pretty much predictable that they will not win the big games. They haven't in 100 years won the big games. Don't count on a 2008 World Series pennant waving in the wind above Waverly Avenue.
As an ex-coach with far more wins than losses, I know that talent alone seldom guarantees a winner. This Cubbie club has talent and the manager is a knowledgeable old timer but without LaRussa's talent. Sports analysts says he doesn't have a hit and run team but I believe he could use it on more occassions. Also the squeeze play or the suicide bunt play but some of his players appear to be afraid of getting hurt. But there seems to be a missing ingredient; an overwhelming desire to be the best TEAM in major league baseball. An ingredient you see in unpaid amateur sports all over our country.
There is no comparison between amateur sports and professional spirits. Professionals are paid to play and the more they are paid, fans expect them to perform and to deliver the key hits, make the outstanding plays and the clutch pitching wins.
Why do these highly paid performers need to really bust their butts to win? They know that a .250 batting average and pitchers with say, 40 wins and 50 losses; they will still get paid more money in a few years than an ordinary Joe could spend in a lifetime. As for the "stars", why not spend this money; Barry Zito got a a long term contract for over $150,000,000.00 - that's millions, folks. I don't know whether he is still with the Giants but I do note San Francisco is in next to last place. Why should he work out hard every day and come to his room or home too tired to go out and spend that money? The money is obscene. Most people who accumulate a million dollars or less in a lifetime can lead a good life.
Sure, our highly paid basketball Olympians will put on a good show in China because everyone in the entire world with a TV set can see them. And most of our U.S. Olympic players do have "national" pride.
I admit I watch while I'm multi-tasking and seldom discuss sports anymore. Probably disenchantment with what appear to be obscene salaries for a game I used to play to compete as best my abilities and my mental strength allowed. I have never been an easy loser even though I was never paid to play. Even my years of coaching only paid a maximum of $300 a year, the going rate in those days when winning wasn't everything.
I long ago warned that if the people fall too much in love with leisure and have full bellies and plenty of circuses, the country will fall to the populists and socialists and eventually to dictators like those who once ruled Germany and Japan. And Russia possibly even today. You readers know of dozens of other dictatorships scattered throughout the third world and should know that their major aim is not to have 30 or so major league baseball teams with 900 or so (less than 15 African-Americans, I read) deemed to be major league caliber. Players of color from south of the border appear to more eager to play baseball hard or at least until they get the "big" money.
Back to the Cubs, I'll give you my opinion and you can give me yours if you wish. Zambrano is an overpaid extremely strong, talented emotional pitcher. Good but far from great. Lily doesn't look like he pitches his heart out in every appearance. Marquis is questionable in every start. Ramirez is a satisfied, somewhat lazy, talented player. Takes too many pitches down the middle and too many swings at outside pitches that would be balls (so do many of the Cub hitters) and has probably seen his best days as a hitter. Theriot is real but no Sandburg. DeRosa is a medium player. Soto got off to a good start but swings and totally misses too many pitches. Soriana is an overpaid hot dog and apparently easily injured. Cedeno would like to be a hot dog but doesn't have the ability to hit with consistency. You win pennants and series with every day dependable players. Edmunds has the heart of a lion but his best is behind him. Woods never was and never will be what everyone thought he would be. Woods and Prior probably had their arms ruined under Dusty Baker. Dempster gives his best and the Cubs need more like him. Howry should have been traded long ago. What Pinella sees in him must be the money in his contract. Marmol may make it big time but he lacks patience and savvy. Blanco is the same year in year out and is a good back up catcher.
The players from the Oakland trade may help. Too early to know. Eyre is back but hasn't see any action too my knowledge. Cotts may prove to be of major league caliber but he seldom is in the game for more than a part of an inning.
Why they kept Hart as long as they did is a mystery. Who saw something in Patterson should be moved to a lower minor league. Marshall is not consistent and will always be a 50% or less pitcher.
The Marlins took the last two games with better pitching and clutch hitting. I believe their payroll is less than one half the Cubs payroll and I would bet on them being in a World Series before I would the Cubs. Every year I start out as an optimist. My prediction is that his year will end with Cub diehards saying their patented chant, "Wait till next year".
I hope I am wrong.