While the playoffs remain the focus around Major League Baseball this time of year, here in Chicago, half the city has their attention turned back to some bad memories. Jacob discussed the 10 year anniversary of the Steve Bartman incident yesterday. Today, October 15, 2013, marked a full decade since the Cubs fell in Game 7 at Wrigley Field to the eventual World Series champion Florida Marlins.
Today there are no major personal connections to that 2003 ball club. Gone is Dusty Baker, with the Cubs having gone through three managers since and a fourth pending hire. The ownership of course has rolled over to The Ricketts family and long time GM Jim Hendry has been replaced with Boston savior Theo Epstein and his homeboys. Then of course all of the big names from the squad are no longer suiting up in Cubs blue pinstripes. Names like Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Sammy Sosa, and Aramis Ramirez have given way to Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, and Jeff Samardzija.
Along the way, between then and now, the organization and fan base have looked to time to put away the bad memories of the NLCS collapse. Since then the Cubs even had back to back playoff appearances in 2007 and 2008, but neither of those forays into October baseball provided any relief of the ghosts from just a few years earlier.
In recent years since the Cubs last playoff appearance, that disastrous end to 2003 had become a closeted up memory for me. No sense in lingering on the past right? There is a new ownership in place with a front office that has a resume of winning and building a baseball organization from the ground up. With patience our time will surely come in the near future.
But all that went out the window over the last 48 hours, first with the Bartman talk and then this evening with the “5 Outs…” documentary on Comcast Sports Net. With eyes helplessly glued to the television, the emotional attachment to the Cubs held me hostage as the segment vividly brought back the heartbreak from that fall.
As a life long Cub fan, things were finally lining up in place for our boys on the North Side to reach the World Series. The pocket rocket pair of aces in Wood and Prior. The defeat of perennial playoff big boys the Atlanta Braves. A commanding three games to one lead over the upstart Marlins. Five outs away…
When things go bad there is always a need to find reason or blame. That all unfairly fell on the shoulders of one fan Bartman. More level headed North Side fans will also point to the botched double play by otherwise sure handed short stop Alex Gonzalez shortly after the Bartman incident; veteran manager Baker had not gone out to settle down his rookie pitcher Prior after the deflected foul pop in the stands; and despite all this not taking advantage of the extra opportunity in Game 7 at home to punch the ticket to the elusive World Series.
Regardless of who or what you choose to blame, the wounds have been reopened 10 years later when you had wished the skeleton stayed in the closet. Time again will be needed to shove the nightmarish memories back down deep within our souls, but we will also need to turn our hopes and confidence in a fresh organization structure that will bring us the coveted Series title in the next few years. Only then will the disappointment and pain from that playoff series be put away for good like a Mariano Rivera save.
To run with Jacob’s closing theme, stay strong Cubs fans, stay strong.