New Cubs approach, same old refrain Print
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Saturday, 06 October 2007 18:41
MLB Headline News

 CHICAGO (AP) -No funky foul balls, black cats or cursed goats to pin this one on.
In fact, some crazy Cubs fan - is there any other kind? - actually hung what appeared to be a dead, skinned goat on the Harry Caray statue outside of Wrigley Field this week, as though a ritual offering might somehow change the civic destiny.
No such luck.
Arizona leadoff hitter Chris Young turned around the first pitch of the night from Chicago starter Rich Hill and even before it landed in the seats in left, everybody in the ballpark knew what it meant. The franchise that should have copyrighted the phrase would have to ... ``Wait 'til next year!''
Again.
Besides, the Arizona Diamondbacks didn't need any help completing their first-round sweep of the Cubs, unless you count the power outage by the three guys the organization is committed to paying $276 million to drive in runs and the two starters who are eating up another $131 million.
We include those figures not to embarrass sluggers Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee, or pitchers Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly, though all of them figured prominently in the Cubs' $400 million spending spree stretching back to last season. The planet is teeming with high-priced talent that hasn't delivered.
In this case, the heft of the paycheck had little to do with the quality of the hacks at the plate. Soriano, Ramirez and Lee batted a combined 6-for-38 (.158) with zero runs batted-in. The rest of the Cubs weren't much better, mustering just six runs in all. The Cubs were a pitiful 2-for-23 with runners in scoring position, including an 0-for-9 in Game 3.
Throw in a staff ERA fluttering just below 6.00 and that explained all the booing at the end.
``We just didn't get the big hit when we needed it,'' Chicago manager Lou Piniella said. ``What can I say?''
The point of listing those salaries above was to show that after decades of trying to get by on the cheap, baseball's sorriest franchise lately has been throwing around greenbacks like Rupert Murdoch - so far with the same sad result.
When the last man out of Wrigley Field turned out the lights Saturday night, the calendar officially turned over on the 100th season without a World Series title on the North Side of Chicago.
Money isn't always the answer, of course, but it helps. That's how the Yankees became, well, the Yankees, how the Red Sox reversed their 86-year-old curse three seasons ago, even how the Diamondbacks and Florida Marlins, who didn't join the baseball fraternity until 1993 and 1998, respectively, already have three Series titles between them.
Winning it all is, and always will be, a confluence of talent, timing, resources and yes, luck. Guess which one of those the citizenry has been hung up on, oh, for about a century?
The Cubs have had their chances, to be sure. They've made it into the postseason five times since the advent of divisional play and advanced exactly once. That was against the Braves in 2003, and everyone around here thinks they know how that postseason ended: when a goofy Cub fan - is there any other kind? - named Steve Bartman leaned over the wall in left to catch a foul ball in Game 6 of the league championship against the Marlins. Never mind that the Cubs blew that one with a botched double play and some very shaky pitching, then lost with ace Kerry Wood on the mound the next night.
Before Bartman, much of the blame was hoisted onto the back of a black cat that pranced across the on-deck circle at Shea Stadium in 1969, while the Cubs were batting against the Mets and in the process of a late-summer swoon that would end with them blowing the pennant.
Before that it was the billy goat that tavern owner Sam Sianis brought to Game 4 of the World Series.
Even though the goat, named Murphy, had a $7.50 box-seat ticket, both he and his owner were unceremoniously ejected. Upon departing, lore has it, Sianis put a curse on the club that some misguided Cubs fan - is there any other kind?- tried to end by leaving one of its ancestors tethered to the bronze of Harry Caray under cover of darkness in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
The citizenry might be better served by demanding the organization continue the spending spree that began shortly before Piniella's arrival as manager during the offseason, especially now that the team is for sale. These are not quite the sad sacks they were just a year ago, when the Cubs squeezed out a major league-low 66 games.
Piniella promised as much when he came to town, laughing at the notion of curses - though he mistakenly thought a horse was involved, instead of a goat - and talking about bring some ``swagger'' to the North Side. He almost succeeded, though ``almost'' is a word that cuts both ways in this town.
``People are going to say what they say,'' outfielder Cliff Floyd. ``We know inside this locker room how hard we worked. We don't have anything to hang our heads about. But when things don't happen the way you want them to on the field ... ``
Quick, somebody hide the goats.
---
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitkeap.org
 

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